The giving of charity in secret helps destroy one’s ego, and if the charity is given openly with a sincere heart, it encourages others to do the same.
The importance of charity and volunteering
What is charity
The root of the word charity comes from the Latin word carus, which means ‘dear’, which is also the same root for the word ‘care’.
In Islamic tradition, there are various types of charity, but one of the key terms used is sadaqa, which is in Surah Al-Baqarah verse 280. Sadaqa refers to giving of wealth, and al’aemal alkhayria refers to performing charitable acts. Sadaqa Jariya is the voluntary and continuous act of charitable giving. It stands as one of the most rewarding acts of charity, as both the giver and the receiver continue to benefit from its blessings long after the initial act of charity was initiated.
In the Islamic faith, along with the Christian faith, charity is governed by two parts, first part is the intention and second part action. The person giving the charity must have pure intention, which means to want to help others by giving away from his wealth, time, or talent only to please God. His prime focus must be to seek the pleasure of God by this selfless action and not to place himself or his ego in the centre of his reason for performing the charity.
The second part is the action of the charity, which is the actual giving away of charity and the way it is done. This part is heavily influenced by the initial intention, as the reasons for the act of charity impacts the act itself. Those whose purpose is to please God do so in a humble manner and hold respect for those who are receiving the charity. They do not use the act of charity to build their ego or public personality, because that action is in direct conflict with a pure intention to please God.
Importance of charity
A charity can be money given away from a person’s wealth, or it can be giving your time and talents to help others who are less fortunate than yourself. There is a narration that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) even advised a smile which is the simplest act that counts as charity: “Every good is charity. Indeed, among the good is to meet your brother with a smiling face, and to pour what is left in your bucket into the vessel of your brother (Sunan Tirmidhi)”.
The Holy Quran has many verses that refer to various types of charity. One of these verses stipulates that charity is not about the amount you give: “So whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it (Holy Quran 99:7)”.
The Holy Quran in Surah Al-Baqarah verse 274 mentions: “Those who spend their wealth by night and by day, secretly and openly”. In many of the exegesis of that verse it is narrated that it referred to Ali ibn Abi Taleb (as), the story was, he had four dirhams; and he spent them (in charity), one dirham at night, and in the day one dirham, and secretly one dirham, and openly one dirham.
The giving of charity in secret helps destroy one’s ego, and if the charity is given openly with a sincere heart, it encourages others to do the same, since humans are susceptible to the effects of emotional contagion.
Even within the Bible, there is explicit instruction not to give charity to please others, but do give with a sincere heart: “Beware of practising your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 6:1-2)”.
How you can be a volunteer
One of the noblest acts an individual can do irrespective of their religious inclination is the act of charity. The participation in the giving of your wealth and time to help others, whom in most cases are less fortunate than yourself in one way or another, improves your personality.
What is it about the selfless act of charity that nourishes and energises the soul of the giver, to the point that giving becomes addictive and the act of helping others becomes a necessary and repetitive part of the givers yearly tasks and encourages others to do the same when they see acts of charity?
“Charity is friendship with God (Emery & Levering, 2015, p. 138)”.
Many stories adorn the mind and encourage us to be charitable in this world because we will reap the rewards and the blessing which will be showered upon us in the next world. But how does an individual who is not practising any religious faith, and does not believe in the hereafter, benefit from charitable acts of goodness while they live in this world?
Performing selfless acts of charity build character and strengthen the individual’s personality. They can experience the world from other perspectives, usually harsher ones that they do not have experiences of, and gives them the ability to empathise with others. This empathy creates a more holistic outlook on life and the problems that each individual may face, and empowers the volunteer who performers the charity to be able to deal with hardships in life with strength and fortitude.
“Virtue is its own reward. There’s a pleasure in doing good which sufficiently pays itself (Vanbrugh, 1756, p. 85)”.
That is why many people who give charity or perform charitable acts with sincerity end up thanking the recipient of the charity because the donor has come to realise the enrichment they feel in life and feel endless gratitude, especially towards the recipient as they are the cause of this wonderfully positive state of being.
To understand and appreciate more the beauty of charity, the author will be screening his latest documentary film Smiles Worldwide in London and New York.
Story: Follow the powerful and moving journey of volunteers from Canada, Tanzania and UK as they embark on an exciting adventure to Iraq to serve the orphans of Karbala & Najaf.
For information on the London screening, click here.
For information on the New York screening, click here.
- Emery, G., & Levering, M. (2015). Aristotle in Aquinas’s Theology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Vanbrugh, J. (1756). The Relapse; Or, Virtue in Danger: Being the Sequel of The Fool in Fashion. A Comedy Written. Glasgow.
- Sunnah Tirmidhi
- Commentary on Surah-al-Baqarah
- The Science Behind Why People Give Money To Charity
- The Beauty Of Charity