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Lesson - 32
"It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards
the East and the West, but righteous is the one who believes in
Allah, and the Last Day, and the angels and the Book and the prophets,
and gives away wealth out of love for Him to the near of kin and
the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask
and to set slaves free and keeps up prayer and pays the poor-rate;
and the performers of their promise when they make a promise, and
the patient in distress and affliction and in the time of conflict.
These are they who are truthful; and these are they who keep their
duty." Ch. 2:177
I have discussed about half of this blessed verse in my previous
two lessons. I request those who have not read these two lessons
to please do so, for I am unable to repeat their extensive subject
matter at this point. A summary of the discussion so far, is as
follows: The grandeur and glitter of material civilization, whether
in the east (as it was in the early ages), or in the West (where
every body is turning today) is superficial, and hollow from inside.
The truly genuine culture and civilization is based upon higher
moral values. These are acquired through belief in Allah, the angels
(who motivate man towards righteousness from within), the Day of
Judgment (so that man is conscious of the responsibility and accountability
of his actions), the Book of Allah (which presents right and wrong
in black and white), and the prophets who are the living models
of righteousness for mankind.
Quranic philosophy of wealth (continued
from previous lesson)
Life in this world requires sustained effort to earn wealth, and
the Holy Quran provides for spiritual development in the earning
and spending of wealth. In order to control greed and avarice while
earning wealth, the Holy Quran provides the following remedy. Wealth
should not be spent solely for the essential needs of oneís wife
and children, which is the basic animal instinct, but one should
rise above this level, and spend it on oneís relatives, the orphans,
and the needy. This develops the noble traits of compassion, and
mercy within man for his fellow beings. The various categories included
in this type of expenditure do not end here, and we will now cover
the rest of them.
Spending on the wayfarer
The Holy Quran enjoins us to assist the wayfarer with our wealth.
Some people question the practicality of this in the modern context.
However, in my opinion, the need for this injunction is more now
than ever before. The reason for this is that there is more domestic
and international travel today. In addition to this hotel rates
have gone up astronomically. Only millionaires, or those who travel
on their employersí expense account can afford such luxury. For
the ordinary person, staying in hotels has become very expensive.
To put up a guest in oneís house is, therefore an even greater act
of compassion today, than it was at any time in the past. Travelers,
at times also face difficulty in obtaining foreign exchange, and
may at times run short of cash, or their funds may get stolen. Helping
such a person does involve the risk that he may not repay when he
returns to his country. Despite this Allah enjoins us to help them.
If it is not returned, it would be considered as charity (sadqa)
on the donorís behalf. At times a person has to travel out of necessity,
but does not have the means to do so. To help such a person is an
act of great righteousness.
Helping the beggar
The Holy Quran also tells us to help the beggar. Beggars often
annoy us, especially when we cannot observe any overt signs of the
personís inability to earn. When the need of such a person is doubtful,
it is helpful to remember that Allah keeps giving us sustenance
even though we may not be in need of it. In order to follow the
Holy Prophetís (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) advise
of creating the moral characteristics of Allah within us, and to
act upon the Quranic teaching of imbuing ourselves with the coloring
of Allah, we should help the beggar despite having doubts about
his true need. The Hadith even goes so far as to say, that one should
help the beggar even though he may have come mounted on a horse.
Begging without a genuine need has, however been prohibited, but
this is something between Allah and the person who begs.
Helping the captive
In the end it is enjoined to render assistance to another class
of persons. The description of this class, if the Arabic is translated
literally is, Ďthose whose necks are held in captivity.í People
have interpreted this as the freeing of slaves. However, slavery
does not exist in the modern society, and a contemporary interpretation
can be the ransoming of prisonerís of war, and obtaining their freedom,
which is a great act of righteousness. There is, however a more
common situation which is akin to being in captivity, and that is
the bondage of debt. To pay off the debt of the indebted, and to
free them from its captivity is an act of great righteousness. Demanding
reimbursement for such payment diminishes the noble act of discharging
Prayer and obligatory charity
It is then stated that offering the obligatory prayers, and paying
the obligatory charity (zakat) are acts of great righteousness.
Both of these have been discussed at length in my commentary on
the first section of Al Baqarah, therefore I will not discus
these in detail here. Keeping up prayer, provided it is not a mere
ritual, creates a living faith in God, and purifies the inner self
of man and his actions. This is supported by the verse:
"Surely prayer keeps one away from evil and indecency"
Prayer nurtures the belief in the omnipresence of God. Who observes
him all the time, and is Aware of his inner thoughts. It is, therefore
enjoined to cleanse oneís inner self, and oneís actions through prayer,
and obligatory charity (zakat). Excessive love of wealth is
the greatest detriment for the soul. Zakat, which is obligatory,
and is usually a large sum, sacrifices the love of wealth, and extirpates
the idol of wealth from manís heart.
Keeping up of promises
The next great act of righteousness mentioned, is the keeping up
of promises. Promise can be a commitment of any kind. It could be
an agreement between a husband and a wife, between a master and
a servant, between businesses, an industrial contract, or a treaty
between two governments. Many husbands do not keep their promises.
Frequently we find servants and laborers not honoring their commitments.
They promise to come to work the next day, and do not show up. As
far as governments are concerned, they seldom honor their commitments
unless it is under some compulsion. They break promises whenever
it is inconvenient to keep the promise. This discussion would get
lengthy, otherwise I could quote many instances where the Holy Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) kept his promise despite
suffering loss, and extreme hardship. I would encourage the reader
to read his life history for this purpose.
Patience the greatest virtue
In the end of this list of acts of righteousness is mentioned:
"and the patient oneís (wus-saa-bireen),"
i.e., those who show patience in the circumstances that are mentioned
immediately after. Following the mode of expression used in the preceding
portion of this verse, the form of this Arabic word should have been
wus-saa-biroon. The grammatical form used, however used here
is, wus-saa-bireen. This is to stress the praise of the forthcoming
acts of righteousness i.e., to say that the virtues mentioned earlier
were great, but those to be discussed now are even greater. The "patient
in distress and affliction," i.e., those who exhibit patience
under difficult, or straitened circumstances in which they are even
without food to satisfy their hunger. This does not mean that one
should not make an effort to change oneís condition, or dispel hunger.
What it implies is that, if despite such an effort, one remains poverty
stricken then he should remain patient, and not resort to pilfering,
bribery and dishonesty. The majority of people in the world today,
are facing such circumstances. Thirty percent of the people, even
in a country like America, fall in this category and the cost of living
keeps going up everyday. Under these circumstances, it is an act of
great righteousness if a person does not get involved in bribery,
corruption and dishonest behavior, and patiently remains upright.
This is indeed a difficult task. Indigence, saves one from the accountability
of the Hereafter that the wealthy will have to face, and which according
to the Hadith, and the Holy Quran would be a very stringent one. The
fear of God, and honesty in poverty and hunger is undeniably a great
moral quality. Patience, which is a magnificent attribute of Allah,
is thus acquired by such a person.
"And the patient ... in affliction," is the next
category mentioned. These are those who show patience in illness
and suffering. This subject has also been discussed previously.
Illness, and suffering occur in accordance with the Divine law of
Measure (taqdeer). If despite treatment and supplication,
there is no relief, showing patience, and forbearance in face of
such adversity indicates a very high standard of morality.
"And the patient ... in the time of conflict," is
the last characteristic mentioned. People have generally understood
this to mean, during conflict with the enemy. Man, however, has
to face many hostile elements. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings
of Allah be upon him) has said:
"strive against your low desires like you strive
against your enemy."
Similarly one has to struggle against falsehood every moment to
stay with the truth. Conflict with the devil is also an ongoing
struggle, for he is persistent in trying to tempt mankind. Man may
have to face various other forms of tribulations, and must remain
steadfast through them.
Such people have been called the truthful (sadiq) for
their external actions become a reflection of their inner self,
and they manifest the truth of their beliefs by their actions and
practical example. This is the highest level of truthfulness. These
are they who keep their duty i.e., they guard against all evil,
and instigationís of the devil. Their soul and their actions become
purified, and this is the highest moral virtue.