The Qur’an and the concepts of Humanity and Charity
Islam as practised today by the vast majority of Muslims is confined to the five pillars, which are: 1. Declaration of faith 2. Prayer 3. Fasting during the month of Ramadan 4. Zakat and 5. Hajj, if one can afford it. Basically these are rituals of which prayer seems to be most important. Vast number of Mosques at great expenses have been built all over the world for this purpose. The people who conduct the prayers are usually brought up in traditional schools and have very little knowledge of the Qur’an. However, these people should not be blamed for the present predicament of the Muslims as the blame lies mostly on the so called educated people. The most important reason for our failure is our reluctance to understand the guidance given in the Qur’an, and then to apply the teachings in our own life. We treat this Book as a book of recitation and not as a Book of Guidance, which the Qur’an repeatedly stresses as its main objective. Every year thousands of young people are trained to memorise the Qur’an but are totally illiterate as far as its guidance is concerned. Sadly we, the educated people, are mostly concerned with increased consumerism rather than trying to understand and follow the message of the Qur’an. We need to ponder on the following messages:
Surah 8, Al-Anfal (53) & Surah 13, Ar-Ra’d (11) Allah never changes the condition of any people until they first change that which is in their hearts â€¦.
Surah 47, Muhammad (38) If you turn away, He will exchange you for some other people, and they will not be like you.
Often we avoid the Qur’an by saying that it is difficult to understand. As Allah wants us to follow the Book why would He make it so difficult to understand? In fact many verses say quite clearly that Allah has made the Qur’an ‘clear‘, ‘plain‘, ‘fully explained‘, ‘easy to remember‘ and ‘easy to take advice from‘. Examples of such verses are: (2:219); (3:103) (6:65, 97-99, 114); (7:52); (11:1); (17:89); (18:54); (30:58); (39:27); (54:17, identically repeated in 22, 32 and 40), and many others.
In trying to understand and follow the Qur’an it is essential to remember the verse 7 of Surah 3, Al-Imran: He it is who has sent down to thee the Book: in it are verses basic or fundamental (of a established meaning); they are the foundation of the book: others are allegorical. But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part of it that is allegorical, seeking discord, and searching for its hidden meanings, but no one knows its hidden meanings except Allah. And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: ‘We believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our Sustainer’, but only men of understanding really heed.
The above verse clearly specifies that the fundamental messages given in the Qur’an are clear and very easy to understand. They do not need any interpretation and many of them are repeated as reminders. Basically these are fundamental principles, laws and moral codes, some of which can only be implemented in a real Islamic state but most of which can, and need to be applied in our own lives. Otherwise we fail to create a society which is harmonious and morally strong, providing benefits to all people. For such moral codes regarding Humanity and Charity I would like to use a few verses from the Qurâ€™an which we often recite but do not give any importance to their meanings.
The Qur’an talks about humanity in different sections, throughout the Book, as it does on justice. The following are just a few examples.
Surah 49, Al-Hujurat (13) O men! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another, Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold God is all-knowing, all-aware.
Surah 107, Al-Maun (1) Has thou observed him who denies the Deen?
(2) That is he who repels the orphan
(3) And urges not the feeding of the needy.
(4) Ah, woe unto the worshippers
(5) Who are heedless of their prayers
(6) Who would be seen (at worship)
(7) Yet refuse small kindness.
Surah 90, Al-Balad (8-10) Have we not given him two eyes, and a tongue and a pair of lips, and shown him the two highways [of good and evil]?
(11) But he would not try to ascend the steep uphill road …
(12) And what could make thee conceive what it is, that steep uphill road?
(13) [It is] the freeing of one’s neck (the freeing of a human being from bondage), (14-16) Or the feeding, upon a day of [one’s] hunger of an orphan near of kin, or of the needy lying in the dust
(17) and being of those who have attained to faith, and who enjoin upon one another patience in adversity, and enjoin compassion.
Surah 89, Al-Fajr (17-20) But nay, nay, you do not honour orphans and you do not urge one another to feed the needy, and you devour the inheritance [of others] with devouring greed, and you love wealth with boundless love!
Surah 4, An-Nisa (29) O you who have attained to faith! Do not devour one another’s possessions wrongfully -not even by way of trade based on mutual agreement – and do not kill [destroy] one another…
Surah 2, Al-Baqarah (177) It is not righteousness that you turn your faces to the East and the West; but righteous is he who believes in Allah and the Last Day and the Angels and the Revelation (Al-Kitab) and the Prophets; and gives his wealth – “however much he may cherish it – for the love of Allah, to kinsfolk and to orphans and the poor and the wayfarer and the beggars and for the freeing of human beings from bondage; and is constant in prayer and pays the poor due (aqamas salata wa’ataz zakata). And those who keep their promises when they make one, and are patient in times of misfortune and hardship and in time of stress. It is they who have proved themselves to be true, and it is they who are the Muttaqeen.
Surah 5, Al-Maida (8) O you who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in your devotion to God, bearing witness to the truth in all equity; and never let hatred of any one lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Be just: this is closest to being God-conscious. See also Surah 4, An-Nisa (135).
To sum up: From Surah 107 and 2:177 above, and from 2:62 below, it appears that Allah gives more importance to our sense of humanity than to our prayer. This is also borne out by the beginning of Surah 80, Abasa, where the Prophet (pbuh), being an example to humanity, is rebuked for an act of inconsideration: (80: 1-2): He [The Prophet] frowned and turned away because the blind man approached him! (3-4) Yet for all that thou did know [O Muhammad], he might perhaps have grown in purity , or have been reminded [of the truth] and helped by this reminder.
(2:62), and (5:69) VERILY, those who have attained to faith [in this revelation], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Christians, and the Sabiens – all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds -shall have their reward with their Sustainer; and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve.
In using the concept of Charity in Islam one needs to understand the term Sadaqat (singuar Sadaqah). Sadaqah comprises everything that a believer freely gives out of love or compassion in any form ( i.e.the concept of Charity) as well as the obligatory tax, called Zakah, meant to be collected by the State. In discussing Zakah the Qur’an never specifies any percentage. Being a specific topic, Zakah is not part of this article.
Surah 76, Al-Insan (8-9) and who give food “however great be their own want of it “ unto the needy, and the orphan, and the captive, [saying in their hearts,]. We feed you for the sake of God alone: we desire no recompense from you, nor thanks.
Surah 2, Al-Baqarah (177) It is not righteousness that you turn your faces to the East and the West; but righteous is he who believes in Allah and the Last Day and the Angels and the Revelation (Al-Kitab) and the Prophets; and gives his wealth – however much he may cherish it – for the love of Allah, to kinsfolk and to orphans and the poor and the wayfarer and the beggars and for the freeing of human beings from bondage;
(261) The parable of those who spend their possessions for the sake of God is that of a grain out of which grows seven ears, in every ear a hundred grains: for God grants manifold increase unto whom He wills; and God is infinite, all-knowing.
(262) They who spend their possessions for the sake of God and do not thereafter mar their spending by stressing their own benevolence and hurting [the feelings of the needy] shall have their reward with their Sustainer, and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve.
(267) O you who have attained to faith! Spend on others out of the good things you have acquired, and out of that which We bring forth for you from the earth; and choose not for your spending the bad things which you yourselves would not accept without averting your eyes in disdain. And know that God is self sufficient, ever to be praised.
(271) If you do deeds of charity openly, it is well; but if you bestow it upon needy in secret, it will be even better for you, and it will atone for some of your bad deeds. And God is aware of all that you do.
(272) It is not for thee [O Prophet] to make people follow the right path, since it is God [alone] who guides whom He wills. And whatever good you may spend on others is for your own good, provided that you spend only out of a longing for God’ countenance: for, whatever good you may spend will be repaid in full, and you shall not be wronged.
(273) [And give] unto the needy who, being wholly wrapped up in God’s cause, are unable to go about the God’s earth [in search of livelihood]. He who is unaware [of their condition] might think that they are wealthy, because they abstain [from begging]; [but] thou shall know them by their [unfailing] mark: they do not beg of men with importunity. And whatever good you may spend [on them], verily, God knows it all.
(274) Those who spend their possessions [for the sake of God] by night and by day, secretly and openly, shall have their reward with their Sustainer; and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve.
Surah 3, Al-Imran (91-92) Verily, as for those who are bent on denying the truth and die as deniers of the truth – not all the gold on earth could ever be their ransom. It is they for whom grievous suffering is in store ; and they shall have none to succour them. [But as for you, O believers] never shall you attain true piety unless you spend on others out of what you cherish yourselves; and whatever you spend – verily, God has full knowledge thereof.
Surah 51, Adh- Dhariyat (19) and [would assign] in all that they possessed a due share such as might ask [for help] and such as might suffer deprivation [but could not ask]. Repeated identically in Surah 70, Al-Maarij (24-25).
See also verses: 2:263, 264; 4:4; 4:24; 9:60; 103; 57:12,13,18.
The verses taken from various surahs are a stark reminder for the Muslims that in Allah’s eyes, performing the five pillars are not enough to be regarded as the Muttaqeen. It is a fact that many people among us perform Hajj several times, spending thousands of pounds each time, but are reluctant to give any special thought to spend even a fraction of that on charity. Sadly many of us still rely on the false premise that every time we perform Hajj we become free from our sins. How is that possible? Can one deed compensate for all others? On the contrary, the Qur’an clearly states that all our deeds will be taken into account and will be presented to us on the Day of Judgement. For example in Surah 99, Al-Zalzalah (6-8): On that Day all men will come forward, cut off from one another, to be shown their [past] deeds. And so, he who shall have done an atom’s weight of good, shall behold it; and he who shall have done an atom’s weight of evil, shall behold it.
The Qu’ran gives clear and repeated guidance regarding our rights and duties which we casually pass by, and give prominence to other peoples words. Yet Allah says very clearly in Surah 77, Al-Mursalat (50): “Then what Message, after that, will they believe in?”
Note: Most of the translation of Qur’anic verses are taken from: The Message of the Qur’an by Muhammad Asad. Published in Great Britain by Redwood press Ltd. Melksham, Wiltshire.
M. A. Malek & J. S. Malek.