By Amreen Pathan
Charity is great. But charitable is better.
My Year 7 pupils and I were exploring the concept of structure in literature. In my prompts to the pupils, I asked them to think about the importance of structure in terms of a building. A pupil then expressed that in building a house, the contractors would have to work from the bottom up, lay the foundations and build the pillars first. If this was not adhered to, the house would simply collapse.
Charity is to faith what a pillar is to a building. Just as a building without pillars would be unable to hold its own weight and subsequently give way, without charity, one’s faith is weakened and liable to collapse and disintegrate. This is why charity is described as the third pillar of Islam.
Allah Almighty says in Surah Layl:
“As for the one who is charitable, mindful of Allah and firmly believes in the finest reward, We will facilitate for them the way of bliss.” (92:1-5)
This verse testifies to the association between the act of being charitable and one’s faith. The word ‘charitable’ is interesting because it encompasses an altruistic culture of generosity and humanness. It goes beyond just giving alms – as virtuous as this act may be – and challenges us to reconsider our perception of charity, which could be considered narrow-minded.
When we consider charity only as the act of giving money to relieve the burdens of a limited or non-existent financial avenue, the action somewhat becomes monotonous and bound by routine. A tick box activity if you like – one that starts to lose its worth because of how easy it is for us today. Think about it. Donating money now is as easy as swiping a card or filling in a form and setting up a direct debit. The donation reaches the recipient and our ‘obligations’ are fulfilled. Our bank accounts are dented – but only just. Barely noticeable.
This is not to devalue the act of spending some of our wealth in the path of Allah. Giving money to charity is incredibly important because it helps those who need it. It generates a sort of socio-economic balance in that the wealth of the affluent alleviates the burdens of the needy. It nurtures gratitude for one’s own circumstances and provides an opportunity for hearts and wealth to be cleansed.
This is a spiritual notion embedded in the literal meaning of the Arabic term for charity: ‘Zakat’. This word means: ‘to purify’ and this is what Allah does with the alms we give in charity; He purifies our hearts and wealth by making us softer and kinder and blessing us with even more wealth.
But – and yes, there’s always a but – what more can we do? How can we properly become charitable and getting involved with volunteering not just money for charity, but time and passion and concern too?
The following Hadith of the noble Prophet (PBUH) really captures this sentiment:
“A charity is due for every joint in each person on every day the sun comes up: to act justly between two people is a charity; to help a man with his mount, lifting him onto it or hoisting up his belongings onto it, is a charity; a good word is a charity, and removing a harmful thing from the road is a charity.” (Al-Bukhari)
Yes, this Hadith references the smallest of things as charity but note that not one of them concerns money. There is no taking away from the fact that a Muslim must give 2.5% of their wealth every year to meet the criteria of having fulfilled their Zakat, but that is certainly not, where the charitable chapter ends. In fact, that is just the beginning.
Different types of charity work
Money of course but also clothes, electrical items, technology and miscellaneous household items. This should be of such a calibre that you would wish to wear and use yourself. The notion of charity is diminished if one is only donating those things that they do not like anymore. Donating these items also serves a second purpose: reducing the waste in landfills and actively protecting the environment.
Further, what about donating those things that are essential but not always completely obvious? In 2017, Plan International UK reported that 1 in 10 girls had been unable to afford sanitary products in the UK. Period poverty is a real thing as is child food poverty, which prompted footballer Marcus Rashford to tackle child hunger in Britain just last year.
Simply, it’s not just, about what you give. It’s the where and when that matters too. That little act of donating suddenly becomes all that more charitable.
Charitable organisations cannot exist without fundraising. Getting involved with fundraising is an excellent way of harnessing an outpouring of communal love and support for urgent appeals. There’s also that fundamental level of raising awareness for causes that matter to you and your community. With the rise of social media, it cannot be denied that fundraising has never been simpler.
As a teacher and a de facto member of a society committed to education, I must quickly note here the importance of fundraising for education providers that serve our communities. It is so easy to overlook and even dismiss faith schools and Madrassahs (Islamic schools) who really only survive on the modest fees they charge for the service they provide for children. We should consider it our duty to not only donate where possible but champion their cause by helping to raise awareness and get involved as much as possible including sponsoring students.
In Islam, furthering the education of a child is regarded as Sadaqah Jaariyah – an act of giving that keeps on giving even beyond the grave.
This is such a clever way of being charitable. Skills are invaluable and sharing them at a low cost or free of charge, is to promote sustainability and community building. This could be teaching children a sport or organising book clubs or teaching a language or teaching Muslim children to read the Qur’an. By volunteering your skills, you are facilitating entry for those children and adults into facilities otherwise economically inaccessible.
Basically, this is another form of volunteering but one that allows you to use your skills in the most cyclical manner possible. I used the word ‘sustainability’ above because that shared skills becomes something another individual can now put to good use in the community. Your skills might have nurtured an artist, or developed a potential athlete or supported a future teacher or scholar. Put it this way: your donated skill generated its return tenfold.
Communities thrive because of the kindness of volunteers. Educational institutions, homeless charities, soup kitchens, charity shops, health organisations, heritage sights, local mosques etc. all rely on people willing to sacrifice their time. I say sacrifice because time is a commodity but all in all, volunteering means a time well spent.
From the perspective of a faith that values kinship, volunteering is a means of creating bonds and human connection regardless of differences in the community.
There is of course one principle to remember:
“A crafty one, a miser, and one who keeps reminding people of what he has given will not enter paradise.” (At-Tirmidhi)
This Hadith reinforces the sincerity with which a believer must be charitable. It is only the pleasure of Allah (SWT) that must be sought and anything else just razes the charitable act right down to the ground.
Raedan Institute (RI) are currently in urgent need of funds for the renovation of their site and new amenities. The services that RI provide for the community is massive. The list includes free educational services and one-to-one support, mental health services, mentoring and professional development, support for orphans and widows, debt relief and community cohesion projects. (More information can be found here). This provider gives and gives to its community and now needs us to give back a little too.
This article was inspired actually by Raedan Institute and the different ways organisations like RI can be supported so that the invaluable work they do never grinds to a halt. Having asked Maulana Mohamed (the Chair of RI), Maulana suggested the following:
- Sponsorships and scholarships of pupils
- Hosting events, extra-curricular activities and clubs at RI
- Creating awareness of RI, its services and needs using social media
- Content writing
Mawlana concluded the list though with the most important asset of all: Dua (supplication).
Everything is possible with the permission of Allah and everything is impossible without it.
May Allah (SWT) grant Barakah (blessings) in the efforts of Raedan Institute and protect such organisations from all evils.
#ImportanceOfCharity #Zakat #Community #Generosity