“And they feed, for the love of Allah, the indigent, the orphan, and the captive,-” (Insan, 16:8)
Man is the finest creation of Allah among the rest of creation. However, the natural or acquired differences between individuals such as race or nation or being strong or weak, healthy or sick, educated or illiterate, rich or poor do not change every essential human Allah-given value. They serve to establish an order and harmony in society. Through these differences people are able to benefit from each other in different ways.
In particular, the different financial states of poverty and richness, as two opposite realities, possess a significant place in the order of society. Allah has created a world where people, sometimes temporarily and sometimes permanently, become rich and poor in order to test them spiritually in different situations. Consequently, these two states possess a deep meaning and wisdom for those who would understand. Merely being rich is not a virtue as being poor is not a vice; they are only part of Allah’s Divine pre-determination (Allah’s distribution). They are the manifestations of Allah’s Wisdom. Allah the Almighty states in the Qur’an:
“We distribute among them their livelihood in the life of this world, and We have exalted some of them above others in degrees, that some of them may take service from others; and the Mercy of your Lord is better than what they amass. And were it not that mankind would have become one community (through love of riches), We might well have appointed, for those who disbelieve in the Beneficent, roofs of silver for their houses and stairs whereby to mount and for their houses doors and couches of silver whereon to recline. And ornaments of gold. Yet all that would have been but a provision of the life of the world- and the Hereafter with your Lord would have been for those who were Allah-fearing” (Zukhruf: 43:32-35)
Allah grants abundant sustenance, or gives it in scant measure, to whichever He wills of His creatures: for behold, Allah has full Knowledge of everything.(Ankabut:, 28:62)
As these verses inform us, the distribution of wealth is not the same for everybody but does this mean that this is an injustice? Since the responsibility to use wealth is according to one’s capacity, the answer is no. Those who have more wealth will have the burden of more responsibilities than those who have less and all will be judged accordingly. Thus, a certain dynamic equilibrium is made to function in society. Islam, in order to prevent human beings from slavishly working to amass wealth and a consequential tendency to become selfish, greedy and proud and to prevent the poor from developing negative feelings towards the rich such as jealousy or hatred, commanded the payment of Zakat. Through the payment from the total wealth one has had control for at least one year, a social balance combining justice, mutual respect and love between the poor and the rich is maintained. It should be borne in mind that neither the poor nor the rich have the knowledge of whether they are to permanently remain in the degree of poverty or richness they find themselves in at a particular time. The poor must not accept living off charity as a necessarily permanent condition of their life but must strive to acquire wealth while the rich must strive to spend it in a manner pleasing to Allah and not simply hoard it. It is also emphasized that whatever is spent for the sake of Allah will eventually be replaced either in this world or in the next. The role of the government must not be overlooked in helping to facilitate conditions to help people remove themselves from everything which keeps them in chronic poverty and also in preventing the rich from exploitation of the poor, misuse of their power and influence or unfair or illegal business practices. Just as incentives are given to help businessmen so also there should be programs for education, training, and basic health and social services.
Therefore, Zakat is one of the most essential duties in Islam relating to the rights one owes to others who are the beloved of Allah and His servants.
Allah the Almighty, with His Divine Wisdom and Knowledge tests his servants according to their resources. Allah will hold the rich responsible concerning how they have earned their wealth, whether it was from legal or illegal means, whether they paid the poor-due and other voluntary charity. For the rich, this command is a serious challenge to test whether or not they will fulfill their obligations towards the less fortunate members of society who need help for their basic needs. If they successfully pass this test, they will be highly rewarded in paradise.
“And spend of that wherewith We have provided you before death cometh unto one of you and he says: O my Sustainer! If only thou wouldst reprieve me for a little while I would give alms and be among the righteous. But Allah reprieves no soul when its term cometh, and Allah is informed of what ye do.” (Munafiqun, 63:10)
On the other hand, the poor are tested in a different way. Allah the Almighty, does not ask them to pay anything and drive them deeper into poverty. Their test is to be patient, not to complain without good reason or to revolt against society, taking from what others have rightfully earned, and to preserve their purity and uprightness. If they pass this test successfully they will be abundantly rewarded in the Hereafter and their suffering in the world will be replaced by eternal bliss and heavenly riches.
The commandment of paying the Zakat is mentioned in the Qur’an twenty seven times together with the establishment of the daily prayers (salât). This shows the significance of the commandment. Only in one place is the commandment of establishing prayers and paying alms mentioned separately but this time Allah the Almighty confirms that those who pray to Allah in true prayer, will naturally fulfill their obligations. In Islam, commandments are divided into two areas, huququllah, the rights we owe directly to Allah- like prayer and huququlibad, the rights we owe to others, like Zakat. We must spend out of the wealth we have been given and we must also spend of ourselves. They occupy the highest position in their categories. Although Islam separately evaluates the fulfillment of each commandment and the ignoring of one commandment does not affect the other ones, the case of alms-due is different. If a believer does not pay the alms due his prayers will not be accepted. The Prophet (pbuh) says:
“If a believer prays but does not pay the alms his prayers have no value.” (Munavî, Kunûz al-haqâik, p.143)
Therefore, the first caliph of Islam, Abû Bakr considered those who rejected paying Zakat as apostates even though they accepted performing their prayers. He declared war against those who did not pay what is considered as the right of the poor over the rich. Allah the Almighty states in His Holy Qur’an:
“And in their wealth the beggar and the outcast had due share.”(Dhâriyât, 51:19)
If you pay your alms, you pay the rights of what you owe to the poor in your wealth. (Tirmidhi)
If the rich pay what is due to the poor, the rest of their wealth is made blessed for them. In other words, the wealth of the rich is purified from all sorts of harm. When passed to the poor and disadvantaged sections of the society, the rich can enjoy their wealth with peace of mind knowing that the poor have also been satisfied regarding their essential needs. The following verse confirms this reality:
“Take alms out of their property, you would cleanse them and purify them thereby, and pray for them; surely your prayer is a relief to them; and Allah is Hearing, Knowing.”(Tawba, 9:103)
The distribution of alms pleases the poor but it also benefits the rich more than anything else because they are thus blessed in both worlds. Zakat means “cleaning and purifying” and it cleans man from the diseases of the heart. It cleanses wealth from the rights of others and purifies it. As a matter of fact, this is also the role of the Prophets i.e. they purify people from spiritual diseases.
In addition, alms given with a willing and generous heart helps to establish a bond of love and sincerity between the rich and the poor. From very ancient times there has been a continuous conflict between the poor and the rich. Generally, the rich looked upon the poor as worthless and ignorant people, they despised and judged the poor simply for their poverty. On the other hand, the poor maintained an anger and jealousy towards the rich. This kind of relationship is still the prevalent one in most societies of the world. However, all the Divinely revealed religions contain commandments to look after others and to show mercy and love towards the weak. If today, every rich person paid his obligatory alms, there would not be any needy person in society. We should bear in mind that this is the minimum requirement that a Muslims should pay, and that there is no limit to the amount of voluntary charity (sadaqat)a believer who possesses a perfect faith in Allah can give. At the time of Umar b. Abdulaziz, the Umayyad caliph, the governors could not find enough poor people to distribute the alms due to, since there were not enough poor people around. They asked the caliph what to do with the alms the state had collected from the rich. All the rich people had paid their rightful amount of alms. Consequently, this time period in the history of Islam has been accepted as the brightest period after the first four caliphs of Islam.
Hadrat Jalaladdin Rumi describes the significance of helping the poor in a very fascinating way:
Though it (the poor) is one filled with knowledge, it hath a house filled with smoke (poverty and need): open a window for it by listening (to his problems). (Masnawî, III. 485)
Hence, Islam treats the social wounds of society emanating from poverty and richness. On the other hand, non-Islamic systems have been unable to achieve any comprehensive or consistent success in handling this delicate problem. They either went to the extreme of denying or severely limiting the right of personal wealth and private ownership or they idolized acquiring personal wealth. They either denied the right of the poor to ask help from the rich or they completely left it to them to ask help from others, leading to a chronic life of begging. Islam handled this problem through admonishing the rich about the benefits of giving in charity, secretly and openly and through encouraging the poor to be patient and not to be a permanent burden on society but rather to do their best to earn their livelihood.
In reality, obligatory alms giving is one of the highest values that Islam has introduced to humanity. The difficulties and sufferings of the poor, the destitute, the orphans, and the widows are lessened through the institution of Zakat and other kinds of charity. It is also through Islam that slaves were enabled to become free. Slaves were able to buy back their freedom from the sources of charity. Freeing slaves without receiving any payment was also encouraged as a worthy act and for remission of sins.
In addition to alleviating poverty Zakat has another very important function. It prevents people from drowning in the swamp of unending payments of interest. If needy people are not helped they will be forced to borrow at high rates of interest. Borrowing seems easy at first but in reality it is nothing but a means of taking advantage of the poor. Through giving, the poor do not need to borrow for essentials. Those who charge interest on loans to those in desperate conditions take advantage of the situation whereas those who distribute alms to the poor in fact share their burden. They do not expect any worldly return from the poor; they only help them in order to attain the pleasure of Allah the Almighty. Without having any collateral to offer a bank, the poor are forced to turn to loan companies. When the loan cannot be fully paid in a short time the amount of the original loan doubles and triples until only the interest on it can be paid and the borrower becomes permanently indebted.
A greedy person never feels satisfied with the amount of wealth he gathers; the more he gets the more his greediness increases. On the other hand, those who give alms do not develop greed, they are contented with little from worldly things. The people who devour interest develop an immense greed for wealth and they do not mind destroying the lives of others to increase their wealth. It is possible to see examples of such people in the big trade centers of the world. The following verse on the other hand advises us not to use interest in business transactions:
“Allah will deprive usury of all blessing, but will give increase for deeds of charity: For He loveth not creatures ungrateful and wicked.”(Baqarah, 2:276)
Those who are involved with interest in their businesses lose the blessing of Allah and as a result they become bankrupt in the Hereafter. This bankruptcy can happen in this world and those who made great fortunes out of interest and other illegal ways lose them in a short time. Either a calamity, a disease or wasteful or mistaken spending consumes their wealth in a short time. The harm of interest is not only personal, it also has a destructive effect on the social fabric of the society. Through interest gained without gainful work or productive investment, the rich become richer and the poor become even poorer. It destroys the unity of the society. Because of these destructive results such people lose the chance to acquire spiritual wealth as well as eternal bliss.
On the other hand, distribution of Zakat establishes social harmony and order and will bring blessings in this world as well as in the Hereafter. The following incident is a good example of such generosity and social solidarity:
One day a beggar asked Hadrat Ali for some money. Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) asked his sons Hadrat Hassan and Hadrat Hussein to bring some golden coins from home.
The boys obtained them from their mother and gave them to Hadrat Ali who gave them all to the beggar even though they needed this money to buy flour.
Hadrat Ali was just entering his house and at that moment someone who wanted to sell his camel approached Ali saying him: “Take this camel for 140 dirhams and pay later, leaving the camel with him.” After a very short time, another person came, and bought the camel from Ali for 200 dirhams, paying in cash.
Hadrat Ali paid his 140 dirham debt to the person from whom he had bought the camel and gave the rest of the money to his wife, Hadhrat Fatimah, and told her that this is the reward that is promised by Allah through His Prophet (pbuh); we gave six dirhams and Allah the Almighty paid us back ten fold and he recited the following verse:
“Whoso bringeth a good deed will receive tenfold the like thereof,” (An’am, 160)
In addition to this good news, the following verse states that giving the poor-due and charity will open the doors of mercy and prevent calamities:
“Is there any Reward for Good – other than Good?”(Rahman, 55:60)
The following incident is a good example of the great benefits of giving charity:
Once, several thieves forced their way into a shop and the owner, an old man had no choice but to give up all the money from his safe. However, before he opened his safe, one of the robbers remembered the shopkeeper. He turned to his friends holding his gun and said: “You cannot rob this man unless you kill me first.”
His friends were very surprised about this unexpected behavior and asked:
“We have robbed many shops so far and what is so different about this person that we should not rob him as well? Leave us and let us do the job once more”!
“Do you know who this old man is? He is the one who helped my family when I was spending my time drinking, gambling and neglecting my family. He looked after my family like a merciful father and financed the education of my children. Please do not insist on this and let us leave this man alone.”
As a result all the robbers apologized and left the shop without even taking a penny.
This is the example of how charity drives away evil.
The best example of helping the poor and solving their problems is witnessed in the life of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). He wanted to make generosity an inseparable characteristic of every Muslim. Hence he stated: The giving hand is superior to the receiving hand (Bukhari, Zakat, 18).
He strongly praised the donators of charity in the following hadith: “There is no envy except in two cases: a person to whom Allah has given wealth and he spends it in the right way, and a person to whom Allah has given wisdom (i.e. religious knowledge) and he gives his decisions accordingly and teaches it to the others.” (Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 24, Number 490)
The following prayer is also a good example of how much he loved the poor and the weak members of society: “O my Lord! Enable me to live as the poor, sustain me as a poor person and resurrect me (on the Day of Judgment) among the poor.” (Tirmidhi, Zudh, 37)
He made his house like a refuge for the poor, dedicating some part of his house to the poor emigrants known as Muhâjirs (the emigrants).
In his hadith he states that the poor will enter Paradise forty years before the rich since they have no wealth for which to give account. (Tirmidhi, Kitâb al-Zuhd)
“The rich are in fact the poor (being little rewarded) on the Day of Resurrection except him to whom Allah has given wealth which he gives (in charity) to his right, left, front and back, and does good deeds with it.”
In this way Islam teaches that neither poverty nor richness is a virtue by their basic nature, the virtue lies in the way that a person behaves. A poor person can also contribute to the society very positively; hence he should be taken seriously. To this effect, the Prophet (pbuh) states that if a poor person has no financial power to give charity, his good conduct and heartfelt sweet words will be considered as his charity. In this way Islam gives an equal chance of attaining rewards both for the rich and the poor. Money and wealth are not the highest values; the important thing is how one behaves in their absence and presence. One should behave like a human being with full dignity both in poverty and in richness. Neither of them is bad if a believer behaves properly in these situations. Of course, we are not suggesting that poverty is something good, what we are saying here is that when poverty is an unavoidable reality of life, a Muslim should behave with dignity while trying to free himself from it.
There is another important wisdom behind the duty of the poor-due and voluntary charity. It aims to prevent a monopoly of vast amounts of capital in the hands of a few, individuals. If wealth is in the hand of a few it usually results in the abuse of the poor. If richness is made an instrument of abuse and pride, a terrible consequence for the rich is unavoidable. Everyone in the society, the poor and the rich need each other spiritually or materially as part of the wisdom and plan of Allah, the Almighty. It should be known that everything including our personal possessions belong to Allah. Man only possesses things metaphorically not in reality. Allah the Almighty states in the Qur’an:
“O ye men! It is ye that have need of Allah: but Allah is the One Free of all wants, worthy of all praise.”(Fâtir, 35:15)
As this verse narrates, man possesses nothing, he is in need of Allah in all conditions even when he is rich. We are living in Allah’s domain and surviving with the sustenance He grants us. However, due to Allah’s wisdom, not known to us, man thinks he possesses things in a real sense. We forget that we are being tested through what we possess. Solomon(a.s.), who had a great wealth and a kingdom unequalled in human history, lost all his wealth all of a sudden. But Allah gave him back his kingdom, when he asked forgiveness from Allah. A friend of Allah therefore warns us saying that we should not run after sustenance but rather after the Sustainer.
Wealth is a trust given to man for a limited period in order to test him. He is not allowed to use it according to his inclination. Man should make use of his wealth as Almighty Allah, the Real Owner of wealth commands him. If it is used against the will of Allah, it causes man to become corrupt and commit injustice against his fellow human beings. Wealth has this enormous potential for harm, when it is loved without any restraint. Therefore, Allah the Almighty calls worldly wealth a test when it is idolized as an end in itself instead of a means. For such ill-favored people Allah states:
“They who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah, unto them give tidings (O Muhammad) of a painful doom,”(Tauba, 9:34)
“On the day when it will (all) be heated in the fire of hell, and their foreheads and their flanks and their backs will be branded therewith (and it will be said unto them): Here is that which ye hoarded for yourselves. Now taste of what ye used to hoard.”(Tauba, 9:35)
The Prophet (pbuh) also warns us against the potential dangers of miserliness and holding onto wealth selfishly, only for satisfying the ego.
There is never a day wherein the servants (of Allah) get up at morn, but are not visited by two angels. One of them says: O Allah, give him more who spends (for the sake of Allah), and the other says: O Allah, bring destruction to one who withholds. (Muslim Zakat, Book 005, Number 2205)
On the other hand, he praises those who spend for the good of the community saying that charity drags man to Paradise whereas miserliness drags him to Hell.
Generosity is a tree in Paradise whose branches extend to the world. Whoever catches a branch of it, it takes him to Paradise. Miserliness, on the other hand, is a tree in Hell whose branches are in the world. Whoever grabs it, it takes him to hell. (Bayhaki, Shuab al-Iman)
These are clear warnings from the Prophet (pbuh) concerning the terrible end of the miserly people who do not fulfill their financial responsibilities towards society such as paying the alms due, and ‘ushr (ı.e, the commandment for farmers to pay one tenth of the harvest to the poor).
These verses and the hadiths confirm that when the love of wealth finds a place in the hearts of people they will steal the rights of the poor with their wealth. Faced with these clear Divine warnings, we should be very careful to fulfill our obligations towards the poor and to try to give more than two and half percent of our total wealth, which is the minimum requirement of Islam. The following verse gives us the guidance concerning the principles of charity:
“And they ask thee what they ought to spend. Say: that which is superfluous.”(Baqara, 2:219)
The companions of the Prophet (pbuh) understood very well the significance of charity and they competed with each other in donating their wealth. When the Prophet (pbuh) asked the help of his companions at the battle of Tabuk, Umar brought half of his wealth, thinking that he exceeded all the rest. However, Abu Bakr donated his entire wealth for Islam. When the Prophet (pbuh) asked: “What did you leave for the needs of your family?” He answered: “I left Allah and His messenger (for their needs).”
The following incident shows the Sufi concept of charity. One day a faqih (Islamic jurist) asked the famous Sufi Shibli, in order to test his knowledge of Islamic law, the amount of Zakat that a Muslim must pay since at that time some scholars thought that Sufis were ignorant of Islamic law.
Shibli asked the faqih: “Do you want the answer according to the school of the faqihs (the scholars) or the faqirs (the Sufis)?”
The faqih said: “According to both.”
Shibli stated: “According to the faqihs a year induration in total must pass over wenlth before it is taxable. Thus, over 200 dirhams, you pay one fortieth which is 5 dirhams. However, according to the Sufis you give away the entire 200 dirhams and thank Allah that you have gotten rid of the responsibility (of the wealth).”
The faqih disliking his answer responded with sarcasm: “We have learned Islam from Muslim scholars (not from Sufis).”
Shibli on the other hand gave him an answer that shattered the prejudice of the faqih saying: “We have learned Islam from the close companion of the Prophet (pbuh) (i.e. Abu Bakr) who put all his wealth at the disposal the Messenger of Allah and gave thanks to Allah (for ridding himself from the heavy responsibility) (Mektûb, 34, Üçüncü Yüzyyıl)”
The Prophet (pbuh) led the way in giving charity, as he was the best example of the spirit of continuous giving. The following example from his life shows this very well. One day he had slaughtered a sheep for his family. They distributed most of the meat when the Prophet (pbuh) asked his wife Aisha (may Allah be happy with her) how much was left from the sheep, she answered: “only the shoulder of the sheep remains” (the rest having been distributed). The Prophet (pbuh) on the other hand understood this charitable act from a different perspective and said: “That means that except for the shoulder the rest of the sheep remains for us.” By this he (pbuh) wanted to say that by giving most of the sheep for the needy we made it our real possession in the Hereafter to benefit from the eternal rewards given by Allah. On the other hand, the part we kept for our own consumption will only satisfy our hunger for a short time and that its usefulness will not extend to the Hereafter. When compared to its use in the Hereafter, the short-lived satisfaction is like a waste.
If he had some money at home, he could not sleep without first giving it away as charity due to his high spiritual level. However, he did not command this level of charity to the general body of Muslims, and he directed them to be balanced and asked them to give according to their capacities. For example, although he accepted all the wealth of Abu Bakr he advised another companion of his to give some of his wealth and to keep the rest for his own use. (R.M. Sâmî, Tebük Seferi, p.66)
In other words, Islam does not require people to give up all their wealth; it only encourages them to give according to their spiritual and material capacities after fulfilling the obligatory ones. However, some of the companions like Abu Dhar deduced from the example of the Prophet (pbuh) that it is illegal to save money for the future without using it for the good of the community.
Abdurrahman b. Awf was another good example that followed the high example of the Prophet (pbuh). He would feed the poor when he himself was hungry. He would not mind the difficulties that he would face but on the other hand would strive to comfort others and remove their difficulties. The companions had adorned their hearts with the feeling that the wealth they possessed was only a trust given to them by Allah.
In short, those who desire to reach eternal bliss should know that they are not the real owners of their worldly possessions but rather their keeper on behalf of Allah, the real Owner, and one day they will give account for their management of His possessions. The following verse clearly reminds us of this fact:
Then on that day you shall most certainly be questioned about the gifts. (Takathur, 102:8)
Fully understanding the terrible consequences of this warning the Sufi mystics never forget that using halâl (religiously legal) things will be accounted for and harâm (religiously illegal) things are punishable.
Hence, the rich people who spend their money in order to please their ego and base desires are in fact carrying wood for their own fire. It is a great virtue to work hard and to acquire the necessities of life. However, the right action is to do that without putting the love of wealth in the heart by being able to give it in charity. Otherwise, richness is nothing but the work of a porter who carries things for others and cannot personally own them. Similarly, wealth that is not spent in the way of Allah will be passed to the heirs but the full responsibility will belong to the one who gathered it in the first place.
The intention behind earning wealth should be to attain the following level that the Prophet(pbuh) directs us: “The best of mankind is the one who benefits them most” (tabarânî, Majmûat’u-Awsât, VI, 58) Money should be kept in the pocket not in the heart.
It should be known that the prayers of the poor and the helpless for the well being of the rich are a source of peace for them. This is a spiritual help from the poor to the rich. It should be emphasized once more that poverty is not a shame as it may be the manifestation of Allah’s mercy in the Hereafter.
The generous rich and the honorable poor who patiently face difficulties are equal in attaining Allah’s pleasure and attaining a high state of human perfection. On the other hand, Islam denounces the rich who behave with pride and vanity. In addition, the people who act like being poor in order to easily attain their needs without any trouble are also scorned by Islam. Therefore, the Prophet (pbuh) took refuge in Allah from the mischief of richness and poverty: “O Allah, I seek refuge in Thee from the trial of Hell-Fire; and from the torment of Hell-Fire; and from the trial of the grave and torment of the grave; and from the evil of the trial of affluence and from the evil of the trial of poverty.” (Bukhari, Book 035, Number 6534)
Hence, whoever has the quality of contentment with what he has in trust and submission to the will of Allah, they are the real rich. If one wants to be really rich he should make others benefit from the worldly possessions and advantages he has. The intention of a good Muslim is to be a person who benefits society with his tongue and hands, i.e. to use all his limbs for the good of society.
Giving the poor-due and other acts of charity are in fact the expression of one’s thankfulness to Allah. In return Allah promises more favors to those who give thanks for His generosity.
Allah the Almighty states in the Qur’an: And when your Lord proclaimed:
“If ye give thanks, I will give you more; but if ye are thankless, lo! My punishment is terrible.”(Ibrâhîm, 14:7)
The Prophet (pbuh) also confirmed this promise in the following Hadith:
“O son of Adam! Give to others as you too will be given to.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Woe to those who say,” I have earned this wealth by my personal endeavor and look down upon the poor. They are preparing a terrible end for themselves like Qarun as narrated in the Qur’an”:
Qarun was a person who lived in the time of Moses (a.s.). In the beginning he was a good person. However, after he became very rich he could not protect the purity of his heart and lost his good characteristics. His wealth made him proud and arrogant. The Qur’an narrates the amount of his richness:
“Now Qarun was of Moses’ folk, but he oppressed them; and We gave him so much treasure that the stores thereof would verily have been a burden for a troop of mighty men. When his own folk said unto him: Exult not; lo! Allah loves not the exultant;” (Qasas: 28:76)
Qarun did not listen to his folk and closed his ears to their advice as well as to the advice of Moses (a.s.). When Moses (a.s.) asked him to pay the alms due of his wealth, he forget that he owed his success to Moses (a.s.) and said:
– Do you covet my wealth? I have earned it myself.
The Qur’an narrates the story as follows:
“But seek the abode of the Hereafter in that which Allah hath given thee and neglect not thy portion of the world, and be thou kind even as Allah hath been kind to thee, and seek not corruption in the earth; lo! Allah loveth not corrupters, He said: I have been given it only on account of knowledge I possess. Knew he not that Allah had destroyed already of the generations before him men who were mightier than him in strength and greater in respect of following? The guilty are not questioned of their sins.
Then went he forth before his people in his pomp. Those who were desirous of the life of the world said: Ah, would that we had the like of what hath been given unto Qarun! Lo! He is the lord of rare good fortune.
But those who had been given knowledge said: Woe unto you! The reward of Allah for him who believeth and doeth right is better, and only the steadfast will obtain it. So We caused the earth to swallow him and his dwelling-place. Then he had no host to help him against Allah, nor was he of those who can save themselves.
And those who had envied his position the day before began to say on the morrow: “Ah! it is indeed Allah Who enlarges the provision or restricts it, to any of His servants He pleases! Had it not been that Allah was gracious to us, He could have caused the earth to swallow us up! Ah! Those who reject Allah will assuredly never prosper.”(Al-Qasas, 28:77-82)
This is a terrible end for those who lose themselves in the love of wealth and forget the Hereafter. It is a tragic scene of how one lost the eternal bliss and richness due to ambition.
A poet descries the end of Qarun in the following lines:
What kind of richness is this O Qarun!
It caused you to be a beggar who is not shown mercy
Now in the Hereafter he lost all he possessed and became a beggar since the Hereafter is for those who served Allah piously, with sincerity, fearing His wrath. The following verse clearly explains the causes of why one loses the rewards in the Hereafter:
“That Home of the Hereafter We shall give to those who intend not high-handedness or mischief on earth: and the end is (best) for the righteous.” (Qasas, 28:83)
Jalaladdin Rumi (may Allah bless his secret) wonders the terrible end of the covetous people who go to the Hereafter batnkrupt.
For Rumi the worldly wealth should spent for the sake of Allah and man should not be its slave. Otherwise, man who is the slave of wealth will be the cause of man’s going to the Hereafter empty-handed.
According to Rumi, most people become slaves to worldly possessions. Like snakes they wait at the feet of wealth abasing themselves to a very low situation returning to the heavens empty-handed. If wealth is not spent in the way of Allah it has no value at all in the eyes of Rumi.
There is one example that is similar to the example of Qarun among the companions of the Prophet (pbuh). There was a poor man named Thalabah among the companions who had a greed for wealth.
Hence, he came to the Prophet (pbuh) to ask for his prayer that he become rich. The Prophet (pbuh) politely refused this request by saying:
“Little amount of wealth for which you can give thanks to Allah is better than much wealth for which you cannot give enough thanks to Allah.”
Thalabah gave up his desire for sometime but later he felt an even greater urge to be rich and came back to the Prophet (pbuh) repeating the same request: O Messenger of Allah! Please pray to Allah so that I become rich!
This time the Prophet (pbuh) gave him the following answer:
“Am I not a good example for you? I swear by Allah that if I wished those mountains would turn into gold and silver, and they would follow me wherever I go, but I did not want it.”
Thalabah tried hard to give up this desire but could not get rid of the idea that if he is rich he will help the poor and receive great rewards from Allah.” The call of the ego had overpowered him hence he came back to the Prophet (pbuh) and said:
I swear by Allah who sent you as a prophet, if he makes me rich I will protect the poor and fulfill my obligations.”
Upon this insistence the Prophet (pbuh) prayed: “O my Lord! Please give the amount of wealth that Thalabah desires from You.”
Upon this prayer, Allah the Almighty gave great wealth to Thalabah. After a short while, he became very rich, his flocks of animals covered the hills of Madinah. However, Thalabah, who was called as the bird of the mosque thus far, started to neglect the mosque and came to the congregational prayers less than before. This continued until he was able to come to the mosque only on Fridays for the general congregational prayer, (which is the basic minimum for congregational prayer for a Muslim). This continued for a while but later he even forgot to come to the Friday prayers.
Having learned of this situation the Prophet (pbuh) commented about him:
“What a pity for Thalabah, he destroyed himself (his pious life before becoming rich).”
The ignorance and heedlessness of Thalabah did not even stop here and continued until one day he said to the officials of the Prophet (pbuh) who came to him in order to collect the alms-due from his wealth: (At that time the officials of the state used to collect the alms due in order to efficiently distribute it to the poor.)
“What you are doing is daytime robbery.”
In that way he did not even give the minimum amount of charity that was prescribed by the Qur’an. He had forgotten all the promises he made that he would spend much of his wealth for the poor and the needy. Hence he became a hypocrite, one whose words and deeds contradict each other.
The Qur’an describes the psychology of such people in the following verses:
“And there are those of them who made a covenant with Allah: If He gives us out of His grace, we will certainly give alms and we will certainly be of the good. Yet when He gave them of His bounty, they hoarded it and turned away, averse.”(Tawba, 9:75-76)
Thalabah, having ignored the advice of the Prophet (pbuh) has lost the Divine bliss and became a miserable person in the Hereafter since he was deceived by the glamour of transient wealth. Hence he deserved to be poor eternally. When he died in great pity the advice of the Prophet (pbuh) was ringing clearly in his ears:
“Little amount of wealth for which you can give thanks to Allah is better than much wealth for which you cannot give enough thanks to Allah.”
He did not heed the warnings of the Prophet (pbuh) concerning the dangers of the wealth and died in a terrible situation in endless pain. He stupidly destroyed his eternal bliss in return for a short-lived happiness, of which he had thought of as an endless pleasure. (Ahmed Shahin, Tarihin Şeref Levhaları, p.27)
As understood from many life examples, man by his nature selfishly loves the riches of the world. The ego finds great satisfaction in gathering unlimited wealth. However, once one has been deceived by this satanic thought one will never be satisfied with what he attains. The following hadith succinctly explains the greedy nature of man:
If the son of Adam possessed two valleys of gold, he would covet the third Only earth can satisfy the hunger of the son of Adam…(Bukhari, Muslim)
With the increase in wealth there usually is a corresponding increase in greed to accumulate even more. Once a person is immersed in the love of worldly possessions then he/she loses all the humanistic values such as mercy, love and sacrifice. Giving charity becomes a very difficult thing with the ego saying: “Do not give now, wait until you become richer and then you can give even more in charity.”
Such people lose their spiritual balance as well as the order of their bodies. Since they do not use the chance given to them in this world they become the object of the following hadith:
“Those who said “I will do it tomorrow” have utterly lost.”
The above story of Thalabah is not only an example of man’s greedy nature it is also a good example for the terrible consequences of not respecting the good way of supplication and prayer. When the nature of one’s destiny is forced, then these kinds of terrible results are inevitable. The Prophet (pbuh) although knowing the fate of this man, still prayed for Thalabah in order to show his community a living example of the dangers of greediness. Therefore, when we ask something from Allah the Almighty we should not trust our mind very much and should add to our supplication, “If it is acceptable in the Divine sphere of things and if it is for our good, please accept our supplication.” Otherwise, we can be damaged by not seeing the harm which is hidden in the seeming favor we desire. Supplication, like giving charity can change the conditional destiny (Qader-i Mukayyad) of man. However, we should not solely trust our rationality when we ask from Allah for the change of our destiny since it is not always good for us. Supplication is a favor from Allah and a commandment. However, when we fill our supplications with the desires of the ego and the rational mind, we should not insist that the contents of our supplications are correct and for our good. Hence we should add the phrase at the end of every supplication:
“O My Lord! Please fulfill my desire if it is for my good.”
Using wealth in accordance with the Divine commandments can eliminate the dangers of greed. This is an obligation for the well being of societies and individuals both in this life and in the Hereafter.
Important rules of paying zakat
The Poor-due is paid at 2.5 % out of our wealth once in a lunar year. The commandments of the Qur’an mostly involve a lunar year, which is 355 days. Most countries today use the solar calendar, which is 365 days hence this ten-day span should be added to the rate of Zakat. This will be approximately %2.6. In addition, in countries where high inflation exists the value of the alms due should be counted according to a stable value. In some countries there is almost a 100 %inflation rate. Hence, if we pay it according to our initial assessment of wealth but at the end of the year, the poor will receive only half of what we must pay.
Another important rule is that the alms due is paid to the individual only. Beneficiaries of donations such as mosques, schools, hospitals, are not entitled to receive this. We can help them with other kinds of charity. It must be known that the food we serve to the poor also cannot be accepted, since the poor cannot possess it.
The Qur’an clearly defines who can receive Zakat. In this way these people will be able to live like human beings without being degraded by having others look down on them. Islam also aims to prevent people from resorting to begging by providing for their essential needs.
One day a villager came to the Prophet (pbuh) and asked for financial help. The Prophet (pbuh) seeing that he was fit and strong asked him:
What do you have in your possession?
The man answered: I have a cotton bag and a bowl.
The Prophet advised him: Sell these two and buy an axe, cut wood from the forest and in this way you can earn your livelihood. (Abu Dawud, Kitâb al-zakât)
This Muslim followed the advice of the Prophet (pbuh) and in a short while he escaped his poverty.
Islam is a religion of balance. It does not forbid the needy from asking for help for their needs but it encourages them to be self-sufficient. For those who make asking and begging a habit the Qur’an says:
“And of them is he who defameth thee in the matter of alms. If they are given thereof they are content, and if they are not given thereof, behold! they are enraged.”(Tauba: 9:58)
Such people lose their dignity and wish for an easy life. The Prophet(pbuh) did not like such people and advised them to work. One day a person came to the Prophet(pbuh) asking to receive alms. In reply, the Prophet (pbuh) stated:
Allah the Almighty, did not leave the beneficiaries of Zakat to the will of the people, not even to the will of the prophets. He named eight classes of people and said,” if you fall into one of these groups you can take your share from the alms.” (Bayhaki, Sunanu’l-Kubrâ, VII, 6)
The Prophet (pbuh) showed great meticulousness when he distributed Zakat. At that time the Prophet (pbuh) personally collected it from the rich and distributed it to those groups specified in the Qur’an. Of course, this does not mean that we cannot help people in any way we like but this is not counted as the obligatory alms due. One can spend money for other good purposes as a supererogatory act of charity. The Prophet (pbuh) rejected giving alms to those who did not deserve it, but for the distribution of supererogatory charity he did not reject anyone. Since the Qur’an commands:
“Therefore the beggar drive not away,”(Dhuha, 93:10)
The Prophet (pbuh) states that it is the result of good moral characteristics that a Muslim should not leave those who open their hands (i.e. ask help) empty handed even if we only give one date. (Bukhari, Kitâb al-zakât)
Inspired by this hadith, my father Mûsâ Efendi, used to give charity even to those who made begging a trade and would say: “We should keep giving in order not to get too accustomed to not giving and becoming miserly.”
Islam is a very balanced religion; on the one hand it advises the rich to donate generously for the poor and other good purposes, on the other hand it advises the poor person to work hard for his sustenance and not to resort to begging. Some people might think that so much encouragement for giving might create a class of parasites who live off the charity of the rich. In order to curb such an abuse of the mercy of others, Islam allows asking the help of others only in extremely difficult conditions. Asking from others degrades one’s social status as well as dignity. Therefore the Prophet (pbuh) conditioned many of his companions not to ask anything from anybody when he accepted their pledges.
However, it is the duty of good Muslims to search for the genuine needy people who do not like to ask people openly and are too shy to mention their financial difficulties. In the following hadith the Prophet (pbuh) defines the poor as those who do not possess the financial capacity to meet their daily needs:
Narrated by Abu Huraira:
Allah’s Apostle said, “The poor person is not the one who goes around to people and ask them for a mouthful or two (of food) or a date or two but the poor is that one who has not enough (money) to satisfy his needs and whose condition is not known to others, so that others may give him something in charity, and who does not beg of people.” (Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 24, Number 557)
In this hadith the Prophet (pbuh) warns us that those who go around asking people can get their essential needs hence we should concentrate on those who do not ask and patiently bear poverty. The Holy Qur’an emphasizes the significance of giving charity to those people in the following verse:
“(Charity is) for those in need, who, in Allah’s cause are restricted (from travel), and cannot move about in the land, seeking ( trade or work): the ignorant man thinks, because of their modesty, that they are free from want. Thou shalt know them by their (unfailing) mark: They beg not persistently from all and sundry. And whatever of good ye give, be assured Allah knoweth it well.”(Baqara, 2:273)
As understood well from this verse those who pay alms should investigate those to whom they wish to give Zakat. If the giver of alms due does not do this and finds out later that the receiver of the charity was not really eligible for it, then he should pay the same amount again since the first was invalid. However, if he makes a mistake after making careful research, then he is excused and does not need to repay the alms due.
Secondly, we should give the ownership of the alms to the poor; the recipient should really possess it.
When paying the alms, the following principle is important. Firstly, our own body has a right over us, then our family members and then relatives come according to their closeness in blood ties. Islamic inheritance laws regard these ties as essential rules. The ones with rights also have different priorities: the first are those with closeness in blood ties and with urgency of need.
When we choose the recipients of alms we take into consideration the urgency of their need as well as their closeness to us. If a stranger and a relative have the same degree of urgency we prefer the relative but if the stranger has a more urgent need then he is to be preferred. Preferring one’s relatives should not be taken to imply neglecting people who are really suffering in miserable conditions.
These principles show that Islam is a religion of mercy as well as a force which promotes a balanced life. The most beautiful fruit of faith in Allah is to show mercy to others. A heart that has no mercy for others, is in fact not a living heart, it is actually dead. The Basmalah (recitation of Bismillahir- Rahmanir-Raheem), the phrase that all Muslims recite when they start a new action, gives preference to the names of Allah that are related to His mercy: “In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.” (Fatiha, 1:1)
The first chapter of the Holy Qur’an also brings forth the attributes of Allah’s mercy.
“Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds; Most Gracious, Most Merciful”(Fatiha, 1:2-3)
In addition, the life stories of Sufis are full of merciful acts towards the creation of Allah.
The Prophet (pbuh) in many of his sayings emphasized the significance of showing mercy in order to attain Allah’s mercy. He said in one of his hadith that our mercy should engulf all of the creation:
“Show mercy to those on earth so those who are in Heaven will show mercy to you. (Abu Dâvud, Adab, 58)
Fulfillment of the financial commandments of Islam, such as zakat, optional charity and ‘ushr are some of the most important keys in receiving this mercy.
Ushr is the tax that Islam obliges farmers to pay on their harvest. This is one of the commandments of Islam that is almost forgotten by most Muslim farmers. Ushr means in Arabic one tenth, that is one tenth of the harvest should be given to the poor if the harvest is realized without irrigation. If the farmer spent extra resources such as on irrigation then he only needs to distribute 5% of the harvest to the poor.
Those who do not distribute ushr are as guilty as those who do not pay their Zakat. Giving some of the harvest means giving thanks to Allah for his providence. Those who do not give the rights of the poor, the traveler and other beneficiaries of the ushr, are in fact usurping the rights of the poor regarding wealth, which is in fact, the grace of Allah.
According to a narration there was a generous man in Yemen near Sana. He had date palm gardens and other fields yielding a good harvest. Every harvest season he would abundantly distribute the ushr to the poor. When he passed away his children became greedy and said to each other:
– Our family is very large and we do not have much harvest. This year let us collect the harvest before the poor hear about it and we will keep all of it for ourselves.
Having decided this, they went to their garden the next morning. When they reached the garden the next morning, they could not recognize it and they asked each other: Did we come to right place? Alas, their garden had been destroyed and blackened by lightening
When their father had distributed the ushr tax generously, Allah had blessed the garden and had given an abundant harvest.
The following true story from the Qur’an clearly shows us the grave consequences of being miserly and not fulfilling the commandment of ushr.
Lo! We have tried them as We tried the owners of the garden when they vowed that they would pluck its fruit the next morning, And made no exception (for the Will of Allah); Then there came on the (garden) a visitation from thy Lord, (which swept away) all around, while they were asleep: So the (garden) became, by the morning, like a dark and desolate spot, (whose fruit had been gathered). And they cried out one unto another in the morning. So they went off, saying one unto another in low tones: No needy man shall enter it today against you. And in the morning they went, having the power to prevent. But when they saw the (garden), they said: “We have surely lost our way:(Qalam, 68:17-26)
Allah the Almighty teaches us a lesson that the ungrateful people who do not share with others what has been given to them by Allah will have a terrible end even in this world. Since Allah knows the secrets of the hearts, nothing is hidden from His knowledge.
Hadrat Rumi in the following verse very nicely clarifies the futility of love of wealth that causes mercilessness and greed:
“He dreams that he has wealth and is afraid of the thief who may carry off his sack of (gold).
When Death pulls his ear and makes him start up from slumber, then he falls mocking at his fears.” (Mas. III, 2640-41)
The following verse is also an indication of the guilt and pity that the miserly people will feel when they are resurrected in the Hereafter as they wake up from a deep sleep:
“And spend something (in charity) out of the substance which We have bestowed on you, before Death should come to any of you and he should say, “O my Lord! Why didst Thou not give me respite for a little while? I should then have given (largely) in charity, and I should have been one of the doers of good.”(Munâfiqûn, 63:10)
However, at that time it will be too late to fulfill the opportunity that has been given to us in this world. While this verse informs us of the terrible end for those who have nott fulfilled their financial duties towards society, it also implies that we must use the chance given to us and give generously in charity.
Spending (for the sake of Allah – infâq), is mentioned in the Qur’an more than 200 times and this emphasis shows that a good believer is the one who dedicates his wealth and his life to Allah. The Prophet (pbuh) used to meet people from Madinah secretly when he started preaching Islam. Twice he met the groups coming from Madinah and took pledges from them. In the second Aqaba pledge meeting, when Abdullah b. Rawaha asked the Prophet (pbuh):
“- O Prophet what do you lay down as conditions in Allah’s name and for yourself in order to accept our pledge.”
“- My condition, in the name of Allah, is that you should worship Him, and not associate partners with Him. My conditions are that you will protect me as you protect your own lives and properties.”
The people of Madinah asked again:
“If we do that what are our rewards?”
The Prophet (pbuh) answered: “Paradise!”
Being very happy with the reward, the people of Madinah said: “What a good and profitable bargain. We will never break our promise and we never wish that others break their promises to you (on these conditions).” (Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, II, 406)
Upon this conversation, Allah the Almighty, sent down the following verse:
“ Lo! Allah hath bought from the believers their lives and their wealth because the Garden will be theirs: they shall fight in the way of Allah and shall slay and be slain. It is a promise binding on Him in the Torah and the Gospel and the Qur’an. Who fulfilleth His covenant better than Allah? Rejoice then in your bargain that ye have made, for that is the supreme triumph.” (Tawba, 9:111)
How does Allah buy our lives and properties? Martyrdom; giving our life for the sake of Allah is, as a matter of fact, selling it to Allah. Sumayya, the first person who was killed for her belief in Islam gave her life freely in the path of Allah. Thus, she bought her share in paradise and she occupied the throne in the hearts of believers, waiting for Judgment Day in order to receive her great reward. Following her example, we should turn to charity with our full heart.
In the battle of the Dardanelles (Gallipoli), the Turkish army even did not have enough bullets but by freely sacrificing their lives, they defeated the enemy. There are many other examples in history, that those who sacrifice their lives and wealth in the way of Allah will eventually become victorious.
The selling of wealth to Allah is achieved through giving charity. Allah the Almighty, counting the attributes of Allah-fearing people says: “This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear Allah; Who believe in the Unseen, are steadfast in prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them.”(Baqara, 2:2-3)
Charity is of many kinds. Charity begins with giving out of what is at hand. Giving even half of a date is considered as an act of charity and even this small amount of charity protects the believer from hell-fire. The Prophet (pbuh) considers all Muslims as rich in the sense that there is something that all Muslims can give in one way or another. The Prophet (pbuh) informs us that glorifying Allah, commanding what is good, helping those who suffer from injustice, counselling the believers, giving happiness to the hearts of Muslims, to remove things from the road that are harmful to any passers-by and so on, are all considered as acts of charity. The real richness according to Islam lies in the heart of the Muslim. People are only as rich as they feel. The smile of those who are rich in their hearts is also considered as a charitable act. Those who are rich in their hearts are happy and distribute happiness to their friends. What charity can be better than giving happiness to those who are around us? On the other hand, there is no cure for those who are poor in their hearts. In other words, real richness does not lie in possessing much wealth; it is the richness in the heart. Since the real Muslims are rich in their hearts, they give charity from what they possess. Charity is the perfect manifestation of a believer’s sensitivity to his feelings of mercy and self-sacrifice.
The lives of the companions of the Prophet (pbuh) are full of such examples. One of the most striking examples of self-sacrifice is manifested in Hadrat Omar’s life. When his army opened Jerusalem to Islam, he set off together with his slave to receive the keys of the city. They were riding the camel by taking turns. When they approached the city it was the slave’s turn to get on the camel. The slave did not want to enter Jerusalem riding while his master was walking. However, Omar who was rich in heart insisted that the slave should use his turn, so Omar entered the town on foot.
Another example can be seen in the life of Hadrat Ali, the fourth caliph and son-in-law of the Prophet (pbuh). All in the family were fasting but they had very little food to break their fast. However, a poor person came to them in the evening and asked for some food. They gave all their food to this poor person and all went to sleep hungry. The next day near sunset when the time to break fast approached an orphan arrived asking for some food. Again they gave their food. The following day they finally had some food to eat but a slave came asking for food. Performing the same charity again they showed the highest example of self-sacrifice and charity.
This generosity of heart was shown by the companions even with their last breath. At the battle of Yarmuk, a man was offering water to three companions who were injured in the fight. Each one of them refused to drink and offered the water to his wounded compatriot hence the water circulated among them but none of them drank since they all passed away before the water came back.
These are the highest examples of giving charity and called îsâr in Arabic. Îsâr is more than giving charity, it is the preference of others over your rights; it is to give what you need to others. This kind of charity is almost non-existent in modern societies today. People simply do not understand the significance of this much generosity. However, if we contemplate what the world would be like if every individual considered the well being of others more than his own, we would see that we would be able to live the life of paradise in this world. Therefore, we should encourage ordinary Muslims to give their obligatory alms due and to increase this amount even more as voluntary charity. In addition, we should carry out the distribution of charity through institutions and organizations that work professionally. This can be achieved through training sincere people who are hard working and self-sacrificing. It is also a duty incumbent upon the Ummah (Muslim nation) to establish hospitals, dormitories for those who have no accommodation and soup kitchens.
In short, giving charity generously should be an essential characteristic of a believer. The following verse clearly considers giving charity as an inseparable feature of a Muslim:
“Those who spend (freely), whether in prosperity or in adversity; who restrain (their) anger, and pardon (all) men; – for Allah loves those who do good.”(Al-i Imran 3:134)
Jafar as-Sâdik, who is an important figure from the offspring of the Prophet’s grandsons, manifested all the qualities of a believer that are mentioned in the above verse. He had a servant that looked after the housework. One day he brought soup to Jafar (may Allah be pleased with him) but spilled it on him. As his entire garment was spoiled by the soup, Jafar looked directly at him. The slave realizing his displeasure said:
“O my Master! Allah the Almighty describes the believers in the Qur’an as those who restrain their anger, and recited the verse above.”
Upon hearing it, Jafar said: “I have restrained my anger.”
This time the slave read the second part of the verse saying: “Allah the Almighty, states that good believers pardon people’s mistakes”.
Jafar said: “I have forgiven your mistake”.
Upon this the slave stated: “Allah states in the Qur’an that He loves those who give with benevolence”.
Upon hearing this nice answer, Jafar said: “You can go now as a free man, I have freed you”.
In that way he applied all the commandments of the verse in his life and set a good example for the rest of the Ummah.
As the Prophet (pbuh) stated, a sinful woman was forgiven due to her mercy for a thirsty dog by giving it water. She attained paradise due to this simple of act of mercy while on the other hand, another woman was destined for hell for her unmerciful act to a cat, by walling it up and allowing it to starve. These are important examples and indications as to how a believer should behave towards others. A believer should be very merciful, self-sacrificing, and generous to others.
The real generosity, which will be acceptable in the sight of Allah, is the one that one gives from one’s valuable and beloved possessions. If one gives charity from valueless things, this will not be regarded as worthy.
In the Time of Happiness, (the age of the Prophet (pbuh)) people accommodated the poor companions in the Mosque. They were called the People of the Bench and their sole duty was to study Islam, hence they could not earn their livelihood. The Prophet (pbuh) and his rich companions would supply their needs including food. Some of the companions sent them spoiled dates as food. The People of the Bench were obliged to eat these spoiled dates due to excessive hunger. Upon this sad incident the following divine warning arrived from Allah the Almighty:
“O ye who believe! Give of the good things which ye have (honorably) earned, and of the fruits of the earth which We have produced for you, and do not even aim at getting anything which is bad, in order that out of it ye may give away something, when ye yourselves would not receive it except with closed eyes. And know that Allah is Free of all wants, and worthy of all praise. (Baqara: 2, 267)
In another verse, Allah the Almighty informs us that in order to be close to Allah we should give charity from our beloved possessions.
“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.” (Al-i Imrân, 3:92)
When this verse was revealed the companions of the Prophet (pbuh) started racing with each other to give their favorite and most loved possessions. The companions who were listening to the Prophet (pbuh) felt this verse in the depths of their inner worlds. They were reckoning themselves about being able to give what they liked the most. Suddenly a companion stood up. This companion whose face was bright with the light of faith was Abu Talha (may Allah be pleased with him). He owned a big garden with six hundred date trees in it that was very close to the Prophet’s Masjid and he loved that garden very much. He used to invite the Prophet (pbuh) to his garden often and get his blessing.
Abu Talha said: “O Messenger of Allah! The most beloved to me in my property is this garden in the city that you also know. Right at this moment, I give it to the Messenger of Allah for the sake of Allah. You can dispose it the way you like and give it to the poor.” After he finished his words he went to the garden to carry out this beautiful decision. When Abu Talha reached the garden he found his wife sitting under the shade of a tree. Abu Talha did not enter the garden.
His wife asked: “O Abu Talha! Why are you waiting outside? Come on in!” Abu Talha said: “I can not enter inside, you should also take your belongings and leave.” Upon this unexpected answer his wife asked in surprise: “Why, O Abu Talha? Isn’t this garden ours? “No, from now on this garden belongs to the poor people of Madina,” he said and gave the news of the good tidings in the verse and told excitedly about the charity he made.
His wife asked: “Did you give it on behalf of the two of us or just yourself?”
He answered: “On behalf of us.” He heard the following words from his wife in peace: “May Allah be pleased with you, O Abu Talha! I used to think about the same thing when I saw the poor people around us, but I could not find the courage to tell you. May Allah accept our charity. I am leaving the garden and coming with you, too!” It is not difficult to predict the climate of happiness that would surround theworld if this moral quality was rooted in the souls of people.
The commentators of the Qur’an explain the Arabic word al-Birr, meaning righteousness, the highest point of charity, as paradise, the mercy of Allah and His pleasure with us. The same word is explained in another verse in the Qur’an:
“It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces towards the east or west; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in suffering and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah-fearing. (Baqara, 2:177)
Hence, those who attained to the level of al-Birr in giving charity in reality attained all other good qualities as well. Emphasizing this fact the Prophet (pbuh) stated:
“Whoever applies this verse in his life Allah will be granted perfection in his faith.” (Nasafi, Madârik al-Tanzîl, I, 249)
In these days, brotherhood and solidarity have been lost, on the contrary hatred and enmity has increased in the society due to ignoring the problems of the poor. In order to fight these negative feelings we need to declare a campaign of charity and donation. We must imagine that we could be in the shoes of the needy. Hence, giving charity to the poor is in fact to give thanks for the favors of Allah upon us. The great Sufi Aziz Mahmud Hudayi invited even the kings to the campaign of giving charity. In his letter to Sultan Selim the Third he wrote:
“Like your grandfather Suleiman the Magnificient who brought the water to the people of Istanbul from faraway springs (called Istirancalar) you must supply wood to the poor this winter.”
Fighting against poverty and the campaign to raise charity is not only important for us but it is also very important for our family. As we train our youngsters to perform their prayers at an early age, in the same vein, we must train our children in order for them to give charity and to share the sorrows of others. This is an obligation that we should fulfill when our children are young, otherwise they will not be able to give charity as an adult. They should grow up keeping in mind that wealth in reality belongs to Allah.
Those who want to be upright in Islam should never stop giving charity in the path of Allah even if their means are restricted. We should shoulder those who are in a miserable condition or at least we should pray for their well-being. Even sharing their sorrows emotionally is considered as an act of worship in the sight of Allah the Almighty. We should also keep in mind that in these times the greatest act of charity is to train people who will work in the institutions of charity and spend for these kinds of institutions. As a great thinker once said:
“The difference between the developed and undeveloped countries is a bunch of well educated people”
The world is really thirsty for these kinds of educated people. If Islam is in a horrible condition and Muslims are suffering from injustices the reason is that we do not have this high quality of people. We must shake laziness off from ourselves as we start to struggle to exemplify what it is to be a true Muslim. Doing this is possible only if sacrifice for the good of the people.
Establishing charitable foundations institutionalizes this sacrificing and giving in charity. Establishing foundations means to dedicate wealth for the service of Allah and making it eternal. The perfection of Islam can be reached through showing mercy and love towards his creation with a smiling face. To sacrifice both our wealth and lives in the way of Allah is, as a matter of fact, to buy paradise.
One’s wealth and children possess the highest capacity to prevent one from the path of Allah. In order to warn from these dangers Allah the Almighty states in the Qur’an:
“Your possessions and your children are only a trial, and Allah it is with Whom is a great reward.”(Taghabun, 64:15)
“O you who believe! let not your wealth, or your children, divert you from the remembrance of Allah; and whoever does that, these are the losers. (Munafiqûn, 63:9)
“Therefore be careful of (your duty to) Allah as much as you can, and hear and obey and spend, it is better for your souls; and whoever is saved from the greediness of his soul, these it is that are the successful.” (Taghabun, 64:16)
“If ye lend unto Allah a goodly loan, He will double it for you and will forgive you, for Allah is Responsive, Clement,” (Taghabun, 64:17)
As may be understood from the above verses, according to Islam the poor and the weak are a trial for the rich in terms of whether they will fulfill their duties or not. The doors of Paradise will be open for the rich through the prayers of the poor. Through charity, wealth is not allowed to be a cancerous cell in the body. Hence, the foundations of charity are monuments of mercy and the best places where charity is distributed. They are a bridge between the rich and the poor. Through the existence and abundance of these kinds of institutions the feelings of resentment and hatred between the rich and the poor will not find a fertile soil for growth.
It is worth noting that our ancestors, the Ottomans, established hundreds of thousands of charitable foundations. Although many of them have been plundered in recent history, nevertheless 26,798 still are standing on their own. The Ottomans, who practiced Islam sincerely, demonstrated to the world the endless mercy of Islam. This mercy was so limitless that it not only included their fellow human beings but also reached to the animal kingdom. Some of these foundations are dedicated to animals that are injured or could not migrate to their habitats in winter months. The network of foundations surrounded the society and treated all kinds of social problems.
In other words, charitable foundations are manifestations of the responsibility that Muslims feel towards the society. They are an outcome of the belief that we should love creation for the sake of Creator. Allah the Almighty, named all the facilities of life as a trust given to man for a limited period. Wealth, offspring, and health are all given to man as a trust and they should be used in the way of Allah. If they are used in His way they will bring blessings and good rewards in the Hereafter.
When the companions of the Prophet (pbuh) heard the commandment of Allah with regards to giving charity they brought whatever they had to the Prophet (pbuh). The verse “Do they not know that Allah accepts repentance from His servants and takes the alms, ” (Tawba, 9:104) gave them the greatest motivation for giving charity wholeheartedlly.
We should also realize that charity may not only be given materially. Whatever Allah has given us should be used in the way of Allah. The companions of the Prophet (pbuh) donated their lives and their wealth to invite people to Islam. They reached the far ends of the world in their time in order to spread the religion of Allah. Qusam son of Abbâs (the prophet’s uncle) and Muhammad son of Uthman (Caliph and son-in-law of the Prophet) gave the best examples of personal charity in spending their lives in order to spread Islam. They traveled as far as Samarqand to spread the light of Islam. As a result of their sacrifice, this area has produced some of the greatest scholars of Islam such as Bukhari, Imâm Qâsânî, Imâm Tirmidhi, Shâh Naqshbend, and many others.
Similarly, today the greatest charity is to practice Islam fully and wholeheartedly to present it as a way of life.
The Etiquette of Spending
When one gives Zakat and sadaqat (compulsory and voluntary charity)it is very important to act correctly. The one who gives should thank the one who receives the charity since through him the giver is fulfilling his duty and causing the donor to receive great rewards from Allah. The donor is also protected from calamities and harm due to his charitable acts and it constitutes a shield against all sorts of distress.
The Qur’an teaches us the following good manners when one gives charity:
“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.” (Baqara, 2:264)
Alongside advocating giving charity this verse very clearly teaches us how to be careful in the act of giving it. In other words, if the donators belittle the poor or break their hearts with harsh words or acts, Allah will not place value on their charitable acts. When one helps someone there should be no expectations and it should be done for the sake of Allah only. The Prophet (pbuh) said:
It is narrated on the authority of Abu Dharr that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) observed: There are three are persons with whom Allah would neither speak on the Day of Resurrection, nor would look at them nor would absolve them and there is a painful chastisement for them. The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) repeated it three times. Abu Dharr remarked: They failed and they lost; who are these persons, O Messenger of Allah? Upon this, he (the Holy) Prophet) observed: They are: the dragger of his lower garment (out of pride), the one who reminds about being obligated to, the seller of goods by false oath. (Muslim, Imân, 1,192)
All these show that those who lay obligation on the receivers of charity and those who hurt the feelings of the poor will be punished by Allah. Hence, these bad qualities are grave sins in giving charity. Allah looks at people’s hearts and values them and as Rumi has stated: “Give your existence and wealth in charitable acts so as to buy people’s hearts. The supplications of their hearts on your behalf will enlighten your dark grave.”
According to Rumi the poor are an opportunity for the rich to express their gratitude to Allah. As Allah bestowed upon them favor they can similarly reflect on Allah’s bounty to the poor. Hence their hearts should not be broken:
“Inasmuch as the beggar is the mirror of bounty, take care! Breath is hurtful to the face of the mirror.” (Mesa. 2748)
The poor are mirrors of Allah’s bounty, (Mesa. 2748) since the poor turn their faces to charity loving people and by supplying them with an opportunity to donate for the sake of Allah, the poor in fact prepare the path of salvation for them. In addition, the poor develop love and respect for the rich due to their generosity. In that way, the mercy and love residing both in the rich as well as in the poor flourish.
In other words, Allah made the poor function as mirrors for the rich so that they can see their generosity. Rumi describes the terrible end of the heartless rich in the following way: “Those good-hearted rich people who lost their existence in Allah became the manifestation of Allah’s generosity. Having a share in the Divine generosity they have eradicated their existence in pure generosity. Except for those of them who do not attach their hearts to worldly possessions, the rich will be the poor in spirituality. Their external riches are but the lifeless paintings of their unfortunate states. These are people who are heedless of reality and with no souls. Do not approach them to become friends with them; do not throw bones to pictures of dogs”!
Such people are slaves to their interests. They are ignorant of the Divine thirst.”
Rumi warns us not to befriend such people: “Do not put the plate of food in front of the dead. Such people will be miserable beggars in the Hereafter.
The dervish that wants bread is fish on land. He has the form of a fish but he is fleeing from the sea. He loves Allah for the sake of gain: His soul is not in love with Allah’s Excellence and Beauty.” (Mesa. I, 2750-55)
In sum, we should not be cheated away from Divine sustenance in the Hereafter by the glamour of worldly pleasures such as having nice food and drink. If we do not want to lose in the Hereafter, we should be surrounding the needy with our generosity.
Another important principle is to give charity in secrecy, that is, not to reveal those who receive charity. When charity is given in openness to the poor, they will lose their feelings of shyness and in time they will be accustomed to asking help from others and become lazy. They will lose their desire to work. Secondly, giving it openly causes the donor to feel pride and conceit. Hence, giving charity in secret is good both for the one who receives as well as for the one who donates.
However, at times, in order to urge others to give charity, one can donate in open so as to be a good example to others. In this way, ordinary people are urged to follow suit. Therefore, the Qur’an states:
“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.(Baqara, 2:271)
The commentators on the Qur’an infer from this verse that the obligatory alms due should be given openly, but the supererogatory acts of donation should be fulfilled secretly.
The best way of giving charity is to give with the right hand so that even the left hand does not have any knowledge of this giving. As has been made clear in the hadith, such charity loving people will be under the shade of the Divine Throne on the Day of Judgment. Our ancestors also acted in this as far as giving charity is concerned. The Turkish Sultan, Fatih the Conqueror put forward the following conditions in his charter of foundation:
“I am Sultan Fatih Mohammed, the conqueror of Istanbul. I have handed over my 136 shops, that I have earned with the work of my hands, as a charitable foundation with the following conditions:
In the soup kitchen that I built in the complex near to the mosque, the widows of the martyrs and their children, the poor of Istanbul will be fed. However, those who cannot come to the soup kitchen to have food for some reason, their food should be taken to their homes in closed containers after it is dark so as they will not be humiliated for receiving charity.”
As may be clearly seen in this charter, Sultan Fatih acted in a most sensitive way to protect the feelings and honor of the poor, and made rules that served this purpose. The subjects of such a king did not behave but like him. They would put the charity money in envelopes into the stones of charity (these are stones with holes on their top so as the charitable people put their financial donations inside and the poor would take them whenever they needed, these stones are placed in the mosques and the poor would take the money without having to be ashamed of anyone.
This is the highest mode of good behaviour since the rich do not know who has received it and the poor do not know who has donated the money. In that way the rich are protected from being proud over the poor and the poor are protected from the feeling of indebtedness to the donor.
The main purpose of religion after faith in Allah is to produce good charactered people with deep understanding and to produce a peaceful society. Such a perfect society can be realized when the individuals’ hearts are merciful and caring, leading them to give voluntary charity as well as the obligatory alms.
We are living in the kingdom of Allah with the sustenance bestowed on us by His grace. Those who neglect the acts of worship that demand financial sacrifice, do not they know that everything belongs to Allah and from whom they are withholding His wealth.
Love grows through sacrifice in the path of the beloved. According to the level of his love, the lover sacrifices for the beloved. Sometimes the lover even gives his life in order to please his beloved. Since charity is given for the sake of Allah, He states in the Qur’an that it is He who takes the charity through the hands of the poor:
“Know they not that Allah doth accept repentance from His votaries and receives their gifts of charity, and that Allah is verily He, the Oft-Returning, Most Merciful?”(Tawba, (9:104)
In order to emphasize the same truth the Prophet (pbuh) states:
“Undoubtedly, when a donator gives charity, Allah is the first to receive it even before the needy, and then He gives it to the poor. “(Munawî, Kanz al-Hakâik)
Therefore, the most important characteristic of charity is that it should be given sincerely for the sake of Allah. Those who give charity should never feel proud or superior over those who benefit from their donations; they should not expect them to feel grateful. Such negative feelings will erase the good rewards of donations. On the contrary, those who give should thank those who receive their charity. Only in this way will Allah accept our worship of giving charity. The following verse describing the noble ways of charitable acts by Ali and Fatimah teach us the code of behavior that we should follow:
“And they feed, for the love of Allah, the indigent, the orphan, and the captive,- (Saying),”We feed you for the sake of Allah alone: no reward do we desire from you, nor thanks. “We only fear a Day of distressful Wrath from the side of our Lord.” But Allah will deliver them from the evil of that Day, and will shed over them a Light of Beauty and (blissful) Joy.”(Insân, 76:8-11)
If the donors have such sublime feelings, those who receive their charity also benefit from their feelings. Their good intentions and sincerity is reflected in the hearts of the poor. If they do not really deserve the charity after receiving it, they change their bad ways. The following incident narrated by the Prophet (pbuh) exemplifies this positive transformation:
“Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) said, “A man said that he would give something in charity. He went out with his offering of charity and unknowingly gave it to a thief. The next morning the people said that he had given his charity to a thief. (On hearing that) he said, “O Allah! All the praises are for you. I will give alms again.” And so he again went out with his alms and (unknowingly) gave it to an adulteress. The next morning the people said that he had given his alms last night to an adulteress. The man said, “O Allah! All the praises are for you. I gave my alms to an adulteress. I will give alms again.” So he went out with his alms again and (unknowingly) gave it to a rich person. (The people) next morning said that he had given his alms to a wealthy person. He said, “O Allah! All the praises are for you. (I have given alms) to a thief, to an adulteress and to a wealthy man.” Then someone came and said to him, “The alms which you gave to the thief might make him abstain from stealing, and that given to the adulteress might make her abstain from illegal sexual intercourse (adultery), and that given to the wealthy man might make him take a lesson from it and spend his wealth which Allah has given him, in Allah’s cause.” (Bukhari, zakat, Volume 2, Book 24, Number 502)
It is interesting that the manifestation of the meaning of this hadith is seen in the life of a friend of Allah, namely Sâmî Efendi, narrated by Mûsâ Efendi:
One day someone signaled for us to stop the car and when we stopped he asked:
O hadji, father give me money to buy cigarettes for the sake of Allah. His friends did not want to give him money. However, our sheikh said: since he asked our help it is better to give. The poor man, when he saw this kind behavior, told them he had changed his mind, and would buy bread with this money and not cigarettes. And he left us with great pleasure.
Out of curiosity, one of the companions of the Sheikh in order to see how this man spent the money, followed him. To his surprise, the man, as he promised bought bread with the money.
This is a living example of how charity which is only given for the sake of Allah changes the hearts of those who receive it. Therefore, when we give charity we should scrutinize our feelings more than the one who benefits from our donation.
O my Lord! Please make your limitless mercy the never-ending treasure of our hearts.
The requirements of Zakat
Zakat on wealth has five conditions:
1- To be Muslim, to be sane, to be free and to reach the age of maturity,
2- To have excess wealth called nisâb, more than necessary for the basic necessities of life, (house, food, car and so on) for a year,
3- The possession should be increasing in value,
4- The passing of a lunar year over the wealth and,
5- Valid ownership of the property or wealth.
The kind of property for which alms due has been required:
The basic limit of giving alms due changes according to the property one has and this limit in sheep and goat is forty, in cattle it is thirty and camels five. In order to pay alms due on gold, it should weigh at least 81 grams and for silver the amount is 561 grams. When the amount of wealth and property reaches this level one needs to pay alms due as described in the law books of Islam.
The recipients of Alms due:
Allah the Almighty clearly explains those who are eligible to receive the alms due.
“Alms are only for the poor and the needy, and the officials (appointed) over them, and those whose hearts are made to incline (to truth) and the (ransoming of) captives and those in debts and in the way of Allah and the wayfarer; an ordinance from Allah; and Allah is knowing, Wise. (Tawba, 9:60)
1- Poor: According to Islam anyone who has insufficient wealth to require payment of the alms due is poor. So anyone who cannot give alms due can receive it. Even if such people are employed they can still benefit from it due to their needs.
2- Indigent: According to Islam those who do not have sufficient food for one day are called indigent (miskîn). Such needy ones are living in deep poverty like homeless people.
3- The collectors of the alms due who are employed by the state
4- And those whose hearts are inclined (to truth)
5-Slaves: Alms due may be paid to slaves so that they may gain freedom from their masters. But today there are no legally acquired slaves.
6- Those in debt are people whose debts exceed their possessions.
7- Those in the way of Allah include the fighter in the path of Islam, the students and those who were left without money on their way to pilgrimage.
8- The wayfarer: Those who lost their money during their travel and have been left helpless. Such people can benefit from alms even if they are rich in their hometown.
On the other hand, there are also some people that are not qualified to benefit from the alms due. One cannot give to ones father, mother, grandparents, son, and daughter. The close relatives should be taken care of from other kinds of charity. Also, those who are rich and those who are non-Muslims cannot receive the alms due.
‘Ushr: The alms of crops:
Farmers should pay alms on their crops. According to the Hanafi School of Islamic Law one needs to give one-tenth of the crops each time they are harvested. If a body of land yields a crop more than once, then each time the alms should be given. The guardians of an insane person or the executors of a recently dead person should pay ‘ushr out of their crops. However, ‘ushr is paid on long-lasting storable products such as wheat and barley and is not paid on quickly perishable items such as fruits and vegetables.
If the land is irrigated through natural ways such as from rivers or rainwater the amount of ‘ushr is one tenth. However, if the farmer has to pay money for irrigation, then he only gives one twentieth of the crop. ‘Ushr is paid out of the whole crop and the farming costs are not extracted from the value of the crops.
If ‘ushr is paid on the crops there is no need to pay it again on their products after they have been processed. Examples here would be olives and seeds that are made into oils.
‘Ushr is given when the crops are completely harvested. Before they are collected one is not required to pay its alms. However, one can pay close to the harvesting time when the crops are quite ripe.
If one collects some of the crops before the harvest time, it should be made up afterwards. Such as if one collected ten kilos of grapes, one should pay a kilo of more alms after the full harvest.
All these kinds of alms show that Islam does not leave the poor and needy to the mercy of the law. One needs to pay these financial obligations as a part of worshipping Allah. In this way Islam wants to create a balanced and just society.