Getting to Know Allah

Allah's Charity Is Not All It Seems

Getting to Know AllahCharity (Zakat) is the only one of the Five Pillars of Islam that has nothing, or next to nothing to do with worshipping Allah, except in an indirect sort way.

Allah does not expect His proudest creation to do the right thing unless a reward is in the offing. Altruism, in the Koran, is never assumed, even where charity is concerned; expect something in return from Allah for spending for His Sake, whether it be to expand His Kingdom on earth or to help a wayfarer.

2:272 You (Muhammad) are not responsible for guiding them. Allah guides whom He wills. And whatever good you spend is for yourselves; for you do not spend except for Allah’s Sake. And whatever you spend will yield good returns (it will be fully rewarded). And you shall not be wronged.

Cynics might argue that Allah instinctively appreciated the strategic value of helping people in need in recruiting for His Cause. An understanding of the persuasive power of giving that was not lost on the Islamists who, during the catastrophic flooding in Pakistan in 2010 disrupted aid from Western Countries while facilitating the distribution of the inadequate contributions from Islamic regimes; or in Somalia where Allah’s militants stopped food shipments from Western nations from reaching famine ravaged portions of the country.

2:262 Those who spend their wealth in the Way of Allah, and then do not follow what they spend with taunts and injury, their reward is with their Lord. They shall have nothing to fear and shall not grieve.

I must admit to being somewhat perplexed by Allah associating charity with injury, unless it is the obligatory Zakat which many may have resented. You could not avoid paying it if you did not want the Prophet’s, and later the Caliph’s troops, showing up at your door, thereby elevating charitable donations to the equivalent of protection money.

There are only a few accounts of God's Messenger sending troops to collect Allah's Share of the wealth He has showered on the believers, the Prophet preferring putting the fear of God in recalcitrant charity givers.

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah's Apostle said, "On the Day of Resurrection the Kanz (Treasure or wealth of which, Zakat has not been paid) of anyone of you will appear in the shape of a huge bald headed poisonous male snake and its owner will run away from it, but it will follow him and say, 'I am your Kanz.'"

The Prophet added, "By Allah, that snake will keep on following him until he stretches out his hand and let the snake swallow it."

Allah's Apostle added, "If the owner of camels does not pay their Zakat, then, on the Day of Resurrection those camels will come to him and will strike his face with their hooves ..."

Bukhari 86.89

What is there to forgive?

2:263 A kind word and forgiveness are better than charity followed by injury. Allah is Self-Sufficient and Forbearing.

How not to do charity.

2:267 O believers, spend (as charity) of the good things you have earned and from what We bring out of the earth for you. Do not turn to the vile and spend from it. For you, yourselves, would not accept it except indulgently. Know that Allah is Self-Sufficient, Praiseworthy.

M. Pickthall is clearer on the concept.

2:267 O ye who believe! Spend of the good things which ye have earned, and of that which We bring forth from the earth for you, and seek not the bad (with intent) to spend thereof (in charity) when ye would not take it for yourselves save with disdain; and know that Allah is Absolute, Owner of Praise.

Private vs. Public Charity

Charity is charity, the more the better. A rich man making a public donation usually encourages other wealthy individuals to do the same, and therefore it is considered a good thing by most people. This begs the questions as to why Allah condemns those who don’t keep their donations secret.

2:270 And whatever expense you spend and whatever vow you vow are known to Allah. The evil-doers shall have no supporters.

2:271 To give alms publically is commendable; but to keep it secret and give it to the poor is better for you, and will atone for some of your sins. Allah has knowledge of what you do.

Is Allah, perhaps inadvertently, by his condemnation of public alms in revelation 2:271, making it easier for the rich to say they have given in private when they have done no such thing? Then again, in another reveal truth, He expresses no qualms about public donations.

2:274 Those who spend their wealth day and night, in private and in public, will be rewarded by their Lord. They have nothing to fear and they shall not grieve.

Alms were part of the war effort, and those most entitled to your charitable donations in this regard were the poor fighting to extend Allah's Dominion.

2:273 [Alms is] for the poor who are held up [fighting] in the Way of Allah, and thus cannot travel in the land. The ignorant think they are rich because they are too proud [to beg]. But you can recognize them by their mark. They do not importune people for alms. Whatever good you spend is known to Allah.

You will not be reprieved to perform charity after you are dead. Allah does not grant reprieves.

63:10 Spend freely from what We have provided for you, before death overtakes each one of you. Then he will say: “Lord, if only you would reprieve me for a short period, so that I may give in charity and be one of the righteous.”

63:11 Allah will not reprieve a single soul when its term comes. Allah is Fully Aware of what you do.