Question: In this day and age, one of the biggest calamities facing the world is poverty. In fact, the main focus of the United Nations’ aims for the next century is the eradication of poverty. Poverty not only denotes an economic problem, but a social problem as well. Moreover, most of the international organizations have plans and programs dealing with the problem of poverty. We know that Islam is a way of life. It is a schedule that begins from the cradle and ends in the grave. In this regard what does Islam say about poverty?

Ustadh Osman Nuri Topbas: Islam regards the use of wealth and blessings like all other matters, as a responsibility of the servant towards his Creator. For Allah the Almighty gave mankind everything as a trust. The human is placed in the position of treasurer for a specific period of time. This means that the real owner of possessions is Allah the Almighty. So while believers use the blessings they have been graciously endowed with, they must also comply with the confinements that the Creator has placed. Thus, Allah the Almighty says in the Quran,

“Then on that Day, you will be asked about the bounties you enjoyed.” (At-Takathur, 8)

In the above light, wealth needs to be protected from moral “mayhem” such as useless luxury, waste and miserliness which all stem from the desires of the self.  Hadrat ‘Ali, may Allah be well pleased with him, indicated this truth when he said, “The level of extravagance of the rich dictates the level of hunger in a society.” That is why Islam gave both the rich and the poor certain guidelines to ensure happiness for all, in this world and the Hereafter.

The Wealthy: Luxury, waste and miserliness should be avoided. What exceeds one’s needs should be spent. People should not sleep satiated while their neighbor goes hungry. They should show compassion, mercy and kindness to the impoverished. They should be an inspiration with their good character, altruism, sacrifice and service to society.

The Poor: Patience, contentment, acquiescence, reliance on Allah and gratitude should outline the character of the poor. This implies that they should be content with what Allah the Almighty predestined for them. Their focus on winning Allah’s pleasure is what makes them inspirational.

Accordingly, the peaceful and serene guidelines of the rich and the poor have both been shown. When these teachings are observed and complied with, a society becomes a virtuous civilization.

We must not forget that Allah the Almighty created humans dependent on each other. The poor need the rich and the rich need the poor. The poor are the responsibility of the rich. They need their kindness and benefaction. The rich also need the poor. They need their invocations and the rewards that can be achieved by spending on them.

Question:What do you think is the biggest threat facing humanity today?

Ustadh Osman Nuri Topbas: The biggest threat facing humanity is divergence from religion and spiritual starvation. When Divine truths and spiritual values are abandoned, vivacity of the heart diminishes, the conscience is blinded, honor and sensitivity are parted and one ultimately reaches a monstrous state.

The tragedies occurring all around the world touch the core of our beings.

Humans can only be honorable when they are close to Allah the Almighty and the noblest of creation.

That is why the biggest threat facing humanity is divergence from faith, mindlessness of the Creator, a degeneration of manners and spiritual deprivation.

In the year 2010, an old destitute woman in an African village called Burkina Faso, asked for a piece of bread from our foundation. The volunteer asked her, “Would you like us to give your village nutritional support or would you like us to dig up a well?”

The old woman replied with exemplary wisdom that all Muslims could learn from.

She said with a true spirit, “We are used to living with hardship.  You are Muslims. If you can, save our children’s faith! Teach them so that they do not linger in ignorance!”

All in all, the most dangerous threat to humanity is spiritual starvation. Rather than material poverty, the main aim of Muslims should be to atone for the much graver problem facing us which is spiritual impoverishment, through sincere efforts and service.

Question: There are many definitions of “the righteous servant” in every religion.  If a person, who wants to come close to the Creator, yet does not belong to any religion, asks “What does my Lord want from me?” How would you answer him or her?

Ustadh Osman Nuri Topbas: Allah the Almighty sent the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, as a model of ‘the perfect person’ to mankind and wants us to resemble him to our utmost ability. That is why, the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings is presented to us as “a good example”, meaning, an outstanding role model.

The Prophet, peace be upon him, who was sent as a mercy to mankind, is a manifestation of the zenith of Allah’s creation of mankind.

Because mankind was sent to this world to be tried in a struggle against the ‘self’ and its desires, one is in constant need of discipline. In order for a person to become an accepted servant of the Creator, he needs to shake off the shackles of the ‘self’ and evolve the disposition of spirituality. That is why Allah the Almighty sent His Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, as the ‘greatest teacher of manners’ for mankind. Mankind will always need the Prophet’s guidance.

Prophets are sent to societies which have deviated from justice and truth, lost their honor and personal dignity and have sunk into a period of ignorance. Our Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, was sent when ignorance was at its peak. However, due to his spiritual teachings, this ‘ignorant society’ became the ‘society of bliss’.

Consequently, a person who wants to know what Allah the Almighty wants from us, needs to look at the messages which the prophets and messengers have brought with them. The Quran describes the objective of creation as “worship”. “I created jinn and mankind only to worship Me.” (Thariyat, 57).  As for how we are to worship, we need to look at the Prophet’s life as a model and learn from his example.

Question: Globalization is a modern reality. People, more than ever, are living in multi-cultural and multi-religious societies. People from varying cultures, religions and understandings are communicating in ever changing fields. What principles are Muslims supposed to observe and show non-Muslims?

Ustadh Osman Nuri Topbas: The answer to this question is in the Glorious Quran:

“You have your religion, and I have mine.” (Al-Kafirun, 6)

When our Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, immigrated to Madina, he set up a “brotherhood” between the Muslims, and a “citizen” law between Muslims and non- Muslims. He invited everyone to a peaceful life, through observing respect of each other’s rights. Thus, the Prophet upon him be peace and blessings, banned injustice and oppression to non-Muslims, as they are our human companions.

In January of the year 2013, in the most prestigious university of the United States, namely Harvard, a few examples of the most eloquent summaries of historic rights and justice were chosen and hung up on the wall of the Law Faculty Library. The following verse of the Quran is to be found on that wall:

“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, be he rich or poor, Allah is a Better Protector to both (than you). So follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you may avoid justice, and if you distort your witness or refuse to give it, verily, Allah is Ever Well-Acquainted with what you do.” (An-Nisa, 135)

Overall, Islam brings with it the most supreme rulings for all aspects of life. When these edicts were observed and lived by, a countless number of people were inspired and thence leaned towards guidance just from “the state of the Muslims”.  We are also required to live by the jewel we have today and present it to the world. Thus, a great responsibility lies in all our hands today…

Question: Islam is a religion of peace.  It was taught to mankind by the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, who even shed tears when an ants nest was burnt. However, we see many Muslims in conflicts all over the world. Most of the time, the victims are women and children. Could you clarify the contradiction with what we know and what we see?

Ustadh Osman Nuri Topbas: The biggest reason of this contradiction is ignorance. For, the believers who understand Islam spiritually and mentally know that there is absolutely no place for selfish revenge and conflicts in Islam. This is because Islam forbids terror, anarchy and mutinies. Our Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, strove against oppression during his 23 years of prophethood. When the Prophet upon him be peace and blessings immigrated to Madina, he conciliated between the two big tribes of Aws and Khazraj. He then brought to naught all of racism and prejudice. There was no supremacy of black over white or white over black. For, in Islam, the most worthy of mankind is the one who has the most ‘piety’. Islam preaches reconciliation, peace, unity and equality.

Therefore, the gloomy state is not because of Muslims living by their religion. In contrast, it stems from Muslims not living Islam truthfully. For, Islam ordains that we live in unity and harmony. Allah the Almighty says in the Quran,

…If anyone kills a person- unless in retribution for murder or spreading corruption in the land- it is as if he kills all mankind, while if any saves a life it is as if he saves the lives of all of mankind. (Al-Maida, 32).

May Allah the Almighty give all Muslims foresight and sagacity. May the community (ummah) of Allah’s Messenger upon him be peace and blessings, comprehend the essence of Islam and live together in conciliation and peace and may Allah bestow His bounty and blessings on them.