SINCERITY IN CHARITY

There is a law of attraction in money, which changes depending on how it’s earned. Money is like a snake. It goes from the hole where it comes. Lawful earnings become instruments for performing goodness and virtues; while illicit earnings melt and disappear for the causes of evil. Therefore we can understand where money is earned from where it is spent.

Our spirituality is under the influence of two things:

Whether we are nourished with licit food, or with something illicit or even with something suspicious.

People’s character and personality accompanying us. 

Sincerity means sincerity in servitude and purity of intentions. Piety and sincerity are secrets of servitude which cannot be separated. They are like two different manifestations of same meaning. It is the unity of the servant with His Lord in the heart of the servant. In other words it is the manifestation of the attributes such as mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and gentleness in the heart. It is believer’s search for Allah the Almighty in every state, in every behavior, even in every breath.

Hearts, which are deficient of sincerity, begin to comply to the desires of the self. And the peak of this compliance is the foolishness of worshipping something other than Allah the Almighty even if it is just in the heart. This is stated in a verse as follows:

“Have you seen him who takes his low desires for his god? Will you then be a protector over him?”(25; 43)

Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) states the piteous consequences of the lack of sincerity in actions as follows:

‘What I fear most about my ummah is to attribute partners to Allah the Almighty. I do not mean that they will worship the moon or the sun as deities. What really scare me are the actions performed for goals other than Allah the Almighty’s contentment and hidden pleasure (feeling of vanity)”(Ibn Mājah, Zuhd, 21)

Therefore worship performed with the intention of pride, showing off or for a goal other than Allah’s contentment are actions generating no spiritual benefit. They are just empty movements of the body. As it is stated in a saying of the Prophet (pbuh):

“The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended.”(Bukharī, Imān, 41)

Like in all kinds of worship, sincerity is very important in giving charity. Charity should be given just for the sake of Allah the Almighty. The Messenger of Allah says that:

“If anyone gives as Sadaqa the equivalent of a date from that (earning) earned honestly, for Allah accepts that which is lawful, the Lord would accept it with His Right Hand, and even if it is a date, it would foster in the Hand of the lord, as one of you fosters his colt, till it becomes bigger than a mountain.”(Muslim, Kitāb al-Zakāt, 63)

“Undoubtedly charity goes to the Hand of the Lord before the receiver takes it.”(Munāwī, Kunūz al-aqāiq, p. 34)

In other words Allah the Almighty becomes the real addressee of the charity.This is why to have sincere soul is very important in philanthropic actions. It is necessary to give the charity without expecting anything from any mortal beings and thinking that “Dear Lord, this is just for You.” This is the main principle of giving charity.

SIGN OF SINCERITY:
TO BE ABLE TO FIND THE REAL NEEDY

Trying to give the charity to someone really deserves it is an important manner of infāq. In other words, instead of choosing the easy way and giving it someone random, we need to feel that it is worship and do our best as it is stated in the following verse:

“…And who are payers of the poor-due…”(23; 4)

Just like our attention and search in buying something new, we need to spend the same time and energy in finding an appropriate receiver for our charity. Because infāq is a spiritual transaction, in which we give out of the blessings of our Lord and get the endless blessings of the Hereafter in return. And the best performance of this transaction can be achieved by finding the real needy. This also shows the level of sincerity in our charity.

In a verse, looking for the real needy is ordered as follows:

“(Alms are) for the poor who are confined in the way of Allah– they cannot go about in the land; the ignorant man thinks them to be rich on account of (their) abstaining (from begging); you can recognize them by their mark; they do not beg from men importunately; and whatever good thing you spend, surely Allah knows it.”(2; 273)

In other words, giving charity to its rightful recipient develops sensitivity in the heart and power to recognize the real needy from their faces.

It is stated in another hadith:

“The poor person is not the one who asks a morsel or two (of meals) from the others, but the poor is the one who has nothing and is ashamed to beg from others.”(Bukharī, Kitāb al-Zakāt, 53)

Rumī gives the following advices in this respect:

“Go and seek heart! Serve the weak. Protect the weak and the heart broken. They are such people that they have no earnings from others humans. However, they are in complete tranquility of heart. Search and find them.”

The real merit is to hold the hands of those in need. In other words to find the needy who cannot ask because of modesty and to recognize them from their faces is a command of our Lord. Undoubtedly achieving this kind of sensitivity depends on the extent of lawfulness of our food and strength of sincerity in our hearts.

Charity given out of lawful earnings, and given willingly just for the sake of Allah the Almighty will not be lost; Allah will certainly grant it to the rightful recipients.

Helping to one single rightful recipient sometimes is equal to helping thousands of people; because it would not be considered a waste spending great amount of money for such a person.

The Messenger of Allah paid special attention to the poor companions called “Aṣhāb al-Suffah” and encouraged wealthy companions to help them.

Rumī says about to whom and where we should give our charity the following:

“What is justice? To give water to trees. What is injustice? To give water to thorns.”[1]

Therefore we should be careful to what our charity is giving life, whether to the gardens of spirituality or to the thorns of selfishness.

The value of infāq depends on the lawfulness of the property. With the permission of Allah the Almighty, charity given out of lawful possessions will fall into the share of its most rightful recipient. Thus charity becomes a kind of x-ray machine of the earnings.

One of the wealthy disciples of Abū ‘Abbās Niḥāwandī came to him and asked to whom he should give his charity. He replied:

“Give it to whom your heart feels right.”

After the disciple left, he ran across a blind man begging for help. He thought that was a suitable person to give his charity. Then he took a bag of gold and gave it to the blind man. After the blind man checked the bad and felt it has gold in it, he happily left.

Next day when he was passing by the same place, he saw the blind man whom he had given his charity talking to another blind man. He was saying that:

“Yesterday, a man gave me a bag of gold. Then I went to a bar and got drunk.”

The disciple was disturbed about this situation. He went immediately to his master Abū ‘Abbās Niḥāwandī . Before he began to tell what had happened, Abū ‘Abbas gave him silver coin and told him to donate it to the first person whom he met on his way.

The disciple left to execute his master’s order before he was able to explain his problem. He did just as his master told him to do and gave the money to the first man he met. However he got curious about the man and began to follow him. Further on the man went into an abandoned building. Then took a dead bird out of his clothes and left to the ground. Just he was leaving the place, the disciple appeared in front of him and asked:

“Sir, for the sake of Allah, could you explain me what all of these are about? What is this dead bird?”

When the poor man saw the person who gave him the money, he got scared and began to stutter:

“For the last seven days I could not find anything to feed my children. I and my wife had been holding up but our kids had had no strength left to bear the hunger anymore. But even though we were in such a hard situation, I was too ashamed to beg and ask people’s help. Then I found this dead and almost decomposed bird. I was planning to take it to my children. On the other hand in my heart I was praying my Lord for help to save me. Then you came and gave me the silver coin. I thanked my Lord and came here to leave the dead bird. Now I will go to market and buy some food for my children…”

The disciple got confused and went back to his master. Before he was able to say anything, Abū ‘Abbās Niḥāwandī ÞÏÓ ÓÑå told him:

“My son, it looks like before you give your charity, you did not pay attention from where you earned your money. This is why, even though you tried to find the right person, your charity was spent for alcohol; because the way that an earning is spent depends on how it has been earned. Because of its lawfulness my single silver coin found its rightful owner, while your bag of gold went to an inappropriate recipient…”

In other words finding appropriate recipients for our charity is also related to from where we earn our wealth. As if there is a law of attraction in money, which changes depending on how it’s earned. Money is like a snake. It goes from the hole where it comes. Lawful earnings become instruments for performing goodness and virtues; while illicit earnings melt and disappear for the causes of evil. Therefore we can understand where money is earned from where it is spent.

Spiritual side of infāq manifests itself very clearly. It is because of lawfulness of the wealth and sincerity in the heart that to some people charity gives completely different tranquility of the heart.

Another significant issue is that Islam encourages giving charity whenever it is possible. If we can sincerely give our charity, then Allah bestows His blessings upon us. Sometimes even if our charity looks like to be given to an inappropriate person, it may cause that person to wake up from his heedlessness and find the right path of Islam.

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) points out this in one of his sayings. “A man expressed his intention to give charity, so he came out with charity and placed it in the hand of an adulteress. In the morning, the people were talking and saying: charity was given to an adulteress last night. He (the giver of Sadaqa) said: O Allah, to Thee be the praise-to an adulteress. He then again expressed his intention to give charity; so he went out with the charity and placed it in the hand of a rich person. In the morning the people were talking and saying: Charity was given to a rich person. He (the giver of charity) said:

“O Allah, to Thee be the praise-to a well-to-do person.”

 He then expressed his intention to give charity, so he went out with charity and placed it in the hand of a thief. In the morning, the people were talking and saying: Charity was given to a thief. So (one of the persons) said:

“O Allah, to Thee be the praise (what a misfortune it is that charity has been given to) the adulteress, to a rich person. to a thief!”

There came (the angel to him) and he was told:

“Your charity has been accepted. As for the adulteress (the charity might become the means) whereby she might restrain herself from fornication. The rich man might perhaps learn a lesson and spend from what Allah has given him, and the thief might thereby refrain from committing theft.”(Bukharī, Kitāb al-Zakāt, 14; Muslim, Kitāb al-Zakāt, 78)

We observe a similar incident in the life of Mahmud Sâmi Ramazanoğlu ÞÏÓ ÓÑå. Once when he was on a trip in Anatolia, someone stops his car and asks for cigarette money.

Even though his friends disagree with him, he says:

“Since he asked, we need to give him money” and under his friends’ surprised looks, he unwaveringly gives the money. The poor pleased with what he had seen says:

“Now I will go and buy food with this money” and happily walks away.

This is a nice example showing how a charity given sincerely can make positive effects on the needy. What a great happiness would be for us if we primarily consider the feelings of the needy not ours.

This is why Sheikh Sādī makes the following warning:

“Do not put your benevelonce and charity into a bag and tie it down. Do not deny your benevolence to anybody. Do not say “this is a hypocrit, this is a fraud.” Let them be whatever they like. What is it to you?”

IF YOU HAVE SINCERE INTENTIONS, ALLAH WILL BESTOW HIS BLESSINGS UPON YOU

Allah the Almighty increases the little amount given with sincerity. He responds to His servant’s small good deeds with great rewards. This is why a single coin given sincerely is much more valuable that thousands of coins given unwillingly. In other words amount of charity is not important, but the important thing is, when it is compared to the giver’s wealth, what the proportion is and how sincerely and intentionally it is given. In this respect, Allah’s Apostle says that:

“A believer’s intention (his goal and sincerity) is more important than his action.”(Ṣuyūtī, Jāmi’ al-Saghīr, II, 194)

This is why even a small deed becomes great if it is performed sincerely and small charities become means for the atonement of the giver’s sins. This can be observed in the following prophetic tradition.

“A person suffered from intense thirst while on a journey, when he found a well. He climbed down into it and drank (water) and then came out and saw a dog lolling its tongue on account of thirst and eating the moistened earth. The person said:

“This dog has suffered from thirst as I had suffered from it.”

 He climbed down into the well, filled his shoe with water, then caught it in his mouth until he climbed up and made the dog drink it. So Allah appreciated this act of his and pardoned him. Then (the Companions around him) said:

“O Allah’s Messenger, is there for us a reward even for (serving) such animals? He said: Yes, there is a reward for service to every living animal.”

Here sincerely performed a small deed saves its performer from Hell, while in another ḥadith, a religiously observant but a cruel woman goes to Hell because she lets her cat to die by hunger. (See Muslim, Kitāb al-Salām, 151-153)

This is why, in order to become a perfect believer, we should sincerely endeavor for the sake of Allah, and do every good deed we can no matter how small they are. We should even extend our hands of mercy to animals and plants and achieve the ability of looking at them through the sight of Divine mercy.

Another significant manifestation of blessings of charity is the length of time of the service bestowed upon a philanthropic institution. Institutions established sincerely by lawful earnings will have a long life because of the firmness of their foundations.

In this respect we can give the example of Suleymaniye mosque and its complex, which has been serving to humanity for centuries. The founder of the complex, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, was a pious man, who was careful about the rights of the people. He tried to be a just ruler. When the foundation of the complex, which had been started by Sheikh al-Islam Abūssuud Efendi, was completed, Sultan asked everybody who had worked for the building, to be gathered. After saying his gratitude to Allah the Almighty he made the following speech:

“O brothers in Islam! With the permission of Allah, we have completed this building. By mistake or because of forgetfulness if anybody did not get paid for his service, please come and get it now. There maybe those who are not among us right now. My request from you to inform your friends and let them come and get their rights from us…”

There even was a program for the animals, such as Horses, donkeys, mules etc., working in the foundation of the complex. Schedule for their rest, feeding, and working was meticulously observed. Utmost attention was paid for not to violate any living beings’ rights. Maybe the spiritual atmosphere of Suleymaniye complex is hidden in the secret of this special attention and meticulousness.

Sinan was the architect of this magnificent monument. He was also a pious man. He was very careful about placing the bricks of the complex by those who were in ritual purity. This is why the following line has become a common saying among the public:

“Sultan Suleiman is the owner of Suleymaniye; Sinan is its architect and faith is its clay…”

At the opening ceremony of the complex, Sultan said that:

“Let Sinan open this mosque to the service, because he has the most work in its completion.” Sinan the Architect replied:

“My Sultan, Let the Calligrapher Karahisārī have this honor, he lost his eyes while working on calligraphy of this mosque…” Thus the Calligrapher Karahisārī opened the complex to the service.

When you visit Suleymaniye, you can feel the spirituality permeated into the building. Inside the mosque, there is shady darkness, which takes believer to deep spiritual worlds. It is like sacred water. Its rocks and soil have different spirituality. This mosque is a sublime reflection of Islam into material. It is like a silent human being, who tells many things with his silence.

Spiritual effects of the mosque over human psychology can be easily seen. Even the tourists with different religious affiliations get their souls relaxed in tranquil and peaceful atmosphere of the Suleymaniye mosque.

This is the blessing of sincere efforts of the founders of this monument. For more than five centuries, it has been sound and standing despite so many earthquakes.

YOUR LEFT HAND SHOULD NOT KNOW WHAT YOUR RIGHT HAND GIVES

Charity given with insincere hearts, because of vanity, has no spiritual value. The greatest danger for the giver in this regard is that he assumes a share for himself/herself in his charity. Thus he shadows his charity with worldly thoughts. The most effective way to be saved from such spiritual illnesses is “to observe secrecy in charity.”

It is stated in a verse that:

“If you give alms openly, it is well, and if you hide it and give it to the poor, it is better for you; and this will do away with some of your evil deeds; and Allah is aware of what you do.”(2; 271)

In other words Allah covers the mistakes and faults of those who give their charity secretly. Such charity becomes atonement for sins and protection against pride. Thus it prevents lost of spiritual rewards of charity.

It is stated in a saying of the Prophet (pbuh):

“Allah writes a reward of secrecy for the secret good deeds of a servant. If he disclose his action, Allah writes it among his openly performed deeds. If the servant says that he performed such a deed, then it is written into the book of hypocrisy.” (Ghazalī, Iyā ‘ulūm al-Dīn, I, 595)

Again, according to the statements of verses and sayings of the prophet (pbuh), those who can hide their charity will be among those whose sins are forgiven and those who will be under the shade of Allah when there is no other shade on Judgment Day. (See Qur’ān 2; 271 and Bukhārī, Adhān, 36)

However, sometimes there might be a benefit in the openness of infāq. Thus people will be encouraged to give in charity. In fact, commentators have interpreted the verse “If you give alms openly, it is well, and if you hide it and give it to the poor, it is better for you…” (2; 271) as zakāt needs to be given openly in order to encourage people, and all the other types of charity have to be performed secretly.

In short, whether infāq needs to be performed openly or secretly depends on the changing circumstances. If the purity of intention can be protected, then there is no problem in giving openly. It may even be preferred to promote as a way of encouraging people to give in charity. The main principal in both ways is protecting the heart from hypocrisy and vanity, and strengthening piety and sincerity.

Giving charity openly may cause the modesty of the recipients to weaken, and in time they may continuously expect to receive charity, which would weaken their efforts and lose their will to work. Open charity also contains two dangers: it may lead the giver to vanity and there is also the possibility for the receiver to be hurt. In such cases, it would be better to give charity secretly.

As a matter of fact, during the nights Omar (r.a) carried a flour sack on his back in the poor districts of the city. While helping the needy, he would not disclose his identity, and make them happy.

Every night ‘Ali’s grandson Imam Zayn al-Abidīn carried a sack of food on his back and left it at the doors of the needy. Then he would leave without letting them know he was there. One morning the poor people of Medina did not see food sacks in front of their doors. Later, the residents of Medina heard about Imam Zayn al-Abidīn’s death.

While washing the imam’s body, people saw blisters on his back. When they searched what caused them, they learned his secret. They were the results of the food sacks.[2]

We can observe the best manifestation of this sensitivity in the endowment deed of Sultan Mehmed II, the conqueror:

“I, the Conqueror of Istanbul and humble slave Sultan Mehmed, have endowed my 136 pieces of shops in the Taşlık precinct of Istanbul, which I bought with my own money, with the following conditions:

With the revenues of the above mentioned real estate, I have appointed two men to each street of Istanbul. These men will walk along the street with a bucket of ashes and lime, and they will cover the saliva of people with the ash and lime. They will get 20 akchas daily for their service.

In addition, I have appointed 10 surgeons, 10 doctors and 3 orderlies to take care of the people’s wounds. They will go out on the specified days of the month, and will knock on every single door without exception. They will check if there is anybody sick, and if there is, they will help them. If there is no cure for their illness, they will take the sick person to Dar-al Ajaza (hospice) at no charge.

God forbid, we witness a famine. In such a case, let 100 weapons be given to the hunters. They will go and hunt the wild animals except during their season of laying eggs and when they have cubs at the Balkan Mountains, so they will keep feeding the sick.

Moreover, families of the martyrs and the poor people of Istanbul will eat from the soup kitchens of my endowment. If they cannot come to the soup kitchen by themselves, their meal should be taken to their houses in the dark without letting anybody know!…”

As seen from this deed, Sultan Mehmed set up several decent principles of manners for helping the needy.

Again our ancestors used to place their charity in envelopes and leave it under the charity rocks in the mosques; people in need could go and take as much as they need without meeting the donor. Thus, neither donors felt pride nor were the hearts of the recipients hurt.

May Allah the Almighty make us all righteous servants who perform their deeds sincerely and with pure intentions. May he bless us with shares from good attributes of the Companions, friends of Allah and righteous believers.

Amin…

[1].      Mathnawī, V, 1089

[2].      See Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāyah, IX, 112, 122; Abū Nuaym, ilyah, III, 136.