Charity is a duty that man owes to man

Charity is a duty that man owes to man

It is the second pillar on which Islam stands, according to the Holy Quran

By Khwaja Mohammed Zubair (Reflections)

Published: Tue 23 Jun 2015, 12:59 AM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 3:16 PM

A person prays before ending his fast at the Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi. Many special air-conditioned tents have been set up at the mosque for Muslims. — Photo by Nezar Balout

The best charity is the one given in the holy month of Ramadan. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the most generous of all people. He used to be the most generous in Ramadan. When Ramadan would start, the prophet (Peace be upon him) would release all prisoners of war and fulfil the needs of every person who would ask him for something.

This increased generosity of the prophet (Peace be upon him) in Ramadan has several reasons and lessons that we need to pay attention to.

Ramadan is a blessed month, and the rewards for generosity are multiplied in it. The reward for a single good deed done in Ramadan is equivalent to 70 good deeds done in any other month. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: “The best charity is that given in Ramadan.”

This is a source of help and support, especially to the ones fasting. To encourage this, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: “He who feeds a fasting person will gain the same reward as he will, without decreasing from the fasting person’s rewards.”

Now you and I can perform this act of good deed and attain its reward by simply inviting our friends and family around for Iftar and/or by giving Sadaqah to the poor and the needy.

Charity and fasting are a stronger and more effective barrier that will keep the person away from the hellfire. Regarding fasting, the prophet (Peace be upon him) had said: “Fasting is a shield and protection from hellfire.” As for charity, he said: “Charity extinguishes the sin just as water extinguishes the fire.”

Charity towards man, in its widest sense, is laid down in the Holy Quran as the second great pillar on which the structure of Islam stands.

Spending out of whatever has been given to man stands for charity in a broad sense, i.e., for acts of benevolence to humanity in general. For what God has given to man is not only the wealth which he possesses but all the faculties and power with which he has been gifted.

The most frequently recurring words for charity in the Holy Quran are ‘Infaq’, which means spending benevolently; ‘Ihsan’, which means the doing of good; ‘Zakat’, which means growth or purification; and ‘Sadaqah’, which is derived from the root ‘sidq’, meaning truth, and comes to signify a charitable deed.

The Holy Quran not only lays stress on such great deeds of charity as the emancipation of slaves, the feeding of the poor, taking care of orphans and doing good to humanity in general, but gives equal emphasis to smaller acts of benevolence. It is for this reason that the withholding of ‘ma’un’, which specially indicates small acts of kindness and charity, is stated to be against the spirit of prayer.

And in a similar strain, the speaking of kind words to parents is referred to as ‘Ihsan’, and generally the use of kind words in itself is recommended as a charitable deed in many places in the Holy Quran. The Holy Quran also speaks of extending charity not only to all men, including believers and non-believers, but also to the dumb creation.

Charity, in the sense of giving away one’s wealth, is of two kinds: Voluntary and obligatory. Voluntary charity is generally mentioned in the Holy Quran as ‘Infaq’ or ‘Ihsan’ or ‘Sadaqah’. The Holy Book is full of injunctions on this subject, and hardly a leaf is turned which does not bring to mind the grand object of the service of humanity as the goal of man’s life.

A charitable deed must be done as a duty which man owes to man, so that it conveys no idea of the superiority of the giver or the inferiority of the receiver. Love of God should be the motive of all charitable deeds, so that the every doing of them fosters the feeling that all mankind is but a single family. Only good things and well-earned money should be given in charity.

Charity has value only if something good and valuable is given, which has been honourably earned or acquired by the giver or which is produced in nature and can be referred to as bounty of God. These may include such things as are of use and value. Charitable deeds may be done openly or secretly, although the latter form is better. Those who do not beg should be the first to receive charity.

Obligatory charity is generally mentioned under the name of Zakat. The word zakat is also used in the sense of purity from sin.

Zakat is wealth which is taken from the rich and given to the poor, being so called because it makes the wealth grow, or because the giving away of wealth is a source of purification. In fact, both these reasons hold true.

(The author is a former Khaleej Times staffer)

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