Delivered on 29 June 2016 by Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town
Verse 67 says:
وَالَّذِينَ إِذَا أَنفَقُوا لَمْ يُسْرِفُوا وَلَمْ يَقْتُرُوا وَكَانَ بَيْنَ ذَلِكَ قَوَامًا
“And those who when they spend, are neither extravagant nor niggardly, and are stationed between the two (extremes).”
This verse is speaking about an attribute of the Servants of Rahman relating to “infaaq”. This is generally translated as “spending”. But not all spending amounts to infaaq. Spending for the purpose of charity for the pleasure of Allah is called “infaaq”.
The quality of “infaaq” is there by default this quality of “spending” itself is not highlighted as their hallmark.
But this verse speaks about the quality of their spending for the pleasure of Allah which is so distinct and that is that they are balanced in their approach.
The quality of being balanced is referred to in virtually everything in life and we thus see that the Quran supports the idea of following the “Middle Path” and this Ummah is called the Ummah who take the Middle Path or the path of moderation.
Thus Surah Baqarah Verse 143 (and similar other verses in the Quran) says:
وَكَذَلِكَ جَعَلْنَاكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطًا
“And thus have We made you an Ummat of the middle way”
NO EXTRAVAGANCE IN SPENDING
Infaaq is a virtue by itself but even in this virtue we should not be excessive!
The Servants of Rahman are not extravagant or wasteful in their spending.
Imam Ali (a.s) says “one of the signs of an ignorant person is that he is either of 2 extremes”.
And we have many examples of extremists today who end up committing the worst crimes against humanity.
Thus we see that in religion, being extravagant in spending is condemned and the Prophet (sawa) was very sensitive about wasting.
Take the issue of water security or food security and compare it to the culture of Ahlul Bait (a.s).
Even when drinking a glass of water, the Ahlul Bait (a.s) would not throw away the water that was not consumed but keep it for later. They would consider throwing the remainder away as being “israaf” or extravagance.
Even in taking wudu (which is a prerequisite for salaah) there is israaf if you use too much water!
If the world is careful about wastage, then there will not be any hunger or thirst in the world at all. This is because there is sufficient resources available in the world for everyone to live off.
But the culture of consumerism is not an Islamic culture but a Western culture of over indulgence and consequent wastage.
Someone by the name of Abbas asked Imam Rida (a.s) what is the correct method of consumption at home in terms of lifestyle.
He answered that “your consumption should be in between two extremes.”
It is reported that Imam Khomeini was very sensitive with regards to being wasteful. He even used to cut a tissue paper in half when using it. And he would even cut an A4 page into smaller pieces and not throw away the unused portions.
Today almost all big companies have a footnote in their emails requesting that we don’t print the email so that we cut down less trees to protect the environment.
This culture of not being wasteful needs to be entrenched in our mosques, Islamic centres and madressas. In all honesty, we are very wasteful even at the dinner table when we dish far more food that we can consume.
NO STINGINESS IN SPENDING
The other extreme of being stingy is also not acceptable – to not spend on your family and provide them with good facilities to live in.
One of the virtues and success of a man is to provide his family with a good house, car, clothing and food, etc.
Someone asked Imam Saadiq (a.s) about the meaning of spending too little or too much.
So the Imam took a hand of pebbles and held it tight and did not let one pebble fall out of his hand and said this reflects being stingy.
Then he opened is hand completely and let all the pebbles fall out and he said that this represents being extravagance.
Then he picked up the pebbles again and opened his hand half partially wherein some pebbles fell out while the balance remained in his hand and said this reflects the Middle Way.
MODERATION IN CHARITY
While charity is a great ibaadah due to its positive effects of building social cohesion, it still remains necessary to approach this important institution in moderation.
Abu Lubaba is a famous Sahabi who on one occasion committed treason by leaking sensitive information about the Muslims to the non Muslims who were enemies of the Prophet (sawa). After this he is known to have made sincere tawba by tying himself to a pillar in Masjidun Nabawi and said he will remain tied up until Allah accepts his tawba is accepted.
A few days later, Jibraeel (a.s) brought the revelation of a verse in the Quran which confirmed that his tawba was accepted.
Until today, when we visit Madina, we still make 2 rakaats salaah next to this pillar of Tawba of Abu Lubaba.
Now this sahabi, whose memory became immortalized due to his sincere repentance, wanted to follow up his repentance with compensation by giving away everything for the Pleasure of Allah or at least half of his assets.
The Prophet (sawa) did not allow him to do that and said that he needs to take care of his family, else they would suffer if he had nothing remaining. So the Prophet (sawa) allowed him to give one third of his assets and he keep the remainder.
There is also the incident of a Muslim man who died and bequeathed everything in his estate for the Pleasure of Allah. When the Prophet (sawa) subsequently came to know about this, he was very upset and said that if he had known about this before the man was buried, then he would not have buried him in the graveyard of Muslims!
Thus it is very necessary to be moderate when giving charity too.