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Aspects of Islamic Faith 86: How Charity Grows In God's Measure

Islamic Perspectives - Muslim Journals

Arab News & Information - By Adil Salahi

Islam stresses the importance of charity, making an essential part of it an obligatory act of worship and promising high reward for what is voluntarily given in addition.

The obligatory part is zakat, which is the third most important aspect of the Islamic faith. Voluntary charity is sadaqah, but the word is often used to refer to both the obligatory and the voluntary parts. The Qur'an makes clear that God rewards richly any charity given for His sake, to alleviate people's poverty and to seek His pleasure. Contrasting charity with usury, which aims to enrich oneself by exploiting the needs of the poor, the Qur'an says: "God blots out usury and causes charitable offerings to grow." (2: 276) "The case of those who spend their property for the cause of God is like that of a grain that brings forth seven ears, each bearing a hundred grains. God gives manifold increase to whom He wills. God is munificent, all-knowing." (2: 261) Indeed, the Qur'an describes charitable donations as a loan given to God, which He repays in many multiples: "Who will offer God a generous loan, which He will repay multiplied many times over? It is God who straitens people's circumstances and it is He who gives abundantly; and to Him you shall all return." (2: 245)

The Prophet (peace be upon him)further emphasized the importance of charity, making clear that it must be given out of what we legitimately earn. It must not be something that we ourselves dislike. Abu Hurayrah quotes the Prophet as saying: "When anyone gives in charity as little as one date, which is legitimately earned, for God does not accept anything but what is wholesome and legitimate God will accept it, taking it by His right hand. He will then grow it for the one who gave it just like any of you looks after his newly born horse, until it becomes as huge as a mountain." (Related by Al-Bukhari).

What is important in charity is that it must be of our own legitimate earnings and that it must be given purely for God's sake, not to show off. Keeping these two points in mind, even a little amount is given rich reward. The Prophet said: "One dirham (the silver currency of the time) has earned more reward than 100,000 dirhams." A man asked him how that could happen. The Prophet said: "A very wealthy man may take 100,000 dirhams out of the side of his property and donate it. Compare that with a man who has only two dirhams. He gives one of them to charity."

The Prophet's companions understood the importance of charity and they were all keen to earn its reward. Poverty did not stop the poor among them from being charitable. Abd Al-Rahman ibn Awf said to the Prophet: "I have 8,000 dirhams. I left 4,000 for my family and brought the rest as an offering for God's sake." Asim ibn Adiyy overheard him. He said to the Prophet: "I have 70 sacks of dates. I will keep half for my family and give the other half in charity." Abu Aqeel, a poor man, heard them. So, he said to the Prophet: "Messenger of God, I have no money. However, yesterday I worked as a laborer and earned two measures of dates. I kept one for my family, and brought one as an offering for God's sake." The Prophet accepted all their offerings and prayed for them.

Indeed, the Prophet was keen to stress that we must not despise any little offering. When one has very little, his small charity may go a long way. Teaching us the importance of even very little charity, he said: "Guard yourselves from the fire even with half a date." Implementing this, Ayeshah, his wife, did not hesitate to give away whatever was available to her. One day, a woman came to her with her two little daughters, saying that she had nothing to feed them. Ayeshah looked around in her home, but found no food other than a single date. She gave it to the woman, and the woman split it in two halves, giving one to each daughter.



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