When one gives Zakat and sadaqat (compulsory and voluntary charity)it is very important to act correctly. The one who gives should thank the one who receives the charity since through him the giver is fulfilling his duty and causing the donor to receive great rewards from Allah.
The donor is also protected from calamities and harm due to his charitable acts and it constitutes a shield against all sorts of distress.
The Qur’an teaches us the following good manners when one gives charity:
“O you who believe! Do not make your charity worthless by reproach and injury, like him who spends his property to be seen of men and does not believe in Allah and the last day; so his parable is as the parable of a smooth rock with earth upon it, then a heavy rain falls upon it, so it leaves it bare; they shall not be able to gain anything of what they have earned; and Allah does not guide the unbelieving people.” (Baqara, 2:264)
Alongside advocating giving charity this verse very clearly teaches us how to be careful in the act of giving it. In other words, if the donators belittle the poor or break their hearts with harsh words or acts, Allah will not place value on their charitable acts. When one helps someone there should be no expectations and it should be done for the sake of Allah only. The Prophet (J) said:
It is narrated on the authority of Abu Dharr that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) observed: There are three are persons with whom Allah would neither speak on the Day of Resurrection, nor would look at them nor would absolve them and there is a painful chastisement for them. The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) repeated it three times. Abu Dharr remarked: They failed and they lost; who are these persons, O Messenger of Allah? Upon this, he (the Holy) Prophet) observed: They are: the dragger of his lower garment (out of pride), the one who reminds about being obligated to, the seller of goods by false oath. (Muslim, Imân, 1,192)
All these show that those who lay obligation on the receivers of charity and those who hurt the feelings of the poor will be punished by Allah. Hence, these bad qualities are grave sins in giving charity. Allah looks at people’s hearts and values them and as Rumi has stated: “Give your existence and wealth in charitable acts so as to buy people’s hearts. The supplications of their hearts on your behalf will enlighten your dark grave.”
According to Rumi the poor are an opportunity for the rich to express their gratitude to Allah. As Allah bestowed upon them favor they can similarly reflect on Allah’s bounty to the poor. Hence their hearts should not be broken:
“Inasmuch as the beggar is the mirror of bounty, take care! Breath is hurtful to the face of the mirror.” (Mesa. 2748)
The poor are mirrors of Allah’s bounty, (Mesa. 2748) since the poor turn their faces to charity loving people and by supplying them with an opportunity to donate for the sake of Allah, the poor in fact prepare the path of salvation for them. In addition, the poor develop love and respect for the rich due to their generosity. In that way, the mercy and love residing both in the rich as well as in the poor flourish.
In other words, Allah made the poor function as mirrors for the rich so that they can see their generosity. Rumi describes the terrible end of the heartless rich in the following way: “Those good-hearted rich people who lost their existence in Allah became the manifestation of Allah’s generosity. Having a share in the Divine generosity they have eradicated their existence in pure generosity. Except for those of them who do not attach their hearts to worldly possessions, the rich will be the poor in spirituality. Their external riches are but the lifeless paintings of their unfortunate states. These are people who are heedless of reality and with no souls. Do not approach them to become friends with them; do not throw bones to pictures of dogs”!
Such people are slaves to their interests. They are ignorant of the Divine thirst.”
Rumi warns us not to befriend such people: “Do not put the plate of food in front of the dead. Such people will be miserable beggars in the Hereafter.
The dervish that wants bread is fish on land. He has the form of a fish but he is fleeing from the sea. He loves Allah for the sake of gain: His soul is not in love with Allah’s Excellence and Beauty.” (Mesa. I, 2750-55)
In sum, we should not be cheated away from Divine sustenance in the Hereafter by the glamour of worldly pleasures such as having nice food and drink. If we do not want to lose in the Hereafter, we should be surrounding the needy with our generosity.
Another important principle is to give charity in secrecy, that is, not to reveal those who receive charity. When charity is given in openness to the poor, they will lose their feelings of shyness and in time they will be accustomed to asking help from others and become lazy. They will lose their desire to work. Secondly, giving it openly causes the donor to feel pride and conceit. Hence, giving charity in secret is good both for the one who receives as well as for the one who donates.
However, at times, in order to urge others to give charity, one can donate in open so as to be a good example to others. In this way, ordinary people are urged to follow suit. Therefore, the Qur’an states:
“If you give alms openly, it is well, and if you hide it and give it to the poor, it is better for you; and this will do away with some of your evil deeds; and Allah is Aware of what you do. (Baqara, 2:271)
The commentators on the Qur’an infer from this verse that the obligatory alms due should be given openly, but the supererogatory acts of donation should be fulfilled secretly.
The best way of giving charity is to give with the right hand so that even the left hand does not have any knowledge of this giving. As has been made clear in the hadith, such charity loving people will be under the shade of the Divine Throne on the Day of Judgment. Our ancestors also acted in this as far as giving charity is concerned. The Turkish Sultan, Fatih the Conqueror put forward the following conditions in his charter of foundation:
“I am Sultan Fatih Mohammed, the conqueror of Istanbul. I have handed over my 136 shops, that I have earned with the work of my hands, as a charitable foundation with the following conditions:
In the soup kitchen that I built in the complex near to the mosque, the widows of the martyrs and their children, the poor of Istanbul will be fed. However, those who cannot come to the soup kitchen to have food for some reason, their food should be taken to their homes in closed containers after it is dark so as they will not be humiliated for receiving charity.”
As may be clearly seen in this charter, Sultan Fatih acted in a most sensitive way to protect the feelings and honor of the poor, and made rules that served this purpose. The subjects of such a king did not behave but like him. They would put the charity money in envelopes into the stones of charity (these are stones with holes on their top so as the charitable people put their financial donations inside and the poor would take them whenever they needed, these stones are placed in the mosques and the poor would take the money without having to be ashamed of anyone.
This is the highest mode of good behaviour since the rich do not know who has received it and the poor do not know who has donated the money. In that way the rich are protected from being proud over the poor and the poor are protected from the feeling of indebtedness to the donor.
The main purpose of religion after faith in Allah is to produce good charactered people with deep understanding and to produce a peaceful society. Such a perfect society can be realized when the individuals’ hearts are merciful and caring, leading them to give voluntary charity as well as the obligatory alms.
We are living in the kingdom of Allah with the sustenance bestowed on us by His grace. Those who neglect the acts of worship that demand financial sacrifice, do not they know that everything belongs to Allah and from whom they are withholding His wealth.
Love grows through sacrifice in the path of the beloved. According to the level of his love, the lover sacrifices for the beloved. Sometimes the lover even gives his life in order to please his beloved. Since charity is given for the sake of Allah, He states in the Qur’an that it is He who takes the charity through the hands of the poor:
“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?” (Tawba, (9:104)
In order to emphasize the same truth the Prophet (J) states:
“Undoubtedly, when a donator gives charity, Allah is the first to receive it even before the needy, and then He gives it to the poor. “(Munawî, Kanz al-Hakâik)
Therefore, the most important characteristic of charity is that it should be given sincerely for the sake of Allah. Those who give charity should never feel proud or superior over those who benefit from their donations; they should not expect them to feel grateful. Such negative feelings will erase the good rewards of donations. On the contrary, those who give should thank those who receive their charity. Only in this way will Allah accept our worship of giving charity. The following verse describing the noble ways of charitable acts by Ali and Fatimah teach us the code of behavior that we should follow:
“And they feed, for the love of Allah, the indigent, the orphan, and the captive,- (Saying),”We feed you for the sake of Allah alone: no reward do we desire from you, nor thanks. “We only fear a Day of distressful Wrath from the side of our Lord.” But Allah will deliver them from the evil of that Day, and will shed over them a Light of Beauty and (blissful) Joy.” (Insân, 76:8-11)
If the donors have such sublime feelings, those who receive their charity also benefit from their feelings. Their good intentions and sincerity is reflected in the hearts of the poor. If they do not really deserve the charity after receiving it, they change their bad ways. The following incident narrated by the Prophet (J) exemplifies this positive transformation:
“Allah’s Apostle (J) said, “A man said that he would give something in charity. He went out with his offering of charity and unknowingly gave it to a thief. The next morning the people said that he had given his charity to a thief. (On hearing that) he said, “O Allah! All the praises are for you. I will give alms again.” And so he again went out with his alms and (unknowingly) gave it to an adulteress. The next morning the people said that he had given his alms last night to an adulteress. The man said, “O Allah! All the praises are for you. I gave my alms to an adulteress. I will give alms again.” So he went out with his alms again and (unknowingly) gave it to a rich person. (The people) next morning said that he had given his alms to a wealthy person. He said, “O Allah! All the praises are for you. (I have given alms) to a thief, to an adulteress and to a wealthy man.” Then someone came and said to him, “The alms which you gave to the thief might make him abstain from stealing, and that given to the adulteress might make her abstain from illegal sexual intercourse (adultery), and that given to the wealthy man might make him take a lesson from it and spend his wealth which Allah has given him, in Allah’s cause.” (Bukhari, zakat, Volume 2, Book 24, Number 502)
It is interesting that the manifestation of the meaning of this hadith is seen in the life of a friend of Allah, namely Sâmî Efendi, narrated by Mûsâ Efendi:
One day someone signaled for us to stop the car and when we stopped he asked:
O hadji, father give me money to buy cigarettes for the sake of Allah. His friends did not want to give him money. However, our sheikh said: since he asked our help it is better to give. The poor man, when he saw this kind behavior, told them he had changed his mind, and would buy bread with this money and not cigarettes. And he left us with great pleasure.
Out of curiosity, one of the companions of the Sheikh in order to see how this man spent the money, followed him. To his surprise, the man, as he promised bought bread with the money.
This is a living example of how charity which is only given for the sake of Allah changes the hearts of those who receive it. Therefore, when we give charity we should scrutinize our feelings more than the one who benefits from our donation.
O my Lord! Please make your limitless mercy the never-ending treasure of our hearts.
Source: Osman Nuri Topbaş, ISLAM SPIRIT AND FORM, Erkam Publications