Reminders of Generosity, Middle Way, Islamophobia
Issue 936 » March 3, 2017 - Jumada al-Thani 4, 1438
Reminders of Generosity
Al-Baqara (The Cow) Sura 2: Verse 264
"O you who believe! Do not render your charity worthless by reminders of your generosity or by injury as one who spends his wealth to show off to others and believes neither in Allah nor in the Last Day. Such a person is like a hard, barren rock, on which is a little soil and a torrent of heavy rain smites it, and leaves it just a bare stone. Such people will gain no reward for their works. And Allah guides not the ungrateful."
It is not uncommon to find soil collecting on a rocky surface, particularly on the sides of mountains. Finding it fertile, some farmers begin to cultivate on this thick layer of soil. Such farmlands are often exposed to the danger of landslide, especially when it rains heavily in the higher parts of mountains. The downward flow of the rain water is so strong that it carries along with it the entire thick layer of soil pushing it down to the valley below and leaving the rock naked and bare. The above parable depicts such a landslide.
Those who spend and then remind others of their generosity and cause them hurt, the Quran says, will find all their charitable works wasted away; they will have no reward for their charity in the Hereafter. Despite their belief, these good works of theirs will be wasted away like those of the person who spends only to show off and has no belief either in Allah or in the Hereafter. This demonstrates the exceptional gravity of reproaching others by reminding them of one's generosity to them and thus causing injury to their feelings. These two are almost similar to unbelief or kufr in their disastrous effect on one's charitable deeds.
Such a person is likened here to a farmer who cultivates a field with a hard and barren rock underneath. One heavy shower of rain is enough to sweep away the entire farm and its produce leaving behind just barren, hard rock protruding like a bald man's head. The efforts of such an unfortunate farmer are wasted. So is the charity of a person who follows it with reminders of generosity and injury to others. All charitable deeds of such people are wasted and of no benefit.
"Pondering Over The Qur'an: Surah al-Fatiha and Surah al-Baqarah" - Amin Ahsan Islahi
Some people think that the harder they drive themselves in fulfilling religious duties, the higher the position they will achieve in God's eyes. Yet Islam does not require people to overstrain themselves, as it steers a middle way. Indeed, it is referred to, in some religious texts as "the middle way". The Prophet's (peace be upon him) practical example shows that he understood this and put it into practice. Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) reports:
Whenever the Prophet was given a choice between two options, he would choose the easier, unless it be sinful. If it was sinful, he would move furthest away from it. Never did he seek revenge for himself. However, if something God has prohibited was violated, he would seek to avenge that for God's sake. [Bukhari, Muslim]
A similar hadith mentions that "God's Messenger never beat anyone with his hand: he never beat a woman or a servant. [He used his hand] only when he was in jihad for God's cause. Never did he avenge himself for something done to him. Only when something God has prohibited was violated he would seek to avenge that for God's sake." [Muslim]
"Muhammad: His Character and Conduct" - Adil Salahi
When more than ever human beings needed to recall their codependence and their unity of fate, there remains a virtual cacophony of mutually intolerant and dismissively opinionated voices willing to tear the human community apart. At a time when wisdom dictates that human beings steadfastly hold on to humane and humanistic principles—to the very basics learned after the trauma of centuries of mindless religious wars, ethnic exterminations, and ideologically driven cleansings—hordes of cacuminal voices are heard every day calling for "new standards" for the "new age" of asymmetrical warfare. The "new standards" is usually a catchphrase for diluting or loosening the restrictions of humanitarian law and human rights law so that people may kill, abuse, and torture each other more effectively. The dilution of human standards, or put differently, the standards of what human beings may lawfully do to each other, is hardly surprising in an age when so many people have allowed themselves to become the willing audience in a spectacle of hyperbolic performances of horror shows where threats and fears are peddled like commercial commodities. People have become "slaves to the pleasures of the ear," hearing only what affirmed the biases of their egos and the prejudices of their anxieties. Particularly in the West, but also in the rest of the world and at times in the Muslim world itself, what became a part of the pleasures of the ear was a form of Islam-bashing that questioned the worthiness and role of the Islamic religion, as if Islam were a newly born fad or cult phenomenon that has yet to prove its contributions to humanity.
Obviously, it is not Islamophobic to critically analyze Islamic history, theology, or law or ultimately to reject the belief system espoused by Islam. Islamophobia, as prejudice or the performance of bigotry, is when a great canvas holding numerous complexities and subtleties, whether historically, legally, or theologically, is used to present a largely invented and artificial caricature of whatever is designated as Islamic or Muslim. However, Islamophobia, like other forms of prejudice and bigotry, invariably leads to a morally reductive attitude in which the value and worthiness of human beings are diminished or discounted because of presumed flaws attributable to inherent characteristics such as people's religion, ethnicity, race, gender, or culture. Such reductive attitudes, as history has shown time and again, become part of a process in which, usually in response to an anxiety of being under threat from others, it becomes far less morally objectionable to trample over the rights of the feared "other" and to ignore the suffering of the victims of bigotry. Islamophobia invariably leads to a reductive moral attitude in which it becomes both easier to exterminate Muslims and also to come to fear extermination by Muslims. In short, fear leads to hate, and hate is the root of most evil.
"Reasoning with God: Reclaiming Shari'ah in the Modern Age" - Khaled Abou El Fadl