GENEROSITY AND CHARITY

A believer should be as compassionate as a morning breeze and as generous as rains. He should give peace and tranquility to the people around him and always look for the pleasure of Allah the Almighty.

This is why the friends of Allah are those who are adorned with sensitivity, courtesy, altruism, mercy, and generosity. They illuminate their society like the moon illuminates the dark nights. Their generosity resembles a wild river, which flows long ways giving peace to many plants, animals, and all kinds of beings.

The first fruit of faith is mercy and the most obvious sign and the most mature manifestation of mercy is infāq or charity. Infāq means to dedicate life and possessions to Allah the Almighty. The lives of prophets, scholars, Gnostics, and saints are teemed with stories of mercy and charity.

COMPETE IN GENEROSITY

One day the Prophet (pbuh) turned to his companions after finishing the dawn prayer and asked:

“Is there anybody amongst you fasting today?”

Omar (r.a) said:

“I didn’t think about fasting yesterday night and so I am not fasting right now.”

Abū Bakr (r.a) said:

“I thought about fasting yesterday night and I am fasting right now.”

Then the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) asked:

“Is there anybody amongst you who visited a sick person today?”

Omar (r.a) replied:

“O Messenger of Allah! We have just performed the dawn prayer and haven’t left the mosque, yet. How could we possibly visit a sick person?”

But Abū Bakr (r.a) said:

“I heard that our brother Abdurrahman b. Awf had been sick. When I was on my way to the mosque, I stopped by his house to check how his health was.”

Again the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) asked:

“Is there anybody amongst you who have fed a poor this morning?”

Omar (r.a) replied:

“O Messenger of Allah! We have just performed the dawn prayer and haven’t left the mosque, yet.”

But Abū Bakr said:

“When I went into the mosque this morning, I saw a man who was asking for something to eat. My son Abdurrahman had a piece of bread in his hand. And I took the bread and gave it to the poor man.”

Upon this, the Prophet (pbuh) told Abū Bakr (r.a):

“O Abū Bakr! I give you the good news of Paradise.”

When Omar (r.a) heard this, he sighed and said “Ah! Paradise” In order to appease his sorrow, Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) told him:

“May Allah have mercy upon Omar, may Allah have mercy upon Omar! Whenever he wants to do a good deed Abū Bakr passes him.”(Haythamī, III, 163-164. See also Abū Dawūd, Zakāt, 36/1670; Ḥākim, I, 571/1501)

The greatest lesson that we should take from the above mentioned tradition is that we should always be in search of ways to please Allah the Almighty; since it is stated in a verse:

“Therefore, when you are free (from your immediate task), still labor hard, and make your Lord your exclusive object.”(94; 7-8)

Again our Lord says about His righteous servants whom He is content with:

“…and they strive with one another in hastening to good deeds…”(3; 114) Hastening to perform good deeds must turn into a natural habit of the faithful. A believer should be as compassionate as a morning breeze and as generous as rains. He should give peace and tranquility to the people around him and always look for the pleasure of Allah the Almighty.

This is why the friends of Allah are those who are adorned with sensitivity, courtesy, altruism, mercy, and generosity. They illuminate their society like the moon illuminates the dark nights. Their generosity resembles a wild river, which flows long ways giving peace to many plants, animals, and all kinds of beings. Real infāq is to seek Allah’s contentment through turning to sad and gloomy souls with a heart filled with sincerity, mercy, compassion, and altruism. It means to run to help others with all means in order to recover their deprivation.

Our Lord has made infāq one of the most significant social responsibilities. Of course it is one of His extraordinary blessings. In other words, our Lord has asked a small portion of His blessings to be offered to Him as a sign of gratitude for the rest of His benefactions. And He has made infāq a way of compensation for the sins and an important means of spiritual rewards for eternal salvation.

AN ELEVATING CHARACTERISTIC: GENEROSITY

The only characteristic needed to perform infāq is generosity. It is vain to expect the fruits of infāq to be grown in the gardens of the soul, in which the seeds of generosity are not sown.

In a saying of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), generosity is depicted as a means of getting closer to Divine love:

“Allah the Almighty is Generous; and He loves generosity and high morals…”(Suyūṭī, Jami’ al-Saghīr, I, 60)

Generosity, which is the taste of faith, attracts love of both people and Allah the Almighty. It is stated in a Hadith al-Qudsī[1] that:

“This religion (or Islam) is the one that I am content with and the one that I have chosen for Myself. Only generosity and good manners are appropriate for it. As long as you live as Muslims, exalt it with these characteristics.”(Haythamī, VIII, 20; Ali al-Muṭṭaqī, Kanz al-‘Ummāl, VI, 392)

Generosity is the result of maturity in belief in Allah and Hereafter. How nicely ‘Ali (r.a) states this reality:

“Faiths is like a tree; its root is firm belief; its branch is piety; its light is modesty and its fruit is generosity.”

Sheikh Sādī Shirazī says that:

“A generous person is like fruitful tree; while a person who lacks generosity is like a wood on the mountains.” and points out that lack of the quality of generosity is not much different than resembling a fire wood.

TWO GREAT MALADIES:
EXTRAVAGANCE AND STINGINESS

Extravagance means to spend too much on one’s self; while stinginess is to save too much for one’s self. Both of them are selfish characteristics. Allah the Almighty refuses this kind of servitude. This is mentioned in the following verses as:

“And do not make your hand to be shackled to your neck nor stretch it forth to the utmost (limit) of its stretching forth, lest you should (afterwards) sit down blamed, stripped off.”(17; 29)

“And they who when they spend, are neither extravagant nor parsimonious, and (keep) between these the just mean.”(25; 67)

In order to fulfill the necessities of wealth, one should abstain from spending his wealth to the places prohibited by Islam and stay away from two extremes, i.e. stinginess and extravagance. The disasters of being rich are greed, covetousness, and stinginess. And generosity is the remedy for all of these maladies.

Ghazalī describes generosity as the state between extravagance and stinginess.

On the other hand, the disaster of generosity is extravagance. In other words, spending the benefactions of our Lord extravagantly, while trying to be generous, is a way of wasting them.

About infāq, we should also point out that extravagance does not mean spending much. While spending on unnecessary things, be it much or little, is considered extravagance; spending on proper things, no matter how big it is, is not accepted as waste. On the contrary it is a praiseworthy action. The saying “there is no good in extravagance; and there is no extravagance in good” points out this reality.

The best example, which proves that no matter how much spending is, if it is for a good cause, it cannot be accepted as waste, is the example of Abū Bakr (r.a). Several times he gave all of his belongings to the prophet (pbuh).

On the other hand, stinginess does not mean giving small amounts, but it means to give less than one’s potential; because everybody is responsible for spending within the limits of one’s own capabilities.

How wonderfully Sheikh Sādī explains this:

“Allah the Almighty do not close the gate of doing-good for anybody. Know well that everybody’s goodness is in the extent of his potentials. A bascule of gold donated by a rich person is not equal to a carat of a poor person’s charity out of his hand work. A grasshopper’s leg is too heavy for an ant.”

In the Battle of Yarmuk, a glass of water, which three martyrs gave to each other at their last breaths, may exceed the reward of many great deeds; because the important thing is not the amount of the charity, but the richness of the soul.

Otherwise, if giving little were considered stinginess, generosity would be a privilege of the wealthy. On the contrary, wealth and poverty are means of Divine tests of Allah the Almighty. Being rich or poor is not in the hands of a servant. This is why generosity or stinginess is not a matter related to wealth but it is a characteristic of the heart.

In other words, a poor believer can be and should be generous. Our faith requires us to be generous under any circumstances. Because generosity or stinginess does not depend on how much we spend from our possessions but it depends on the proportion, which we could spend.

In fact Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) invites every believer, rich and poor, to give in charity. He says to those who only have a single date:

“(O people!) Save yourselves from the (Hell) Fire even if with one half of a date fruit (given in charity), and if this is not available, then (save yourselves) by saying a good pleasant friendly word.”(Bukharī, Kitāb al-Adab, 34)

Here are some more examples of prophetic advice and motivation in this regard.

“O Aisha! Do not send a poor man away empty handed, give even if all you can give is half a date.” (Tirmidhi, Kitab al-Zuhd, 37)

“Your smile to your brother in Islam is a kind of charity.”(Tirmidhi, Kitab al-Birr, 36)

Abu Dharr reported Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) as saying:

“O Abu Dharr! When you prepare the broth, add water to it and give it (as a present) to your neighbor.”(Muslim, Kitāb al- Birr, 143) This hadith shows that poverty is not an obstacle in front of generosity.

THE CURES FOR THE HARDNESS OF THE HEART: GENEROSITY AND CHARITY

All types of worship give different beauties, virtues, and spiritual rewards to the soul. These spiritual rewards play a significant role for the human beings who are on the path to bringing their faith from a state of immaturity to a state of maturity.

Omar b. Abdulaziz (may Allah have mercy on his soul) says that:

“Ritual prayer takes you to the half of your journey; fasting takes you to gate of the King. And charity takes you to the presence of the King.”

If the meaning of infāq is examined well, it can be seen that the wisdom behind this worship is to save human beings from slavery of materialism and to make spirituality dominant over materialism. In this respect maybe the greatest benefit of infāq to the soul is to ease the conscience.

How nicely Ali Iṣfaḥānī states this reality:

“…I have looked for goodness and sinlessness, and found them in piety, in other words abstaining from permissible things because of the fear of performing suspicious deeds. I have looked for easy questioning, and found it in silence. I have looked for comfort and tranquility and found it in giving generously.”

Because every believer is responsible for the people around him, he cannot close his ears to the problems of the needy and the destitute. He should be filled with sincerity, elegance, altruism and the mercy of infāq and generosity.

Allah the Almighty has made creation reasons to earn their livelihood. Therefore, taking care of the needy and being able to separate their share from the blessings of Allah is a great virtue and a Divine blessing. A believer’s soul cannot find consolation unless he appease the outcries of the destitute.

Jalāl al-Dīn Rumī depicts this reality as follows:

“You may know that loss of the body and of wealth is a gain to the spirit and delivers it from bane.[2] If riches be consumed in charity, a hundred lives come into the heart as a substitute.”[3]

Wealth must be earned to help the needy starting from the close relatives to the helpless, destitute, and weak members of the society. Consequently wealth must be earned to attain ease of mind and eternal salvation. If this becomes the intention of earning wealth, then hardness, depression, and crisis resulted from worldly worries leave their places to a nice tranquility and ease of mind.

Let’s listen to the remedy for the hardness of heart, which is a common problem of contemporary world, from the lips of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh):

“If you would like your heart to be softened, feed the poor, and caress the head of the orphan…”(Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal, Musnad, II, 263)

Rumī, in a way, interprets this hadith as follows:

“Poor hearts are like a house filed with smoke. Open a window for it by listening thus your heart and soul will get refined.”[4]

Matured and refined souls by giving in charity will be happy to see that their charity will turn into Divine protection. Thus they willingly turn towards charity.

Again Rumī explains this as follows:

“Riches were never diminished by alms-giving: in sooth, acts of charity are an excellent means of attaching (wealth) to one’s self. In the poor-tax is (involved) the overflow and increase of (one’s) gold: in the ritual prayer is (involved) preservation from lewdness and iniquity. The poor-tax is the keeper of your purse, the ritual prayer is the shepherd who saves you from the wolves.[5]

Property does not diminish nor does it disappear through giving charity. On the contrary, it will be increased to the extent of the sincerity in that act of charity. Even though Abū Bakr (r.a) came to a point of financial bankrupt as a result of giving his entire wealth to the Prophet (pbuh), he increased his wealth again and again by the grace of our Lord, because wealth spent for the sake of Allah increases like a pruned tree.

It is depicted in a verse:

“The parable of those who spend their property in the way of Allah is as the parable of a grain growing seven ears (with) a hundred grains in every ear; and Allah multiplies for whom He pleases; and Allah is Ample-giving, Knowing”(2; 261)

Wealth that is not spent for the sake of Allah resembles stagnant water that smells after being in one place for so long. How nicely Sheikh Sādī says:

“Don’t think that money will increase by piling it up. Still water smells bad. Try to forgive. Sky helps to flowing water. It rains, sends flood and do not let it dry.”

Jalāl al-Dīn Rumī depicts this reality as follows:

“When any one sows, his barn becomes empty (of seed), but there is goodliness in his cornfield; and, if he leaves it (the seed) in the barn and saves it up, weevils and mice and calamities (of time and decay) devour it.”[6]

Charity and alms cleanse the wealth. They become a shield against the troubles. This is stated in the following tradition of the Prophet (pbuh):

“Hurry up in giving charity; because troubles cannot go ahead of charity.”(Haythamī, Majma’ al-Zawāid, III, 110)

Words like infāq which connote devotion of wealth and life to the path of Allah the Almighty are mentioned in more than two hundred places in the Qur’an. Even this number is enough to comprehend the extent and significance of infāq. The command of infāq is a result of our Lord’s endless mercy o His servants. Because by inviting us to charity, our Lord is, in reality, inviting us to get benefit from spiritual virtues, blessings, and peace of charity.

DONATE WHAT IS MORE THAN NEEDED

The state of asceticism begins, when hearts reach Allah the Almighty through love. Wealth and property lose their value in the eyes and the hearts. They denote value in as much as they have become means to get close to Allah the Almighty. A believer who seeks the contentment of Allah the Almighty knows how to pursue a modest and plain life so he can find ways to help the needy.

The generation of the Companions, who were raised in the climate of the Qur’ān and Sunnah, did not incline to the luxury and reign of this world, even though they got very rich through the booty flowing into Medina from the conquered lands. They did not change their modest life style and even the decoration of their houses. By giving their wealth in charity, they lived the real peace and tranquility of wealth. The generation of the companions did not know a life style of extravagant consumption, gluttony, luxury and ostentation, which are the incurable maladies of the contemporary world. Because they lived aware of the fact “that tomorrow the grave will be the mansion of their souls.”

Imam Mālik wrote in his letter to the caliph of his time that:

“Omar (r.a) went to the pilgrimage ten times. As far as I know he would spend only twelve dinars during one of his pilgrimage because of his modest life style. He would stay under a tree instead of a tent. He would carry his milkskin hung on his neck. He would walk through the markets and inquire after their well-being.”(Qaḍī ‘Iyāḍ, Tartīb al-Madārik, p. 271)

In other words, Omar (r.a) was contended with spending only the sufficient amount for his pilgrimage, and he would give the rest of his wealth in charity. Because Allah the Almighty stated the amount of charity as “what is beyond the needs.”[7] According to this, the minimum amount of generosity is to give the excess amount of wealth, which is not needed.

In this respect, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) says that:

“O son of Adam, it is better for you if you spend your surplus (wealth), but if you withhold it, it is evil for you. There is (however) no reproach for you (if you withhold means necessary) for a living. And begin (charity) with your dependants; and the upper hand is better than the lower hand.”(Muslim, Kitāb al-Zakāt, 97; See also Tirmidhī, Kitāb al-Zuhd, 32)

Therefore we should not exceed the amount of need and assess the amount of need within the limits of fairness. And we should also make use of the amount beyond our needs in charity.

EFFORTS TO INCREASE GENEROSITY

Aḥmad b. Abū Ward (may Allah have mercy on his soul) summarizes the state of the friends of Allah as follows:

“There are three things that when they increase in a friend of Allah, his good states also increase:

The more his station ascends, the more his modesty increases

The more he lives the more he serves others

The more his wealth increases the more his generosity increases

Ramazanoğlu Mahmud Sāmi was in such anxiety of infāq that he would never see his charity enough, he was walking to work and saving the bus fare so he could give it in charity. In other words he was making sacrifice from his own comfort to increase the amount of his charity.

Everything given in charity will be a capital in the Hereafter for our eternal salvation. Rumī gives the following advice in order to attain this eternal happiness:

“Reduce the amount that you eat and drink in this world in order to increase your charity so that you can find the Fount (of Abundance). How can one who sheds a drop to the earth of fidelity miss the godsend hunt?”

And today everybody should try to live according to this lofty principle as much as he can, even by making small sacrifices from personal comfort, convenience, decoration of our houses, or daily expenditures. The state of the needy, the destitute, and the stricken is an exemplary enough picture for those who have conscience.

Wealthy believers, who act according to this principle, stay away from searching luxury and comfort for themselves. However, those who are heedless of this fact make too much consumption on themselves. They are those who say “it is mine, I can spend however I want” and they are those who are called in the Qur’ān as the brethren of the devils.[8]

BLINDNESS OF STINGINESS

In order to become real people of charity, servitude should reach to the level of isān or worshipping Allah as if seeing Him. Being able to see the Divine magnificence everywhere and every time depends on to have the eyes of our spirit open. In order to attain real generosity, we have to have strong faith and give our charity as if we see the spiritual rewards of our charity which we will receive in the Hereafter. Rumī  explains this fact as follows:

“The Prophet said, “Whosoever knows for sure his recompense on the day of Resurrection— that his compensation will be ten for one—at every moment a different (act of) munificence will issue from him.” All munificence is from seeing compensations; therefore seeing the compensation is opposed to fearing (and shrinking from the act of munificence). Miserliness consists in not seeing compensations: the prospect of pearls keeps the diver glad. Hence no one in the world is miserly, since no one hazards anything without (seeing) what is to be received in exchange. Generosity, then, comes from the eye, not from the hand: it is seeing that matters; none but the seer is saved from stinginess.”[9]

In fact stinginess is a blindness of heart and not being able to see the death and what comes after death. It is also a great ingratitude towards the infinite blessings of our Lord.

In this regard how appalling Rumī’s warning is:

“On the river-bank, water is grudged by him (alone) that is blind to the stream of water.”[10]

Our Lord also warns us about getting caught to such blindness of heart and ingratitude in the following verses:

“And what reason have you that you should not spend in Allah’s way? And Allah’s is the inheritance of the heavens and the earth…”(57; 10)

“…And Allah’s are the treasures of the heavens and the earth, but the hypocrites do not understand.”(63; 7)

“Behold! you are those who are called upon to spend in Allah’s way, but among you are those who are niggardly, and whoever is niggardly is niggardly against his own soul; and Allah is Self-sufficient and you have need (of Him), and if you turn back He will bring in your place another people, then they will not be like you.”(47; 38)

In other words we should think about in whose land do we live, from whose blessings are we fed, and consequently whose wealth are we trying to withhold?

Of course Allah the Almighty is the real owner of wealth. He has entrusted us His blessings in this world. His servants are like agents to dispose His wealth in this world. The servant is also responsible for the poor and the needy. Those who are aware of this fact cannot be a stranger to what happens around him.

HELP NOW, SO YOU WILL BE HELPED WHEN YOU NEED IT

Showing mercy and helping Creation, Allah the Almighty is the best manifestation of love for Allah and the best statement of gratitude towards the blessings of our Lord. We have to help and be generous towards our Lord’s needy servants as much as we need His mercy and benefaction; because they are a type of trial for us in this world.

In is stated in a hadith a qudsī:

“Allah said (to man), ‘Spend (in charity), for then I will compensate you (generously).”(Bukhārī, Kitāb al-Tawhīd, 35)

Again in another tradition, the Prophet (pbuh) says that:

“Spend according to your means; Do not withhold your money by counting it (i.e. hoarding it), (for if you did so), Allah would also with-hold His blessings from you.”(Bukharī, Kitāb al-Zakat, 21; Muslim, Kitab al-Zakat, 88)

In other words in order to be mature believer with whom Allah the Almighty is contended, we are responsible for generously helping His needy servants just as He helps us and sends us His blessings.

May our Lord give our hearts taste and pleasure of faith. May He bless us with the joy of generosity and peace of helping others.

Amin…

[1].      ∗ An extra-Qur’anic tradition related by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as communicated by Allah the Almighty.

[2].      Mathnawī, III, 3395

[3].      Mathnawī, IV, 1758

[4].      Mathnawi, III, 485

[5].      Mathnawī, VI, 3573-3576

[6].      Mathnawī, I, 2239-2240

[7].      Qur’ān 2; 219

[8].      See Qur’ān 17; 27

[9].      Mathnawī, II, 895-900

[10].     Mathnawī, II, 894