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Be kind to the poor

THE Nobel Qur'an calls on people to put an end to differences among human classes; it urges men to spend money in the cause of God and for the welfare of the needy, promising those who do this with a good reward in the Hereafter.

A. Spending Money in the Cause of God

This includes all that may help in raising the prestige of Islam and attaining God's pleasure. This could be achieved by eliminating ignorance through education, by supporting the weak, improving industry, and doing all that improves the lot of Muslims in all fields.

There are many Qur'anic verses that call for spending money in the cause of God, of which one might quote the following: "The parable of those who spend their wealth in the Way of God is that of a grain of corn. It groweth seven ears, and each ear hath a hundred grains. God giveth manifold increase to whom He pleaseth. God careth for all, and He knoweth all things. For those who spend their wealth in the Cause of God, and follow not up their gifts with reminders or with injury, their reward is with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve" (Al-Qur'an 2:261­262).

God explains that the money we spend in His Cause will be doubled and multiplied for us, and that this will be profitable for us both now and in the Hereafter. The only condition, however, that God sets for the attainment of this reward, is that the benefactor should not remind those who receive his support of his benefaction to them, and the harm would be severer if such a person makes mention of his benefaction to other than those who receive his support.

The Qur'an describes the spending of money in the Cause of God as a profitable trade that benefits its owner on the Day of Resurrection: "O ye who believe! Shall I lead you to commerce that saveth you from a grievous Penalty? You should believe in God and His Apostle, and should strive (your utmost) in the cause of God, with your property and your lives. That will be best for you, if ye but knew" (Al-Qur'an 61: 10­11).

B. Spending Money on the Needy

Spending money on the needy comes under expenditure done for the Cause of God, but the Qur'an still specifies certain groups of people who are worthier of charity and assistance: "Spend of your wealth, for love of God, on your kin, on orphans, on the needy, on the wayfarer, on those who ask, and on the ransom of slaves" (Al-Qur'am 2:177).

In another verse, God describes philanthropists as being those who "feed, for the love of God, the indigent, the orphan, and the captive, (saying), 'We feed you for the sake of God alone; no reward do we desire from you, nor thanks' " (Al-Qur'an 76: 8­9). And of the basic qualities of those who deny Islam is cruelty to orphans and not feeding the indigent: "Hast thou observed him who belieth religion? That is he who repelleth the orphan (with harshness), and urgeth not the feeding of the indigent" (Al-Qur'an 107: 1­3).

When on the Day of Resurrection, the damned are asked about their penalty, "What led you into Hell­Fire? They will say: We were not of those who prayed, nor were we of those who fed the indigent" (Al-Qur'an 74: 42).

C. Spending of One's Good Earnings

Some Muslims in the past used to store up dates and keep aside the good quality for themselves, so that when a beggar came asking for charity they only gave him of the remaining inferior quality. To this effect, God sent down the following verse: "O ye who believe! Spend of the good things which ye have (honourably) earned, and of the fruits of the earth which We have produced for you, and do not aim at getting anything which is bad to spend thereof (in charity), when ye would not take it for yourselves save with disdain. And know that God is Free of all wants, and Worthy of all praise" (Al-Qur'an 2:267).

On the same point God further says: "By no means shall ye attain righteousness unless ye spend (freely) of that which ye love. And whatsoever ye spend, God is aware thereof" (Al-Qur'an 3: 92).

D. Wealth is Only God's

The Qur'an continuously brings men's attention to the fact that wealth is only God's, and that man is no more than a proxy of God in supervising it; consequently, man had better not disobey God regarding the trust put under his charge.

God is the Owner of heavens and the earth: "To God belongeth the dominion of heavens and the earth" (Al-Qur'an 3: 189). And it is God Who provides sustenance to all people: "Is there a Creator, other than God, to give you sustenance from heaven or earth? (Al-Qur'an 35: 3).

People are requested to spend of the wealth that God has bestowed upon them, and for the management of which they have to succeed one another as God has planned. The fact is that wealth is not theirs, for they act only as proxies who have been assigned by God to manage it: "Spend (in charity) out of the (wealth) whereof He hath made you heirs" (Al-Qur'an 57: 7). "And spend something (in charity) out of the wealth which We have bestowed on you, before Death should come to any of you and he should say, 'O my Lord! Why didst thou not give me respite for a little while? I should then have given (largely) in charity, and I should have been one of the righteous' " (Al-Qur'an 62: 10). "Yea, give them something yourselves out of the means which God hath given to you" (Al-Qur'an 24: 33).

E. Charity is a Goodly Loan Offered to God

The Qur'an urges people to acts of charity and creates their interest in such acts in an attractive way. For instance, God says: "Who is he that will lend God a goodly loan, which God will double unto his credit and multiply many times? It is God that giveth (you) Want or Plenty, and to Him shall be your return" (Al-Qur'an 2: 245).

God shows extreme kindness by making charity a sort of goodly loan paid to Him. It is the needy who ask for loans, whereas God, to Whom "belongeth the dominion of heavens and the earth, and all in between", is not in need of His creatures. But the mode of expression is set in this form mainly to speak for the poor and the needy to support them. No doubt in this case, the person becomes of no significance when he refrains from offering his Creator part of his money which Gwill return to him increased manifold. At the end of the verse, God says: "It is God that giveth (you) Want or Plenty," and if He so chooses, God can easily turn the poor into prosperity, and the rich into poverty. After all, the management of everything lies in His hands.

F. An Abounding Source of Income for the Poor

Islam brings about an abounding source of income for the poor through expiation. A man may for instance take an oath to do or stop doing something, but later on refrains from fulfilling his oath. In this case, he has to feed ten needy people for one full day, of what he personally and usually eats with his family; or, instead, he may provide them with clothing, or, if he chooses, he can just pay for the ransom of a slave.

If a man fails to fast during the month of Ramadan because of sickness or old age, he has to feed a needy person in return for every day of Ramadan he does not fast.

If a pilgrim happens to violate one of the rites of pilgrimage, he has to atone for his violation by offering an immolation to the needy.

On the Feast of Fitr, the Fitr Alms­Tax becomes due on all Muslims, and all capable Muslims have to offer a slaughter­sacrifice on the Day of Immolation (Adha) so that the poor are fed from it.

When a Muslim dedicates a votive offering, Islam requires him to fulfil his now, out of mercy for the poor and to support them.

When a person fails to meet the expenses of living because of urgent reasons, Islam obliges his rich relatives to spend money for him: the son for the father, the father for the son, the brother for the sister, the husband for the wife.

Islam also legalises the Waqf (religious endowment) so that its revenues may be spent on common charitable projects.

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