With Mohammed Hassan Loum
It is an enduring religious and ethical fact that giving away in charity does not diminish wealth but increases and purifies it. The regular giving away in voluntary charity is clearly enjoined and encouraged in Islam. Allaah says (Interpretation of the meaning of The Glorious Qur’an): “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 Zaalimoon (wrongdoers)” [Surah Al-Baqarah: Verse 254]
It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “There is no day on which the people get up but two angels come down and one of them says, ‘O Allaah, give in compensation to the one who spends (in charity),’ and the other (angel) says, ‘O Allaah, destroy the one who withholds.
‘” [Narrated by Imams Bukhaari, 1374; and Muslim, 1010]
Charity can be given in cash or kind. Meeting your fellow human being with a smile and positive cheerfulness is charity. Speaking a good and kind word is charity. Helping children or old people cross the road during busy traffic is charity. Giving people ride in your vehicle is charity. Giving animals food and drink in charity. Letting off the poor debtor who after honest efforts cannot repay his debt is charity. Rubbing the head of an orphan in sympathy and kindness is charity. Islam however is very particular about those who should receive charity and under what circumstances charity should be given. It should be noted that a gift is very different from charity. A gift can be presented to both the poor and the rich; but charity in Islam can only be given to the poor and those categories of people described by Allah SWT in the Glorious Qur’an (Surat At-Tawba, Verse 60). Charity cannot be given to the rich otherwise its purpose would become completely and absolutely impractical.
Allah loves those who regularly give out in charity and give that which is best from their self and wealth. Charity should not be given only as a last resort or painfully. The best charity targets those who are closer among poor family members, near relatives, neighbours and friends. Some people rather unfortunately only give out charity in public or when it is prescribed by a marabout. They will give that which has very little value to them such as white paper, candles, matches, salt, cola nuts, and so forth. Giving candles, matches or plain white papers to a blind person is like helping him burn down his house or a mockery of his infirmity since he cannot see to write.
So why not give him good money for better livelihood? Giving cola nuts, salt or few cups of rice to a poor hungry person is just to bitterly aggravate his hunger or even possibly cause him ulcer (for the poor hungry man will definitely chew on bitter colas for lunch and dinner if he has no other alternative). So why not get him healthy nutritious food that you yourself would eat or facilitate for him a bag of rice which can feed his family for a whole month or even more?
Allaah says (Interpretation of the meaning of The Glorious Qur’an): “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 Allaah is Rich (Free of all needs), and Worthy of all praise” [Al-Baqarah: Verse 267]. Allaah also says (Interpretation of the meaning of The Glorious Qur’an): “Those who spend their wealth in the Cause of Allaah, and do not follow up their gifts with reminders of their generosity or with injury, their reward is with their Lord. On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve” [Surah Al-Baqarah: Verse 262]. It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah (RA) that a man came to the Prophet (SAW) and said: “O Messenger of Allaah, which charity brings a greater reward?” He said, “Give in charity when you are healthy and miserly, fearing poverty and hoping for richness. Do not delay until you are at the point of death and you say, ‘Give this to so and so, give this to so and so,’ …” [Bukhaari, 1330; Muslim, 1713].
Miserliness is more likely when a person is in good health, for he loves to search helter-skelter for money and save plenty of it for a hopeful long life. Regularly giving out voluntary charity in money therefore becomes very hard since Satan threatens us with poverty (as Allaah mentioned in Surat Al-Baqarah, verse 268). Stinginess therefore is based on lengthy and destructive hopes of remaining alive for long and fear of poverty. There are some who have disobeyed Allaah manifold with regard to their wealth and at various levels. They disobey Allaah by being stingy during their lifetime and do not give out voluntary or compulsory charity where and when it is due. They disobey Allaah by being extravagant and spend their wealth where it will only incur the wrath of Allaah. They disobey Allaah with their wealth even after their deaths by making out inheritances which are not in accordance with the Ordinances of Allaah SWT. However the best form of giving is to maintain a middle path and avoid the two extremes wherein the hand becomes too outstretched in giving thereby causing self-inflicted poverty, or the hand is too tightfisted and cannot give even the smallest ounce in charity
Know, may Allah have mercy upon us, that there are certain poor people who can and never will bear to ask or beg for anything from anyone except their Creator. They prefer to engage in any form of permissible petty trading just to safeguard their honour and dignity by keeping away from the need of others. When you come across such people, please do endeavour to buy something from them even if it is a pair of socks or some chewing stick (which you may not need but could always give to another much needier), then you most certainly would have given out charity beautifully wrapped in dignity. Ask yourself next time when you lavishly tip a sparingly dressed waitress in some flamboyant restaurant after partly consuming an overpriced meal (and then discard it for the bin), or bargain long and hard with a poor local vendor and short-change him from his rightful profit thinking that you have won; then truly ask yourself, am I spending wealth where it is absolutely necessary and will be rewarded by Allah in this life and or the next?
If you cannot find the answer which you so seek within yourself, then look forward to good pointers from the following Divine Statement: “If you disclose your Sadaqaat (charity), it is well; but if you conceal them and give them to the poor, that is better for you. (Allaah) will expiate for you some of your sins. And Allaah is Well-Acquainted with what you do”. [Surah Al-Baqarah 2:271]. And Allaah is the Source of all strength and support for those who wish to do good.