Islamic Philanthropy: For the love of Allah

In 1993, Americans gave $104 billion in charity - which amounts to $916 per person. They also did volunteer work: a minimum of six hours per week.

We the Muslims, who also know the virtues of charity in this life, and who believe in the life hereafter, are not able to match that. All our Islamic institutions, masaajid, full-time schools and organizations are in the red, and we have to make frequent fund-raising efforts to sustain and maintain them. In addition, the political problems which have been created in Muslim nations, whether Bosnia, Kashmir, Palestine, or Somalia, require our utmost attention.

If we consider the masjid, the house of Allah, as our house, and the problems or sufferings of other Muslims as our own, then we do not need to do fund-raising since we do not raise funds for our own house when the roof leaks or for any needs of our own children.

The Qur'an says: : And be steadfast in your prayer and pay clarity; whatever good you send forth for your future, you shall find it with Allah, for Allah is well aware of what you do." (2:110)

Miserly people think that their money will decrease or that they will become poor by giving money to charity; but our belief says the contrary. Remember 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. Allah's will is embracing, all-knowing." (2:261)

The basic concepts in understanding Islamic philanthropy are:

1. Charity has to be from lawfully earned money; there is no concept of Robin Hood- like acts in Islam.

2. The concept of ownership of wealth in Islam is that all wealth, after necessary personal and family expenses, belongs to Allah. It is up to the individual to decide how much of this excess wealth he should give back to the cause of Allah; if lie does not give some of it, then it is claimed by Satan.

3. All philanthropy should be for the pleasure of Allah alone.

There are two types of Islamic charity:

There is zakah, which is obligatory, and is the right of the poor over the wealth of the rich, which amounts to 2.5% of the year's savings. The other is sadaqah, or voluntary charity, which depends on need and the amount of excess wealth. The word "zakah" itself means "purification", and the purpose is to purify legally earned wealth.

Charity should not be used as a tax shelter or to win personal recognition, but only for the love of Allah. "To spend of your substance out of love for Him - to your kin, orphans, the needy, the wayfarer, those who ask and for freeing slaves." (2:l77)

One of the reasons some Muslims cannot come up with charity is that they are not sure to whom the masjid belongs. Does it belong to the donors, to the officials of the organization, or to the users? There need not be doubts because a masjid belongs to all; but mostly it is the house of Allah - and He has given it for our use, so we must pay the rent. On a larger scale, a masjid belongs to the whole Muslim community.

The problems before Muslim fund-raisers are:

1. How to motivate people to open their hearts and their wallets?

2. Should the name of the donor and the amount of the donation be announced publicly?

3. If the names are announced should it be just for disclosure or should they be placed in a sort of competition with one another for personal glory?

4. Should they be given an incentive, like a gift or a lottery ticket?

1. Motivation. "Your wealth, your children, are only a temptation, whereas to be with Allah is an immense reward. So keep your duty to Allah as best as you can, and listen and obey and spend, That is better for your soul, and whosoever is saved from his own greed is the one who is successful. If you lend to AlIah a goodly loan, He will double it for you and will forgive you, for Allah is the Responsive Element." (64:15-17)

Sometimes we do not want to part with our wealth due to love of our family and children - so that they might not suffer from poverty; but if we know that it is Allah Who is the Provider for all of them, we should not worry. Therefore, Allah asks us to send good deeds like this for the future before we reach it. It is like putting money in a savings account in this world and cashing it in the next world, multiplied many times.

2. Disclosure vs. secrecy. "If you disclose the act of charity, even so it is well; but if you conceal it and make it reach those who are really in need, that is best for you. It will remove from you some of your stains of wrongdoing, and Allah is well acquainted with what you do." (2:171)

If the charity is for a public cause, it must be known and concealment itself may be a fault of the official. The harm of publicity lies in the motive of ostentation (showing-off). When charity is to be given to an individual, it is better that it be given secretly.


Additional Responsibilities of the Fund-raiser:

1. Usually they do not send a thank you note after collecting the money. It is better to send such a note along with a tax ID number.

2. They do not follow-up on those who have given the pledge as a reminder, since the pledge is a kind of loan, and they must pay it.

3. Most importantly, they do not tell the charity giver how his money was spent. For example, a picture of remodeling before and after a masjid project will increase the confidence of the giver and will incline him to give more, since he will know that his money has been well utilized.

4. A gift or lottery ticket is not necessary. A word of thanks and a prayer that Allah will accept the donor's gift and be pleased with it, is all that is needed.

In Islam, for an action to be regarded as pure and for it to be accepted by Allah, not only does the intention have to be pure; but the means of achieving that intention has to be pure as well. "O son of Adam, spend on Me and I will spend on you." (Hadith Qudsi)

In the Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful

Oh believers, let not your possessions neither your children divert you from God's remembrance, who ever does that , they are the losers. And spend from the sustenance We have given you, before death overtakes any of you, and he says, 'O my Lord! if You grant me respite for a short while, then I would freely give and would be among the righteous" (63:9 -10) 

Shahid Athar, M.D., F.A.C.S., a clinical associate professor of medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine, is also the Chairman, Medical Ethics of Islamic Medical Association (IMA) of North America and Member, IAS. He is the author of Health Concerns for Believers and edited the Islamic Perspective in Medicine.

(Originally published in "The Message" and republished with permission. This article is based upon the author's speech at The Indiana University Center for Philanthropy, Annual National conference in 1994.)

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Shahid Athar, MD
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Indiana University School of Medicine
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40 Reasons why Charity should Be SECOND NATURE to all Muslims
Taken from Home Page of the Muslim Students Association of Oregon State University

2.110 And be steadfast in prayer and regular in charity: And whatever good ye send forth for your souls before you, ye shall find it with Allah. for Allah sees Well all that ye do.

2.177 It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces towards East or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and give Zakat (regular charity); to fulfill the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the God fearing.

2.215 They ask thee what they should spend (In charity). Say: Whatever wealth ye spend that is good, is for parents and kindred and orphans and those in want and for wayfarers. And whatever ye do that is good, -Allah knoweth it well.

2.263 Kind words and the covering of faults are better than charity followed by injury. Allah is free of all wants, and He is Most-Forbearing.

2.264 O ye who believe! cancel not your charity by reminders of your generosity or by injury,- like those who spend their wealth to be seen of men, but believe neither in Allah nor in the Last Day. They are in parable like a hard, barren rock, on which is a little soil: on it falls heavy rain, which leaves it (just) a bare stone. They will be able to do nothing with aught they have earned. And Allah guideth not those who reject faith.

2.270 And whatever ye spend in charity or whatever vow ye make, be sure Allah knows it all. But the wrong-doers have no helpers.

2.271 If ye disclose (acts of) charity, even so it is well, but if ye conceal them, and make them reach those (really) in need, that is best for you: It will remove from you some of your (stains of) evil. And Allah is well acquainted with what ye do.

2.273 (Charity is) for those in need, who, in Allah's cause are restricted (from travel), and cannot move about in the land, seeking (for trade or work): the ignorant man thinks, because of their modesty, that they are free from want. Thou shalt know them by their (unfailing) mark: They beg not importunately from all the sundry. And whatever of good ye give, be assured Allah knoweth it well.

2.274 Those who (in charity) spend of their goods by night and by day, in secret and in public, have their reward with their Lord: on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.

2.276 Allah will deprive usury of all blessing, but will give increase for deeds of charity: For He loveth not any ungrateful and wicked.

2.277 Those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness, and establish regular prayers and regular charity, will have their reward with their Lord: On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.

2.280 If the debtor is in a difficulty, grant him time till it is easy for him to repay. But if ye remit it by way of charity, that is best for you if ye only knew.

4.77 Hast thou not turned thy though to those who were told to hold back their hands (from fight) but establish regular prayers and spend in Zakat (regular charity)? When (at length) the order for fighting was issued to them, behold! a section of them feared men as - or even more than - they should have feared Allah. They said: "Our Lord! Why hast Thou ordered us to fight? Wouldst Thou not grant us respite to our (natural) term, near (enough)?" Say: "Short is the enjoyment of this world: the Hereafter is the best for those who do right: Never will ye be dealt with unjustly in the very least!

4.114 In most of their secret talks there is no good: But if one exhorts to a deed of charity or goodness or conciliation between people, (secrecy is permissible): To him who does this, seeking the good pleasure of Allah, We shall soon give a reward of the highest (value).

4.162 But those among them who are well-grounded in knowledge, and the believers, believe in what hath been revealed to thee and what was revealed before thee: And (especially) those who establish regular prayer and pay Zakat (regular charity) and believe in Allah and in the Last Day: To them shall We soon give a great reward.

5.12 Allah did aforetime take a covenant from the Children of Israel, and We appointed twelve chieftains among them. And Allah said: "I am with you: if ye (but) establish regular prayers, give Zakat (regular charity), believe in my messengers, honor and assist them, and loan to Allah a beautiful loan, verily I will wipe out from you your evils, and admit you to Gardens with rivers flowing beneath; but if any of you, after this, resisteth faith, he hath truly wandered from the path or rectitude."

5.45 We ordained therein for them: "Life for life, eye for eye, nose or nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth, and wounds equal for equal." But if any one remits the retaliation by way of charity, it is an act of atonement for himself. And if any fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed, they are wrong-doers.

5.55 Your (real) friends are (no less than) Allah, His Messenger, and the (fellowship of) believers,- those who establish regular prayers and regular charity, and they bow down humbly (in worship).

9.75 Amongst them are men who made a covenant with Allah, that if He bestowed on them of His bounty, they would give (largely) in charity, and be truly amongst those who are righteous.

9.79 Those who slander such of the believers as give themselves freely to (deeds of) charity, as well as such as can find nothing to give except the fruits of their labor,- and throw ridicule on them,- Allah will throw back their ridicule on them: and they shall have a grievous chastisement.

9.104 Know they not that Allah doth accept repentance from His votaries and receives their gifts of charity, and that Allah is verily He, the Oft-Returning, Most Merciful?

12.88 Then, when they came (back) into (Joseph's) presence they said: "O exalted one! distress has seized us and our family: we have (now) brought but scanty capital: so pay us full measure, (we pray thee), and treat it as charity to us: for Allah doth reward the charitable."

14.31 Speak to my servants who have believed, that they may establish regular prayers, and spend (in charity) out of the sustenance We have given them, secretly and openly, before the coming of a Day in which there will be neither mutual bargaining nor befriending.

19.31 "And He hath made me blessed wheresoever I be, and hath enjoined on me Prayer and Charity as long as I live;

19.55 He used to enjoin on his people prayer and charity, and he was most acceptable in the sight of his Lord.

22.35 To those whose hearts when Allah is mentioned, are filled with fear, who show patient perseverance over their afflictions, keep up regular prayer, and spend (in charity) out of what We have bestowed upon them.

23.60 And those who dispense their charity with their hearts full of fear, because they will return to their Lord."

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