Open Your Hearts to Charity

give1It was September 29th, 2012 Stamford Hilton, Connecticut was packed with people. United for Change had arranged a conference. Notable speakers had been invited. Powerful speeches were given, stirring the souls and leaving the audience disturbed. Each speaker was revealing the true state of our community.

Another speaker appeared on the podium- wearing a winter cap, a scarf and a torn jacket. The torn jacket caught attention. One wondered if the speaker overlooked the tear while dressing up. She held a master’s degree. Her speech was slow and well-articulated, further confusing the audience as the torn clothing did not match her eloquence.

Irony with charity

The sister began her talk by unveiling life’s challenges and the tragedies that people encounter by a struck of fate. She then introduced us to a bag that she had brought – a bag filled with donated items. She took out a handheld vacuum, without a cord or battery- what purpose could it serve, the sister asked. Next, she took out canned food that someone had gifted, perhaps, while clearing out their pantry. A food item without any nutritional value is not food. She had many other tales to tell- each causing a stir and a deeper hurt. The audience was tongue-tied with eyes welling up.

She, then, took off her torn jacket. It was an item given by someone as an act of generosity, and not her choice of wardrobe for a conference. This sister was Asma Hanif, founder of Muslimat Al-Nisaa, a self-sufficiency shelter home for Muslim women and children in Baltimore, Maryland. Heading a charity, she had many accounts of people’s attitude – our attitude – towards charity.

Anybody can become vulnerable by a struck of fate. Natural disasters, family feuds, illnesses, separation or divorce, and death cause people to lose their properties and wealth. An independent, respectable life that they had been living is lost. They are now dependent on their families and communities for help.

Anybody can become vulnerable by a struck of fate. They are now dependent on their families and communities for help.

When disaster hits, temporary campaigns are launched and then it is a forgotten cause. We shell out some money and go about our businesses assuming things have been taken care of. We donated generously in 2005 when a 7.6 earthquake shook the Kashmir region. But what became of the affected families or how they are now, we have no clue.

During our annual cleaning, we take out our rags and drop them at the Edhi Center. When the food gets expired or burnt, we give it to our domestic help. Donating broken toys and non-functional appliances with missing parts, has become a norm. The requests from donation banks to be respectful of the recipients are completely ignored.

Charity and its etiquettes- in the light of Quran

1. Spend of the good things

Allah (swt) teaches the Adab (etiquette) of spending. Allah (swt) says, “O you who believe! Spend of the good things which you have (legally) earned, and of that which We have produced from the earth for you, and do not aim at that which is bad to spend from it, (though) you would not accept it save if you close your eyes and tolerate therein. And know that Allah is Rich (Free of all wants), and Worthy of all praise.” (Al-Baqarah 2:267).

How many of us will accept torn clothing, broken pieces and expired food? Allah (swt) says we will never accept it unless our eyes are closed and we cannot see what we are being given.

2. Share the spare

He also tells us, “And they ask you what they ought to spend. Say: That which is beyond your needs.”(Al-Baqarah 2:219)

After having filled your basic needs, look after those who are being tried and tested. By replacing wants with needs, we spend a fortune in the name of leisure and clothing, and fail to fulfil the needs of those around us.

3. All belongs to Him, and to Him all shall return!

He reminds us that whatever we are enjoying today is actually from Him. “O you who believe! Spend of that with which We have provided for you, before a Day comes when there will be no bargaining, nor friendship, nor intercession. And it is the disbelievers who are the Zalimun (wrong-doers, etc.)” (Al-Baqarah 2:254) If it is from Him there is a great danger of losing it one day as others have lost their properties.

4. Allah (swt) is the best accountant

While Shaytan threatens us with poverty, Allah (swt) promises us His bounty.  “…And whatever you spend in good, it is for yourselves, when you spend not except seeking Allah’s Countenance. And whatever you spend in good, it will be repaid to you in full, and you shall not be wronged.” (Al-Baqarah 2:272)

5. Charity- A shield from Hell fire

Spending in for the sake of Allah (swt) is not a favour that we do, rather it is an obligation- as well as- a mean to draw closer to Him, and to save ourselves from the Fire. When people will be thrown in the Hell, they will be asked the reason for their entry. They will say that they were not of those who looked after the orphans and fed the poor.

Zakat is an obligation, but whoever does voluntary deeds, he must know that Allah (swt) is Appreciative and All-Knower. He describes multiple ways for drawing closer to Him. He commands us to believe in His Signs and give our wealth, in spite of our love for it.

“…but Al-Birr is (the quality of) the one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the Angels, the Book, the Prophets and gives his wealth, in spite of love for it, to the kinsfolk, to the orphans, and to Al-Masakin (the poor), and to the wayfarer, and to those who ask, and to set slaves free, performs As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat), and gives the Zakat, and who fulfill their covenant when they make it, and who are As-Sabirin (the patient ones, etc.) in extreme poverty and ailment (disease) and at the time of fighting (during the battles). Such are the people of the truth and they are Al-Muttaqun.” (Al-Baqarah 2:177)

People ask: “Shall we feed those whom, if Allah willed, He (Himself) would have fed?” We forget, while others are being tried by not having enough, we are being tested by having more than our needs.

Allah (swt) tells us, “And whosoever is saved from his own covetousness, such are they who will be the successful.” (Al-Hashr 59:9)

Let us open up our hearts, and give out generously in the Way of Allah (swt) and for His sake- seeking only His pleasure.

Pearls of Peace – An extract from Surah Nisa 1

pearls4Before we begin today’s Pearls of Peace, there’s a challenge for everyone reading this. The brother reciting the Quran in the Taraweeh is visually impaired, yet he has memorized the entire Quran by listening to his father and CDs. You and I have been blessed with eyes. We can see the beautiful world of Allah (swt). We can read all that we want and whatever we want. What efforts have we made to read and memorize the Book of Allah (swt)?

We now start with Surah An-Nisa, the Surah named after the women. This is the status of women in Islam. There’s an entire Surah named after the women while there’s no chapter in the Quran called Ar-Rijal (the men). In this Surah, Allah (swt) draws our attention towards the rights of a woman and warns us against usurping them.

Man vs. woman

He begins the Surah by saying, “O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam), and from him (Adam) He created his wife (Hawwa (Eve)), and from them both He created many men and women.”

Allah (swt) describes the creation of mankind- from a single father and a single mother to make us feel compassionate about each other. Then, He says, “and fear Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs (kinship).”

The mention of wombs is an indication that men and women are physically different and thus created for different purposes. Men cannot perform the roles of women and women cannot perform the roles of men. He ends the first verse by saying, “Surely, Allah is Ever an All-Watcher over you.” meaning Allah (swt) is watching how we treat one another.

Dignity of a woman

In order to know how to treat someone, we first need to learn about their status. The woman needs to know where she stands in the Sight of her Creator. She needs to know how to carry herself without compromising on her values. She cannot give in to peer pressure and go against the commands of Allah (swt). She must live such a life that her living confirms that she is a gift from Allah (swt).

Rights of orphans

After honouring women, Allah (swt) talks about another stratum of the society which is weak, but its status before Allah (swt) is really high. These are the orphans. Allah (swt) chose for his Last Messenger to be an orphan, and throughout the Quran we find many verses that remind us to be kind to this weak stratum of society and give them their rights.

In our society, when the father passes away, others relatives come and take charge over the wealth of the orphan children. While they are to act as custodians until the children attain the age of maturity, the guardians do not return them their wealth or they cheat them by understating their property. Allah (swt) says, “Verily, those who unjustly eat up the property of orphans, they eat up only a fire into their bellies, and they will be burnt in the blazing Fire!” (An-Nisa 4:10). The wealth of this world is not worth trading our peace and contentment for it. A person who cheats others cannot live a peaceful life.

Rights of women

There’s another type of cheating that is done at the time of marriage. Men don’t give their brides the bridal gift known as Mahr. Allah (swt) says, “And give to the women (whom you marry) their Mahr (obligatory bridal money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage) with a good heart…” (An-Nisa 4:4).

Women are often too shy to demand for it themselves; therefore Allah (swt) has made it a duty of the husbands to gift it to them. In Islam, a woman is a queen. When she is small she is looked after by the father. As she grows up and is married off, it becomes the duty of the husband to look after her needs. In absence of a father and a husband, the closest Mahram relations look after her. Allah (swt) gives women rights so that she is not treated as a commodity; as it used to happen in the ignorant days. In the pagan days, the male relatives would inherit the woman along with all her wealth. Allah (swt) says what belongs to woman remains with her.

Islamic law of inheritance

In verses 11 and 12, Allah (swt) informs us about the exact proportions of inheritance to be distributed among heirs. Some people say in Islam women are oppressed, they get less of what men receive.

We must acknowledge that the system of Allah (swt) is based on justice, as He says, “These are the limits (set by) Allah (or ordainments as regards laws of inheritance), and whosoever obeys Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad (as)) will be admitted to Gardens under which rivers flow (in Paradise), to abide therein, and that will be the great success..” (An-Nisa 4:13)

Consequences of defiance

One who follows the commands of Allah (swt) will attain peace in this life and the next. On the contrary, the one who finds flaws in Allah’s (swt) system can never live in peace in this life, and in the next he will face torment. This is what Allah (swt) talks about in the verse right after this, And whosoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad (as), and transgresses His limits, He will cast him into the Fire, to abide therein; and he shall have a disgraceful torment.” (An-Nisa 4:14)

By warning us of the consequences, it is clear that Allah (swt) wants the best for us. Let’s understand this through an example. A mother tells her children to do something and at the same time tells the repercussions of not following her instructions. She tells them, “If you do this I will give you such-and-such gift, but if you don’t do this, then watch out.” The mother does not want to hurt her children; however, it is in their best interests that she warns  them beforehand. Allah (swt) wants the best for us. He does not want us to suffer in this life or the next; therefore He has explained us the repercussions of not following His commands beforehand. May He allow us to surrender to His commands. Ameen.

Share of a woman

To briefly touch up on the share a woman gets, let’s look at what Allah (swt) says, “…if (there are) only daughters, two or more, their share is two thirds of the inheritance; if only one, her share is half.” (An-Nisa 4:11) No male takes this much percentage of wealth. Before we use our tongues to declare something ordained by Allah (swt), we must understand the Shariah. How can something that has been decided by Allah (swt) be wrong? The problem is that we value human opinions more than what Allah (swt) tells us. And this is the reason to why we have lost our peace.

Repentance – a peaceful move!

Some of us may have committed something wrong in our lives. We might not have given others their rights, mistreated orphans or spoken bad words about Allah’s (swt) laws. This brings us to repentance. Repentance is accepted only for those who do wrong in ignorance and then repent soon after. Allah (swt) says, “And of no effect is the repentance of those who continue to do evil deeds until death faces one of them and he says: “Now I repent;” nor of those who die while they are disbelievers. For them We have prepared a painful torment.” (An-Nisa 4:18)

Our dilemma is that we like to delay things till the last minute. Look at how do we treat our prayers. When the Muezzin gives a call for prayer, and that is when we get up for ablution. By then, we are left with little time to reach the Masjid and stand in the first row. Some of us delay our prayers to the point when only a few minutes are left for it to expire and that is when we get up for prayer. Will such a prayer be accepted? Likewise, a person who has been delaying repentance until the time he meets the angel of death, will his repentance be accepted? All of us want the best in this life, then why do we offer Allah (swt) a very poor quality of deeds? May Allah (swt) protect us and help us realize our mistakes. Ameen.