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Day 8, Day 9 & Day 10 #Ramadan #Quran #Verseoftheday #Paradise #Charity #AngerManagement #Forgive #Chastity

– Day 8, Day 9 & Day 10
Forgive and be Forgiven  

And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a garden as wide as the heavens and earth, prepared for the righteous.

Those who spend [in the cause of Allah] during ease and hardship and who restrain anger and who pardon the people – and Allah loves the doers of good.

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And those who, when they commit immorality or wrong themselves, remember Allah and seek forgiveness for their sins – and who can forgive sins except Allah? and (who) do not persist in what they have done knowingly.

How beautiful is Islam, full of hope, for the door to forgiveness is always open till the last breath.

These verses from Surah Aal-e-Imran have multiple inter-related themes. Here I am, marveling at each verse and each word and each letter that is meaningful beyond comprehension. With gentle love and care, our Merciful Rabb shows us the path towards salvation, guiding us each step of the way, motivating us, telling us what to do.

The surface of the key subjects in these 3 verses can be at best barely touched upon as under:

  • Verse 133: Allah (swt) is using the word “Saa-ri-‘oo” – rush, hasten, run, compete towards Allah’s forgiveness. The word implies that we must not delay, for each moment is precious. Allah’s forgiveness is the only thing that can lead us to the unimaginable Paradise that He has lovingly prepared for the God-conscious. What fascinates me is the fact that the Quran recognizes that even the God-conscious or “Muttaqeen” who may eventually end up in Jannah with His Mercy, will make mistakes, but with effort and sincere intention to improve, they may attract Allah’s forgiveness. The people of Jannah are not perfect. But they accept their faults and strive to improve, and do good deeds that may wash away their sins. #Hope
  • Verse 134: SPEND – One of the sure shot ways to wash away your mistakes. And spending not conditionally only when you have lots to give, but spending in times of difficulty and financial restrain. Spending what we love. Spending even when we do not have a lot of “extra” to spend. Spend on those who live on earth, and He will forgive you and shower blessings on you from the heavens.
  • Verse 134: CONTROL ANGER – Anger in all its forms. Both inner and outer. Outer anger manifests itself as abuse, violence, taunts, sarcasm and harming the other. Inner anger manifests as grudges and ill feelings. The word “kaazimeen” is so apt – to suppress. Meaning the anger IS there, and in all probability is justified, and the person we are angry with may have hurt us or wronged us. Yet, true strength lies in controlling this negative emotion.
  • Verse 134: FORGIVE: Wow! So if we want Allah (swt) to forgive us, we have to forgive those who have harmed us. So many times, even if we are somehow able to suppress anger, the seething pain and the grudges towards those who have hurt us remain. They do not harm that person, mostly. These ill feelings damage the heart that is housing these ill feelings. Allah (swt) is telling us to let go of whatever it was. After all, if it is Allah (swt) on whom we have tawakkul (reliance), we have to trust that He Knows who hurt us and harmed us and scarred us. If we want to heal, this is the only path – forgetting may not be possible but forgiving (with a lot of hard work) is a possibility. So let go of that anger…..forgive…for inner peace. For Paradise will be home to those who have found inner peace 🙂
  • Verse 135: BEGGING FOR FORGIVENESS: Yes, even those who will eventually, InshaAllah, enter Paradise, make major mistakes and commit major sins….sins that come under immorality, indecency, and go against the command to guard their chastity. When they do so, they have wronged no one but themselves. The inner impressions such sins leave harm our soul, bit by bit. The verse addresses those who have harmed themselves. Recognizing that one has erred and accepting that it is we who harm ourselves is the first step towards forgiveness. When they ask Allah (swt) for forgiveness, Allah (swt) showers His forgiveness on His slaves. But the one condition this verse puts forth is this: Do not insist on repeating a sin when you realize it is a mistake. Strive and aim to ward it off, and ask Allah (swt) for the strength to be able to resist the temptations. And its beautiful when the verse says who can forgive but Allah (swt)? The piles and mountains of our sins can only find forgiveness in our Rabb, the Magnanimous and ever Merciful.

As the beautiful Hadeeth-e-Qudsi says:

On the authority of Anas, who said: I heard the messenger of Allah say:Allah the Almighty has said: “O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as its.” (Tirmidhi)

In this most special of months, let us forgive and beg Allah for forgiveness.

Just because you give your Zakat, is it ok to over-eat and over-spend?

Pakistanis open their wallets in Ramazan, but do they open their hearts?

http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/28440/pakistanis-open-their-wallets-in-ramazan-but-do-they-open-their-hearts/

Pakistani Muslim women shop for bangles at a market in Karachi ahead of Eid ul Fitr. PHOTO: AFP

Ramazan – the month of giving. As one of the world’s most charitable nations, and with the desire to earn an even higher reward than other months, Pakistanis open their hearts and wallets in Ramazan.

The same holds true for Muslims all over the world. This is heart-warming and wonderful, but with just one exception. Somehow, somewhere, we have made this “giving” a justification for extravagance, excessive spending, and consequent showing off. The common understanding is that if I am giving my prescribed percentage of Zakat, and also a bit of additional charity, it justifies any amount of money that I squander.

This, then, is a deeply flawed and worrisome understanding of the concept of charity. Charity, primarily, is meant to keep the flow of money going in society instead of allowing it to stagnate in a few hands and a few bank accounts. Instead, the economic divide is getting wider. Despite the affluent giving so much charity, the poor are literally dying of poverty. Clearly, we are missing a key part of this whole equation.

It is then no wonder that in Pakistan, the 18 million richest people’s total consumption is 1.5 times more than the poorest 72 million people. Studies show that among the four key signs of perpetuating poverty, the first is that the poor remain poor and the rich remain rich. There is no level playing field for everyone, despite our charities, and our overspending has something to do with it.

Imagine this. I get my domestic helper a decent dress for Eid worth Rs1,500 or more. And that, in my head, makes it okay for me to spend on up to three dresses for Eid, shoes and accessories amounting to Rs20,000 – more than 10 times of what I gave. In summers, even the middle class Pakistani woman will end up spending thousands on an average of sixsummer wear ensembles. Upper scale lawn dresses are known to cost even up to Rs7,000 or more each. But what she will give away as her summer charity is not the same quantity or quality.

While from among the upper-middle class, or those whom we can crudely call the rich, people with tender hearts give generously to the less privileged. Yet many of them will feel no guilt in spending even a thousand dollars on a handbag as a feel-good factor. Our weddings cost millions, resembling lavish fairy tales. Maintaining ourselves and our homes costs us exorbitantly. From our prayer beads to our cell phones, everything is opulent or “classy”. There is a resulting disconnect between people from different economic strata in Pakistan.

In Ramazan, instead of being reminded by the hunger pangs that a hungry child in Tharparkar goes through, we numb the few spiritual lessons we get with “all you can eat” deals. Sales lure us into buying separate designer clothes for taraweeh prayers, others for Eid prayers, and yet others for the family Eid dinner. The month, instead of being an intended exercise in self-control, becomes a festival of overabundance. What is left of the piety that we may have gained through worship is blown away within the three days of Eid. And throughout it all, we are telling ourselves that it is okay because we give so much charity.

To keep consumption of anything under check and balance is part of the ethics in any religion. In Christianity, the seven deadly sins are on the same page, gluttony being one of them, which is the over-consumption or obsession with food, and we see a lot of that in Ramazan, including related sins of greed, sloth, pride and envy.

Islam has not stopped us from eating or dressing well. It has not given us any prescribed limit beyond which we cannot spend. It has, however, given us a framework and examples from the lives of the Prophet (PBUH), his family and his companions as role models. Among them, there were men and women who were very poor. Others were extremely rich, and were known for the profuse amounts of charity they gave. What made them different from us, however, was that they exercised a degree of self-restrain when it came to spending. While they may have led comfortable lives, they were careful not to make evident the economic gulf between themselves and the less privileged. And to build those bridges, they did two things – they spent lesser on themselves than they could afford to, and they gave charity more than they needed to. In so doing, step by step, the gap lessened.

One may counter this idea by debating why we should be made to feel guilty if Allah (SWT) has given us more. That part is justified, and true, and if you look after your community and people around you, you may have done a part of your share. But looking at the bigger picture, let us exercise a little sensitivity when flaunting wealth. Ostentation and overspending willaffect others – both those who are on the lower tiers of the social pyramid, and also contemporaries who are silently competing. The rat race has and will continue to prove that prophetic tradition correct in which the Prophet (PBUH) expressed his fear that the biggest trial for his followers would be wealth. Even those strictly adhering to tenets of religion fall into this trap – they see use of intoxicants and promiscuous lifestyles as serious sins, but see over-spending, over-eating and flaunting of wealth as permissible.

In Pakistan, this causes deeper problems. Poverty, insecurity, economic frustration and jealousy are resulting in an angry and violent collective temperament. When they cannot get it by just means, they steal it, loot it and even resort to crime and violence. While this is not acceptable, this is a bitter reality. And somewhere, we are part of this equation and are indirectly responsible for it.

Considering that Ramazan is a good time for introspection, it might be good to try and aim for moderation in spending so that we may control the glaring economic disparity in our society.

Can I Give Charity to a Thief, a Prostitute or a Non-deserving Person During Ramadan?

 

By Farahnaz Zahidi

Published in Huff Post Religion on July 9, 2014

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/farahnaz-zahidi/can-i-give-charity-to-a-t_b_5553031.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

Pakistan is internationally known for many things. For the surge of extremism. For the footballs we supplied to the World Cup. For an often exaggerated emphasis on the “miseries” of its people. But it is lesser known for being one of the most charitable nations in the world. It is amazing how much the people of this country give and share. The sense of giving back to one’s community is deeply ingrained in our system. We give whether we are rich or poor. We share whether we ourselves have enough or not. If you are in Pakistan in Ramadan especially, on every signal you will be handed over boxes of dates and bottles of water. Outside homes, on sidewalks or in mosques, makeshift feasts await you. At a recent journalism moot in Mexico, a friend from South Africa nailed it when she said “I think it has a lot to do with how much Islam stresses charity.”

PAKISTAN-RELIGION-ISLAM-RAMADAN

This is true. We take the idea very seriously that charity washes away sins, wards off bad luck, wins us the pleasure of Allah and lands us in Paradise. In Ramadan, the reward, as per our belief, is multiplied into 70. So Ramadan is when all good causes like education, public health and food insecurity make enough money to last the next 11 months.

Yet, in the same country, I have witnessed communities waiting for hand-me-downs and food, with not a rupee of charity flowing towards them. The reason has been nothing but misplaced judgment.
More than once, my research as a journalist led me to the most infamous red light district in Pakistan. Heera Mandi, in Lahore, has since the time of Mughals housed courtesans, dancers and commercial sex workers. But time has been unkind to the people here. Today, most of them have moved away to better, more lucrative localities as escorts. What remains is a ghetto of very poor women, runaway or orphaned children and some scattered members of the marginalized transgender community. And no one wants to give charity to the people of Heera Mandi.

“We are dirty. We are in the filthy business. So no one gives us anything,” said a disgruntled 20 something sex worker when I visited. It was a Friday, the holy day of the week for Muslims. Incense burnt in her shoddy apartment to create an ambiance of purity. The woman had bathed and prayed that day. Ramadan was a few days away. “I wish someone would give me enough food or money that I can at least not have to do this work in Ramadan. I need a break, too to pray to God.”
On my return, I asked around if anyone wanted to donate for them. No one opted.

This attitude is not reserved for sex workers only, and not specific to Pakistan. Neither is this brand of judgment or ostracization specific to Muslims. A friend from Manchester shared that a project trying to collect donations for inmates in jails got a similar response. “They would say, ‘will our charity go towards feeding a killer or a thief?'”

For years, as both a student and teacher of Islamic Studies, I have wondered why we pass judgments on the ones we give charity to. Is their “good character” a pre-requisite to give them charity?

Thus, in giving, we place ourselves on a pedestal of piety. And this idea is not in synch with what the Qur’an endorses or what Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) practically did.

There is a prophetic tradition narrated in the Saheeh Bukhari that tells us that there was once a man who decided that that very night he would give charity. Accordingly, he set out with his charity and gave it to a thief. The next day people began to say, ‘Last night a thief was given charity!’ So the man supplicated, ‘O Allah, to You belongs all the praise. I shall give some more charity again.’

Once again he set off with his charity and gave it to a prostitute. The next day people began talking, ‘Last night charity was given to a prostitute.’ So the man supplicated again, ‘O Allah, I praise You for enabling me to give charity to even a prostitute; I will give some more charity yet again.’

He set out again with his charity and this time put it in the hands of a rich man. The next day the people talked again, ‘Last night charity was given to a rich man.’ The man supplicated, ‘O Allah, all praise is Yours, I thank you for enabling me to give charity to a thief, a prostitute and to a rich man.’
Then, in a vision he was told, ‘The charity you gave to the thief might persuade him to stop stealing; your charity to the prostitute might persuade her give up her way of life. As for the rich man, he might learn a lesson from your charitable giving and start to spend from the Bounty that Allah has given him in charity.’

In the Battle of Badr between Muslims and the pagans of Mecca, the Muslim camp won and ended up with 70 prisoners of the pagans. These were people thirsty for their blood. But the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) exhorted the Muslims to treat the prisoners well. So much stress was placed on showing compassion that the captors would give the captives their own bread, even at the risk of going hungry themselves.

What I have learnt from the life of the Prophet (pbuh) is simple. That when I give, I give, without judging whether that person is deserving and pious, or not. It is not my place to do that. It is only God’s right to judge. Because my Merciful Lord continues to give me, whether I am deserving or not.

Charity 101

I love the word “Zakat”. This Arabic word’s root shoots off many words that give a meaning of purification. The often used beautiful word “Tazkiyah” is from the same root word, which means purification of the soul. In the process of Tazkiyah (for Tazkiyah is a life-long journey, not a destination) we are advised to think of our heart and soul as a barren piece of land. We pull out the unwanted weeds and shrubs of hatred, rancor, arrogance, pride and selfishness, and we plant on this newly cleaned soil the seeds of good deeds and qualities like love, forgiveness, humility and generosity.

Zakat, the obligatory charity in Islam, precisely does that. It purifies our wealth as well as our souls.

In addition to this 2.5 % of obligatory charity we are strongly motivated to give more and more and more. For our own good. Because humans are a meaning-seeking species. We need to feel good about ourselves. Just like we have an inherent need to worship a Divine Being, we also have an inherent need to be beneficial to others, unless our souls get corrupted. The act of giving is beautiful. We end up getting more than we give. And the act of hoarding, or holding back, ironically, takes away a lot.

Today, as I came home after a fruitful and in-depth discussion pertaining to charity in an Islamic learning forum, so many thoughts about charity are overflowing in my head and heart. These are some practical tips and thoughts and things I have learnt over time, and I hope to practice. Whatever I forget, I would love for you to add in the form of comments.

So here goes:

  • Give for the sake of giving. For the seeking of the pleasure of Allah. Without expectation of thanks or gratitude. Without the expectation that now your maid will do your work more obediently and more readily. Without the expectation that the poor relatives that you are giving charity to will sing your praises or do your odd jobs. For when we give charity with the expectation of return, it is not really pure…..it is not really Zakat. It is being given for the sake of vanity, and not in the spirit of giving.
  • We usually are the closest to God when we are in pain or fear. A bad dream. An accident. An illness. Financial turmoil. All these make us “givers” overnight. Out comes the money and the food in charity. But as a hadith of The Prophet (saw) rightly points out, the best charity is that which you give not when the going gets tough but when it is all smooth. So give charity also in your happiest days. As a form of gratitude.
  • Charity should not be just money. It should include your time and effort. When God has given us enough, one of the easiest things is to hand over an envelope to someone. Very few of us take ownership of what we are spending our charity on. We sometimes sponsor a child’s education but do not even know the name of that child or her progress. Which is why then our charity has no soul….no human-centredness. It is important that we spent time and energy finding out where and on whom to spend charity. And use some physical labour as a form of charity. Zaynab bint Jahash (ra) wife of The Prophet (saw), a woman from a noble lineage, specially use to work at tanning leather and the money she earned, she gave away in charity. There is a certain joy in physically or mentally working at earning what you give in charity. Also, visit the people you give the charity to. See their lives. Share their insecurities. Tire yourself in the pursuit of the pleasure of Allah. The joy shall be multiplied, as will be the reward.
  • The forms of charity can be multiple. Ahadith tell us that even a smile is sadaqa. Helping someone lift a heavy load is sadaqa. Removing a harmful thing such as thorns (or plastic bags today) is sadqa. Every time, at a wedding reception, I see the carpet gathered in a way that someone might trip over it, I think to myself “Rasool Ullah (saw) would have straightened this, and this would be sadaqa”. Dropping off someone in your car is sadaqa. Offering someone your seat is sadaqa.
  • Talking of the word “sadaqa”, well, it is more than something that wards off evils and bad omens. It is anything that you do with “Sidq”…..with the truest intention……to please Allah. It can be obligatory Sadaqa like Zakaat, and it can be voluntary Sadaqa which you give in addition to your Zakaat. It is not just kaala bakra (Black sacrificial goat) and the meat trimmings on the roof for the vultures. It is any and everything you spend or do to make Allah happy.
  • The biggest loss and waste is when we DO give charity but we waste it away. We waste it by reminding the person we give it to of our favour Ehsaan jitaana…..kills the whole purpose doesn’t it? Or we show-off our charity. Or we do follow it with harsh behaviour towards the person we gave it to. If we do that, we are the biggest losers.
  • Start by giving charity in your closest circles. Look around for close relatives and people working for you. Special reward is mentioned for spending on those relatives who are never thankful, for they are a real test of our ego. Our ego holds us back from spending on people close to us. So spend on them, specially the rude or political ones. Even though you can see their true colours and even if they don’t deserve it, spend on them. For Allah spends on us and gives us even though we do not deserve all the blessings that He showers us with.
  • Involve your family and friends. Moms, specially, can do a great job at this. Encourage kids to give and share. Make your child give charity instead of you giving it yourself. Make sure your child and spouse and family see you giving, and let them participate in that. Let your kids give tiny bits out of their pocket money and share their doughnuts with street children. Families that collectively give more charity are happier families. And it is a great bonding experience.
  • Don’t just give food left overs and used clothes. Give, also, the best out of what God has given you. This helps lessen greed and increases reliance on Allah. And Allah, in some form, returns to you better than what you gave.
  • Give charity even when you are financially in a bit of a slump. Even small amounts and acts of charity are necessary for our self-esteem. Also, have faith. You will get it all back. Remember how Aisha (ra) gave away all her food in charity and Allah returned to her a meat platter by the evening.
  • DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT scold beggars, even if you decide to not give them anything. You do not have the right to be rude to them.
  • Be thankful, inwardly at least, to people who are needy. They are your gateway to heaven and are giving you easy chances at good deeds.
  • If you cannot give too much charity yourself, be a collector, a fund raiser. Spread goodness and aid good causes. Ahadith tell us that even the collector or storekeeper of the charity gets reward as if he spent that money in charity himself, and the donor’s reward is not decreased either. Allah is Ar-Rahman…..He is looking for excuses to forgive and reward us. Use those excuses.

Charity is something we do for ourselves, not for the poor and the needy only. We benefit from it in many ways. A society in which economic disparity is under check and money is not stagnant in the hands of a few rich people is a happier and less evil society, with less crime rates. On a personal level, our soul is nourished by giving charity, and Allah’s blessings shower upon us in unseen ways.

May Allah’s Blessings and Mercy be on all of us.