Of altruism in Islam | By Abdul Rasool Syed


Of altruism in Islam

UNPRECEDENTED downpours coupled with subsequent heavy floods have wreaked havoc in our country.

Nearly seventy percent of our homeland is directly or indirectly affected; thousands of houses have collapsed, crops standing on thousands of acres of land have severely damaged and countless animals were either dead or facing extreme starvation due to devastation caused to the plant kingdom by recent voluminous inundation.

In such a predicament, where people have not only lost their loved ones but also their precious belongings and are now compelled to lead a life of miseries and deprivations; those who are blessed with fortunes must come forward to help them.

It is, indeed, a high time to demonstrate altruism as admonished by our religion Islam. Our religion Islam holds altruism in high esteem and requires its adherents to practice it voluntarily in order to erect a society based on socio-economic justice and humanitarianism.

The holy book mentions those who observe altruism in their life in the following rewarding words“…But they favour others over themselves, even though they are in privation.

And whoever is protected from the stinginess of his soul – it is those who will be the successful (Quran 59: 9].

In addition, the books of traditions are replete with myriad Ahadis (traditions) in which the Holy Prophet (SAW) admonished his followers to exercise altruism- called “Esaar” in Islamic terminology.

He (SAW) not only advised others to espouse altruism in their day-to-day affairs but also presented himself as an epitome of self-sacrifice.

It is recorded in the books of tradition that once a woman came to the best of creation, the Last Prophet (SAWW), and presented a garment to him, saying: “O Messenger of Allah, this is [a gift] for you.

” The Last Prophet, (SAWW), accepted it and wore it as he was in need of it; then, one of the Companions saw him wearing it, and said to him, “What a beautiful garment! Give it to me!

” The Prophet (SAW), indicated his willingness to do that; then, when he had left, the other companions, may Allah be pleased with them, reproached the man, saying, “You did not do a good thing when you asked the Prophet (SAW) to hand it to you while you see that he is short of [clothes]; and you know that he never declines to give anything if asked. ”

He explained, “I sought the blessing of the garment as the Prophet (SAW) had worn it; and I wished I could be shrouded in it.

” Moreover, we also see the holy companions following the footprints of the Holy Prophet (SAW) and practising self-sacrifice in their life.

On one occasion, one of the Ansaari companions offered to relinquish half of his property to an emigrant who was paired up with him through the bonds of brotherhood; he even gave him the option to marry one of his wives, who he would divorce for him.

However, the Muhaajir (emigrant from Makkah) refused, praying, “May Allah bless for you your wives and possessions. ”

In yet another paradigm of altruism, Abu Talhah Al-Ansaari, (R.A), who was the richest of the Ansaar, had a favourite land, a garden called Bayruhaa’.

When he heard a verse in which Allah, the Almighty says (what means): Never will you attain the good reward until you spend [in the way of Allah] from that which you love} [Quran 3:92], he went to the Prophet, (SAW), and donated it as charity for His sake.

Another Companion, Qays ibn Sa‘d ibn ‘Ubaadah, (RA) once fell ill; when he did not receive any visitor, he asked after them and was informed, “They are ashamed to visit you because of the debt they owe you.

” He remarked, “May Allah debase money that prevents brothers from paying visits.” Then, he ordered someone to announce: “Whoever is indebted to Qays, is relieved of repayment.

” That night, his threshold broke, due to the large number of people who came to see him.

During the great battle of Yarmuk, a Companion of the Prophet, Ikrimah bin Abu Jahl, and two other noble warriors were mortally wounded.

An able Muslim who was attending to the wounded offered one of the injured warriors some water, but the selfless soldier refused, insisting that one of the other fallen men be offered water first.

When the water reached the second man, he too refused to drink before the thirst of the other wounded soldiers was quenched. Alas!

By the time the water had reached the third man, it was already too late: he and the other two soldiers had died.

Truly these three paragons of self-sacrifice made manifest the words of their Prophet when he said: “The best charity is that given when one is in need and struggling.”

The altruism of the Muslims of Madinah, praised by the Allah Almighty in the Holy Qur’an, was so great in its scope and impact that the Makkan recipients of their brothers’ selflessness were worried that there would be no grace left for them!

The Companion, Anas bin Malik, said: “When the Prophet came to Madinah, the Muhajirs came to him and said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, we have never seen any people more generous when they have the means and more helpful when they have little, than the people among whom we have settled.

They have looked after us and they have let us join them and share in all their happy occasions, to such an extent that we are afraid that they will take all the reward (from Allah in the Hereafter).

’ Finally, we can carve out an idyllic and utopian society, if we all start practicing altruism devotedly. May Allah give us strength to do so!

— The writer is a lawyer, based in Quetta.


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