Giving in charity versus withholding your wealth
Friday Khutba by Dr Zahid Aziz, for Lahore Ahmadiyya UK, 2 September 2022
“Your striving is surely (for) diverse (ends). Then as for him who gives (charitably) and keeps his duty, and accepts what is good —We facilitate for him (the way to) ease. And as for him who is miserly and considers himself self-sufficient, and rejects what is good —We facilitate for him (the way to) distress. And his wealth will not avail him when he perishes. Surely Ours is it to show the way, and surely Ours is the Hereafter and the former (i.e., the first life).” — ch. 92, v. 5–13
اِنَّ سَعۡیَکُمۡ لَشَتّٰی ؕ﴿۴﴾ فَاَمَّا مَنۡ اَعۡطٰی وَ اتَّقٰی ۙ﴿۵﴾ وَ صَدَّقَ بِالۡحُسۡنٰی ۙ﴿۶﴾ فَسَنُیَسِّرُہٗ لِلۡیُسۡرٰی ؕ﴿۷﴾ وَ اَمَّا مَنۡۢ بَخِلَ وَ اسۡتَغۡنٰی ۙ﴿۸﴾ وَ کَذَّبَ بِالۡحُسۡنٰی ۙ﴿۹﴾ فَسَنُیَسِّرُہٗ لِلۡعُسۡرٰی ﴿ؕ۱۰﴾ وَ مَا یُغۡنِیۡ عَنۡہُ مَا لُہٗۤ اِذَا تَرَدّٰی ﴿ؕ۱۱﴾ اِنَّ عَلَیۡنَا لَلۡہُدٰی ﴿۫ۖ۱۲﴾ وَ اِنَّ لَنَا لَلۡاٰخِرَۃَ وَ الۡاُوۡلٰی ﴿۱۳﴾
In last week’s khutba, we saw how the earliest revelations to the Holy Prophet laid great emphasis on helping the poor and the disadvantaged. This was even before the structure of the religion of Islam, or what was later called the shariah of Islam, was revealed to the Holy Prophet. Not to look after orphans, and not to feed the poor, were called as “denying religion” in ch. 107. This was at a time before people had been taught in any detail what the religion of Islam was. A person could still be a denier of religion if he failed to help the poor and the weak.
These verses which I have now recited begin by saying that different people strive for different aims and purposes, and that there are two types of people. There are those who give to others, in order to help them, and those who are miserly, stingy and mean. Their other qualities are mentioned as well, but the first quality of the good type of person, as mentioned, is that is he gives to others, and the first quality of the bad type of person is that he withholds from giving to others. The first type of person does his duty, or as the Arabic says, he sticks to what is called taqwa, he is a muttaqi. If today someone is described as muttaqi, this conveys the image of a very observant and practising Muslim, who prays regularly and performs all the other acts of worship required by Islam, and abstains from any kind of thing forbidden by Islam. But, as I have just said and as I said last week, when these verses were revealed, saying “as for him who gives (charitably) and keeps his duty”, very little of the practice of Islam had yet been revealed to the Holy Prophet. This shows that the kind of taqwa mentioned here, or the keeping of duty, is something natural in human beings, and already known to them without being taught as part of religion. Humans know in their nature what is good and what is bad.
The first type of person mentioned here gives to others in charity, and he knows this is his duty, and he has accepted it because of the goodness of this concept of giving to others to help them. The second type of person is miserly and considers himself self-sufficient, and rejects what is good. Considering himself “self-sufficient” means that he feels he doesn’t need to do anything for anyone else. He is all right, and has all that he needs, and he is not concerned and does not care about others and their needs. He rejects the teaching to do good.
It is then said that, regarding the first type of person, that Allah facilitates his path to reach a state of ease. As to the second type of person, Allah facilitates his path to reach a state of difficulty and distress. We see this phenomenon in the world around us that whatever you do regularly, whether in terms of good or in terms of bad, you become better at doing it. You serve people by meeting their needs, and you become better at serving them. A person who steals regularly becomes a better and more skilful thief. For both of these people, God facilitated their path because of their own actions. For the person doing good deeds, his path leads him to a state of ease for him, and for the person doing evil deeds, his path leads him to a state of distress.
The person who gives to others, who are in need, might find it difficult to do at first but as he continues in that path he feels a sense of contentment and happiness in his mind, and that sense grows with the more that he does. The person who is miserly and mean and clinging to his wealth becomes more and more obsessed with keeping his wealth and guarding it. He regards it as his sole means of security. He feels no contentment of mind, no matter how much wealth he accumulates. That is the distress in which he finds himself. The above verses go on to say about him: “And his wealth will not avail him when he perishes”. Wealth cannot save him from death, which is bound to come. He may even lose it in this world, as sometimes trying to gain more wealth makes a person lose what he already possessed. Also, he is perishing inside himself morally and spiritually, and his wealth cannot save him from that.
The next verse says: اِنَّ عَلَیۡنَا لَلۡہُدٰی — literally, it means it is “upon Us” (‘alai-nā), i.e., it is upon Allah to give guidance. This indicates that God is taking it upon Himself as His duty and responsibility towards people to give them guidance. For this purpose He raised so many prophets in all nations and lastly He raised the Holy Prophet Muhammad with guidance for all nations. Then God safeguarded that guidance, so that the revelation granted to the Holy Prophet was preserved in writing, and was not lost. That guidance was also demonstrated in practice by the Holy Prophet and acted upon by his Companions to be passed down to subsequent generations. Then, in later history, thousands of holy figures arose in Islam to reiterate and broadcast its original teachings. Among them were the Mujaddids of Islam. God did all this because He made it His duty to make guidance available to mankind.
Then God says: وَ اِنَّ لَنَا لَلۡاٰخِرَۃَ وَ الۡاُوۡلٰی — “To Us is the Hereafter and the former (life).” The words for “To Us” are la-nā. It is used in distinction to ‘alai-nā of the last verse. It indicates belonging, meaning that the life after death and the earlier life here belong to God. He has the prerogative, the entitlement, to reward the good people and punish the evil ones, whether in this life or the Hereafter. Just as God has the duty upon Him to provide guidance, as stated in the previous verse, so also He has the right to reward and punish.
This verse also corrects the idea that the benefits of following His guidance only become available in the life after death, that they are postponed to the Hereafter and don’t appear in this life. It is not that those who spend their wealth to help others suffer loss in this life and only have a reward in the Hereafter, while those who are miserly enjoy this life and only face bad consequences in the life after death. God says that His laws apply to the life after death and equally to the first life, before death. Those who give in order to help others not only have an inner contentment and a sense of fulfilment of duty within themselves, but other people look up to them, and honour them and admire them. Those who hoard their wealth are not liked by anyone. This verse also means that God’s guidance is not confined to moral and spiritual matters, such as how to pray and fast, and how to develop a good character, but it also covers the affairs of this world such as creating a society and nation based on economic and social justice. The Hereafter is mentioned first because the aim of God’s guidance is to make us aware that there is a Hereafter when we will be judged for all that we did, and that what we do in this life is not just lost at the end and disappear. But in this life also, manifestations of the judgment of God upon human beings can be seen.
Towards the end of this chapter of the Quran, people are warned of a flaming fire. This is not only the fire of hell in the Hereafter but also the fire of greed and jealousy arising in one’s heart in this world. But it is said about this fire: “And away from it shall be kept the one who is most faithful to duty, who gives his wealth, purifying himself” (92:17–18). The purpose that a person must have before him, when giving his wealth to help others who are in need, is to purify himself. His aim should be to cleanse his own soul. By spending his wealth on others who are deprived, he learns to spend his money on good causes and not for the satisfaction of his own low desires or his excessive personal demands. Money is a symbol of material desires and by giving it he is sacrificing some of his material desires, thereby purifying his soul. It is stated here that a person who gives his wealth will only benefit if he does it to purify himself. If he does it for show purposes or to feel superior, this will not benefit him.
This chapter then goes on to say after the above verse: “And none has with him any favour for a reward, except the seeking of the pleasure of his Lord, the Most High” (92:19–20). The first half of this quotation has been given a couple of different meanings. One meaning is that the only favour you should seek as a reward from God, for your giving of wealth to the poor and the needy, is the feeling that you have done your duty as required by God and thereby earned His pleasure. In the Quran, in one of its last revealed chapters, it is said that the greatest of all things in paradise is that you have found and achieved the pleasure of God, وَ رِضۡوَانٌ مِّنَ اللّٰہِ اَکۡبَرُ (9:72). Another meaning given to these words, “And none has with him any favour for a reward”, is that he gives his wealth only for God’s pleasure and not to return some past favour he received from the recipient nor in expectation of a future favour from him.
May Allah enable us to follow the religion and dīn of doing good to other humans. — Ameen.