Islam teaches us to open our hearts and minds to help the needy and the destitute without any distinction of color, creed, race or religion. One has to rise above these biases and prejudices. Humanity is just one and one family. We are from one father and one mother.
Abdullah bin Masood (RA) relates that Prophet (SAWS) said:
“The entire humanity is Allah’s family, and Allah loves him most from among this family, who benefits the family most.”
Jarir bin Abdullah (RA) reported that Allah’s Messenger (SAWS) said:
“He who is not merciful to people Allah will not be merciful to him.”[Bukhari & Muslim]
Kind treatment to Allah’s creatures is very much liked by Allah. Even animals and birds are included in this category. Kind treatment with them makes a person eligible to the Mercy of Allah. Decent behavior with people has been specifically mentioned in this tradition although all creatures are covered by it.
Abu Hurairah (RA) says that once Prophet (SAWS) approached a group of people sitting around and asked:
“Should I tell you as to who is good from among you and who is bad?”
He (SAWS) repeated the question three times. A companion submitted:
‘Please advise us Ya Rasul Allah.’
He (SAWS) said:
“The best from among you is the one from whom you expect the good and people are safe from his mischief. And the worst from among you is the one from whom you don’t expect any good and people are not safe from his mischief.”[Tirmidhi]
These traditions highlight that service is the mission of a Muslim without any distinction or discrimination and such a service guarantees Allah’s reward and pleasure. Islam exhorts its followers to be self-motivated to do acts of virtue and goodness not only for the Muslims but to the entire human society. Islam motivates Muslims to extend material and moral support to all those who need it.
According to a tradition Muslims are urged “to speak sweetly”[Muslim]
According to another tradition, they are exhorted to rush to help the one who seeks help and guide him who is lost on his way.[Abu Dawood]
One should go beyond verbal sympathy to help those who experience financial difficulties. Islam wants us spend money on the well being of others. In fact that part of wealth is real saving which is spent to free others from the yoke of debt and economic hardships. It is in this context that Islam has mandated Zakah (poors’ due), which constitutes one of the five pillars of Islam and has been mentioned along with Salah (prayers) in many places in the Holy Qur’an. Aayah 5 of Surah Al-Bayyina says:
“… though all they are ordered to do is worship Allah alone, sincerely devoting their religion to Him as people of true faith, keep up the prayer, and pay the prescribed alms, for that is the true religion.”
In the light of this Aayah, service to humanity is considered as worship. Attribute of Allah conscious people has been mentioned as such in Aayah 19 of Surah Al-Thariyaat.
“…giving a rightful share of their wealth to the beggar and the deprived.”
Prophet (SAWS) as reported by Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari (RA) said:
“Giving charity is an obligation upon every Muslim.”
At another occasion, Prophet (SAWS) said:
“Do not belittle any good deed, even meeting your brother (Muslim) with a cheerful face.”[Muslim]
People may have long term needs as well as short term needs. There are always opportunities to help if some one is looking for either of them. There are people all the time in all societies who cannot afford one meal a day not to speak the luxury of 3 meals per day which most of enjoy. To feed a hungry person is a small act, but if everyone can feed one person, no one will go hungry. The Holy Qur’an mentions the attribute of virtuous people in Aayah 8-9 in Surah Ad-Dahr:
“…they give food to the poor, the orphan, and the captive, though they love it themselves, saying, ‘We feed you for the sake of Allah alone: We seek neither recompense nor thanks from you.”
Abdullah bin Salaam (RA) prior to embracing Islam was Christian. He said that I went to see Prophet (SAWS) when he immigrated to Madinah. The moment I saw his blessed face, I immediately knew that it cannot be the face of a liar. The first thing that Prophet (SAWS) said was:
“O people, exchange greetings of peace (i.e. say: As-Salamu Alaikum to one another), feed people, strengthen the ties of kinship, and be in prayer when others are asleep, you will enter Paradise in peace.”[Tirmidhi]
To feed the indigent, meek and poor was the favorite act of Prophet (SAWS)’s companions.
Abdullah bin Umar (RA) did not eat unless there was person to share food with him.[Bukhari]
There is a great lesson for us in this story: “Once a man came to Prophet (SAWS) and said:
‘I am hard pressed by hunger.’
Prophet found that he had nothing to feed him, so he (SAWS) said to his companions:
“Who will entertain this (man) as a guest?”
One of the Ansars said:
‘Ya Rasul Allah I will.’
So he took him home and asked his wife:
‘Have you got anything?’
‘Nothing, except a little food for the children.’
‘Keep the children busy with something and when they ask for food put them to sleep. When the guest enters, extinguish the light and give him the impression that we are also eating.’
So they sat down and the guest ate and they passed the night hungry. When he came to the Prophet (SAWS) in the morning, he (SAWS) said to him:
“Allah admired what you with your guest last night.”[Bukhari & Muslim]
Aayah 9 of Surah Al-Hashr relates to this incident:
“Those who were already firmly established in their homes [in Medina], and rooted in their faith, show love for those who migrated to them for refuge and harbor no desire in their hearts for what has been given to them. They give them preference over themselves, even if they too are poor: those who are saved from their own souls’ greed are truly successful.”
The basic human need after food is dress and to provide dress to the one who does not have it guarantees a reward. Among long term needs is to provide shelter, raise and educate an orphan, provide provisions to the widows. Prophet (SAW) joining his two fingers said:
“The one who looks after the needs of an orphan will be with me like this [two fingers joined together] in Paradise.”
Prophet (SAWS) equated those who look after the needs of widows and the meek women with those who pray the whole night. These are just a few examples to show the importance which Islam gives to serving, helping and assisting others morally and materially in their hour of need. May Allah enable us to be kind, compassionate, and helpful and perceptive in meeting the needs of fellow human beings and serve Allah’s family selflessly to win His pleasure.