The Etiquette of Generosity and Almsgiving
By: Ayatullah al-Uzma Shaykh Husayn Vahid Khorasani
Islam has suggested some etiquette for giving charity. An example is to give charity secretly and not announce it,35 to safeguard the honour of a believer and the reputation of a needy. One should think of the charity as less, even if it is a large sum.36 One should know that the one taking the charity is superior to it,37 no matter how great the charity may be. One should not oblige anyone with his charity.38
In fact, one should understand that the needy has obliged him, because it is he who has become the cause of the purification of his wealth and heart. One should give charity to the deserving before he asks. Al-Sadiq (as) has said: The goodness is to give without asking. When a person gives because he has been asked then that is due to saving your face.39
One should hide himself from the needy so that the needy person does not feel embarrassed. One should ask the needy to pray for him. One should kiss his own hand after giving charity, because apparently the one taking the charity is the needy, but in reality the one taking it is Allah, the Mighty and High, as Allah says: Do they not know that Allah accepts repentance from His servants and takes the alms.40
Generosity, Sacrifice and the Levels of Perfection
Islam has conferred such a high status for granting to the needy that it is as opening the door of sacrifice. Allah, the Exalted, says: And prefer (them) before themselves though poverty may afflict them,41
while it has made sacrifice the utmost of the levels of perfections. Thus, the Exalted describes the holy ones, may blessings of Allah be upon them: And they give food out of love for Him to the poor and the orphan and the captive: We only feed you for Allah's sake; we desire from you neither reward nor thanks.42
The Social Effects of Generosity
What has been mentioned is only a fraction of the philosophy of legislating alms-tax and charity in Islam. This holy law purifies the souls of the rich from the filth and rust of miserliness and greed. It also purifies their wealth from the rights of the poor, which is like their blood. This way the rich are not afflicted with squeezing the blood of the poor, and the poor with lack of blood. It strengthens the relationship between the upper class and the lower class. It transforms their relationship from hatred to like and reduces the gap between these two classes that make up society.
It is a law that fulfils the needs of the poor, in the shadow of protecting their honour and putting out the fire of jealousy of the poor with the water of the mercy of generosity. Generosity, which encompasses alms-tax and voluntary charity, is to safeguard the wealth of the rich, which is like the blood in the veins of society. It protects the economic system. Hence, the Commander of the Faithful ‘Ali (as) describes alms-tax as a fortress for the wealth of the rich; he (as) said: Fortify your wealth with alms-tax.43
Will the roots of material and spiritual poverty not be cut from society with the implementation of this programme of granting from the rich their wealth and the learned their knowledge?
35. Al-Kafi: vol. 4, pp 7 & 24.
36. Man la Yahduruhu al-Faqih: vol. 2, pp 31, hadith no. 12.
37. Al-Khisal: pp 619.
38. Al-Kafi: vol. 4, pp 22.
39. Al-Kafi: vol. 4, pp 23.
40. Holy Qur’an, 9: 104; Wasa’il al-Shi’ah: vol. 9, pp 433.
41. Holy Qur’an, 59: 9.
42. Holy Qur’an, 76: 8-9.
43. Nahj al-Balagha: Saying no. 146.