Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What do you give in charity?

 It is commonly taken and understood by the society that when it comes to giving charity we give away old things that we neither want nor use anymore. When we pass by a donation drive, we think about cleaning our closets and getting rid of the things we can not even imagine why we bought anymore.

Yet in Islam, Allah (the Most High ) teaches the most beautiful way of spending and in giving charity.

We are told to give that which is best, that which we would want for ourselves. Islam teaches true sharing with others, which does not derive only of giving what we don’t want, but of what we would love and promotes well wishing for all of humanity.
In the Qur’aan, Allah says:
O you who have believed, spend from the good things which you have earned and from that which We have produced for you from the earth. And do not aim toward the defective therefrom, spending [from that] while you would not take it [yourself] except with closed eyes. And know that Allāh is Free of need and Praiseworthy. (Surah Baqarah:267)

Notice that in this part of the ayah, Allah tells us to not even aim to give that which is defective or disliked, things that you would not take yourself except with closed eyes.  This principle highlights and demonstrates with a clear example what charity should be. Although Allah is free of need and does not need anyone, imagine that your charity is as if you are giving it to Allah since it is only for His sake and to earn His pleasure. Would you give for the sake of Allah the things you would not like to receive yourself?
Imagine giving a gift to someone who is wealthy and rich, would you bring to them the outcasts from your home? No, rather you would try to meet certain standards. This consideration should be spread to all people because, just think for a moment:  Don't the people who have less than us deserve the same respect? Do we think that these people are less then us in their intellect, status, or mentality? Islam teaches us equality. Everyone is equal in the sight of Allah and we should treat them in the same manner. Give that which is best.

It has become very common to see in our Masaajids, that people bring their old things and leave it as donation, but most of the time those things are absolutely useless. Many times when we buy new things for our houses we think, ‘Let’s give the old things to the Masjid,’ but did we forget that this is the house of Allah? A place of worship where we should give the best and not the worst? Too often the Masaajid become a junkyard housing torn clothing, broken toys, stained furniture which nobody can make use of.

Another common occurrence in our communities is that whenever there is a new sister or a brother entering Islam, we rush to give something to that person, and usually we sisters bring our old Hijabs or old outdated jilbabs or abayas that we don't wear anymore. We should ask ourselves - is that how we welcome new sister to our family? Would we give this to a family member?
We need to reflect on this verse of the Quran and do Ihsan on  people, so that the next time before we give something, we ask ourselves– Is this something I would love to have myself?

"By no means shall you attain Al-Birr (piety, righteousness - here it means Allah's Reward, i.e. Paradise), unless you spend (in Allah's Cause) of that which you love; and whatever of good you spend, Allah knows it well." ( Surah Ali Imran:92)
We see from this that we can never be truly obedient and prove our righteousness, until we spend in the way of Allah, for our families, the needy, travelers, orphans etc... And there are many things that we love and have the ability to spend from. It is easy to give that which is extra, but when we spend that what we love, only then can we reach true piety and receive great reward for it.
And what is it that the majority of people love the most? Wealth. Be it big or small, this is something most of us hold dear and necessary. Therefore if we spend of it, whether it is a little or a lot, within our capacity – Allah knows of it and will reward accordingly. Our Imaan is only complete when we love Allah more than anyone or anything, and this love is one that demands sacrifice and needs to be proven through our actions.
The Sahabah knew, and understood this very well. When the above ayah was revealed, the Sahabah rushed to implement it right away. An example of this is found within Abu Talha (radiAllahu anhu), one of the companions of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, who owned many beautiful gardens within Madinah. In fact, it was noted that he had the largest number of date palm trees amongst the Ansaar. Yet from his gardens, the most precious to him was a plot of land called the Bairuha garden, which faced the Prophet’s Masjid.
When the verse from Surah ‘Ali Imraan was revealed, Abu Talha immediately got up and said, "O Allah’s Apostle! Allah says: By no means shall you attain righteousness unless you spend of that which you love, and the dearest of my property to me is the Bairuha garden and I want to give it in charity in Allah’s Cause, seeking to be rewarded by Allah for that. So you can spend it, O Allah’s Apostle, where-ever Allah instructs you."
It was a very noble gesture, but to Abu Talha the garden was no longer in his heart, he wanted to give his most treasured possession away in order to please Allah and so by that become among the righteous, and receive His reward.
The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, was moved by Abu Talha's generosity and told him to divide the garden amongst Abu Talha's relatives. And so Abu Talha divided it between them.

Similarly, by giving what we love on a day to day basis, we are expressing our love and attachment to Allah above that piece of Dunya (worldly object) which we are sacrificing. This is the essence of being Muslim, and something we should keep in mind whenever we are spending in our charities. 

Power of Dua (Supplication)

O Allah! Indeed I, I ask of You, guidance and piety and chastity and to be free of depending on anyone (except You).

"Allahumma inni asaluka al huda wa tuqqa wal afafa wal ghina"
Allahumma: o Allah
 inni : indeed I
 asaluka : I ask you
 al huda: the guidance
 wa: and
 tuqqa : piety
 wa : and
  alghafafi : chastity
 wa : and
 alghina: to be free of depending upon anyone.
 Those who are deprived of these four are deprived of everything.
Taqwa is not compete until we have Iman, until we do what we say and prove our Iman with our actions, with obedience to our Creator. We ask Allah Subhana wa Taala (praise be to Him the Most High) in this Dua (supplication) to make our hearts  free from need of people and free from unnecessary desires and needs. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: "Richness is richness of the soul " (Sahih Al- Buhari)
   May Allah Almighty make our hearts steadfast upon His Deen (religion) and enrich our souls with beneficial knowledge.

Swept under the Rug: The struggles of single mothers

Author: Aapa
I am a twice divorced, by choice, single mother of two teenage sons. I am a woman who is educated by Western standards. I have had a successful career in the academic world and in the clinical world.  And I struggle. I hustle and I struggle. I am not alone in my struggles. I know of several other sisters who are in the same predicament. The purpose of this article is to introduce myself and my sisters to a larger Muslim audience.
Who are we? We do not know. I, actually, had a discussion with a professor of a major university and was well on the way of developing research methodology to identify who we are. I am limiting this article to the women of North America and particularly the United States. There are no numbers on us.  I contacted a major Muslim political rights group and suggested that I head a new department for women’s right. That went very far. I am writing this article. We do not know the number of women who are raising Muslim children singlehandedly in an economy that is plummeting rapidly, and not in our favor. We do not have the demographics to even identify who we are and where we live.
What is our socio-economic status? That is a worthy question. We have no data on this.  We need to find out what our educational level is. We need to find out how many are having to go to the state for welfare. We do not have a clue as to how many are working outside the house. How many are working in the house i.e. babysitting or domestic work.  We do not know the ages of this group of women.
Why are we single? Many of us exercised our rights to practice our faith. If the marriage for whatever reasons failed we divorced. Some have been abandoned by their husbands. The simple case of the man walks out of the door. There are many of us that have experienced homelessness. Yes, I know sisters with children that have been to homeless shelters. Places that non-Muslim men fear to go. There is the case of the immigrant wife who comes here and adheres to her faith but her husband divorces her for a new lover.
This brings me to the question of what is our biggest struggle.  Our biggest struggle is very simple. We have been swept under the rug. We have no voice.  We are the ones you see in the grocery store, you see us working in the service industry. You see us taking our children to the Masjid.  You will see us at the school functions. We are usually the quiet ones.
We are the outcasts of Muslim society in the US. In the community functions we may not get invited. We are the ones who flock to the Masjids. We run to the Masjid as that is the only place we can really socialize. We meet each other if we can. We are usually too busy trying to make ends meet.  We are the ones that hear of others getting married. Most of us are too tired to even try. We have no voice.
We have no voice because men discuss issues. Women talk to their husbands. We have no one to hear our concerns. We are told that the imam is too busy to see us. We are told the wife of the imam may meet us. It is the big may. What can a woman who is married know anything about what we endure? We are not angry. We just smile.

We are the lonely ones. Our loneliness speaks our volumes. We hold firm to our faith.  Yes, there is the constant stress of money. We laugh as we discuss how we can make the dollar stretch. Anyone of us could become the secretary of the budget. We can make gourmet meals on the days when the Food Stamp balance is $2.19 and we have a week to go before we are given our monthly credit. Flour is good. We can save the few dollars to have Eid gifts. We find a way to clothe our children. We make ends meet.  Some of us have not had a day without attending to the needs of our children in years.  Day in and day out, I know of sisters who toil with their children. Never taking the time to take care of themselves, these sisters never complain.

So you say to yourself why she is writing this. I am writing this as an invitation to my other sisters in faith.  My biggest struggle as a single Muslim mother is that I feel as if I have been swept under the rug by my Muslim family. Do not be ashamed of my circumstances. Befriend me.  You do not see me. Recognize that I exist. That in itself will be a source of liberation for me.

In future articles I will discuss some of the individual struggles we encounter. I will discuss how to discipline your children. I will discuss how to prevent your children from forming friendships with less favorable peers. I will discuss the forgiveness process we have to overcome. I welcome feedback.

Clearing Misconceptions: Hijab and the Islamic dress code for Muslim women:

Author: Umm Mariyam
The Arabic term “Hijab” means "cover" (noun) and is based on the root word that means "to veil, to cover (verb), to screen, to shelter, and to hide from view."
For both male and female, God has made their physical features extremely attractive to each other for the purpose of procreation through physical union. For humans, the consequences of exposing physical features can be very serious, far reaching, and can be a source of great evil in the society. A look at the society in the western world today reveals some of these evil consequences such as rampant adultery, uncountable rapes, millions of illegitimate pregnancies, millions of abortions, and millions of illegitimate children without responsible fathers to care for them.

God has made women more beautiful than men and has blessed her with more physical adornments. Almost every part of the female body is attractive to a male. Keeping this in mind, Muslim women prefer the preventive measure of covering her body as suggested by her religion. It’s a very personal and independent decision coming from the appreciation of the wisdom underlying God's command.

Unfortunately, the society today somehow symbolizes exposing women's bodies shamelessly and nudity as the expression of a woman's freedom where the most lustful desires of men are fulfilled unchecked.

Many westerners see the Muslim Hijab as a symbol of female oppression. However, according to those women who embraced Islam, the Hijab is, instead, a symbol of liberation. The Islamic tradition of Hijab frees women from being perceived primarily as sexual objects. Many western women are brought up from early childhood with the idea that their worth is proportional to their attractiveness. Societies that view women as sexual objects have a horrendous rate of violence toward women. Figures suggest that in the United States, one out of every four women will be sexually assaulted at some time in her life. This is a true oppression, a type that stems directly from the perception of women as sexual objects. Islam and its tradition of Hijab can be seen like an extreme solution to the sexual objectification of women.
Women from other religions and Muslims as well cover themselves out of this same modesty and obedience to God, which Islam promotes. Not only is the similarity very striking, but it is surprising that the same dress was worn by Mary (mother of Jesus, peace be upon him). In fact, the values have actually never changed.