New formulae that challenge the mind – charity, forgiveness and humility
Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him narrated that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said:
‘Sadaqa does not reduce (one’s) wealth; and Allah increases the honour of his who pardons (others); and no one will humble himself for Allah’s sake without Allah raising him up.’ [Imam Muslim]
The concise speech of Prophet (peace be upon him)
Though this is a very short hadith – just two lines in Arabic, but as usual the wording of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is very comprehensive. This is what we call in Arabic ‘jawamiulkalam’, comprehensive words and this is one of the gifts Allah gave the Prophet (peace be upon him).
The Prophet (peace be upon him) was given five things no previous prophets were given, and one of these was ‘comprehensive speech.’
In these two lines, the Prophet (peace be upon him) is addressing some social issues connected to our actions. Our actions can be divided into passive and active actions. Passive actions are where the impact of your actions is limited to you and active actions are where your actions impact other people. When an adverse action is limited to you then the damage is contained. Sometimes if the damage is being caused to others, the Shariah gives it greater attention because it affects more people.
Can Sadaqah also mean Zakah?
In this hadith, you can see the Prophet (peace be upon him) is addressing three things: sadaqa, forgiveness, and humility.
Commonly we use the word sadaqa to describe voluntary charity but Allah Himself referred to zakah as sadaqa as well. Therefore, linguistically and from a Shariah point of view Sadaqa includes zakah as well as general charity. As we see from the very famous ayah in Surah Tawbah:
اِنَّمَا الصَّدَقٰتُ لِلۡفُقَرَآءِ وَالۡمَسٰکِیۡنِ وَالۡعٰمِلِیۡنَ عَلَیۡہَا وَالۡمُؤَلَّفَۃِ قُلُوۡبُہُمۡ وَفِی الرِّقَابِ وَالۡغٰرِمِیۡنَ وَفِیۡ سَبِیۡلِ اللّٰہِ وَابۡنِ السَّبِیۡلِ ؕ فَرِیۡضَۃً مِّنَ اللّٰہِ ؕ وَاللّٰہُ عَلِیۡمٌ حَکِیۡمٌ ﴿۶۰﴾
Sadaqah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakah] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah. And Allah is Knowing and Wise. [9:60]
It is a consensus among scholars that the meaning of sadaqa here is zakah, from which we extracted the eight categories of those who are eligible to receive zakah.
From a Shariah point of view therefore zakah can be given to the poor and the destitute and administrators and ‘reconciling hearts’, freeing slaves, travellers in need, those in debt and in Allah’s cause. These are the rightful recipients of obligatory zakah.
Different dimension of giving
In this hadith the Prophet (peace be upon him) is referring to both zakah, and general giving and informing us of the paradox that giving sadaqa does not reduce one’s wealth.
Whether you pay your zakah or give to any other charitable cause your wealth does not decrease.
This goes against our normal understanding of spending, as spending decreases wealth. The amount of money in one’s wallet or bank account decreases when one spends. However the Shariah is saying that the mathematical formula does not apply when it comes to charity. Spending in charity defies the mathematical formula.
How is this the case? The Shariah gives us a different dimension; spending in charity is not a simple numerical or loss or physical deduction. On the contrary, a multiplication and growth of one’s wealth that takes place behind the scenes, every time you give. Your bank account shows a decrease but your akhirah account whatever you have paid is multiplied at least by 10. This is a seismic mindset shift. In general businessmen and traders keep their eyes on the balance sheet and profit and loss. The economy is all based on this. Figures go up and down, depending on many things.
The 2.5% one spends from their wealth in zakat is not just multiplied by 10, depending on sincerity, and the purity of one’s intention it is multiplied by 700 or 7,000 or 70,000. The return is phenomenal – you pay 1 and Allah increases it to 70,000. Allah’s generosity is beyond comprehension.
The import of this hadith is not to be materialistic or focused on the numbers, because there is spiritual measure, thawab (reward) and hasanat (good deeds) which do not fit the calculations we are familiar with. If you gave £125 from your account, that shows as a debit in your bank balance, but in the akhirah account it is increased to at least £1250, and potentially £8,750,000.
This is reprograming the mind to act based on this new formula based on imaan. You only pay, because you believe. Zakah is an obligation, and we pay it because we believe and it is the third pillar of our faith, after the shahada, and salah.
Scholars have said salah is bodily worship and zakah is monetary worship. You worship Allah through paying.
Charity is about giving – whether it’s zakah or voluntary donations, it’s about giving away what you have. What is the opposite of giving? Withholding. The term for withholding is bukhl, miserliness. Miserliness is one of the spiritual diseases of the heart. The Sharia is treating these diseases by making us share what we have and be thankful for what we have. This is how to curb and cure the diseases of the heart.
The barakah of giving
Sadaqah does not reduce one’s wealth on one condition – that it is done with imaan. Wealth is not the figures we see on our bank statement. One might have £2m in their account but it seems to evaporate in no time. Someone else might have £100k in their account but it lasts for years. What is the difference? Allah put barakah (blessing) in this £100k for instance because that person was paying their zakah, thereby contributing to their community, helping those in need etc. starting with their immediate family, and then the extended family and friends and then the wider global community etc. Allah will put barakah in your money and £1 will take you miles whereas £100 or £1,000 will not take another two centimeters or two inches. It will just evaporate for them, because the barakah has been reduced or removed from their money.
When Allah puts barakah in your money He protects your money from anything that reduces it; for instance Allah will protect you from penalty charges, and other things that waste your money, such as a court case, which can suck all your money. The money can be disappear overnight.
This does not mean that if you have a court case you are a miser and Allah is punishing you etc. but it is reintroducing an original and counter intuitive concept that giving brings greater returns than investing. This formula that is based on imaan, on trust and reliance on Allah Almighty. There are at least 10 narrations on this topic in which that the Prophet (peace be upon him) is swearing by Allah, ‘three things I swear by Allah on them’ and one of them is, ‘sadaqa will not diminish or reduce your wealth.’
At the same time it heals the heart from hoarding and trains us to give because we have a strong attachment to our belongings and money, so it’s difficult to let go and give. That is why zakah is payable annually and we have ongoing voluntary sadaqa all year round, with huge incentives to give.
We should train ourselves and our children to pay even small amounts so they become familiar with giving rather than only taking and saving. It’s a training exercise spiritually, mentally, and physically which brings benefit to all of society.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) confirms the rewards of giving to counter our fear of losing which prevents us from giving. And when the Prophet (peace be upon him) is telling us this, we give because we trust him and it helps us overcome the psychological fear of the unknown when we are worried about austerity, inflation and the high cost of living. The shaytan will plague us with these fears. However, Allah is assuring us He is the Provider, and He guarantees our wealth will not be diminished or reduced.
Do not underestimate that your contribution will help many people overcome the acute difficulties in their lives, have dignity, and save them from having to beg from others. The rewards have multiple dimensions.
When we give we are not required to give till we empty our account, we need to have some savings in place just in case of emergencies etc. So have some savings and keep some balance but do not be stingy in your giving.
Honour in forgiveness
The second idea is another important social concept, which is that Allah Almighty increases the honour of those who pardons others. If someone wrongs you by their words or actions, you are left with bitterness towards that person as a result.
You can, which sleep with it pressing on our mind, constantly rewinding and replaying and fueling the pain you feel, and increasing the animosity in your heart towards the one who hurt you. This hadith is suggesting doing the opposite of this norm. The norm is that you hate the one who hurt you, you don’t speak to them, you consider them to be your enemy, you change your direction when you see them. This is a common thing. The hadith is saying instead of this, clear the grudges from your heart.
Islam is introducing a new formula – to forgive. I know it’s not that simple but reaching Jannah is not without effort. You need to overcome these hurdles and treat the diseases of your heart such as hatred and animosity. These stem from bitterness. When someone wrongs you, you have one of two options: you can delete the stain from your heart and forgive that person, flip the page and forget about it and move on or you can keep it in your heart and let it grow and Shaytan will help you rewind and replay it as much as possible.
Many of us are rewinding bad memories from 20, 30 or even 40 years ago. They are still there because we have kept them festering in the depths of our hearts, needling and gnawing away at our insides. Making us heavy. Don’t allow your own self to torture you. Just delete the offence from your mind and forgive that person. I am not talking about cases of abuse. These are different and need to be tackled differently – this may involve addressing the person, putting a stop to unacceptable behaviour or treatment, breaking a cycle and escaping that situation and may require professional help to overcome the damage caused by them. However, in general, if there are incidents which upset you at work or in relationships, then forgive them.
In general people regarding forgiving as a sign of weakness. However, just as the Prophet (peace be upon him) challenged the idea that giving money reduces our wealth as we normally perceive, here he is challenging the idea that forgiving is a sign of weakness.
On the contrary, it’s not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength for which Allah will elevate one’s status and grant special honour. Is this honour in the dunya or akhirah? Scholars say it’s in both; Allah honours those who forgive in the dunya, because people will know that they are a person of forgiveness. One might think people will take advantage of this and abuse them, but we should not be naïve, nor should we be harsh by not forgiving others. When we forgive, Allah will honour us in the dunya and raise our status in the akhirah.
Quite often people do not forgive because they feel people will consider them to be weak. Those who say ‘I will never forgive him’ mistakenly think they are being strong. People even say, ‘I will stop him on the gates of Jannah.’
It’s your right to get an apology when you are wronged. But you do not always receive an apology. What should you do? Should you forgive them or not? Some cases are complicated but in general the overarching principle is to forgive.
If you want Allah’s forgiveness, forgive others. Taking into account the scenario and the details, forgiveness is better than keeping grudges, animosity and hatred in your heart and the pain. You forgive not for their sake, but your sake because the more you keep it the more you suffer. You need a light heart, a sound heart to meet Allah Almighty.
For this you have to emulate the people of Jannah from whose hearts Allahuprooted every trace of animosity and hatred. So try your best to keep your hearts pure from any diseases.
When you forgive, you will be forgiven. When you make a mistake, and do something wrong, you are eager to be forgiven. Allah will ease the way for others to forgive you because you forgave others. It may not be the same person who wronged you. But a general principle.
Therefore do not be hesitant to forgive others when they are wrong. Put yourself in their shoes, you never know, you might do worse than them.
The third paradox in this hadith is that no one humbles himself for Allah’s sake or acts with humility except that Allah elevates his rank. Does this mean in the dunya or akhirah? Both.
Humility is the opposite of arrogance, just as giving is the opposite of withholding and miserliness, and forgiveness is the opposite of hatred and animosity. Arrogance is again, one of the diseases of the heart which can affect the community adversely. Such narrations are laying out an Islamic social code of the community and individuals.
How do we deal with each other? How do we deal with certain circumstances and events? The Prophet (peace be upon him) is teaching us to act with humility. Arrogance and shirk are two unforgivable sins, if someone dies without repenting for them. Arrogance is a toxic and deadly sin which can ruin someone’s hasanat (good deeds). It can be contagious. If you are around arrogant people, it rubs off on you. So don’t be in their company and don’t take them as friends unless you are strong enough to change them which is a very rare possibility.
It’s not humiliating to stop and speak to the poor people on the street, or be kind to those in need, or to treat others nicely and to respect their dignity. This is not a sign of weakness, this is honouring others, whom Allah honoured in the first place:
‘We have honoured the sons of Adam.’ [17:70]
Never look down on others. Don’t think that you are better than them. Branded clothes do not make one person better than another. Having a higher degree, a richer father or prestigious family or nationality or ethnicity does not give anyone the right to look down on another. The most honourable is the one who is most obedient to Allah Almighty:
Verily, the most honourable of you with Allaah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa [i.e. he is one of the Muttaqoon (the pious)]. Verily, Allaah is All-Knowing, All Aware.” [al-Hujuraat 49:13]
This is how Allah classifies people. Not according to their colour or race or accent or bank account etc., but by their obedience. We do not have access to other’s hearts or to the records being kept by the angels. Only Allah knows where they stand with Him. They might be 100% better than us in His eyes, though they may be vegetable seller or a shoemaker.
Don’t look down at anyone because they might be an awliyah of Allah Almighty. Allah Almighty concealed His special people. They are not carrying flags so we ought to respect everyone, especially as they might be from the awliyah ofAllah.
And even if are non-Muslims, you have no right to look down at them because you think your akhirah has been guaranteed and you will die with ‘la ilaha illallah’. Are you guaranteed Jannah? Are you 100% sure that you will go to Jannah and the last thing you would say before you die is ‘la ilaha illallah Muhammad rasool Allah.’ No one can guarantee this but Allah Almighty.
One righteous scholar used to say, ‘I will never look down on anyone even if he is a dog. I will not say I’m better than him.’ He was training himself all the time. When he saw a dog he would think, ‘This dog might be better than me’ or ‘This person might be better than me’ because I know I have plenty of mistakes and sins but I don’t know theirs. They may be better than me.
If you behave with humility, don’t be afraid that people will perceive you being weak as person of humility is beloved to people. When you meet someone with humility you warm to them. When you meet an arrogant person, their company is unpleasant.
There used to an old man who used to attend the circle of our shaykh, Abdul Rahman Shaghouri (may Allah have mercy on him). When I met him he was in his 80’s and would serve water to the attendees in the circle. I never know who he is but his face was bursting with light. One day, one of the attendees asked if I knew who he was, and then told me he was a hafidh of the Quran who could recite with ten qiraat and had a very high ijaza in the Quran, as well a book in qiraat etc. I was surprised. Here he was serving us in the circle, when we should have been serving him! He had exemplary humility. His name was Shaykh Luhafi (may Allah have mercy on him).
There are many other examples I can tell you from my observation and I’m pretty sure you have come across some yourself. They are people of genuine humility.
We ask Allah Almighty to enable us to be among those who give and do not hoard; and make us amongst those who are forgiving, not unforgiving; and make us among those who are behave with with humility and not arrogance. Ameen.
Shaykh Haytham Tamim – Sunday Hadith Class
Transcribed by Rose Roslan
 عن جابر بن عبد الله رضي الله عنهما أنّ النبيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: «أُعْطِيتُ خمسا، لم يُعْطَهُنَّ أحد من الأنبياء قبلي: نُصِرْتُ بالرعب مسيرة شهر، وجُعِلَت لي الأرض مسجدا وطَهُورا، فأَيَّمَا رجل من أمتي أدركته الصلاة فَلْيُصَلِّ، وأُحِلَّت لي المغانم، ولم تحلَّ لأحد قبلي، وأُعْطِيتُ الشفاعة، وكان النبي يُبْعَثُ إلى قومه خاصة، وبُعِثتُ إلى الناس عامَة».
[صحيح] – [متفق عليه]
Jābir ibn ‘Abdullāh (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said: “I have been granted five things that none of the prophets before me was granted: I have been made victorious with the awe from a one month distance; the earth has been made a place of worship for me and a means of purification; so, anyone of my Ummah should pray wherever he may be when the time of prayer is due; the spoils of war have been made lawful for me, whereas it was not lawful for anyone before me; I have been granted (the privilege of) intercession; and all the prophets before me were sent to their people in specific, whereas I have been sent to all mankind.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
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