MANNERS OF CHARITY

A faithful is a generous person. Real generosity means to be able to give without feeling remorse and batting an eyelid. On the contrary it means to be able to give joyfully. A believer should be like a flower, which generously and freely diffuses its fragrance. Thus his charity may be appreciated properly in the sight of Allah the Almighty.

How nicely Sheikh Sādī states that:

“Since you do not have to go to anybody’s door, as a sign of gratitude you should not refuse the poor who comes to your door and meet with smiling face…”

When we examine the essence and goal of Sufism, we find out that the principal means used by Sufism for spiritual achievement is “love,” and the peak of the spiritual achievement is to comply with the principles of good manners. In this respect, a believer is on the path to Divine unity to the extent that he places Allah and His Messenger in the center of his heart. The greatest sign for this is to be adorned with the ethical principles of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh).

The feeling of compliance to the principles of good manners constitutes the essence of prophetic ethics. According to the depiction of the companions, Allah’s Apostle was more bashful than a covered virgin. Again he (pbuh) said about his manners: “My Lord has taught me good manners and He mannered me (disciplined me) well.” (Suyūtī, Jami’ al-Saghīr, I, 12)

Jalāl al-Dīn Rumī says the following about good manners:

“If you want to crush the head of the Devil, open your eye and see that what upsets the Devil most are good manners. If someone does not have good manners, he is not real human being…”

This is why in the past one of the warning signs in the dervish lodges and convents was read as «Adab ya hu». This sign has two meaning. One of them is that it warns and at the same time invites dervishes to be careful about their manners. The other meaning is that it is a supplication to Allah for receiving good manners.

Good manners, which are the essence of faith, encompass all aspects of a believer’s life, especially his worship and daily life.

Allah the Almighty states that He has not created His servants except to worship Him alone. In this respect, all kinds of worship and daily transactions are like the most vital point of our servitude. In other words we cannot think a life of servitude without worship and daily transactions.

On the other hand how we perform our responsibilities of servitude is as much important as their performance. Because compliance to good manners in worship and transactions is the only condition to reach Allah’s love and pleasure. This is why worship performed without complying the proper manners and principles loses its entire value and leaves to its performer just physical exhaustion.

As a matter of fact, it is stated in a saying of the Prophet (pbuh):

“Many people who fast get nothing from their fast except hunger and thirst, and many people who pray at night get nothing from it except wakefulness.”(Ibn Mājah, Ṣiyām, 21)

Just like ritual prayer, which is the pillar of Islam, has conditions and must be performed in reverence, alms and charity should also be meticulously given in compliance with certain principles of manners. Otherwise those who give their charity carelessly will face a fate in the Hereafter similar to the Divine warning of “So woe to the praying ones…” (107; 4) for those who are heedless of their prayers.

DO NOT WASTE YOUR CHARITY

Our Lord informs us about good manners, which we should observe in giving our charity, as follows:

“(As for) those who spend their property in the way of Allah, then do not follow up what they have spent with reproach or injury, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and they shall have no fear nor shall they grieve.

Kind speech and forgiveness is better than charity followed by injury; and Allah is Self-sufficient, Forbearing.

O you who believe! do not make your charity worthless by reproach and injury, like him who spends his property to be seen of men and does not believe in Allah and the last day; so his parable is as the parable of a smooth rock with earth upon it, then a heavy rain falls upon it, so it leaves it bare; they shall not be able to gain anything of what they have earned; and Allah does not guide the unbelieving people.”(2; 262-264)

In the above mentioned verses, our Lord shows us the proper manners that we need to observe in giving alms and charity. In other words philanthropic actions, which are performed by despising, insulting, and disdaining the poor and breaking their hearts, have no value in the presence of Allah the Almighty. Those who do not follow these principles and give their charity with a senseless and cold heart dissipate the spiritual rewards of their charity with their own hands.

To rub in the charity and goodness not only cause to lose its rewards but also calls the anger of our Lord. In this regard the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said that:

“Three are the (persons) with whom Allah would neither speak on the Day of Resurrection, nor would look at them nor would absolve the and there is a painful chastisement for them. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) repeated it three times.

Abu Dharr (r.a) remarked:

“They failed and they lost; who are these persons, Messenger of Allah?”

Upon this he (the Holy Prophet) observed:

“They are: the dragger of lower garment, the seller of goods by false oath and one who reminds his kindness reproachfully.”(Muslim, Kitāb al-Imān, 171)

As one can see insincere kindness followed by reproachful reminding and despise is among the great sins which cause its owner to be punished instead of receiving rewards. Since hearts are the place for Divine sight, they should not be broken.

In addition alms and charity, which is ordered by Allah the Almighty, is the natural right of the needy in the possessions of the rich. Therefore taking charity out of the property of the wealthy and giving it to the needy should not be regarded as a favor to the needy but delivering something to its real owner. Forgetting this fact and trying to take credit from delivering the blessings of Allah the Almighty to His servants and maltreating the needy is just heedlessness, immaturity, and ignorance.

Then we should not boast about our charity, despise the needy; on the contrary we should put ourselves to their place and think that someday we may be in their places; Because even though hard work have some role in wealth or poverty, they mostly are matters of fate. Allah may make the wealthy poor and the poor wealthy. They are not measures of superiority in the presence of Allah the Almighty. They are just one of the means of trial in this world. Superiority in the sight of Allah is only with piety and righteousness. Then boasting about helping the needy is just being heedless from the secret of trial in this world.

Sheikh Sādī says in his Bostān:

“When you have done a favor to someone, do not boast about it by saying “I am a master, he needs me.” Do not say sword of time cut this needy person. Because that sword has not go into its sheath, yet. It is possible that one day it may cut you, too.”

Wealthy people should know to put themselves into the place of the needy and they should be able to say that: “Our Lord could create us in their place and them in our place. Since He has given us His blessings, then it means He entrusted them to us. He has also made us responsible for the needy. And He asked us to help them as a sign of our gratitude.”

Again Sheikh Sādī’s advice in his same work is really remarkable:

 “If a needy comes to your door, do not turn him down. God forbid, someday you may become a needy and have to go to other people’s doors.

Inquire the state of those whose hearts are broken. One day you may be like them.

Since you do not have to go to anybody’s door, as a sign of gratitude you should not refuse the poor who comes to your door and meet with smiling face…”

In fact it is stated in a verse:

“And find you in want and make you to be free from want? Therefore, as for the orphan, do not oppress (him). And as for him who asks, do not chide (him), And as for the favor of your Lord, do announce (it).”(93; 8-11)

The most important part in doing favors to the needy is not to remind them reproachfully and the best way to realize that is to forget the favors right after doing them. How nicely Lokman Hakim states:

“Do not forget two things: Allah the Almighty and death.

Forget about two things: Your favors to others and other’s misdeed towards you.”

To be a real philanthropic servant is a very valuable blessing both in this world and in the Hereafter. Those who can perform this worship properly, according to the good news of our Lord, will be free from fear and sorrow on Judgment Day. This is why our Lord and our beloved Prophet (pbuh) encourages us to attain the peace and tranquility of helping others in many verses and ahadith.

Allah the Almighty warned us, servants, not to lose such a great blessing like infāq and ordered to observe the manners of it.

A faithful is a generous person. Real generosity means to be able to give without feeling remorse and batting an eyelid. On the contrary it means to be able to give joyfully. A believer should be like a flower, which generously and freely diffuses its fragrance. Thus his charity may be appreciated properly in the sight of Allah the Almighty. In this regard it is stated in a verse: “…Allah receives their gifts of Charity” (9; 107).

How nicely Rumi depicts the blessings of infāq given in an elegant manner:

“Nicely give your property, your wealth, your possessions and make the soul happy so that the prayer of that soul be a light in your grave, and light your way in the dark night.”

Therefore we should not deny a simple smile from the needy, just as we do not deny our wealth and property.

When Ramazanoğlu Mahmud Sâmi (may Allah bless his soul) saw a poor, if he was in a car, he would stop the car, get off the car, smile and give his charity. Altruism, courtesy and mercy should be distinctive characteristics of a Muslim.

GIVING CHARITY WITH THE FEELING OF GRATITUDE

Islamic manners and elegance requires seeing charity as a blessing. Giver should also be in state of thankfulness towards the receiver of charity. Because he saves the giver from responsibility and causes him to earn spiritual rewards.

In a verse, it is mentioned that:

“To make them walk in the right way is not incumbent on you, but Allah guides aright whom He pleases; and whatever good thing you spend, it is to your own good; and you do not spend but to seek Allah’s pleasure; and whatever good things you spend shall be paid back to you in full, and you shall not be wronged.”(2; 272)

This means those who do favors will be the ones who see the real blessings of their kindness. In fact he will receive the reward of his favor completely and even more and more to the extent of his sincerity. In other words, infāq may seem as a favor to the receiver but in fact it is a favor to the giver. This is why the giver should feel indebted to the receiver of charity instead of making him indebted to himself/herself.

My dad’s love for the poor was like a vast sea. When they accepted his help, he would go in a mood of thankfulness. When he was giving money, he was placing it in an envelope, on which he wrote “thank you for accepting this”. He would do his best not to hurt his feelings. This was the result of spiritual grace and elegance of helping Creation for the sake of their Creator.

Rumī states in his sagacious lines that:

“The poor is the mirror of bounty, Beware! Do not breathe over the mirror by saying hurtful things to the face of the mirror.[1]

A loud call was coming (to his ears): “Come, O seeker! Bounty is in need of beggars: (it is needy) like a beggar. Bounty is seeking the beggars and the poor, just as fair ones who seek a clear mirror.[2]

Inasmuch as the beggar is the mirror of Bounty, take care! Breath is hurtful to the face of the mirror. In the one case, his (the giver’s) bounty makes the beggar manifest(causes him tobeg), while in the other case he (the giver), (without being asked), bestows on the beggars more (than they need).”[3]

This is why we should accept it as a special blessing from our Lord if someone comes to us and asks our help. And we should also regard such an opportunity as an honor of our servitude.

‘Ali (r.a) explains this fact as follows:

“There are two blessings that I don’t know which one of them makes me happier. One of them is that a man comes to me and sincerely asks my help hoping that I will take care of his needs. The second one is that Allah the Almighty helps that man through me. I would rather to ease a Muslim brother’s trouble to have a world full of gold and silver.”(‘Ali al-Muṭṭaqī, Kanz al-Ummāl, VI, 598/17049)

If the giver of charity feels proud of his action and expects gratitude and indebtedness, it destroys all the rewards and blessings of his action. Giver of charity should not expect anything but Allah’s contentment. it should not be forgotten that expecting even prayer and thanks from the needy are things shadowing the sincerity of the charity.

In this respect, the following verse revealed to praise ‘Ali and Fāṭima’s (r.huma) charity should be a nice example for the believers:

“And they give food out of love for Him to the poor and the orphan and the captive: We only feed you for Allah’s sake; we desire from you neither reward nor thanks: Surely we fear from our Lord a stern, distressful day. Therefore Allah win guard them from the evil of that day and cause them to meet with ease and happiness.” (76; 8-11)

The following state of the mothers of Muslim nation about giving the charity just for the sake of Allah the Almighty and not expecting anything from the receiver not to reduce the reward of charity is a very good example:

When Aisha and Umm Salamah (r.a) send something to a needy person, they would ask the delivery person to memorize how the receiver of their charity prayed for them so they could make the same prayers for the needy. They even wanted to compensate the prayers of the needy. They did not even hope to get prayer from the needy, for prayer is like a compensation for their charity.

THE WAY TO ATTAIN RIGHTEOUSNESS

Our Lord shows us a high target for our servitude in the following verse:

“By no means shall you attain to righteousness until you spend (benevolently) out of what you love; and whatever thing you spend, Allah surely knows it.”(3; 92)

“To be able to spend out of what we love” should be one of the manners which we need to observe in our charity. Because sensitivity in this matter shows the level of the servant’s love for Allah the Almighty.

Therefore we should give out of the things that we love most and that we would be happy if it was given to us. Thus we can advance on the path that makes our charity perfect. We should put ourselves in the place of the needy and when we give something, we should think what we would think about it if we were the receiver. Again it is stated in a verse:

“O you who believe! spend (benevolently) of the good things that you earn and or what We have brought forth for you out of the earth, and do not aim at what is bad that you may spend (in alms) of it, while you would not take it yourselves unless you have its price lowered, and know that Allah is Self-sufficient, Praiseworthy.”(2; 267)

One should not think that he fulfill his responsibility by giving the needy out of cheap and old things. This kind of charity cannot be considered as a real charity.

A believer is a generous person, and real generosity is not reducing charity to things which are cheap and old, but out of valuable, beneficial and lovable things which could take care a problem of the needy.

AID ONE ANOTHER IN KINDNESS AND PIETY

The aim in giving charity is to relieve completely the problems of the needy. Of course it is impossible to realize this goal alone, since everybody has a limited budget. This is why we should help each other and get united in doing goodness. In a verse, our Lord says that:

“… and help one another in goodness and piety …”(5; 2)

In other words helping each other in goodness is the order of Allah the Almighty. This means that we need to get united and even establish institutions especially in services, which cannot be achieved alone

In this regard, we should try to fulfill our Lords command “help one another in goodness and piety” by encouraging the people around us to help each other in cases which we cannot overcome alone.

What is appropriate for a real believer is always to look for ways to do goodness. If a believer who has this level of conscience does not have anything to give, then he would give his time and energy. Thus he can be the means of a greater good.

Today we should not get caught to the disease of comforting our conscience by giving very little amounts, which cannot solve any problems of the needy. We need to think that what percentage of our Lord’s blessings do we donate in His path? What is the ratio of our donations to the amount we spend for ourselves? Or do we comfort our conscience with little amounts by comparing our donation to other people’s little charity?

However, we, as believers, should compare ourselves to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and his distinguished companions; because Allah the Almighty order us to take these pious servants as examples to ourselves in the following verse:

“And (as for) the foremost, the first of the Muhajirs and the Ansars, and those who followed them in goodness, Allah is well pleased with them and they are well pleased with Him, and He has prepared for them gardens beneath which rivers flow, to abide in them forever; that is the mighty achievement.” (9; 100)

The generation of the companion, which our Lord presents to us as the exemplary generation, paid the price for their faith first by the tortures which they had to face in Mecca; second they had to endure the attacks of the unbelievers in Medina. And finally they carried the light of guidance and convey the message of Islam through the ages. They mobilized everything they owned on the path of the Allah the Almighty. Because they always lived in contemplation of the following verse:

“Then on that day you shall most certainly be questioned about the boons.” (102; 8)

We should, too, take the generation of the companions as examples to ourselves and try to live according to the above mentioned three principles.

THE ONE WHO CAUSES GOODNESS IS LIKE THE ONE WHO DOES GOODNESS

We need to ensure that our charity solve a problem of the society. And if we are not enough by ourselves in this regard, we should look for others thinking that “can I find somebody else who can help this poor man?” instead of saying “What else can I do? This is all I am able to do.” Thus we can be a bridge between the needy and the people who have opportunities to help them. Because it is stated in a prophetic saying:

“Those who conduce to something good are like the ones who did it.”(Tirmidhī, ‘Ilm, 14)

Because of this fact, the friends of Allah encourage people to do goodness so that they could become a part in their goodness. In this regard Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror’s teacher, Akşemseddîn’s the following state is very remarkable:

The first Friday after the conquest of Istanbul, there was a victory and conquest parade in Ok Meydani square. After sultan Mehmet, who never forget the help of the people around him, said that:

“Mercy is upon our martyrs, glory and honor to our veterans and praise and gratitude to my people…” he distributed gifts, property, and land to one hundred and seventy thousand soldiers and civilians around him. Just then sultan Mehmed’s spiritual guide Akşemseddînadvised the veterans as follows:

“O Veterans! You should know that the Messenger of Allah called you as “what wonderful soldiers…” I hope all of you are forgiven by Allah the Almighty. Now do not waste your possessions and spend it for doing goodness. Obey your sultan and love him…”

Thus he wanted to reinforce the virtue of the conquering army with another virtue and encouraged them to build the city and help its residents.[4]

We are the descendants of a great nation, which has produced a great civilization of merits. Even today we live in the middle of their meritorious works such as their endowments, fountains, charity rocks etc. We should protect their works and try to produce new charitable works resembling to theirs. First of all we need to adorn our inner world with merits; and then we need to raise new generations that will be faithful and protective of the works of their predecessors. Otherwise Islam loses its strength, generations get lost and our country may even change hands. We should be believers who are philanthropic and aware of their responsibilities.

In short a philanthropic believer is an altruistic person. He is also a person who knows that receiving the eternal salvation tomorrow in the Divine court depends on helping others; because, our Lord prohibits us to become selfish, rude, and stingy people.

In this respect, we should not forget that our trial will be easy to the extent of our feelings of responsibility towards others.

May our Lord bless us aspiration to strive for our religion. May He place in our hearts the love of helping others just for His sake. May He also make our philanthropic actions befitting to certain principles of good manners.

Amin…

[1].      Mathnawī, I, 2750

[2].      Mathnawī, I, 2744-2745

[3].      Mathnawī, I, 2748-2749

[4].      See Ayverdi, Sâmiha, Türk Târihinde OSMANLI ASIRLARI, Istanbul 1999, p. 227-228.