Precedence to Charity in Islam
By: Ayatullah Shaheed Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim
The fourth aspect of kindness and favor is that a believer must precede others in doing acts of kindness and deeds of favor. This precedence in charity can be attained when man takes the initiative in doing kind acts and favors to people, while its highest rank is achieved when man does favors to those who maltreat, wrong, or rupture relations with him. This sort of kindness is expressed as rewarding evil with good. In conclusion, there are two levels of precedence to charity. The first is to take the initiative to doing acts of kindness and the second is to reward evil with good.
Spending and Kind Acts
To spend on one’s friends, brothers-in-faith, and Muslims in general, be it by way of charity or gift, is regarded as one of the financial acts of kindness to be practiced as a recommendation. In the word of Imam ‘Ali (‘a), such deeds protect against shameful death.¯261¯ Much emphasis has been laid by the Holy Qur'an on spending. For instance, Almighty Allah says, By no means shall you attain righteousness unless you give freely of that which you love. (3:92)
Many other traditions, reported from the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), have highlighted the recommendation, significance, and results of giving alms and doing charitable acts. For instance, the Holy Imams (‘a) are reported to have said: Almsgiving helps in settling the debts and increases blessing.
Almsgiving dispels bad death.
Charity and almsgiving drive out poverty and extend the span of life.
For one act of charity, Almighty Allah rewards ten to one hundred thousand fold and even more.
Increase sustenance by means of almsgiving.
Alms do not reach the hand of the beggar before falling in the Hand of the All-majestic Lord.
The land of the Resurrection is entirely fire, except the shade of the faithful believers, because their alms shall cast a shadow over them.
Almsgiving is protection against Hellfire.
Cure your patients with alms.
The faith of any servant (of Almighty Allah) does not attain perfection before he or she enjoys four features: (1) good manners, (2) generosity, (3) abstinence from extra speech, and (4) over-spending of money.¯1
Owing to the importance of this topic, the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) have treated its various aspects and manners in detail through many traditions that can be referred to in books of traditions. They have also highlighted the following instructions:
1. The only intention of almsgiving must be to seek nearness to Almighty Allah.
2. It is necessary to give alms, be it little or much.
3. Avoid rejecting any beggar.
4. Initiate giving secret alms.
5. Give alms on certain times.
6. Almsgiving precedes being rewarded, compared to other recommended acts of worship.
7. Treat all creatures, including animals with charity—yet in different ways.
8. It is more favorable to give alms to relatives.¯2
Public charity and spending occupy a major portion in the traditions of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a).
In this regard, Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is reported to have said: A reason for the perpetuation of Muslims and Islam is that the funds are kept in the hands of people who have full awareness of their duties towards these funds and who do favors and acts of kindness. However, a reason for the extinction of Muslims and Islam is that funds are placed in the hands of those who neither have acquaintance of their duties towards these funds nor do they do any act of kindness.¯3
Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is also reported to have quoted the Holy Prophet (S) as saying: Every act of kindness is alms.¯4
Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is also reported to have said: A kind act is different from zakat. Therefore, seek nearness to Almighty Allah by means of charity and building good relations with relatives.¯5
Imam al-Baqir (‘a) is reported to have said: Doing favors protects against violent death. Secret almsgiving extinguishes the ire of the Lord. Regard of relatives prolongs the span of life. Every favor is charity. People of charity in this world will also be the people of charity in the world to come. Similarly, people of evil in this world will be the people of evil in the world to come. People of charity will be the first to enter Paradise and people of evil will be the first to enter Hellfire.¯6
Abu-Basir has reported that his companions and he mentioned something about the wealthy Shi’ah in the presence of Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) who, as if he did not like what he had heard about them, said: O Abu-Muhammad, when a faithful believer is wealthy, seeking good relations with others, being merciful, and doing favors to his companions, then Almighty Allah will reward him two fold as compensation for the charity he has shown towards others. This is because Almighty Allah says in His Book: “It is not your wealth nor your sons that will bring you nearer to Us in degree, but only those who believe and act righteously; these are the ones for whom there is a multiplied reward for their deeds while secure they reside in the dwellings on high. (34:37)”¯7
Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is reported to have said: Any faithful believer does a favor to his brother-in-faith has in fact done it to the Messenger of Allah (S).¯8
Holding Public Banquets
Another feature of taking the lead to charity is to invite people to public banquets and to serve people with food. For the importance of such banquets, Islam has made them part of religious activities and penances. For instance, the penance of violating certain religious obligations is to feed a certain number of people or to serve them with food. Islam has also recommended Muslims to invite people to public banquets on social ceremonies, such as marriage, return from a journey, and the like.
Several traditions that are reported from the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) have mentioned the merit and significance of this act. For instance, Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is reported through a valid chain of authority to have said: Good manners and serving food to people are signs of true faith.9
According to another tradition, Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is reported to have said: To serve people with food, offer salutations, and offer prayers at night while others are asleep are within the redeeming things.¯1¯0
Through a valid chain of authority too, Imam al-Baqir (‘a) is reported to have said: Indeed, Almighty Allah loves slaughtering animals (for providing people with meat) and offering food to people.¯12
According to another validly reported tradition, Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) reported his father (‘a) to have quoted the Holy Prophet (S) as saying: Sustenance is swifter to him who serves people with food than a knife to a hump.¯13¯
Advancing Money to Brothers-in-Faith
The third feature of taking the lead to charity is to lend money to the brothers-in-faith to satisfy their needs and save them from being humbled, render them relief, and put an end to their adversities. The Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) are reported to have urged this sort of kind act, preferred it to giving alms, and matched it to ritual prayers and fasting.
Through a valid chain of authority too, Shaykh al-Kulayni has quoted Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) as saying: On the gate of Paradise, the following is inscribed: alms are rewarded tenfold and a loan eighteen.¯14¯
According to the report of Shaykh al-Saduq, the Holy Prophet (S) has said: Alms are rewarded tenfold, a loan eighteen, regard of relations with brothers-in-faith twenty, and regard of relations with the relatives twenty-four.¯15¯
According to another report of Shaykh al-Kulayni, ‘Uqbah ibn Khalid has reported that ‘Uthman ibn ‘Imran said to Imam al-Sadiq (‘a), “I am a wealthy man and if some people come to me begging, but it might not be the time of defraying the zakat. What should I do?”
The Imam (‘a) replied, To us, a loan is rewarded eighteen folds and all alms ten. What will harm you if you, claiming being wealthy, give him? When the time of defraying the zakat comes, you can reduce this amount from it. O ‘Uthman, never reject a beggar, because it is considered most grievous in the view of Almighty Allah.¯16¯
Dutifulness to Believers
The fourth feature of taking the lead in charity is to treat the faithful believers dutifully, to give pleasure to them, to be lenient with them, and to give presents to them. Such acts entail more kindness and favor and take the lead in charity. Several traditions have encouraged such kind acts.
Through a valid chain of authority, Shaykh al-Kulayni reports Abu-Hamzah al-Thumali to have heard Imam al-Baqir (‘a) quoting the Holy Prophet (S) as saying: Whoever gives pleasure to a faithful believer has in fact given pleasure to me, and whoever gives pleasure to me has in fact given pleasure to Allah the Almighty and Majestic.¯17¯
Al-Mufadhdhal ibn ‘Umar is reported to have quoted Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) as saying: If one of you gives pleasure to a faithful believer, he must not feel that he has given pleasure to that person only; rather, he has given pleasure to us and to the Messenger of Allah. I swear it by Allah.¯18¯
According to an authentic tradition, Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is reported to have said: Allah, the Glorified and Majestic, revealed to (Prophet) David (‘a) saying, “A servant of Mine may do a single good deed due to which I allow him to My Paradise.” “What is that good deed, O Lord?” Prophet David (‘a) asked. The Almighty Lord answered, “That good deed is to give pleasure to My faithful servant, even by way of giving him a single date.” Prophet David (‘a) commented, “O Lord, he who knows You has the right not to stop having hope in You.”¯19¯
Jamil has reported that he heard Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) saying: One of the distinctive features that Allah has given exclusively to a faithful believer is that He makes him recognize and do charitable acts to his brothers-in-faith, even if it be a trivial amount, because charity is not required to be very much. This is because Almighty Allah says in His Book: “They give them preference over themselves, even though poverty was their own lot.”
He then says, “Those saved from the covetousness of their own souls are the ones that achieve prosperity. (59:9)”
He whom Allah makes to recognize this fact has in fact loved him, and he who is loved by Allah the Blessed and Exalted, shall be given his reward perfectly on the Day of Resurrection without calling to account. O Jamil, spread this discourse among your brothers-in-faith, because it will arouse their desires to charitable.¯20¯
Bakr ibn Muhammad is reported to have said that the majority of Imam al-Sadiq’s instructions to us was focused on doing charitable acts and having regard for our brothers-in-faith.¯21¯
Sa’dan ibn Muslim has quoted Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) as saying: Whoever removes a mole from the face of his brother-in-faith shall be given ten rewards by Almighty Allah, and whoever smiles in the face of his brother-in-faith will be given a reward.¯22¯
Zayd ibn Arqam has quoted the Holy Prophet (S) as saying: No servant from my nation offers any item of kindness to his brother-in-faith but that Almighty Allah shall certainly order the servants of Paradise to serve him.¯23¯
Rewarding Evil with Good
The second level of taking the lead to charity is to reward evil with good, which is also the second highest rank of charity. The carrying out of the obligatory duties is considered the first of the highest ranks of charity, the foregoing of rights to others is the second, and taking the initiative to doing charity is the third. Above all, rewarding evil with good is considered the highest level of kindness and charity. Referring to this level of charity, the Holy Qur'an has ascribed rewarding evil with good to the features of the special believers. On more than one occasion, it has listed it with the obligatory duties of the Prophets: Those who patiently persevere, seeking the countenance of their Lord, establish regular prayers, spend out of the gifts We have bestowed for their sustenance secretly and openly, and turn off evil with good: for such there is the final attainment of the eternal home. (13:22)¯24¯
Several traditions have been reported from the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) highlighting this trait and considering it to be the best and highest of all nobilities. These traditions have also referred to a number of models and examples by which man may pass, embodying this virtuous trait.
Though a valid chain of authority, Shaykh al-Kulayni has reported that Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) quoted the Holy Prophet (S) as saying in one of his sermons, May I teach you the excellent morals in this world and the Next? They are: to pardon him who wronged you, to show regard to him who disregarded you, to do good to him who maltreated you, and to give him who deprived you.¯25¯
According to another tradition that is validly reported from Abu-Hamzah al-Thumali, he said that he heard Imam Zayn al-’Abidin (‘a) saying: On the Day of Resurrection, Allah the Blessed and Exalted will gather the ancient and the late generations on the same highland and a caller will call out, “Where are the people of preference?” A group of people will then stand up. While receiving them, the angels will ask, “Why are you given preference?” They will answered, “In our worldly lives, we used to build good relations with those who ruptured their relations with us, give those who deprived us, and pardon those who wronged us.” Then, it will be said to them, “True are you! Enter Paradise.”¯26¯
Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn has reported that Imam ‘Ali (‘a), in his instructive will to his son Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah, said: Your brother should not be more firm in his disregard of kinship than you in paying regard to it, and you should exceed him in doing good to him than his doing evil to you.27¯
Zurarah is reported to have heard Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) saying: The nature of us, the Ahl al-Bayt, is to pardon those who wrong us.¯28¯
‘Ali ibn Ja’far ibn Muhammad (Imam al-Sadiq’s son) has reported that Muhammad ibn Isma’il asked the permission of his uncle, Imam al-Kazim (‘a), to leave for Iraq. The Imam (‘a) gave him permission. Then, Muhammad said, “O uncle, I would like you to give me some advice.”
The Imam (‘a) said, “I advise you to fear Almighty Allah against shedding my blood.”
The Imam (‘a) then handed him a bag containing one hundred and fifty Dinars, and he took it. The Imam (‘a) then gave him another bag of one hundred and fifty Dinars, and he took it. He (‘a) then gave him a third bag of one hundred and fifty Dinars, and he took it. He (‘a) finally gave him a fourth bag of one thousand and five hundred Dirhams, and he took it, too. ‘Ali ibn Ja’far discussed the matter with the Imam (‘a) because he deemed these amounts too much, but the Imam (‘a) answered, “I gave him such big amounts so that my argument against him will be more weighty when he disregards me after I have treated him well.”
However, Muhammad informed al-Rashid, the ‘Abbasid ruler, against Imam al-Kazim (‘a), claiming that the Imam (‘a) appointed himself as the caliph and tributes were paid to him. Hence, the ruler gave him one hundred thousand Dirhams and he died that very night.¯29¯
Idealism and Distinctive Behavior
An excellent example has its own aspects of influence on people’s behavior. The creation of ideal and excellent examples has been one of the most significant goals that the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) aimed at in building a virtuous community.
The current discussion is aimed at thrashing out the superstructure of creating an excellent example—as sketched out by the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a)—as well as its role in and influence on social relations.
An Excellent Example and Social Relations
The Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) have noticeably confirmed the existence of a relationship between an excellent example and social relations and the significant role it plays in strengthening the foundations of these relations to achieve the aim pursued.
In Nahj al-Balaghah, Sharif al-Radhi has reported Imam ‘Ali (‘a) as saying: Whoever sets right his inner side, Allah sets right his outer side. Whoever performs acts for his religion, Allah accomplishes his acts of this world. Whoever deals in acts between him and Allah in a good way, Allah turns the dealings between him and other people good.¯30¯
This statement indicates the existence of a relationship between self-reformation and setting right one’s social relations with people. It also maintains that attaining the rank of excellent example stands for self-perfection and social perfection at the same time.
As has been previously mentioned in the discussion of association with others, the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) have advised associating with the righteous people, because associates have some influence on their associates’ social relations and general behavior. Any associate who is righteous and an excellent example of virtue influences the nature of the others. Based on this fact, the Holy Prophet (S) is reported by Ibn ‘Abbas to have answered those who asked him who the best ones to sit with are, They are those whose appearance reminds you of Allah, whose speech increases your knowledge, and whose deeds make you desirous of attaining (the rewards of) the Hereafter.¯31¯
In this connection, we can classify the features of excellent examples that influence social relations into two classes:
First: Features expressing the relationship between the excellent exemplar and Almighty Allah. These features, as expressed by Imam ‘Ali (‘a), are “Whose dealings between himself and Allah are good…”
1. - Imam ‘Ali (‘a) is reported to have said, The best means by which seekers of nearness to Allah, the Glorified and Exalted, seek nearness (to Him) is, by believing in Him and His Prophet (s). They fight in His cause for it is the high pinnacle of Islam. They establish prayer for it is the basis of community. They pay zakat for it is a compulsory obligation. They fast during the month of Ramadhan for it is the shield against chastisement. They perform Hajj and ‘Umrah of the House of Allah for these two acts banish poverty and wash away sins. They regard kinship highly for it increases wealth and life. They give alms secretly for it covers shortcomings. They give alms openly for it protects against a bad death. They extend benefits to people for it saves from positions of disgrace. (Nahj al-Balaghah, Sermon No. 110)
2. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 6:255-259.
3. - Refer to al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 6:255-336.
4. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:521, H. 1.
5. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:521, H. 2.
6. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:522, H. 7.
7. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:523, H. 10.
8. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:524, H. 13.
9. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:524, H. 15.
10. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:554, H. 2.
11. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:554, H. 5.
12. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:554, H. 6.
13. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:554, H. 8.
14. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:545, H. 3.
15. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:546, H. 5.
16. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 6:208, H. 2.
17. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:569, H. 1.
18. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:570, H. 3.
19. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:570, H. 7.
20. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:591, H. 1.
21. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:592, H. 4.
22. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:589, H. 1.
23. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:590, H. 3.
24. - Similar instructions have been mentioned in Surah al-Mu'minun (23:96) and Surah al-Qasas (28:54).
25. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 8:520, H. 1.
26. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 8:520, H. 2.
27. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 8:522, H. 7.
28. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 8:522, H. 8.
29. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 8:522, H. 9.
30. - Nahj al-Balaghah, Saying No. 423.
31. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 8:412, H. 4.