Helping the “Poor” –
And Other Disadvantaged People of the World –
Including the “Poor Muslim Kids” of India!
The Poor and the Disadvantaged of the World
There are all kinds of ways to help the so-called Poor People of the world. Not the least among them all those innocent little Muslim children in India whom the world has taken to calling the Poor Muslim Kids of India.
Charity is one way. And Charity is great.
And Islam is all about Charity. And Charity has been the way of the Muslims, even during some of their worst days.
And Charity – giving as they call it – is big among Muslims even in many parts of the Western world, such as England for example, where Muslims have settled in recent decades.
Charity, thus, seems to be one plank of Islam the Muslims have held on to, even as they battle adversity of all kinds wherever the Muslims are – each in his or her own way.
Charity or Sadaqah in Islam Is Most Inclusive and Open-Ended
Sadaqah is the technical expression in the Hadith – and in the Qur’an – that stands for Charity.
Charity or Sadaqah in Islam is most inclusive and it is as open-ended as it is possible for anything of this kind to be.
It is inclusive and open-ended in terms of the tools and techniques it uses; it is inclusive and open-ended in terms of the finances and resources it taps and opens up; and it is inclusive and open-ended in terms of the targets and recipients to whom the Sadaqah is channeled.
A Book of Spending or a Manual of Giving
Broadly defined, Sadaqah is spending one’s financial resources to help others.
And the Qur’an repeatedly asks people to do Sadaqah.
To spend, period!
That is how the Qur’an puts it.
If we read the Qur’an carefully, as everyone should, we would know that Qur’an, along with every amazing thing that it is, is preeminently a Book of Spending.
It is a Book of Sadaqah.
A Book of Infaaq, as it were.
Spend from all that “We have given you” is a familiar refrain in the pages of the Qur’an:
Wa Anfiqoo Mimmaa Razaqnaakum!
But Sadaqah in the Islamic lore has a much broader connotation than mere financial generosity and giving.
It covers all forms of sharing and includes the expending of all kinds of blessings, resources, energies, gifts, talents and skills one may possess – one may have been given and blessed with by God.
Your Possessions Are All a Gift from God
The assumption here is – (You can call it your belief or your Iman. But anyone of any background can consider it an assumption and proceed from there) – whatever we as human beings possess in this world, that is, our health, wealth, energy, talent, education, achievement, success, family, friendship and professional networks, is all a gift of Almighty God that he has so generously bestowed upon us
Using its unrivaled clarity and simplicity, the Qur’an calls it “Mimmaa Razaqnaakum,” meaning:
“From whatever we gave you and bestowed upon you.”
In the largely Christian tradition in the West, at least from the inception of the 16th Century on, the saying goes something like this:
“There, But for the Grace of God, Go I!”
Reacting to Those Less “Fortunate” than Us
This means, when we come across someone less privileged and less advantaged, and less seemingly blessed, than us, we stop and say – to God Almighty and to ourselves, and to the entire world:
Here is someone who is clearly less privileged and less fortunate than us.
Instead of insulting or belittling or ill-treating or taking advantage of such a person, we should look at ourselves and feel grateful for all that we have been given by God – which this person obviously has not been given.
We affirm and we understand that all that we possess is given to us by God. And what this person has been denied, and what this person is suffering from, is also from God.
We are deeply appreciative of what we have been given by God. And we are, at the same time, deeply empathetic at the condition of this person, whom we see before us, and how this person does not seem to have all the blessings of this world that we have.
And if God Almighty had wanted, our positions could have been easily reversed.
And that means we could have been in the place and condition of this “unfortunate” individual, and he or she could have been in the most “fortunate” and privileged and exalted social, financial and professional position in which we find ourselves today.
A Four-Hundred-Year-Old Western Saying Reflects the Hadith
That is what the Hadith teaches we should realize, and we should say, when we run into someone afflicted by a terrible condition – whether it is extreme poverty or disease or something else of that kind.
And that is a theme that the Qur’an also emphasizes over and over.
And that is also what the Western, largely Christian, world was at one time in the habit of realizing and saying:
There but for the Grace of God go I.
In practical terms, any amount of work that anyone does that helps the poor, the sick and the needy, is good work. It is much to be desired and much to be admired and applauded.
Looking at Charity with a Broader Perspective
It is all Charity – Sadaqah in Islamic parlance.
That means Charity is fantastic. And frankly Charity is the hallmark of any living, vibrant and socially and spiritually aware and dynamic community and nation.
It is the sign of a people that is going places.
What is also needed is Personal Engagement – beyond simple giving of money and financial resources. And, quite frequently, that is a most important kind of charity.
Those with Time on Their Hand: Teach These Kids What You Can –
And How You Can
Therefore, when it comes to helping the Poor Kids of India, for example, all people with “Time on Their Hand” should devote every moment they can “spare” to personally talking to the underprivileged kids in their communities and neighborhoods – and beyond.
They should teach those kids whatever they can, from math to languages to social and professional and technical skills, and play sports with them, and otherwise personally engage them, whether in conversation or in activities.
And this must be done at the most formal level such as for example by opening up schools and all kinds of educational institutions.
And, at the same time, it must also be done at the most informal level such as one-on-one personal engagement and group discussions and by opening up channels of all kinds of interpersonal communication and interaction.
And also, to the extent they can, they should also talk to the parents and other adults in the lives of these kids.
Purity of Motives, Choice of Common Sense Methods
Very soon, with the Grace of God Almighty, this will change the face of the community in which this kind of activity, and this kind of program, is introduced and sustained.
Provided all this is undertaken and carried out with the purest of motives and using simple, common-sense methods and approaches.
Motives are important, for, motivation is what drives and defines action in Islam. As the Hadith Sharif says:
Innamal A’amaalu Bin-Niyyaat!
Pure motives – things done purely for the sake of Allah and without the taint of selfishness such as name, fame, gain or advantage for oneself – trigger God Almighty’s blessings.
Questionable or mixed motives close the door to blessings and dry up productivity and success in actions that are generally labeled “Good Deeds.”
And Common Sense is Allah’s light in every heart. One way of looking at it is as Ma’roof.
It is what the West came to call the Reasonable Man Test – things most reasonable and generally disinterested people will agree that is how things should be done.
Education Is God’s Way to Change the World –
To Make His World Better for All of His Creation
So, if education and sharing of knowledge, and imparting of skills and training, is done using pure motives and simple rational techniques, it will eventually change and uplift the society – and the Ummah, and the entire world.
For, this is the way of God Almighty: using education to change the world.
It is not all that difficult to see that Islam is mostly about education. Given that Islam is from God, and given that Islam is about changing the world for the better, it has to be.
Place of Education and Knowledge – Ilm – in Islam
Consider the examples below.
- Qur’an, means “A Set of Readings” or “Something to Read” or “Something to Be Read.”
- The First Commandment of Islam from God in the Qur’an is “Read!”
When Allah created Adam, angels appear to have expressed doubt about Adam’s bona fides, and about the likely propensity of his children for strife and bloodshed.
Allah in response imparted all kinds of knowledge or Ilm to Adam which helped Adam to come out as a winner in this cosmic debate.
Wa Allama Adamal Asmaa-a Kullahaa!
That is how the Qur’an captures that moment.
“And then God taught Adam the names and properties of all things.”
Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, came into this world explicitly charged with the Mission of Teaching:
Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, Came as a Teacher
Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, says:
Innamaa Bu’ith-tu Mu’alliman!
“My mission in the world is to teach.”
“I was sent in this world to be a teacher.”
“I am charged to educate the world.”
Clear Superiority of Knowledge over Everything Else
Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, said:
“The difference between a person devoted to worship, and another person dedicated to knowledge and scholarship, is like the difference between me (meaning himself) and the least one among you.”
I don’t think this Hadith Sharif needs much of an explanation.
Except of course when Muslims, as is often their wont, take off, helter-skelter, in all kinds of meaningless, futile and often counter-productive directions.
For example, Muslims may say:
“Hey, wait a minute!
It all depends on what is meant by knowledge.
And by scholarship and education.”
“It depends on what Ilm means.”
What these Muslims mean by this is that a graduate of an Islamic Madrassah, in Pakistan, India, Arabia, Africa or some other place, with a traditional “Islamic” education and training, is the “scholar” meant here, and not a graduate, for example, of a Western University, even if that Western University happens to be an Ivy League institution – or a Harvard or a Berkeley or a Cambridge or an Oxford.
Wow! Mind-blowing stuff this!
A Supplication Unlike Any You May Have Ever Heard
Go, check out this Aayat – this most amazing supplication and this most powerful Du’a – coming to you courtesy of the Qur’an, presiding over the fate of the nations and peoples of this world, on this earth that is, over the past 1400 years.
That is right!
This passage of the Qur’an on this earth is more than 1400 years old. And there are few things in this world that could be considered more profound or more revolutionary or more geared to changing, building and reforming this world.
And that passage of the Qur’an is:
Rabbi Zidnee Ilmaa!
“O my master!
Give me more Ilm and more knowledge, and better and clearer understanding every day and every moment of my life!”
How the Qur’an Defines the Concept of Ilm
The Qur’an, however, makes the concept of Ilm perfectly clear. It gives us almost a formal definition of what Ilm is.
And the Qur’an does so somewhat differently from how some of these clueless Muslims would do it.
The Qur’an defines scholarship and education and knowledge (Ilm) in the simplest and yet in the most profound and comprehensive terms.
The following Aayats of the Qur’an – passages, not “verses” as Muslims call them – don’t leave much room for doubt:
Allama Bil Qalam:
Ilm is whatever can be learned or imparted using the instrumentality of any technical device such as a “pen.”
As for the content of that knowledge and education, it is “Whatever You Did Not Know Before.”
Allamal Insaana Maa Lam Ya’lam!
“God Almighty Taught human beings all that they did not know before.”
This is basically a kind of what some people may call an Entropy Reduction Definition of Ilm or Knowledge and Scholarship.
What it seems to indicate is:
Just expand, and push wider, the borders of what is known. And, thus, reduce and make smaller the present area of your ignorance and uncertainty of information and understanding – of what you do not at this moment and in this particular time and place happen to know or understand.
Ilm – Our Knowledge:
A Function of Our Unique Space-Time Coordinates
For, Ilm is often a function of space-time coordinates. All human knowledge is that way.
As a result, all human Ilm is by its very nature deficient and limited and contingent and incomplete.
Only Allah’s Ilm is complete and absolute and unconditional.
That means we often know and understand things based on where and when we are – in what particular part of the world; in what cultural location; and in what century or year or time period.
And our knowledge and understanding come to us modulated through the tools and technologies we are able to press into service in any given place or time period.
We can see that there can be no better or more useful definition of Knowledge or Ilm than this.
And Ilm is, from that point of view, content neutral. Meaning: it does not matter what it is that is being taught and learned. It is all subsumed by the term Ilm.
Adam Was Taught about All Things
Adam, upon creation, was imparted the knowledge – Ilm – of “all things.” No exceptions of any kind were made.
Wa Allama Adamal Asmaa-a Kullahaa!
“And God Almighty imparted to Adam the Ilm – knowledge and understanding – of the names and properties of ALL THINGS.”
The supplication – the Du’a – from the Qur’an we just cited above also does not specify what kind or category of Ilm we are talking about. It is perfectly content neutral – and open and inclusive.
And here it is again:
Rabbi Zidnee Ilmaa!
Knowledge has Correlates and Consequences –
And Ilm Is the Difference between Success and Failure on God’s Earth
Even though everything you learn (new or old) may have consequences and correlations and corollaries, positive as well as negative and neutral, and even though some of what you learn will fall under the rubric of Good while some other will be regarded as Bad, yet at the most basic level, Ilm is Ilm and Knowledge is knowledge.
And that is where it stops.
And Ilm, in its most comprehensive sense, as the sum total of any and all negatives and positives that may be associated with it, or attributed to it, is what makes a difference in human life – both in terms of its quality as well as in terms of its direction and outcome.
The world cannot improve upon this basic model of Ilm in the Qur’an.
And Ilm, as I said before, is what distinguishes between success and failure in this world of Allah.
The Most Revolutionary and Inclusive Concept of Al-Insaan –
The Human Being.
And It Does Not Mean “Mankind.”
And, clearly, and in a most profound and revolutionary way, the expression “Human Beings” includes men as well as women.
For, the expression “Mankind” did not come from Islam. The expression “Human Being” did.
So the expression of the Qur’an, Al-Insaan, does not mean “Mankind,” as probably most translators say, including perhaps many Muslims.
So, education, it seems fair to conclude, is the difference in this world between winners and losers.
And Islam is on the winning side – always. For, Islam did not come into this world to lose or to preside over the destiny of a nation of losers.
And don’t forget that when all is said and done, as they say, Islam is about education.
It has to be.