Aspects of Islamic Faith - 90: Comparing a miser to a charitable person
27 Jan 2011 10:31 GMT
By ADIL SALAHI Published: Jan 28, 2011 00:35 Updated: Jan 28, 2011 00:35 Some people are very reluctant to give away anything to charity. Even when it comes to paying zakat, which is an incumbent duty on every Muslim who owns more than the threshold of zakat, they find it hard to pay it, trying to find ways to evade it. They feel that it is a tax that reduces what they have for themselves. Such people are often looking at their bank account balance and trying to explore ways of increasing it in whatever way they can. When the love of money becomes so keen, it is just like unquenchable thirst. Such people are oblivious of the fact that it is God who gives us whatever we have, and that He can give us from sources that we could not have ever thought available to us. People of genuine faith, on the other hand, realize this and discover that whatever they spend to help others is not merely rewarded in the hereafter, but also compensated for them. They end up increasing their money through spending it on others.

Abu Hurayrah quotes the Prophet, peace be upon him, as saying: “A miserly person and the one who spends his money may be compared to two men with two robes made of iron, covering them from their breasts to their shoulders. Every time the charitable gives something, his robe extends and covers his skin, until it covers up his forefingers and wipes away his trace when he walks. As the miserly person wants to spend something, his robe sticks to the position it is in. He tries to extend it, but it does not.” (Related by Al-Bukhari)

The first thing to note about this Hadith is the unusual comparison it makes. A miserly person should normally be compared to a generous one, but the Prophet draws the comparison with ‘one who spends his money’. He thus implies that spending one’s money on what is required or recommended by Islam contrasts with miserliness. It is not necessary, then, that one should be over generous in order not to be counted as miserly.

A robe is normally worn from the top end, with the person putting his head through its opening. Therefore, it is first gathered at the top, then it stretches downward. These two persons are about to wear their iron robes. The robes are described as being made of iron, so as to indicate their additional use as shields protecting the wearers. Their initial status covers only the top part of one’s chest. As the generous person spends his money, whether on his dependents or helping strangers who are poor, the robe unfolds and covers a larger area of the wearer’s body. The more he gives away, the greater it extends, until it has covered him perfectly, including his forefingers. Moreover, it stretches to the ground, so that when he walks, it wipes away his trace so that he could not be pursued.

By contrast, the one who is stingy is reluctant to spend his money, even on necessary matters for himself or his own family. Hence, whenever he has to spend something, his robe sticks in place. It covers nothing of his body, other than his top part. This is not the purpose for which robes are worn.

The Hadith stresses the fact that charity, or sadaqah, provides protection from evil. It pleases God and wipes away one’s sins. It thus provides protection against hell in the hereafter. The Prophet says: “Shield yourselves from the fire, even though it may be by half a date.” Indeed the Prophet stressed these meanings in different ways. He is quoted to have said to Asma’: “Do not tie your purse tight; otherwise, God will tie things hard for you.” (Related by Al-Bukhari) ¬

-- Arab News