Wealth and Charity

Wealth and Charity (Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan) “The love of desired objects, like women and children and stored up reserves of gold and silver, and pastured horses and cattle and crops, appears attractive to people. All this is the provision of the hither life; and it is Allah with Whom is an excellent abode.” (3:15). The acquisition of property and wealth is not forbidden. All beneficent methods of acquiring property are permitted; trade, commerce, industry, mining, agriculture, etc., may be pursued intensively, by individuals, alone or in partnership, and by co-operatives and corporations. Non-beneficent methods are forbidden; for instance, gambling (5:91-2), bribery (2:189), lending money on interest (2:276-82) and all manner of falsehood and deceit (4:30). Lawfully and honestly acquired wealth is a divine bounty and like all divine bounties must be beneficently employed. Islam recognises and safeguards the legal ownership of property, but makes it subject to heavy obligations, some of them compulsory with a legal sanction behind them and others to be voluntarily discharged for the purpose of winning the pleasure of Allah. The purpose of the Islamic economic system is that wealth should be in constant circulation, should be widely distributed and should be so employed as to yield the maximum beneficence for the largest number of people. It should not circulate only among the well-to-do (59:8). Attention may be drawn to some of the measures designed to that end. Hoarding is forbidden as it withdraws wealth from circulation and is totally non-beneficent. “Warn those who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the cause of Allah, of a painful chastisement on the day when it will be heated up in the fire of hell, and their foreheads and their sides and their backs shall be branded therewith, and they will be told: This is what you treasured up for yourselves, so now suffer the torment in respect of that which you used to treasure up” (9:34-5). “Those who spend their wealth in the cause of Allah by night and day, secretly and openly, have their reward with their Lord; on them shall come no fear, nor shall they grieve” (2:275). 6 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS All sources of wealth, the earth, its capacities and treasures, the sun, the moon, the planets, the winds that drive the clouds, rain, sub-soil water, rivers and oceans are all God’s gift to mankind. They are not anyone’s property. Wealth is produced by the application of human skill, capital and labour to these sources. According to Islam, produced wealth should be distributed not only between skill, capital and labour but a portion of it should be set aside for the community as a whole, as the beneficiary of the basic sources of wealth. In the Quran this portion is designated Zakat, meaning that which purifies and fosters. It is a capital levy to be collected by the state and devoted to the service of the people. It purifies produced wealth in the sense that once it is assessed and separated, the rest becomes lawful and permissible for division between skill, capital and labour. The application of the proceeds of the levy to the service of the community fosters the welfare of the community. The incidence of the levy varies somewhat in the case of different types of commodities and incomes on which it is leviable, but on the average it is 2V2 per cent of the capital value involved. The beneficiaries of the Zakat include the poor and the needy, “those whose hearts are to be comforted”, those held captive, those burdened with debt, wayfarers, those striving in the cause of Allah, those employed in connection with the collection and distribution of Zakat (9:60). Any purpose the benefit of which may accrue generally and widely to the community may be helped or promoted out of the proceeds of the Zakat. The Islamic sytem of inheritance promotes a wide distribution of wealth. Property may not be tied up, except for a charitable purpose, which would by its very nature insure its beneficent use. By testamentary disposition a person may not control the devolution of more than one third of his property. The rest of it, after payment of his debts and satisfying any other charges upon it, must devolve upon his heirs according to their determined specified shares which may not be reduced or increased under any direction of the deceased. If a Muslim should die leaving surviving him a parent or parents, widow, sons and daughters, each of them would be entitled to a specified share in the inheritance. No heir in a particular category may receive preferential treatment over other heirs in the same category. Thus in each generation property left by a deceased person is distributed among a number of persons. Even those who are not included among the heirs should also receive something out of the inheritance. “For men as well as for women there is a share in that which parents and near relations leave, whether it be little or much, a share which has been determined by Allah. At the time of the division of the inheritance should there be present other relations and orphans and the needy, give to them something out of it and speak to them graciously” (4:8-9). WEALTH AND CHARITY 7 Property should be administered with care, and especially -that which belongs to minors and orphans. “Hand not over to those of immature mind your property which Allah has made a means of support for you; but make provision for them out of it and give them good advice. Check up on the orphans till they attain the age of marriage; then if you find them sensible hand over their property to them, and consume it not in extravagance and haste against their growing up. Whoso is rich let him abstain altogether; and whoso is poor, let him make use of as much as is fair. When you hand over their property to them, call witnesses in their presence. Allah is Sufficient as a Reckoner.” (4:6-7). “Those who would be anxious if they should leave behind them helpless offspring, should be mindful of their obligation to Allah in respect of orphans and should speak and act in a straightforward manner.” (4:10). Within the framework prescribed by the Holy Quran Muslim jurisprudence has elaborated a whole pattern of regulations to make the framework effective. For instance: “Render to the kinsman his due and the needy and the wayfarer, and squander not thy substance extravagantly, for the extravagant fall into evil company and misuse the bounties of their Lord” (17:27-8) is an exhortation with a moral sanction behind it. The jurists, however, devised a civil remedy for the first part. Certain categories of kinsmen are, as we have seen, entitled to share in the inheritance of a deceased kinsman. The jurists have defined as part of the “due” of a kinsman that should a person become indigent and be unable to maintain himself he might call upon those who, in case of his instant decease, would be his heirs, to contribute towards his maintenance in the proportion in which they would have inherited any property he might have left. In case of their failure to do so, he would be entitled to a judicial order to that effect. The division and administration of inheritance is a matter of civil rights, but even in respect of civil rights which are judicially enforceable the ultimate sanction is a spiritual one, winning the pleasure of Allah through compliance, incurring the displeasure of Allah in case of default. “These are the limits set by Allah. Those who obey Allah and His Messenger, will He admit to Gardens through which rivers flow; therein shall they abide. That is the great triumph. Those who disobey Allah and His Messenger and transgress the limits set by Him, will He cause to enter a fire wherein they shall abide, and they shall have a humiliating punishment.” (4:14-15). 8 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS While benevolent loans are charity and are encouraged, lending money on interest is considered unsocial, as exploiting the need of a fellow being and also as tending to concentrate wealth in fewer and fewer hands, and is forbidden. “O ye who believe, devour not interest, for it goes on multiplying itself; and be mindful of your obligation to Allah that you may prosper; and safeguard yourselves against the Fire which is prepared for the disbelievers. Obey Allah and the Messenger that you may be shown mercy.” (3:131-3). “Those who devour interest stand like one whom Satan has smitten with insanity. That is so because they keep saying: The business of buying and selling is also like lending money on interest; whereas Allah has made buying and selling lawful and has made the taking of interest unlawful. Remember, therefore, that he who desists because of the admonition that has come to him from his Lord, may retain what he has received in the past; and his affair is committed to Allah. But those who revert to the practice, they are the inmates of the Fire; therein shall they abide. “Allah will wipe out interest and will foster charity. Allah loves not confirmed disbelievers and arch-sinners. Those who believe and act righteously and observe Prayer and pay the Zakat, shall have their reward with their Lord. No fear shall come on them, nor shall they grieve. O Ye who believe, be mindful of your duty to Allah and relinquish your claim to what remains of interest, if you are truly believers. But if you do not, then beware of war from the side of Allah and His Messenger. If, however, you desist you will still have your capital sums; thus you will commit no wrong, nor suffer any wrong yourselves. Should a debtor be in straitened circumstances, then grant him respite, in respect of the repayment of the capital sum, till a time of ease. But if, in such a case, you remit the capital sum also as charity, it will be the better for you, if you only knew. Be ever mindful of the day when you shall be made to return to Allah; when every one shall be paid in full that which he has earned and they shall not be wronged.” (2:276-82). It is worth mention that the term riba used in the Holy Quran is not altogether co-extensive with “interest” in its connotation. Interest is used as a rough equivalent of riba. But this is not all. It is a characteristic of Islam that it observes a certain gradation in all that it prescribes. We have just noticed that riba is altogether forbidden. But in the case of the capital sum itself there is an admonition that if the debtor is hard up he should be granted respite “till a time of ease”, and this is followed by a persuasive urge: if in such a case you should remit the WEALTH AND CHARITY 9 capital sum altogether as charity, it will be the better for you, if you only knew! The minimum indispensable is made obligatory in every sphere, spiritual, moral, material and then there is a strong urge towards voluntarily striving after a higher level of achievement. The congregational part of the five daily services is obligatory, while there are parts of the service that are performed individually and are voluntary. The Holy Prophet got up during the latter part of the night for the same purpose and sometimes repeated the practice during the early part of the forenoon. His example is followed by many. Then there are supplications by way of prayer that might well up at any time from the heart, and there is the remembrance of Allah, which should be a constant leitmotif. The fast of Ramadhan is obligatory upon all healthy adults, subject to certain exemptions. In other months the Holy Prophet often observed a fast on Tuesdays and Thursdays and on certain special days. A large number of Muslims follow his example. The Pilgrimage to Mecca at its appointed time is obligatory once in a lifetime upon every Muslim who can afford it, but may be performed more often. Umra (sometimes called the Lesser Pilgrimage) is a voluntary exercise which may be performed at any time. “Whoso does good voluntarily, beyond that which is prescribed, should know that Allah is Appreciating, All- Knowing” (2:159). In the economic sphere we have noticed that certain undesirable methods of acquiring wealth are barred, hoarding is forbidden, circulation of wealth is urged and the payment of Zakat is obligatory. In addition great stress is laid on voluntary sharing between those who can spare and those who are in need. This is urged in a variety of ways. No amount is prescribed, nor is a proportion suggested, but the emphasis is kept up throughout the Holy Quran. Attention may be drawn to one or two general directives. “They ask thee how much should they spend in the cause of Allah. Tell them: That which is spare. Thus does Allah make His commandments clear to you that you may reflect upon this world and the hereafter” (2:220-1). Every person would have his own yard-stick for determining what he or she can spare. So many factors would affect the determination, the pressure of one’s own needs, the relative importance of competing obligations, the means readily available, the example of the Holy Prophet and his companions and the persuasive effect of the need to be filled or the cause to be served, etc. In the last resort the decisive factors may prove to be the temperament of the person to whom the appeal is made and the degree of his trust in Allah. It should, however, be remembered that Islam approves of a simple style of living and of moderation in all things. Extravagance is severely condemned, and one is constantly reminded that those in need have the right to share in one’s substance, be it much or little (51:20; 70:26). Thus in the case of a Muslim there should always 10 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS be something to spare. “Let him who has an abundance of means spend of his abundance, and let him whose means of subsistence are straitened spend out of that which is beyond what Allah has bestowed on him. Soon will Allah bring about ease after hardship” (65:8). It is a curious phenomenon that in this matter of spending in the cause of Allah, which means spending in the service of one’s fellow beings, those who have less are generally readier and more eager to spend than those who have more, though, of course, there are exceptions both ways. When one has in fact nothing to spare one can at least express sympathy in a kindly way: “On occasions when thou must turn away from any of those who should be the objects of thy benevolence, while seeking thy Lord’s mercy for which thou hopest, then speak kindly to them. Do not hold back altogether out of miserliness and render thyself blameworthy, nor spend without restraint and exhaust thy substance, thus becoming thyself an object of charity. Thy Lord enlarges His provision for whom He wills, and straitens it for whom He wills. He is well-aware of all that relates to His servants and sees it all” (17:29-31). Who should be the objects of one’s benevolence and in what manner is one’s obligation towards them to be discharged so that it may find acceptance with Allah? The essential requisite is that the matter must be approached in the spirit of service to be rendered which is due from one, an obligation to be discharged, cheerfully and joyfully, solely for the sake of Allah and to win His pleasure. Any other motive would render the whole effort vain and may incur the displeasure of Allah as it may savour of courting something beside Allah which is the unforgivable sin. “Worship Allah and associate naught with Him, and be benevolent towards parents, and kindred, and orphans, and the needy, and the neighbour who is a’kinsman, and the neighbour who is not related to you, and your associates and the wayfarer, and those who are under your control. Surely, Allah loves not the proud and boastful, who are niggardly and enjoin people to be niggardly, and conceal that which Allah has given them of His bounty. We have prepared for the disbelievers a humiliating chastisement, and for those who spend their wealth to be seen of people and believe not in Allah nor in the Last Day. Whoso has Satan for his companion should remember that he is an evil companion. “What harm would befall them, if they were to believe in Allah and the Last Day and to spend out of that which Allah has given them? Allah knows them well. Allah wrongs not any one even by the weight of the smallest particle; and if there be a good deed, He multiplies it and bestows from Himself a great reward. WEALTH AND CHARITY 11 “How will it be when We shall bring a witness from every people, and shall bring thee as a witness against these? On that day those who have disbelieved and disobeyed the Messenger will wish they were buried in the ground and the earth were made level above them, and they shall not be able to conceal anything from Allah.” (4:37-43). Voluntary spending has to be urged persuasively. Here is an excellent example. “The case of those who spend their wealth in the cause of Allah is like that of a grain of corn, which grows seven ears, and in each ear there are a hundred grains. Allah multiplies it even more for whomsoever He pleases. Allah is Lord of vast bounty. All-Knowing. Those who spend their wealth in the cause of Allah, then follow not up that which they have spent with reproaches or injury, have their reward with their Lord. They shall have no fear, nor shall they grieve. A kind word and forgiveness are better than charity followed by injury. Allah is Self-Sufficient, Forbearing. “O ye who believe, render not vain your alms by reproaches or injury, like one who spends his wealth to be seen of people and believes not in Allah and the Last Day. His case is like that of a smooth rock covered with earth, on which heavy rain falls and washes it clean, leaving it bare and hard. Such people shall not secure for themselves aught of that which they earn. Allah guides not the disbelieving people. “The case of those who spend their wealth to seek the pleasure of Allah and to gain inner strength is like that of a garden on elevated ground, on which heavy rain falls, so that it brings forth its fruit twofold. Even if heavy rain does not fall on it, a light shower suffices. Allah sees well that which you do. “Would any of you desire that having a garden of date-palms and vines with streams flowing beneath it, which brings forth for him all kinds of fruits, he should be stricken with old age while his children are small, and a fiery whirlwind should sweep through his garden consuming it all? Thus does Allah make His Signs clear to you that you may reflect. “O ye who believe, spend of the good things that you have earned, and of that which We produce for you from the earth; and do not select out of it for charity that which is useless, when you would not yourselves accept the like of it, save with reluctance. Know that Allah is Serf-Sufficient, Worthy of Highest Praise. Satan threatens you with poverty and enjoins upon you that which is indecent, whereas Allah promises you forgiveness from Himself and bounty. Allah is the Lord of vast bounty, All- Knowing. He grants wisdom to whom He pleases, and whoever is 12 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS granted wisdom has indeed been granted abundant good, and none takes heed except those endowed with understanding. “Whatever you spend in the cause of Allah or vow as an offering, surely Allah knows it well, but the wrongdoers shall have no helpers, If you give alms openly that is indeed good, but if you give them secretly to the poor, it is even better for your own selves; thereby will He remove from you many of your ills. Allah is aware of what you do. “Thou are not charged with guiding them to the right path; it is Allah Who guides whomsoever He pleases, Whatever of your pure wealth you spend in the cause of Allah, and undoubtedly you spend it to seek the favour of Allah, its benefit accrues to yourselves. Whatever of your pure wealth you spend, it shall be paid back to you in full and you shall not be wronged. “These alms also are for the deserving poor who are detained in the cause of Allah and are unable to move about in the land. Those who lack knowledge of their circumstances consider them to be free from want because of their abstaining from soliciting alms. They can be known from their appearance. They do not importune people. Whatever of your pure wealth you spend, Allah has full knowledge thereof. Those who spend their wealth in the cause of Allah by night and day, secretly and openly, have their reward with their Lord; on them shall come no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (2:262-75). The concept of charity has, along with many other values, been mechanised and impersonalised in the West. A contribution towards charitable purposes is regarded as a somewhat tiresome obligation imposed on one by one’s position as the obligation to pay the income-tax is imposed on one by one’s income. Once the cheque is mailed the obligation is discharged and one may relapse into complacency. Such is not the spirit of ‘spending in the cause of Allah’, so insistently called for by Islam. The “spending” is not to be only of money and material objects. The righteous are those “who spend out of whatsoever We have bestowed upon them” (2:4). “O ye who believe, spend out of whatever We have bestowed upon you before the day comes wherein there is no buying or selling, nor friendship, nor intercession. Those who reject this admonition are the ones who wrong themselves” (2:255). “Say to My servants who have believed that they should observe Prayer and spend out of whatever We have bestowed upon them, secretly and openly, before there comes the day wherein there will be neither bargaining nor mutual friendship” (14:32). “Spend out of that with which We have provided you before death comes upon one of you and he should say: Lord, why didst Thou not grant me respite for a while, that I could give alms and be among the righteous! Allah will not grant respite to one when WEALTH AND CHARITY 13 his apointed time has come. Allah is Well Aware of that which you do” (63:11-12). The capacity to be able to spend, of money, goods, intellect, emotions, indeed of self, and the invitation to do so are privileges conferred upon His creatures by the Benign Creator, so that by taking advantage of them man may truly enrich himself. “Hearken, you are those who are called upon to spend in the cause of Allah; but of you there are Some who hold back, and whoso holds back, does so only against himself. Allah is Self-Sufficient; it is you who are needy. If you turn away, He will bring in your stead another people who will not be such laggards as you” (47:39). It is the giving of self that is of the essence of this spending, and the spending is not a favour done to the donee but a divine favour bestowed upon the donor. If one is not at the time able to comply with a request one can at least give kindness and sympathy (17:29). But one has not to wait to be asked. One must provide for the needs of those also who do not ask (2:274) or are unable to give expression to their needs (51:20; 70:26). One is made responsible for all. We are all brothers and we are all each other’s keeper. For instance, one’s neighbour has certain claims upon one which must be acknowledged and honoured even if the neighbour does not give expression to them. The Holy Prophet has said: “So much has God impressed upon me what is due to a neighbour that I began to think a neighbour would be included among a person’s heirs.” He also said: “How can a person go to bed filled when his neighbour is hungry! It is not difficult to share even one’s little with a neighbour. If one only has some broth, it is easy to add a cup of water and to share it with one’s neighbour.” His wife, Ayesha, inquired of him: “If I have a little that I can send to a neighbour, and I have two neighbours, which of them should have priority?” “The one whose door is nearer to your door,” he made answer. The orphan should be the object of our special concern. “They ask thee concerning orphans. Tell them: The promotion of their welfare is very meritorious. There is no harm in your living together with them, for they are your brethren, and Allah well knows him who seeks to promote their welfare and also him who seeks to do them harm. If Allah had so willed, He would have put you to hardship. Surely, Allah is Mighty, Wise.” (2:221). On one of the two festival days the Prophet passing along the street saw some boys playing together and noticed one little fellow standing all by himself. The Prophet went up to him, patted him on the head and inquired why he did not join the others. The boy explained that his father had died, and being an orphan he could not afford new clothes to wear on the festival day as 14 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS the other boys were wearing and thus felt shy of sharing in their merry- making. The Prophet took him along with him to his wife, Ayesha, and said to her: “Ayesha, you have wished for a son. Here is your son. Wash him and get him new clothes to wear, and then let him go and play with his fellows.” The Prophet has said: “He who is gentle with an orphan and takes good care of him will be as close to me in Paradise as my index finger is close to my middle finger.” Orphans are a precious asset of a people and a sacred trust. Due care and upbringing of orphans is a source of manifold blessings. The Prophet has said: “Richly blest is a home in which an orphan enjoys a happy upbringing.” One of the writer’s most delightful and moving memories is of a visit to a girls’ boarding school in Algiers ten years back. The school was housed in a lovely villa above the sea and took care of the schooling and upbringing of a number of girls, children of patriots who had laid down their lives during the struggle for independence. They were not called orphans, but children of martyrs. Everything pertaining to the establishment was of a very high order indeed. We were invited into a dormitory. As soon as we entered the occupants, ten to twelve years of age, shrieked with delight and abandoning whatever they were occupied with rushed up to us and took possession of us as our rightful owners. They were obviously a happy, cheerful lot, confident that they were loved and cherished. One understood that such establishments, for boys and girls, were scattered all over the country. The Arabic word miskeen, translated as needy, also connotes humility. Humility has its own needs; it may be in need of a boost of confidence. A labourer shook hands with the Holy Prophet. The latter clasped the callused hands in both of his own and massaging them gently exclaimed: “These hands are very dear to God; these hands are very dear to God.” Zahir cultivated vegetables in a small way in the vicinity of Medina and once or twice a week carried his produce into the town where he put up a stall by the side of a street to dispose of it. He was in the habit of presenting the Holy Prophet with some of it, and the latter would in return provide him with some article or the other that he might be in need of. The Prophet often said: “Zahir is our countryside and we are his town.” On one occasion the Prophet happened to pass by Zahir’s stall at noon. The sun was hot and Zahir who was standing with his back to the street was perspiring profusely. The Prophet stepped up to him softly, unperceived by him and, as children often do in fun, stretching out his arms clasped Zahir in them and covered Zahir’s eyes with his fingers. The Prophet’s hands were very soft and Zahir, on touching them guessed who was holding him captive. Taking advantage of the situation he stretched his own arms backwards and clasping the Prophet tighter started rubbing his perspiring torso against him. WEALTH AND CHARITY 15 The Prophet began to laugh and called out: Will anyone buy this captive? Thereupon Zahir let go of the Prophet and turning towards him explaimed ruefully: “Sir, what could anybody do with such a worthless creature as I am!” The prophet immediately comforted him with: “No, no, you are very precious in the sight of Allah, you are very precious in the sight of Allah.” It is such giving of self that is more precious than silver and gold and rubies, and each one of us has it in his power to bestow it lavishly. Derision and Back-biting “O ye who believe! let not one people deride another people, who may be better than they, nor let women deride other women who may be better than they. And defame not your own people, nor call one another by nick-names. Bad indeed, is evil reputation after the profession of belief; and those who repent not, even though warned, are wrong-doers. “O ye who believe! avoid most of suspicions; forsuspicion in some cases, is a sin. And spy not, nor back-bite one another. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his brother who is dead? Certainly you would loathe it. How then would you like to back-bite your brother? Fear Allah, surely Allah is oft returning with compassion and is Merciful.” (Quran: 49:12,13) Manifestation of Divine Love It is my personal experience thatto obey the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, with a sincere heart and to love him, ultimately makes a person beloved of God, God creates in his heart a burning for His Own love and such a one, withdrawing his heart from everything else, leans towards God and his affection and desire remain only for God Almighty, Thereupon a special manifestation of Divine love falls upon him and bestowing upon himthefull colourof love and devotion pulls him towards itself with great force. He then overcomes his passions and from every direction extraordinary works of God Almighty appear as signs in his support and to help him. (Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad) 16 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS -Wisdom of the Ages- Do not esteem an action because it is done with noise and pomp; for the noblest soul is he who does great things quietly. Be resolute, and direct an even and uninterrupted course; so shall yourfoot be upon the earth, and your head above the clouds. Though obstacles appear in your path, do not deign to look down upon them, but proceed with resolution, guided by right, and mountains shall sink beneath yourtread. Storms may roaragainst yourshoulders, but they will not shake you. Thunder will burst over your head in vain: the lightning will but serve to show the glory of your soul. (Dandemis) Times of great calamity and confusion have ever been productive of the greatest minds. The purest ore is produced from the hottest furnace, and the brightest thunderbolt is elicited from the darkest storm. (Colton) Let no man presume to give advice to others that has not first given counsel to himself. (Seneca) No civilisation is complete which does not include the dumb and defenceless creatures within the sphere of charity and mercy. (Queen Victoria) What is beauty? Not the show of shapely limbs and features. These are but flowers that have their dated hours to breathe their momentary sweets, then go. It is the stainless soul within that outshines the fairest skin. (Hunt) The less people speak of their own greatness the more we think of it. (Bacon) Never does a man portray his own character more vividly than in his manner of portraying another. (Richter) Character is the product of daily, hourly actions, and words and thoughts: daily forgiveness, unselfishness, kindnesses, sympathies, charities, sacrifices for the good of others, struggles against temptations, submissiveness under trial. It is these, like the blending colours in a picture, or the blending notes of music, which constitute the man. (Macduff)


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