A controversial debate arises frequently regarding the responsibility of the well-off to help those who are less fortunate. Religions urge us to share our blessings because all material wealth was provided to us by God, we are accountable for how we use the wealth that we accumulate, and are responsible for spending it wisely while avoiding miserliness or spendthrift.
In the Holy Quran, chapter 20, Ta-Ha, we are reminded that God is the provider, he does not need us to provide for him “….We ask not of you a provision, We provide for you….”[20:132].
One might wonder why should one work so hard and then give a part of the earnings to others who may not have worked at all? Is it possible that life is purposely “unfair” by design?
In chapter 28, Al-Qasas, (the Narration) [28:82] “…It is God who enlarges the provisions or restricts it to whomever he pleases…”
Some individuals are given the “brains”, others enjoy the good looks, the physical strength, excellent “people skills”, or merely the good luck of “being at the right place at the right time”, whereas a good number of individuals have been denied all of the above and await charity from others in order to survive, as a test of the latter’s willingness to share and to express their gratitude as well as their obedience to the creator.
Quite a few verses in the Holy Quran refer to the believers’ responsibility to help others; in [28:77] “….do good as God has been good to you…..”
Whom Do We Give To?
In chapter two of the Holy Quran, Surat Al-Baqara (the Cow) verse [2:177] it is pointed out that the righteous are those who give the money cheerfully, to the relatives, the orphans, the needy, the wayfarers, the beggars, and to free the slaves;……. and who give the obligatory charity (Zakat).
The 4th chapter, An-Nisaa (the women) Verse [4:36] has similar content “And do good unto your parents, and next of kin, and unto orphans, and the needy, and the neighbour from among your own people, and the neighbour who is a stranger,and the friend by your side, and the wayfarer, and those whom you rightfully possess”.
The Return on Charity
In verses [2:261-264], we are reminded that when we spend our money in the cause of God, our money is multiplied manifold provided that our gifts are not followed with reminders of our generosity, with insult or with harm. The same verses emphasise that kind words and compassion or the forgiving of faults are better than a charity that is followed by harm.
The Quality of Donations
However, the quality of what we donate is important, thus in [2:267] we are urged to give to others from that which we would choose for ourselves “….and choose not for your spending the bad things which you yourselves would not accept without averting your eyes in disdain…”. Typically, people give away old clothes or leftover food or outdated equipment that they would not use themselves.
Open Versus Anonymous Giving
We are also reminded that if we are public in our charitable giving then it is a good thing however giving anonymously would be much better and that charitable giving leads to the forgiveness of our sins. Any charity we give is ultimately for our own good since God is fully aware of it and rewards us generously for it; the recipients of charity are described as the poor who never beg persistently [2: 271-274]. However, in various chapters we are urged to take care of our own relatives, especially our parents, ahead of helping others, as a reminder of the importance of maintaining strong family ties.
Thou Shall Not Show Off!
Verse [4:37] urges people not to be miserly or enjoin miserliness on other men and not to hide what Godhas bestowed upon them from His bounties; in addition people are warned against giving money to charity merely as a way of showing off. Verse [4:36] reminds that God does not love any of those who are self-conceited and act in a boastful manner.
Why Do Some Of Us Hesitate About Giving To Charity?
Some fear poverty, “The devil promises you poverty and commands you to commit evil” [2:268].
Others feel that it is God’s will that made some people poor, for example Chapter 36, Surat Ya-Sin [36:47] describes some people’s reluctance to help others who are in need, ‘When they are told, “Spend from that which God has provided you,” those who disbelieve say to those who believe, “Shall we feed those whom, if God willed, he himself would have fed? You are only in a plain error.”’
The AppropriateLevel of Giving
People usually wonder about the appropriate level of giving. Verse [2:219] advises,“And they ask you what they ought to spend. Say:that which is beyond your needs.” (2317)