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. 

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