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Books Section > The Living Thoughts of the Prophet Muhammad by Maulana Muhammad Ali > Chapter 7: Charity

Chapter 7:

The Prophet's charity was proverbial. He was not known to have ever said "No" to anyone who asked of him anything. "He was the most charitable of men," was the description of him given by his Companions to later generations, and as if these words did not sufficiently express the Prophet's charity, it was added:

The Messenger of Allah, may peace and blessings of Allah be on him, was more charitable than the wind which is sent forth on everybody. (Bukhari,1:l)

So full of charity himself, charity was, next to obedience to God, the theme on which he laid the greatest stress. The sum and substance of his religion has been rightly given as "Obedience to God and charity to man." This unparalleled love of charity both in example and precept proceeded from his immeasurable love for God. And he therefore preached that love of God should be the basis of charity. It is said in one of the earliest revelations:

And they feed out of love for Him the needy and the orphan and the captive: We only feed you for the sake of Allah; we desire from you neither reward nor thanks. (76:8, 9)

And in a later revelation:

Righteousness is this that one should believe in Allah and the last day and the angels and the Book and the prophets, and give wealth out of love for Him to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and the beggars and for the emancipation of the captives.(2:177)

And the parable of those who spend their property to seek the pleasure of Allah and for the strengthening of their souls is as the parable of a garden on elevated ground, upon which heavy rain falls, so it brings forth its fruit twofold; but if heavy rain does not fall upon it, then light rain is sufficient. (2:265)

Charity proceeding from such a pure motive brought about increase of wealth:

So give to the near of kin his due, and to the needy and the wayfarer; this is best for those who desire Allah's pleasure, and these it is who are successful. And whatever you lay out at usury, so that it may increase in other people's property, it shall not increase with Allah; and whatever you give in charity desiring Allah's pleasure -- these it is that shall get manifold increase. (30:38, 39)

The increase which charity brought in its train is likened to the seed which grows seven hundredfold and even multiples of seven hundred:

The parable of those who spend their property in the way of Allah is as the parable of a grain growing seven ears with a hundred grains in every ear; and Allah multiplies for whom He pleases; and Allah is Ample-giving, Knowing. (2:261)

The exercise of charity must be free from show and from all sordid motives, such as any personal gain or even placing the object of charity under an obligation:

Those who spend their property in the way of Allah, then do not follow up with reproach or injury what they have spent, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and they shall have no fear nor shall they grieve. Kind speech and forgiveness is better than charity followed by injury; and Allah is Self-sufficient, Forbearing. O you who believe! Do not make your charity worthless by reproach and injury, like him who spends his property to make a show of it 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. (2:262-264)

Charity must be given out of good things, out of things which a man loves for himself:

O you who believe! Give in charity of the good things that you earn and of what We have brought forth for you out of the earth, and do not aim at giving in charity that which is bad, while you would not take it for yourself unless you connive at it, and know that Allah is Self-sufficient, Praiseworthy. (2:267)

Only they are charitable whom God has granted wisdom, while niggardliness is devilish:

The devil threatens you with poverty and enjoins you to be niggardly, and Allah promises you forgiveness from Himself and abundance; and Allah is Ample-giving, Knowing: He grants wisdom to whom He pleases, and whoever is granted wisdom, he indeed is given abundant wealth; and none mind but men of understanding. (2:268, 269)

Charity may be exercised openly, as for some national good, or secretly, as the helping of the poor:

If you give charity 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. (2:271)

The charity of a Muslim is not limited to his co-religionists:

To make them walk in the right way is not incumbent on thee, but Allah guides aright whom He pleases; and whatever good thing you spend, it is to your own good; and you do not spend but to seek Allah's pleasure; and whatever good things you spend shall be paid back to you in full, and you shall not be wronged. (2:272)

Charity must be exercised specially towards those who abstain from begging:

Charity is for the poor who are confined in the way of Allah -- they cannot go about in the land; the ignorant man thinks them to be rich because they abstain from begging; thou canst recognise them by their mark: they do not beg of men importunately; and whatever good thing you spend, Allah knows it. (2:273)

The Prophet changed the Muslim mentality, so far as the possession of wealth was concerned. The Muslim could possess wealth but in his wealth others had a right too. Speaking of the righteous, the Holy Quran says:

They used to sleep but little of the night; And when morning came, they were (still) asking forgiveness. And in their property is a portion due to him who begs and to him who is deprived (of the fortunes of life). (51:17-19)

Those who are constant at their prayers, And those in whose wealth there is a fixed portion, for him who begs and for him who is deprived. (70:23-25)

Prayer and charity were thus the two essential conditions of righteousness, according to the Prophet. The portion referred to here is different from zakat which, being obligatory, leviable at a fixed rate and the due of the State, is a kind of tax. The Prophet himself made this clear:

In one's wealth there is a due besides zakat. (Mishkat, 6:6)

All the wealth which a man earned was not his own. A part of it should go to charity, however stringent the circumstances in which a man himself lives. "Charity is incumbent on every Muslim" (Bukhari, 24:30), was his clear order. But what about him who has not got anything? asked his Companions. He replied: "He should work with his hand and profit himself and give in charity." They again asked, If he has nothing in spite of this? The reply was: "He should help the distressed one who is in need." And if he is unable to do this, they said again. He said:

He should do good deeds and refrain from doing evil -- this is charity on his part. (Bukhari, 24:31)

The Prophet's conception of charity was the broadest possible:

On every bone of the fingers, charity is incumbent every day. One assists a man in riding his beast or in lifting his provisions to the back of the animal, this is charity; and a good word and every step which one takes in walking over to prayer is charity. (Mishkat, 6:6)

Removal from the way of that which is harmful is charity. (Bukhari, 46:24)

Even to meet a fellow-being with a cheerful countenance was charity:

Every good deed is charity, and it is a good deed that thou meet thy brother with a cheerful countenance and that thou pour water from thy bucket into the vessel of thy brother. (Mishkat, 6:6)

The Prophet thus wanted to make men realise that to be charitable was to be a man. To make men prayer-minded and to make them charity-minded are the two distinctive characteristics of the religious system which he established.


Books Section > The Living Thoughts of the Prophet Muhammad by Maulana Muhammad Ali > Chapter 7: Charity


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