Charity and Taking the Lead in Charitable Behavior
By: Ayatullah Shaheed Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim
The fifth rule in the Islamic conception of social relations is to be charitable towards others. This act can be classified into two types:
Charitable Behavior towards all People
The first type of charity is to behave charitably towards all people without taking into consideration whether a tie between the source and the target exists or not. Examples of this type of charity are public deeds of charitable people such as paving roads, digging wells, building guesthouses, endowing property for public purposes, feeding the hungry, helping the poor and the needy, building vocational institutes, and establishing educational, health, and cultural centers. Similar activities of charity, which demonstrate interest in the general affairs of Muslims can be described as deeds that are fisabilillah (i.e. in the way of Allah).
Such deeds, urged by Islam, are the most favorable and genuine form of charity, since they bring about a great reward and compensation and contribute to the perfection of individuals and communities. They are charitable acts that have no direct connection with social relations, although they have a broad-ranging effect on social relations.
Charitable Behavior in Social Relations
The second type of charity is direct charitable behavior towards certain individuals or Muslims in general. This type of charity represents the basic pillar that helps perfect social relations. It also presents love and affection as being the actual purpose behind building good social relations.
It is the most powerful and effective means of gaining affection and love, evading social problems, and diminishing negative reactions in social relations. Finally, it is an image of the high moral standard of man. All these features are visible in traditions that stress the significance of doing good towards others.
%For instance, Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is reported to have said: Do favor to those who deserve it and those who do not, because if they do not deserve it, you are worthy of doing it.30
He (‘a) is also reported to have said: Do favors to everybody. Even if they do not deserve them, you are worthy of doing them.31
Doing Good to Oneself
In order to maintain equilibrium in this respect, Islam has rendered doing good to others as doing good to oneself. Hence, Almighty Allah says: If you do good, you will do good for your own souls, and if you do evil, it shall be for your own souls also. (17:7)
In view of this, the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) did not only instruct their followers to do good and behave charitably. They asked their followers to precede all others in charity in such a way that the principle of conceding one’s right and treating others kindly would become one of the social duties incumbent on true Muslims, as it raises one towards self-perfection and, at the same time, contributes to social perfection.
In this respect, Imam al-Baqir (‘a) is reported to have said: If you can take the lead among those with whom you associate, then do it.32
Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is also reported as saying: Regarding the holy verse, “Surely, we see you to be of the doers of good. (12:36)” He (i.e. Prophet Joseph (‘a)) was described thus because he used to make room in his assemblies for those who had just joined them, borrow money to give to the needy, and help the weak.33
Good Example and Unique Behavior
The sixth rule of social relations is to be perfect examples of social behavior. This basic pillar builds excellent social relations and leads people to perfection. It is, moreover, the best means of teaching others ethical behavior.¯34¯
The Holy Imams (‘a) ordered their followers to commit to this principle and play a vital role in persuading Muslims to emulate them.
Shaykh al-Kulayni has reported, through an authentic chain of authority, that Safwan ibn Yahya reported Abu-Usamah Zayd al-Shahham as saying that Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) said to him: Deliver my greetings to every one whom you consider to be obeying me and following my orders. (Say to them): I advise you to fear Almighty Allah, to act piously with regard to the affairs of your religion, to work painstakingly for the sake of Almighty Allah, to be honest in speech, to fulfill the trusts entrusted with you, to make prolonged prostration before Almighty Allah, and to observe good neighborliness. Verily, these are the traits with which Prophet Muhammad (S) came. You should give back things with which you were entrusted to their owners, be the owners righteous or dissolute. The Messenger of Allah (S) used to order his followers to fulfill their trusts even if they were only a thread and needle. Build good relationships with your clans, present yourselves at their funeral processions, visit the sick among them, and carry out your duties towards them.
Verily, if one of you shows piety in his religious affairs, speaks nothing but the truth, and behaves politely towards the people, they will refer to him as belonging to Ja’far and they will say that this is the way Ja’far educates his followers. This thing will please me and fill me with delight. If one does the opposite, it is I who will be defamed and offended, since the people will then say that Ja’far has trained his followers in this manner. I swear by Allah that my father (‘a) told me that a (true) Shi’ite in a clan would be the best of its individuals, the most trustworthy, the most observant of their rights, and the most honest. The other individuals of that clan would always keep their wills and trusts with him.1 When they would be asked about him, they would answer that he was unmatched among them, since he was the most trustworthy and the most honest.35
Kathir ibn ‘Alqamah has reported that he once asked Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) for advice. The Imam thus (‘a) said: I command you to fear Allah, relinquish prohibited acts, stick to devotional acts, prostrate yourself as long as you can, fulfill trusts, tell only truths, and treat your neighbor kindly. This is exactly what has been brought to us by Muhammad—peace be upon him and his Household. Build up good relations with the members of your tribes. Visit the sick among them. Attend their funeral ceremonies. Represent us excellently (before others) and do not create a bad opinion of us. Draw people to fondness towards us and avert from us every evil…36
‘Abdullah ibn Abi-Ya’fur has reported Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) as saying: Act as heralds to goodness among the masses by other means than your tongues (i.e. speech) so that they can become aware of your diligence, honesty, and piety.37
According to another narration of the same purport, the Imam (‘a) said: Act as heralds to goodness among the masses by other means than your tongues (i.e. speech) so that they can become aware of your abstention (from violating Almighty Allah’s prohibitions), diligence, prayers, and goodness. Verily, these things are heralds.38
By means of these rules and foundations, the Islamic concept of social relations reaches perfection. It is significant that the five aspects of social concept are based on a number of well-built foundations whose elements and details will be cited in the coming section of this book: the superstructure of the social relations system of Islam.
30. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:528, S. 3, H. 1.
31. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:528, S. 3, H. 2.
32. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 8:401, S. 1, H. 1.
33. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 8:405, S. 4, H. 1.
34. - In an independent thesis, I have discussed the topic of excellent example and its psychological and spiritual impacts, as well as its constructive role in societies. I hope I would be able to publish it in an independent book. Besides, in this series of books, I have discussed the topic of excellent example on a number of occasions, especially in the chapters on goals and particularities, and spiritual and moral contents of building a virtuous community. It is therefore pointless to repeat.
35. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 8:398 H. 2.
36. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 8:400, H. 8.
37. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 8:513, H. 1.
38. - Shaykh al-Kulayni, al-Kafi 2:105, H. 10 & 2:78, H. 14.