Islamic Perspectives

Give in charity – before death visits you

Not less than twenty-six times has the Qur’an enjoined the faithful to be generous in charity. Allah considers it a loan to Him – a beautiful loan that shall fetch rich dividends in the Hereafter. The verse 2:261 describes it as a parable of a grain of corn which grows seven ears having a hundred grains; the reward is not restricted to a mere seven hundred fold, because Allah’s Bounty is not governed by mathematical precision.

Surprisingly, the faithful have not responded to Allah’s call as spontaneously as the people of the Books. Christians and Jews have been, through the ages, great philanthropists. So have been the the Parsis. Hundreds of institutions both secular and religious – temples, churches, orphanages, homes for widows and destitutes, hospitals have endeared these communities to people. The Parsis, a very small community, feared to be an endangered one, about to be extinct in a century, had never been victim of a communal riot. Why? They had always been over-generous and were never the one to receive favours of any kind. It is for this reason they are highly esteemed people.

Rome was not built in a day so wasn’t Israel. No, it was not simply British diplomacy which put Israel on the world map. For centuries, Jews even the most distressed ones, have been contributing for the homeland. American Jews had been doing it for almost a century. Theodore Herzl, the visionary, had offered the Sultan of Turkey any amount of a money for allowing a Jewish homeland to establish.

Bill Gates’ and Warren Buffett’s campaign prompted 30 billionaires to pledge half their fortunes for charity. The list includes New York’s mayor Michael Bloomberg, hotel baron Barron Hilton, CNN media mogul Ted Turner and the Star Wars director George Lucas. They responded readily to “Giving Pledge” campaign. There is no legal binding, only a moral commitment. And some have even pledged their entire fortunes. Oracle Software tycoon Larry Ellison, banker David Rockfeller and oilman T Boone Pickens are among the generous responders. Bloomberg pledged “all of my net worth”; Buffet 99 per cent of his wealth.

Are the sheikhs listening? Squandering their fabulous fortunes on dream projects that do not bring any return to the community; the oil barons too can take a clue from this. The Gulf riches are being spent on projects destined to doom. Should not wisdom dawn on the Amirs to siphon sums to charities? Zakat is not the final limit for a Muslim; it should be the starting point. A mere 2.5  percent is not enough. The community needs 50, 60 or 90%. And what are the causes? The Qur’an has enumerated them – “your kin, orphans, needy, wayfarers and who ask for the ransom of slaves” (2:177). Oh! yes, the Zakat may be utilised for these causes. However, there is a more desperate cause. The Gaza holocaust has not been the only instance of brute terror let loose by war-mongers. There are victims all over the globe.

In India, the threat by communal goons has crippled Muslim economy. Riots have taken a heavy toll of Muslim finances. Economic boycott is gathering momentum in some parts of the country. Hundreds of innocent Muslims are languishing in jails under draconian laws for whom no legal remedies exist. Lawyers are debarred from pleading their cases. It is to “ransom” such “slaves” where huge funds are needed.

Indian Muslims, in general, and industrialists, movie moguls, ex-zamindars, Rajas and nawabs in particular, should rise to the occasion. In addition to the “injunction” of obligatory “Zakat”, they should also pledge at least a part of their fortunes. Let there be no specific cause. They can decide the cause to which they want to pledge. But pledge they must before it is too late…… before the angel of death decides to pounce on them or the “Enemy Property Act” takes away all!

Salahudin Ayyubi, the great warrior and conqueror, left what to his heirs?.... neither home, nor plot, nor any sum but a few dinars which were not enough to meet the expenses on his funeral. On what did he squander the riches of conquests? Charity. He was magnanimous not only to his subjects but also to the enemy whom he allowed to go without paying for their ransom. Caliph Umar ibn Abdul Aziz could not perform Haj because he could not save enough. On an occasion he did not have enough money, nor had his wife, to buy some grapes! Hazrat Aisha (RA) once had only three dates which she gave to a needy mother! Aren’t we more financially sound? May Allah create such awareness among Muslims too! Amen.  

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 September 2010 on page no. 28

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