by Aziz Mamuji
As we once again avail ourselves of the joys of fasting during this holy month, allow me to convey my felicitations to you all. May Allah always favour you with his abundant blessings.
Of course, as good Muslims we appreciate His kindness, but let us also remind ourselves of “giving”. This is a fundamental obligation of our personal and communal lives. The mighty English Oxford Dictionary’s definition of the word ‘charity’ embraces, “Giving voluntarily to those in need; an organisation for helping those in need; tolerance; and love of one’s fellow human beings.” And a famous poet’s poignant comment on the same subject reads: “There are those who have little to give and give it all. These are the believers in life and it’s bounty. And their coffer is never empty”. Good words, but nothing new!
The Holy Quran’s emphasis on ‘giving’ is obvious and with considerable clarity, it presents three inter-related precepts which form the essential basis of this obligation. Firstly, we accept the premise that we have to face the consequences, both here and in the hereafter, of whatever we do on earth. The ‘do’ is expansive, including aspects such as our deeds, thoughts, feelings, behaviour and dealings with fellow-beings. Secondly, we have to strive for the comprehensive development of ourselves as individuals, and in the process aim for the elimination of imbalances in our communities. Integrate these two vital attributes of Quranic teaching; and we begin to comprehend the third and most difficult precept, that of “anfaq”.
Anfaq in effect constitutes the pinnacle of ‘giving’. It consolidates the containment of societal negatives such as poverty, hunger, injustice, malice, abuse, disrespect, waste, greed and the deprivation of the human rights. Ultimately, it is the perfect socio-political environment in which hoarding becomes unnecessary and where all resources are equitably available for everyone’s benefit. The word itself derives from the old Arabic expression for an open-ended tunnel, suggesting that as much as possible should flow through and become accessible to those in need. No, we are not aspiring to egalitarianism, for the Holy Quran does recognise that a healthy community must comprise a mutually beneficial mix of people with different abilities, roles, responsibilities, personalities and needs. However, they all have the basic necessities of food, shelter, health, education and personal freedoms, the satisfaction of which must be the central responsibility of any balanced system of existence.
This then, leads us to the elegantly simple game of ‘giving’. Playable individually or in teams, on a limitless playing field, it requires no spectators. While it is easy to understand, the rules are tough and like all great games, the glory is in the participation; the pleasure in the commitment. The rewards, which Allah promises can be aplenty, are of course welcome icing on the cake. Notably though the game never stops, for the resources given by Allah are meant for all humanity; and they have to remain in continuous circulation.
The objective too is unambiguous. Recognise that peoples’ genuine needs differ, but give as much as you can from what remains after satisfying your personal needs. The needy have a right to expect assistance and within that fundamental premise, the Quran proffers many explanatory notes.
Firstly, give because you believe in Allah and his cause. Give wholeheartedly with unselfish compassion, but do so from that which has been earned honourably. In giving more or less; openly or secretly; be genuine, for when we help from what we ourselves have rejected, our hypocrisy is inexcusable. Of course, we must give sensibly. Emotions can lead to excesses and irrationality, which can be detrimental to both the giver and the receiver. Furthermore, we are rightly warned to be humble. Constant reminders of the kind deeds one performs can be painfully embarrassing for all concerned.
Expect no appreciation from the assisted and certainly avoid nurturing a sense of superiority. Whereas we have to be vary of professional scroungers, there is understandable emphasis on first assisting parents, children, relatives as well as the very young and elderly who cannot earn for themselves. Give freely as you please, but also contribute to a system whereby the funds are judiciously administered through a properly organised effort.
Finally and no less importantly, do not neglect the charity in the ‘giving’ of our persons. Practice social etiquette beseeches the Holy Quran. Be ever conscious of the likes and dislikes of those around you; respect their privacy; offer moral support; use kind and comforting words; speak softly; show tolerance and always maintain exemplary decorum.
So plainly speaking, this giving game is not easy. As that famous poet also said: “It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”
How right – and how nice!
The word Anfaq includes obligations such as zakat, sadaqa, khairat and other forms of giving mentioned in the Holy Quran. Persons interested in this subject may wish to refer to the following selection of verses:
2:177, 2:195, 2:215, 2:219, 2:261, 2:267, 2:270, 2:273, 2:274, 3:91, 4:39, 8:36, 8:60, 9:53, 9:54, 9:99, 25:67, 34:39, 47:38, 57:10, 92:57.
Aziz Mamuji is an Architect-Planner by profession. He is also the principal co-ordinator of the Kuwait Group of the Friends of SOS Children’s Villages in Pakistan