EIDUL Fitr is just around the corner with the month of Ramazan heading towards its final week. It is during this period that most Muslims throughout the world tend to give zakat, sadqaat (charity) and donations to the less fortunate in society.
Despite all its problems, one of the more redeemable aspects of Pakistani society is that people here tend to be very charitable. As the state has mostly abdicated its responsibility in various spheres, citizens often go out of their way to help others, creating a social safety net of sorts. Much of this can be attributed to the Islamic emphasis on charity and Ihsan (roughly translated as excellence, or striving to go the extra mile to help others).
And perhaps two illustrious figures from early Islamic history — Bibi Khadija-tul-Kubra, who passed away on the 10th of Ramazan, and Imam Hasan Al Mujtaba, who was born on the 15th of Ramazan — best illustrate how performing acts of charity can earn the pleasure of Allah and make the lives of fellow human beings easier for as it is stated in the Holy Quran, “Allah loves muhsineen” [those who do good] (2:195).
Ummul Momineen Bibi Khadija — the Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) first wife and the Mother of the Believers — is quoted in hadith to be amongst the best of women, along with Bibi Fatima Zehra, Bibi Asiya and Bibi Maryam. She was a strong, independent woman with a highly successful business at a time when the Arabs treated women in a subhuman manner.
The examples of Bibi Khadija and Imam Hasan must be followed.
Amongst her most remarkable traits was her charitable nature, as she provided unflinching support to her husband during the early days of his mission in the unforgiving milieu of a Makkah dominated by the polytheistic Quraish. Apart from spending all her wealth for the cause of Islam, she supported the Holy Prophet at an incredibly difficult time, creating an ideal atmosphere for him at home. As scholars narrate, if it were not for the wealth of Bibi Khadija and the sword of Hazrat Ali, Islam would have faced immense difficulties in its early phase.
In particular, Bibi Khadija’s support of the Banu Hashim during the Makkans’ three-year economic and social boycott of the Holy Prophet’s tribe is cited as a key moment by historians when the noble lady used her wealth and contacts to protect Islam at a critical juncture. In doing so, Ummul Momineen proved that along with being the ideal wife and mother, she played her due role and sacrificed all she had for the pleasure of Allah to support Muslims at a time of intense privation.
The other distinguished member of the Holy Prophet’s family who embodied the term Ihsan is Imam Hasan, the Messenger’s elder grandson. Imam Hasan indeed had the best upbringing, being the grandson of Rahmatal Lil Alameen (mercy to the worlds) while his parents were Hazrat Ali and Bibi Fatima Zehra. In fact in a tradition reported by Anas bin Malik, it is said that no one resembled the Holy Prophet more than Imam Hasan.
Imam Hasan’s charity and generosity were just like that of his noble grandparents and respected parents. He never turned away alms-seekers and in the words of Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, Imam Hasan’s house was a “veritable refuge” for the poor and destitute.
One major lesson for us from both of these luminous personalities is that though they gave away huge amounts of wealth, they never made a show of it, embodying the Quranic verse (76:9) that charity is purely for the pleasure of Allah, and not to earn accolades from humans.
Eid is close while the economic situation for many households is not good, mainly due to high inflation and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. In such circumstances, the examples of Bibi Khadija and Imam Hasan need to be followed. We must all do our part to help others in need, but without hurting their dignity and self-respect.
While most Pakistanis do give generously, we must ensure that funds reach those genuinely in need. We can start by looking around our neighbourhoods and families, to see if anyone needs a helping hand in these times of distress. Moreover, some charitable institutions are doing stellar work in providing food for the needy, as well as healthcare and education. The latter needs particular attention because according to one hadith ignorance has been equated with death, and knowledge with life.
While some organisations are doing great work by setting up soup kitchens to feed those who cannot make ends meet, more needs to be done to help people stand on their own feet. For example, those with means — individuals as well as charitable outfits — should focus on providing skills training to the needy so that they can become self-sufficient.
Compassion lies at the root of Islam, as Bibi Khadija and Imam Hasan have shown, and we would do well to emulate these sublime examples.
The writer is a member of staff.
Published in Dawn, April 30th, 2021