A FRIEND OF MINE who studied in Egypt with me is incredibly blessed with wealth, health and a beautiful little family, mâshâ’Allah. She recognizes Allah has blessed her life over and over again. I asked her to share with me her secret. And her answer, dear reader, will, Inshâ’Allah, change your life as it has mine.
Here is what she shared:
When I was living in Egypt, I would be approached by women who would beg for money. Their infants usually in their arms and their toddlers following closely, I learned very quickly that if I gave a little, an entire group of new women would find me and follow me, sometimes for blocks, asking me to give them more. I didn’t know how to deal with this and had never experienced anything like it in America.
So finally, one day, when a new woman was asking me, I turned to her, looked her in the eye, and I introduced myself. And I asked her for her own name. Then I asked her kids’ names. And I asked their ages and I started playing with them. And the woman suddenly became embarrassed of what she was asking of me and she walked away. But I didn’t forget her. And the next time I saw her, when she was with another group of women, I stopped by and greeted her and I greeted the women with her and got their names and met their kids. And over time, when I passed by, the children would run up to greet me. And if I did have some money I tried to give, the women would be uncomfortable. They almost shied away from accepting it. Now that I knew them as people, instead of as the ‘beggars’ others would immediately ignore or shoo away, they were embarrassed of their poverty. Sometimes they would be shy to accept it but they would always say, “We’re praying for you!”
And after a few months, something amazing happened in my life. And I was shocked and couldn’t understand why I would be blessed with something this good. And those same women would stop me and ask, “Did it happen yet?” And I, confused, wondered what they were referring to. “We’ve been praying for you. Did what we pray for happen?”
And it had. It had been that very amazing thing I had been shocked to find in my life. The one I knew I didn’t deserve and couldn’t understand where it could possibly come from. It came, I think, from the prayers of these women. And once I got it, they started praying for something new.
I watched them follow other people who would avert their eyes while these women said: “Give me something, give me something,” and sometimes after they had been given something with a smile, “Give me more.” I watched as people ignored them. I watched as people gave them disdainfully, almost as if they were trying to get rid of them and doing some great favor by giving to them in the first place. In one case, I watched while a man yelled at a woman and she sat and cried and said, “I never wanted this life. I have two kids, what do I do?” I tried to intervene, but he yelled at me and left.
But these women never asked of me again. And I think it’s because I stopped seeing their circumstance and saw their humanity. And I think that’s also the reason they stopped asking something from me, as well.
What I got in my life from their prayers is more valuable than all the wealth in the world.
Maryam,” she urged me as she finished her reflection on where her life’s blessings came from, “It’s not just about giving charity. Don’t just try to give money. Even when you donate online, don’t just see it as a dollar amount. Imagine the people. Imagine their faces. Pray for the people. Don’t just give your wealth. More importantly, give your heart.
We are often taught that charity is a means of helping another person who is in need. But have we ever realized that charity is just as much about us? About protecting us? About receiving blessings in our own lives?
Charity is not about other people, alone. When we give, it is our own lives that are transformed.
Islam on Charity
We’re encouraged to give in charity for our own blessings and protection in this life and the next.
The Prophet ﷺ taught us:
The believer’s shade on the Day of Resurrection will be his charity. (Tirmidhi)
And he ﷺ urged:
Give in charity without delay, for it stands in the way of calamity. (Tirmidhi)
The Prophet ﷺ told us:
Allah said: “Spend, O son of Adam, and I shall spend on you.” (Bukhari)
But remember my friend’s advice: the core of the issue is not about giving in monetary sustenance. It’s about sharing a piece of your heart with the heart of another.
This is a similar directive in the Quran, which encourages us to give with no strings attached:
Those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah and do not follow up their spending by stressing their benevolence and causing hurt, will find their reward secure with their Lord. They have no cause for fear and grief. To speak a kind word and to forgive people’s faults is better than charity followed by hurt. Allah is All-Sufficient, All-Forbearing. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:262-263]
Ways You Can Give Charity
Sometimes, we make statements like: “If only I were a millionaire! I would spend so much for the sake of Allah!” In reality, we are all millionaires in different ways! We do not need to amass a great amount of wealth in order to be of those who gain the blessings of charity. We can give from what we already have.
Do you know a student trying to pay tuition without taking out an interest-based loan? What about someone who just had a baby and is struggling with the unexpected costs? What about someone who needs surgery and who needs to raise money in addition to the little the insurance is covering?
Offer them open-ended financial support. This may be something as small as $50.00 or as large as $50,000. But when you give this loan, make a personal mental note that you’ll be lenient about the return of the money. If you can afford it, be comfortable with the possibility that you may not see it returned in the near future. This could make you eligible to be amongst those who the Prophet ﷺ said:
If anyone would like Allah to save him/her from the hardships of the Day of Resurrection, he/she should give more time to his debtor who is short of money, or remit his/her debt altogether. (Muslim)
Do you have a backyard? What about a tiny little porch in which you can put out a potted plant? Can you can plant in a plot provided by the city?
The Prophet ﷺ taught us:
If any Muslim plants something or sows seed from which a person, a bird or an animal eats, it counts as a charity for him/her. (Bukhari)
Do you have extra clothing? Every time you buy something new, instead of needing to buy new hangers or pushing aside your clothes to make room in your closet, look through clothing you have had for some time and have not worn. If you have an extra piece of clothing, donate it to a clothing drive!
The Prophet ﷺ taught us:
Any Muslim who gives a Muslim a garment to wear will be in Allah’s safekeeping as long as a shred of it remains on him/her. (Ahmad)
Have you ever seen something on the sidewalk that could harm a person riding on their bike? What about plastic that could cause an animal to choke?
And taught us:
…And removing a harmful thing from the path is a charitable act. (Bukhari)
What if you don’t have any money to give, nowhere to plant something, no extra clothing and no dirty paths to clear? Where is your charity?
The Prophet ﷺ gives you glad tidings!
…A good word is a charitable act. Every step you take toward the prayer is a charitable act… (Bukhari)
And finally, smiling at your children, smiling at your parents, smiling at your spouse—in all of this can be charity as the Prophet ﷺ taught us:
And your smiling in the face of your brother is charity… (Tirmithi)
This Ramadan, as you donate online or give to a person standing on the street, as you smile at another or as you plant a seed, remember that you’re investing in your own life in this world, and in the Hereafter.
In the words of Ibn Al-Qayyim:
Perhaps you might be asleep while the doors of the Heaven is knocking with tens of supplications for you by a poor person you aided or a sad person you made happy or a distressed person you brought relief to. Therefore, do not at all underestimate doing good.