Skip to main content

The Ramadan spirit: Let not thy right hand know what thy left hand doeth


By Moin Qazi*
The idea that helping others is part of a meaningful life has been around for several years. For Muslims, charity is a central aspect of faith and practice. In Islam, a culture of giving is interwoven into the fabric of its modes of worship and it is one of the five basic requirements (arkan or “pillars”) of Islam. It connotes the path to purity, comprehension of material responsibility, and a heightened sense of spirituality.
The centrality of zakat is underscored by the many times it is coupled with the command for prayer and also identified as a continuation of the practice of past prophets. In the Qurʾān, almsgiving is often cited along with prayer as a duty of the Muslim: ‘Perform the prayer, and give the alms’ (Q2: 43, 110, 277). . The two are often mentioned simultaneously in the symmetrical rhythm of the Qur’an.
The tradition of humanitarian stewardship and egalitarian values are at the foundation of Islamic beliefs. Governed by a worldview in which all things come from God and finally return to Him, Muslims are taught to live as trustees of God’s blessings and spend their wealth in accordance. Islam is a complete way of life and one important facet is that there is a duty to serve those who are less privileged than us.
Ramadan is the focal point of philanthropy. During this month, people’s obligation to give to the poor gets intensified. Arab societies have elaborate and nuanced social codes that demand excessive generosity and hospitality towards visitors and strangers. This is embedded in the ancient Arab proverb: “A guest is greeted like a prince, held like a captive [to your generosity] and departs like a poet [to sing your praises].”
The Qur’an provides both a spiritual framework for the possession of wealth, and practical guidelines for its dispensation. Frugality with self and generosity with others underpins the Qur’anic message of charity. On several occasions, when we are handing someone charity, it first passes through the Hand of God before it reaches the recipient’s hand. Holding wealth is truly an immense blessing that comes with great responsibility and untold reward when we pass it along. All good deeds done in Ramadan fetch manifold rewards in the afterlife. Thus, apart from being a personal religious voyage, the season of sharing and giving reconfigures one’s social bonds.
Muslims give in the form of either Zakat, which is mandatory form of charity ordained by God, or Sadaqa, which is voluntary and meant to go beyond the mere religious obligations. All adult Muslims of sufficient financial means are mandated by the Qur’an to pledge a determinate portion of a set level of specified categories of their lawful financial assets for the benefit of the poor and other enumerated classes.
The idea of zakat is based on the direct, legitimate claim of the poor on the wealth of the rich. In fact, the tradition of giving zakat to the have-nots is a bigger social contract about sharing resources with the lesser privileged. Zakat means purification and comes from the Arabic verb zaka, which also signifies “to thrive,” “to be pure” and “to be wholesome.”
Muslims “purify” their wealth by giving a portion of it every year in charity. As the Qur’an says: “Of their goods, take Zakat, so that you might purify and sanctify them.” (Q9:103). This Islamic practice is one way of learning self-discipline, freeing oneself from the love of possessions and greed. In a way, the man who spends of his wealth affirms the truth that nothing is dearer to him in life than the love of God and that he is prepared to sacrifice everything for His sake.
Zakat is binding on all Muslims who meet the necessary criteria of wealth.): it’s limited, in a way, by your ability. According to the rules of the Qur’an, all Muslims, on whom zakat is mandatory, must donate at least 2.5% of a set value of the financial assets based on the minimum wealth criteria (known as the nisab) each year for the benefit of the poor, destitute and others ,classified as mustahik. The exact percentage to be paid on different categories of assets varies and interpretations differ between the schools of law. The primary forms of wealth subject to zakat includes gold, silver, livestock, agricultural produce, articles of trade, currency, shares and bonds, and other liquid assets.
Zakat is distributed to eight categories of individuals specified by the Qur’an. These categories are usually defined to include orphans, the poor, travelers, beggars, debtors, slaves, and the efforts to propagate Islam. The Quran says: “Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakah] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveller – an obligation [imposed] by Allah. And Allah is knowing and wise.” (Q, 9:60)
By this definition, zakat is not simply a means to manage poverty, but rather is inherently focused on building dignity, honour, and self-sufficiency in the wider community. This is reflected in the diversity of the categories of genuine zakat recipients.
Deeply embedded in the Islamic concept of zakat are the notions of welfare, altruism and justice which can be seen as a way of harnessing human potential to resolve insurmountable challenges to human society. Charity and altruism are rooted in the basic concern for the welfare of others, while Islam has added to it the notion of justice, which is seen as a way of building a just and equitable society. According to the Qur’an, “the likeness of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is as the likeness of a grain that sprouts seven spikes. In every spike there are 100 grains, and Allah multiplies for whom He will”. (Q 2:261).
It is the human predilection for riches that the Qur’an cautions against, yet it acknowledges that spiritually immature souls may jeopardise their own moral standing by indulging in reckless acts of charity that leave them destitute. Some verses (including Q17:29 and 25:67) speak of maintaining a balance between extravagance and parsimony. This is in recognition of human nature, which has the dual impulses of compassion and an inherent love of wealth. In this way, Islam’s legal teachings counsel temperance and prudence; whereas Islam’s spiritual teachings urge selflessness and generosity.
In the Islamic paradigm, voluntary charity is not restricted just to money or physical goods but covers all actions based on a simple understanding that what really ties an individual to a common humanity is compassion. A well known saying of the Prophet captures the essence of this concept: “Charity is due upon every joint of the people for every day upon which the sun rises. Being just between two people is charity. Helping a man with his animal and lifting his luggage upon it is charity. A kind word is charity. Every step that you take towards the mosque is charity, and removing harmful things from the road is charity.”(Sahih al-Bukhari 2827, Sahih Muslim 1009)
The real spirit of giving lies in doing it without leaving a trace of oneself. Giving with motives attached not only nullifies one’s own happiness but also burdens the receiver. After planting your seeds, you should expect absolutely nothing in return. It is nobler to follow the Biblical injunction. “Let not thy right hand know what thy left hand doeth.” When you give to someone with no strings attached you are as nourished as the receiver.
An oft-repeated story in the Muslim world tells of a Shah in Persia who came upon an old man planting an olive tree, which takes years to produce good fruit. When asked why he was planting a tree that will not benefit him, the old man replied: “Those who came before me planted, and we benefitted. I am planting so that those who come after me shall benefit.”

*Development sector expert

Comments

TRENDING

देशव्यापी ग्रामीण भारत बंध में उतरे मध्य प्रदेश के आदिवासी, किया केंद्र सरकार का विरोध

- हरसिंग जमरे, भिखला सोलंकी, रतन अलावे*  15 और 16 फरवरी को निमाड के बड़वानी, खरगोन और बुरहानपुर में जागृत आदिवासी दलित संगठन के नेतृत्व में आदिवासी महिला-पुरुषों ग्रामीण भारत बंद में रैली एवं विरोध प्रदर्शन किया । प्रधान मंत्री द्वारा 2014 में फसलों की लागत का डेढ़ गुना भाव देने का वादा किया गया था, 2016 में किसानों की आय दुगना करने का वादा किया गया था । आज, फसलों का दाम नहीं बढ़ रहा है, लेकिन खेती में खर्च बढ़ता जा रहा है! खाद, बीज और दवाइयों का दाम, तीन-चार गुना बढ़ चुका है! किसानों को लागत का डेढ़ गुना भाव देने के बजाए, खेती को कंपनियों के हवाले करने के लिए 3 काले कृषि कानून लाए गए । 3 काले कानून वापस लेते समय प्रधान मंत्री ने फिर वादा किया था कि फसलों की लागत का डेढ़ गुना भाव की कानूनी गारंटी के लिए कानून बनाएँगे, लेकिन वो भी झूठ निकला! आज जब देश के किसान दिल्ली में आपको अपना वादा याद दिलाने आए है, तब आप उनका रास्ता रोक रहें है, उनके साथ मारपीट कर उन पर आँसू गैस फेंक रहें हैं, उन पर छर्रों से फायरिंग कर रहें है! देश को खिलाने वाला किसान खुद भूखा रहे, क्या यही विकास है?

Only 15% businesses provide employees real-time sustainability dashboards: Study

Kyndryl in collaboration with Microsoft has released the findings of The Global Sustainability Barometer study. The study, conducted by Ecosystm, finds that while 85% of organizations place a high strategic level of importance on achieving their sustainability goals, only 16% have integrated sustainability into their strategies and data. A Kyndryl note: *** Kyndryl (NYSE: KD), the world’s largest IT infrastructure services provider, in collaboration with Microsoft , today released the findings of The Global Sustainability Barometer study. The study, conducted by Ecosystm , finds that while 85% of organizations place a high strategic level of importance on achieving their sustainability goals, only 16% have integrated sustainability into their strategies and data.

Tamil Nadu brahmins are at cross roads, their future scenario remains uncertain

By NS Venkataraman*  For over 70 years now, brahmin community in Tamil Nadu have been abused, insulted and even physically attacked on some occasions by those who claimed that they were part of the so called dravidian movement. However, brahmin community silently and helplessly ducked under pressure and showed no signs of resistance or fight back.

How the slogan Jai Bhim gained momentum as movement of popularity and revolution

By Dr Kapilendra Das*  India is an incomprehensible plural country loaded with diversities of religions, castes, cultures, languages, dialects, tribes, societies, costumes, etc. The Indians have good manners/etiquette (decent social conduct, gesture, courtesy, politeness) that build healthy relationships and take them ahead to life. In many parts of India, in many situations, and on formal occasions, it is common for people of India to express and exchange respect, greetings, and salutation for which we people usually use words and phrases like- Namaskar, Namaste, Pranam, Ram Ram, Jai Ram ji, Jai Sriram, Good morning, shubha sakal, Radhe Radhe, Jai Bajarangabali, Jai Gopal, Jai Jai, Supravat, Good night, Shuvaratri, Jai Bhole, Salaam walekam, Walekam salaam, Radhaswami, Namo Buddhaya, Jai Bhim, Hello, and so on.

नफरती बातें: मुसलमानों में असुरक्षा का भाव बढ़ रहा है, वे अपने मोहल्लों में सिमट रहे हैं

- राम पुनियानी*  भारत पर पिछले 10 सालों से हिन्दू राष्ट्रवादी भारतीय जनता पार्टी (भाजपा) राज कर रही है. भाजपा आरएसएस परिवार की सदस्य है और आरएसएस का लक्ष्य है हिन्दू राष्ट्र का निर्माण. आरएसएस से जुड़ी सैंकड़ों संस्थाएँ हैं. उसके लाखों, बल्कि शायद, करोड़ों स्वयंसेवक हैं. इसके अलावा कई हजार वरिष्ठ कार्यकर्ता हैं जिन्हें प्रचारक कहा जाता है. भाजपा के सत्ता में आने के बाद से आरएसएस दुगनी गति से हिन्दू राष्ट्र के निर्माण के अपने एजेण्डे को पूरा करने में जुट गया है. यदि भाजपा को चुनावों में लगातार सफलता हासिल हो रही है तो उसका कारण है देश में साम्प्रदायिकता और साम्प्रदायिक मुद्दों का बढ़ता बोलबाला. इनमें से कुछ हैं राम मंदिर, गौमांस और गोवध एवं लव जिहाद. 

Birth of New Communist Party ushers in new epoch in Canada's Left history

By Harsh Thakor  On January 31, 2024, history was made with the formation of the (New) Communist Party of Canada (the (N)CPC), the successful completion of its Founding Congress, and the public release of its Political Program. A most sporadic development in turning course of Communist movement locally, and worldwide. It also pits a challenge to dogmatism or mechanical approach and stagnation. taps the revolutionary creativity of the masses and is major re-orientation towards shaping revolutionary class struggles and  the massline.

Ethiopian ruling classes, political masters in West have their hands soaked in blood

By Harsh Thakor  Over two hundred were killed in recent weeks in Ethiopia’s Oromia and Amhara region. After peace-talks between the Oromo Liberation Army and the Ethiopian government did not materialise tensions are escalating in the Oromia region. Earlier, on November 22, least 25 civilians were massacred in a government aerial drone strike, in Chawaka districts of the Buno Bedelle zone. This incident took place only two days after a fierce battle arose between the OLA and governmental troops in the Sulula Fincha district of the Horro Guduru Wollega zone.

Landslide early warning system: Odisha Govt, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham collaborate

By Divya Saini  In a strategic move to mitigate the impact of landslides during storms, the Odisha government in collaboration with Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham is gearing up to establish a user-friendly Landslide Early Warning System (EWS) in Gajapati district. This initiative aims to provide advanced information, especially regarding landslides caused by disturbances in the natural stability of a slope.

Violent incidents in Haldwani: CPDRS on dubious role of Uttarakhand government

By DN Rath  Center for Democratic Rights and Secularism (CPDRS) unequivocally condemns the dubious role of Uttarakhand Government and its administration in the incidents that happened in Haldwani of Nanital district of the state.

A third view of Islamic paradox: Can Muslim unity defeat Zionist evil regime’s injustice?

By Chandra Vikash*  Could India, as a mirror to the ethno-federal One State solution, play a key role in resolving the Palestinian genocide crisis, that has emerged in the global consciousness as a focal point for injustice of centuries-old settler-colonialism project that continues to spread its hydra-headed tentacles through globalisation of this Old World Order?