Charity is an act of worship.
Islam has conferred certain special rights on the weaker and poorer sections of society and on every needy person. It is the duty of all well-to-do people to look after their well-being and serve them in whatever way they can. The more prosperous among Muslims should realise that their less fortunate brethren, too, have a share in their wealth and other capabilities.
The holy Quran has enjoined in several places that the needs of orphans, the weak and the indigent should be taken care of, the hungry should be fed, the ill-clad should be clothed, and so on. It is narrated that once the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) joined two of his fingers and showing them to the companions said: "He who supports an orphan shall be as close to me in Heaven as are these fingers to each other." He is also reported to have observed: "He who endeavours to relieve the widow, the depressed and the needy is as one who strives in the service of God, and, in Divine reward, he is as one who permanently fasts during the day and spends one's nights in prayers."
The prophet also said: "Feed the hungry, visit the sick and free the captives. Help the distressed and be a guide to those who have lost their way." No distinction has been drawn in the above traditions of the prophet between a Muslim and a non-Muslim. All poor and needy persons have a claim on us no matter which religion they belong to. We cannot withhold our helping hand from anyone on the grounds that he is not a co-religionist. In some traditions, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) has exhorted us to show kindness also to animals and promised great reward to those who take pity on these dumb creatures of the Lord.
Islam, truly, is a blessing to the entire universe and the whole of creation, and our guide and master, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), a mercy to the worlds.
"For the young man who will honour an old man because of his years, God will appoint men who will honour him in his old age." Further, there is a special claim of Muslims on each other which flows out of the common bond of Islam. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said: "Every Muslim is a Muslim's brother. He should neither harm him nor leave him alone."
"Whoever among you fulfils the needs of his brother, God will take it upon Himself to fulfil his needs, and a Muslim who will remove the distress of a Muslim brother will in return find a distress of his removed by God on the day of requital; and anyone who will hide the shame of a Muslim, his sins will be hidden by God on the last day."
In this context, it is necessary to mention the value of charity in Islam. Charity in Islam is more than merely giving money, food and clothing to the poor and needy. It is a great act of worship. When a Muslim gives charity, his or her main reason is to please Allah and seek His reward.
A true Muslim would never help the poor so that others can see what a good person he or she is. By seeking Allah's pleasure, a Muslim is taking this act of charity beyond human recognition and humbling himself before Allah. There are many aspects to alms-giving in Islam: Zakat -- this is the compulsory charity that all Muslims must pay based on the wealth they possess at the time of payment. In Surah At-Tauba, verse 103 of the Quran, Allah says: "Take alms from their wealth in order to purify them and sanctify them with it." The minimum amount to pay is roughly 2.5 per cent of the wealth you possess.
Solely for Allah's pleasure -- giving in public is fine as long as you do not do it to impress people. Abu Hureira reported that the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said that one of the seven types of people who will be given shade on the Day of Judgment are those who give charity "so secretly that their left hand do not know what the right hand has given (nobody knows how much he has given in charity)." Charity should be given with money that is earned in a halal (permissible) manner. Rewards: If you sacrifice some of your wealth for the sake of Allah, you can be sure that Allah will multiply your reward, either in this world or in the afterlife.
(The writer is a former Khaleej Times staffer)
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