Ramadan: The month of Charity

Ramadan is the month of charity. Although it is not obligatory to pay Zakat in the month of Ramadan, most Muslims pay their Zakat in Ramadan. Besides Zakat, there is obligatory Fitra to be paid to the poor before the Eid Prayer. Besides these two obligatory charities, lot of Sadaqa (Voluntary Charity) is paid during Ramadan. It is not that one is not encouraged to do charity throughout the year and do it only in the month of Ramadan. However, it was the Sunnah of the Prophet to do more charity in the month of Ramadan. It is reported that during the month of Ramadan the prophet used to do so much charity that he was likened to fast blowing wind.

It is narrated by Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) “The Prophet (peace be upon him) was the most generous amongst the people, and he used to be more so in the month of Ramadan when Gabriel visited him, and Gabriel used to meet him on every night of Ramadan till the end of the month. The Prophet used to recite the Holy Qur’an to Gabriel, and when Gabriel met him, he used to be more generous than a fast wind” (Sahih Al Bukhari: Book No. 31: Hadith No. 126).

Qur’an exhorts the believers to do charity and equals it to load given to Allah which will be returned in multiples on the day of Judgement.

“Who is it that would loan Allah a goodly loan so He may multiply it for him many times over? And it is Allah who withholds and grants abundance, and to Him you will be returned” (Surah Al Baqarah 2:245).

At another place Qur’an explains the benefit of charity by giving the example of grain of corn. According to Quran:

The likeness of those who spend their money for Allah’s sake, is as the likeness of a grain (of corn), it grows seven ears, every single ear has a hundred grains, and Allah multiplies (increases the reward) for whom He wills, and Allah is All-Sufficient for His creatures needs, All Knower(Surah Al Baqarah 2: 261)

Those who spend of their goods (in charity) by night and by day in secret and in public shall have their reward with their Lord: on them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve” (Surah Al Baqarah 2:274)

The literal meaning of Zakat is purification and growth. It is a specific amount of money due to be spent on specific accounts after the passage of specific time. There are numerous spiritual, psychological as well as economic benefits of charity, especially zakat.

Spiritually it brings the giver closer to the Creator. There is no denying the fact that physical ibadah (worship) does not affect a person as deeply and does not put as much burden on him or his resources as parting with hard earned money. It is also a form of informal social insurance system which takes care of the basic needs of the poorer sections of the society by the wealthier section. In this way it bridges the gap between the rich and the poor which may lead to many unwanted situations. It creates a feeling of love and brotherhood between the rich and the poor and thus reduces social tensions also.

It has a psychological dimension as well. It has a positive affect of the giver, the receiver, and the society at large. It purifies the property and assets of the giver, restraints his lust for wealth and material goods and creates in him the virtue and urge to share with less fortunate ones. It uplifts the giver from a life of materialism and self-gratification to a life endowed with a higher moral purpose.

Sadaqa and Zakat prepares one to spend in the way of Allah willingly and largeheartedly. It drives away greed and pride from the wealthy and does away with glaring income inequality and at the same time imperceptibly effects a gradual redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor.

Economically it prevents concentration of wealth by circulating it in the society by transferring wealth from the rich to the poor. It redistributes real income among the members of the society by redistributing a part of purchasing power from the rich to the poor. It is well known economic fact that poor tend to spend most of their income on basic necessities of life as compared to the rich who spend less proportion of their wealth on basic necessities. A major part of the wealth of the rich is spent on luxuries of life. When charity is paid by the rich to the poor it helps in the circulation of money in the economy by creating demand for basic necessities of life.

It also discourages hoarding and accumulation of idle wealth. It ensures to put the waiting resources back into economic activity by pushing every bit of idle wealth into production activity by increasing the cost of waiting.

Let us pay our Zakat and give Sadaqa to reap the spiritual rewards in the holy month of Ramadan. Let us reach out to the less fortunate and make a difference in somebodies’ life. Let us make this Ramadan more fulfilling and satisfying.

Using interest money to help the poor and the needy

Darul Ifta at Darul Uloom Deoband (Islamic Seminary, India) has issued a Fatwa (religious opinion) that it is permissible for Muslims to use interest accrued on bank savings to help the poor. The fatwa was issued in response to a query from Karnataka which stated that “there is enough money from the interest in the bank account of our area’s mosque. And at present, many poor are suffering because of lockdown and they have no ration in their homes. In such a situation, can the needy persons be helped with this money?”. The reply of Darul Uloom Deoband was that:

According to Islamic laws, the interest given by banks is haram (prohibited), it can not be used. But the interest money can be given to the poor and disabled without any intention of sawab (reward).  So if bank account of the mosque has such interest money and its management wants to give to poor and needy people or wants to buy ration for them during the lockdown, there is nothing wrong in it”.

This is a welcome decision and clarification coming from Darul Uloom. These are difficult times and people are going through hardship. Muslims should use this opportunity to help the poor and the needy. This help must be given without any discrimination or prejudice. It should be given to people of every faith and colour and gender, Poor is a poor and needs to be supported.

Personally, I have being doing this for almost two decades now. I always use the interest money to help the poor. However, I believe that this should not be confined to only during lockdown period. Personally I have given interest money mostly to schools. That there is very high level of illiteracy among Indian Muslims is well documented. What better way of  using this money lying in banks than helping somebody get educated. As they say instead of giving somebody fish, teach the person how to fish. When a person gets educated instead on depending on charity for life that person will become charity giver in future. If all the interest money lying in banks is used it can help educate a lot of children who cannot get decent education because their parents are too poor to afford school fees. This will not only strengthen the community but also the Nation.

There was always a large percentage of Muslims who were apprehensive of using interest money and used to leave it lying in banks. The concerns and apprehensions of such people have been addressed in this fatwa. Let us all use this opportunity to help our fellow citizens to get better education and have a decent shot at life. Let us help the poor to get educated, Let us build the Nation.

Kyon Zyankar Banoon, Sood Faramosh Rahoom

Fikr e Farda na Karoon, Mehve Gham e Dosh Rahoon

Reference:

Mohd Dilshad (6 May 2020) Can use bank interest to help the needy, says Darul Uloom. Available at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/75562934.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst.  Accessed on 8 May 2020.

Ramazan, Corona Virus and the Indian Muslim Leadership

Ramazan is round the corner. It is a special month for Muslims all over the world. The moment one Ramazan finishes, they start waiting for the next one. Even kids eagerly wait for Ramzan. There is something special which one can feel immediately upon confirming the news that Ramazan is starting tomorrow. From maghrib itself, the environment changes. Suddenly, the whole environment becomes spiritual. Everybody start preparing for Isha prayer and males especially look forward to praying special congregational prayers what are commonly called as Taraweeh (The real name by the way is Qayamul Lail) and prayed in the Mosque after Isha.

When the corona virus was in early stages the countries of Middle East decided to close Mosques. Even the Haram Makki as well as Haram Madni were closed. Regarding these decisions there has been lot self-congratulatory talk at the popular level in India . When Saudi Arabia decided to close the Harmain Sharifain and other mosques it was received with not only disbelief but also disdain in the Indian Subcontinent. Not only Saudi Arabia, all the GCC countries i.e. United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Sultanate of Oman, Qatar, and Bahrain also closed all the Mosques not only for daily five obligatory prayers but also for Friday prayers. The general response in the Indian Subcontinent was that it is a sign of weakness of Iman. This was basically indirectly saying that Muslims in India have more Iman than Middle Eastern Muslims. However, time has proved that it was absolutely correct decision and there are historical precedents available in early Islamic history that this has been done before. Even for Ramzan, all the GCC countries have decided to continue with the earlier decision of keeping the Mosques closed throughout the month.

In this regard I am looking at two different advices which have come for Indian Muslims as guidelines to be followed during coming Ramazan. One is a copy of a Fatwa from Darul Ifta of Darul Ulum Deoband and other from a group of prominent Indian Muslims. Both of them have advised Indian Muslims to follow the law of the land and not to do anything which may spread the Virus. Both the advisories contain some great advice which are quite practical. It is a welcome sign. However, in both of them there are points which at least to me don’t make any sense at all.

The advisory from Darul Ifta of Darul Ulum suggests that not more than 4 or 5 people should pray in the Mosque, either the five obligatory prayers Friday prayers (point three) or Taraweeh (point four). The same point is contained in the advisory given by the group of prominent citizens (point one). I fail to understand as to how this will help in containment of the virus. If only those who live in the Mosque pray, it does make some sense but to suggest that some from the neighborhood should join them to make it 4 or 5 does defeat the very purpose of social distancing. It even goes on to suggest that in case of non-agreement as to who will join from the neighborhood, there should be a chit based random selection to avoid controversy. However, it is another point in the advisory of Darul Ulum Deoband really baffles me. It asks people to make announcement from the Mosque for the time of Suhoor (early morning meal before sunrise to start the fast) as well as Iftar (meal taken to break the fast at sunset. Point fourteen). What is the point of creating a situation which can lead to unnecessary controversy? Those who fast can find out the time anyway. Everybody has got either a watch or a mobile. One can easily see time and break the fast. Where in the world was the need for this advisory? For me it certainly defies logic. Coming to the first point, is it so important to open Mosques as to put people in danger.

There can be only two plausible explanations for this. Either those giving these advices are not competent to really comprehend what is staring at them. They are unable to really put things in historical perspective and come up with a suitable response. This is quite possible as this is what religious leadership in India has done quite a few times in the past with disastrous results. It does not mean that they have never taken correct decisions and positions. Mostly that is the case. But it must be remembered in today’s world of prevalence of social media and instant decision making, there is hardly any margin of error. We have just witnessed the drama that was played on television channels with regards to Tablighi Jamaat. The time at which the congregation took place at Markaz, there was no government advisory against any such gathering. Still, those responsible at the Markaz are now being blamed left right and center.

The other explanation is that they understand the reality and know very well as to what needs to be done but are afraid to speak so. They are afraid that if they speak the truth and advice people correctly, they may loose their followership and popularity. Both the scenarios are quite scary. If this is the quality of leadership than only Allah can save us. In such a situation it is better to err on the side of caution rather then regret later.

With due respect to  Sir Allama Mohammad Iqbal, I would like to rephrase a couplet from Shikwa and say that:

Jurrat Amoz Meri Taabe Sukhan hai mujhko

Shikwa Ulema Se khakam badahan hai mujhko

The strength of my talk (poetry) is encouraging me

May dust be in my mouth, I have complaint against Ulema