Generosity and magnanimity are excellent traits in a person. A magnanimous person strives hard to acquire wealth, but he will not have excessive attachment to riches. He wants wealth, but to share it with others. He doesn’t believe in hoarding wealth. He spends his life with his family and wholeheartedly participates in the welfare activities of the community. He helps the deprived and the needy. He makes the right use of his wealth.
A parsimonious person hoards wealth. He neither spends it on himself nor gives a helping hand to the needy. Such a person will be amassing wealth for the posterity.
Islam has condemned miserliness and praised generosity in very clear terms.
The Prophet of Islam says:
“Generosity is a part of iman ( the Faith) and the iman shall take one to the Heaven."1
"Generosity is such a tree in the Heaven the branches of which have reached the Earth. Whosoever caught hold of one of the branches, he will reach the Heaven."2
“Behisht ( the Heaven ) is the home of the generous people."3
“Allah is Munificent and Generous and likes generosity in men."4
The Prophet of Islam said:
“It is not proper for the mumin ( the pious ) to be miserly and cowardly."5
Generosity and magnanimity attract hearts and affections. People like a generous person and respect him. With generosity and magnanimity hearts can be subdued.
The Prophet of Islam says:
“A generous person is closer to Allah’s creations and the Heaven. He is away from the Hell. The miserly person is away from Allah, His creations ( the men) and the Heaven. But he is closer to the Hell Fire."6
A miserly person doesn’t pay the legitimate rights. He therefore becomes eligible of the Retribution on the Day of Reckoning. .Generosity makes a person acceptable here and also in the Hereafter. The quality of generosity is instinctive as are the other virtues of men. But the parents have to nourish these qualities in their children.
It is true that every child is born with his own individual nature, but some natures readily accept to become generous and others tend towards miserliness. The parents training and upbringing can have important effect on the moulding of the natures of the children. They can influence the child in curbing the miserly tendencies to a greater extent and encourage him to be more generous.
The thing that has the maximum effect on the child’s progress is the character of the parents. The parents are always the role models for the children. If the parents are generous in spending on good causes, the children too will try to emulate them. In stages this habit of generosity takes root in the nature of the children. If, to the contrary, the parents are miserly, the children too will mould themselves on the same pattern. Habits go a long way in moulding characters.
‘Ali, The Commander of the Faithful, says:
Train yourself to be generous, select the best of virtues and these virtues will become your habit."7
“Generosity is amongst good habits."8
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq said:
“To be a sinner it is sufficient for a person to spend nothing for his family and deprive them."9
Parents can make use of the following guidelines for cultivating the habits of generosity and magnanimity in their children:
1. Encourage the child to give a part of the things he has to the parents and his other siblings. The child must be suitably praised for the generous act and thanked. .In the beginning the child may be reluctant to part with his possession, but, by and by, he will get into the habit of being generous. When the child is reluctant for this experiment, he should not be forced into giving. This might make the child stubborn.
2. Sometimes encourage the child to allow other children to play with his toys. The child should also be encouraged to share his sweets and chocolates with other children. When he does it, give him a pat on his back.
3. Sometimes encourage him to give a part of his pocket money to the poor and the needy. Or ask him to spend some money for any good cause. If this becomes a habit, it would have a salutary effect on the character of the child as he grows up.
4. Ask the child to invite his friends home for a meal and see that he entertains them with care.
5. The parents can give some money to the child everyday to be given as alms or for some good cause.
6. Discuss with the child the difficulties and hardships of poor people. If possible take him along with you to the hospital, the orphanage and the home for the poor and aged. In his presence help some needy persons
This way the child can be initiated into the habit of generosity. We, however, cannot claim that this method will work on all the children. The parents should make their best efforts and the success can differ from child to child. Every individual has his own nature and the capacity to accept change. For the children their habits also come as a genetic factor inherited from generation to generation. But careful breeding can definitely have some good effect.
A lady writes in a letter thus:
“…. At a pleasant place we had an orchard. Different varieties of fruits used to grow there in abundance. My Mom and Granny used to send some fruits to the needy. They were particularly generous to such of those needy persons who were serving our family. They used to entrust this task to me. From the age of six or seven years I got into the habit of doing this work. In the village there were families of two blind persons.
My heart used to feel much for them. Every day when I visited them, I used to catch their hands, bring them out for some fresh air and take them back to their homes. .I used to bring fresh water for them from the lake. These blind men used to bless me and pray for me. When I told my Mom and Dad about this, they were very pleased. My mom said, one who has become blind is really deserving of all help.
My parents always used to encourage me for doing good deeds. I used to save from my pocket money and give to the needy. Slowly I got habituated of doing this. I am now a member of a social help organisation that is taking care of fourteen needy families.
My children too have taken good effect from my attitude. One day a child said,’ Give me some money every morning.’ I asked him, ‘ Why?’ he said, ‘ I shall save this money’ I give him the money regularly and remind him not to waste it. After some days he came to me with his treasure-trove. He had forty-eight coins in that. He said, ‘ Mom, if you permit me, I shall give the money to a blind person. He lives on the way to our school.’ I was very pleased with the child and I kissed and hugged him.”