BY KHURRAM JAH MURAD
May Allah have mercy on him
Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of God be upon
him, is reported to have said:
"There is no person who does not have the obligation of (doing)
charity every day that the sun rises."
Whereupon he was asked: "0 messenger of God, wherefrom would we
get something to give in charity (so often)?" To which he,may the
peace and blessings of God be upon him, replied:
"Indeed the gates to goodness are many: glorifying God, praising
Him, magnifying Him, saying 'There is no god but Allah', enjoining
the good and forbidding the wrong, removing (any source of harm
from the road, listening to the aggrieved, guiding the blind, showing
the seeker his need, striving as far as your two legs could carry
you and with deep concern to give succour to him who asks, carrying
with the strength of your arms (the burdens of) the weak. All these
are (acts of) charity which are an obligation on you." And he
"And your smiling in the face of your brother is charity, your
removing of stones and thorns from people's paths is charity, and
your guiding a man gone astray in the world is charity for you."
Any person who comes across this beautiful saying must pause
for some moments to consider some of its meanings and implications.
The saying (Arabic: hadith) has two main concerns:
(1) Awakening the springs of goodness in the human heart
(2) Strengthening the society with the bond of love, affection and
Charity, as it is traditionally understood, consists of money or
various objects given by the rich to help the poor or by the strong
to help the weak. Charity, according to this understanding, is extremely
narrow and its effects on the life of society is limited. The saying
of the Prophet, however, takes charity out of this narrow, physical
meaning and on to a spiritual plane that opens up a vast and limitless
world by emphasizing that
Every good is charity. And on every person is the obligation of
charity. This is a unique concept of charity. What is charity? Isn't
it "giving"? Indeed, so it is. Then let every act of giving be charity-even
a smile in the face of your brother. Charity has a physical and
a spiritual dimension which are thus fused into one so that a person
can say in giving charity:
Take this penny, or take this helping hand or take this feeling!
It is all one practical method proceeding from the depths of the
soul but we do not always realise the essence of it. The noble Prophet
makes us realise the single spiritual essence which lies behind
every act of goodness. But the Prophet, peace be upon him, does
not want us merely to know. Knowledge is not an end in itself. He
wants to make us return to goodness, goodness which is the very
word of God, and the word of God is supreme. He wants that each
of us should move and stir ourselves from within into goodness so
that giving would become a habit of life, and that this habit would
pass from person to person and prove infectious throughout society.
The wisdom of the prophet lies in expanding the scope of goodness
so that it becomes within the scope of each individual. If charity
or goodness were to remain restricted to tangible things or to money,
many persons would be prevented from doing humanitarian deeds and
much wealth would remain locked up within individuals with no one
benefiting and no one discovering its rich and abundant meaning.
The noble Prophet himself acted in a kind and concerned manner in
all his human relationships just as a kind and concerned father
would behave towards his son. He showed the way to people-step by
step-and identified himself with their problems tirelessly and whatever
the obstacles were. He showed in so doing the best way to train
people and to win their hearts. That is why he made actions which
seem to be quite a significant part of charity. That is why he was
able to say
"Smiling in the face of your brother is charity and pouring
out from your bucket into your brother's bucket is charity."
There are some people who do not ever smile and they do not ever
open up their facial features when they meet others. There are people
who are even stingy with a drop of water, a drop of God-given water!
They may be malicious or within them there is a disease which has
blocked the springs of goodness in their souls. The problem is not
merely a smile, or a drop of water. It concerns the act of giving.
Giving is movement from within which opens up the locked doors of
the self, stirring the spiritual hand and making it open freely
and widely. Giving is a positive movement and the soul that is conditioned
by positive impulses is a living, stirring, active soul which stands
in marked contrast to the negative, cramped and feeble soul.
Charity in its tangible, narrow sense divides people into the receivers
on the one hand and the givers on the other. This division inspires
among the receivers feelings of weakness and even of error, and
among those who give feelings of pride and conceit. Such a division,
for society, is extremely evil.
But the comprehensive Islamic concept of charity which includes
all good actions how- ever small they may be, allows every person
whether rich or poor, to become givers and receivers on an equal
basis. This points to another basic principle of Islamic thought
and behaviour-that the standard on which life is judged is not the
materialistic or the economic standard alone but one based on faith,
feeling and sensitivity which form the core of human relations.
Mankind has always been absorbed with and infatuated by amassing
wealth and possessions, and often considers such materialism to
be the very mainstay of life. But a society based on economic and
materialistic considerations alone is often dry and hard and callous
and is eaten up by hatred and envy. Of course, Islam does not neglect
the material world and the needs of life. Indeed it gives it due
attention. But it does not merely stop there, because life in actuality
does not stop there. Instead it carries it on to wider and varied
horizons, to greater and higher levels. For Islam is the religion
of life complete. And from it comes the ties of faith, affection
and love to bind hearts and the society together. God says in the
"And (as for the believers) God has brought their hearts together.
And if you had spent all that is in the earth you could not have
brought their hearts together." (8:63).
The Prophet, peace be upon him, has said:
"No one of you believes untill he loves for his brother what
he loves for himself."
This is the essense of charity. So begin by meeting your brother
with a smile. This would open up locked souls, penetrate to the
depths of the heart and exert a magnetic bond on society. Read the
hadith again and see how it reaches into the depths of the soul,
the essence of existence and creates hearts that are tender, pure,
radiant and beautiful.
Adapted from Muhammad Outb's Qubusat minar-r-rasul by Abdul