Sheikh Abbas Jaffer deconstructs the concept of charity in the Holy month of Ramadan and discusses Sohor or the breakfast before Fajr from an Islamic point of view.
Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim. May Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala accept our 'Aml in this Holy month of Ramadhan InshaAllah wa Ta'ala and give us the tawfiq and the chance to take the benefit that is available in this great month InshaAllah.
Today we want to look at one of the philosophies of the month of fasting and we have in Hadith from Imam As-Sadiq 'alayhi as-salam when he was said, 'Qala as-Sadiq 'alayhi as-salam, Innama faradha Allahu as-siym li yastawibihi al-ghani wa al-faqir.' One of the reasons why Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala made the fasting compulsory is to make some sort of equality between those who are rich and those who are poor.
Definitely, when we fast, we feel hunger in a way that we're not used to. We feel thirsty the way that we're not used to because normally when we are hungry or when we are thirsty, it is very easy for us to get food, right? To go and get some food and eat it. But that is not the truth for everybody in the world. There are many people just because they are hungry or thirsty doesn't mean they can just go and get some food. There are many days in which they have to endure hunger. They have to have less in the day than we used to. They may have one meal only, a limited amount of drink. This is, we see this on our televisions all the time.
Now, the only way to empathise with them, the only way to feel what they're feeling, is in the fast. Because when you feel that hunger and you feel your stomach rumbling and you feel your mouth dry and then you look at the pictures on TV or elsewhere of people who are feeling like that all day long, you can understand their plight. You can realise what they're going through. The only difference between you and them is for you, at the time of Iftar, it is over. The trial is over. You can eat and drink now. For them, it doesn't end with Iftar, there is no such thing, it just continues and consequently, if this empathy leads to compassion, and leads to charity, and this is very important, because one of the greatest acts that human beings can do and in the month of Ramadhan especially, is charity. And charity will only come when you have a sense of compassion for people, when you see their plight or in the case of fasting, when you feel it.
And it is very important that we realise that just because you have money, it doesn't mean and they do not have money. It doesn't mean somehow Allah has favoured you and that you are closer to Him and the one who is starving, because they are sufferin, is further from God. No. This is part of God's system where He gives to some and He controls from some. They are all going through their own test.
So Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala, we have in one of the Hadith, Kalimatu Allah, that as for the people who I have given them wealth, they are My Agents. As for the people who I have kept poor, they are My Guests and My System requires My Agents to look after My Guests. This is what I want. So the guest has got his own duty with Allah. The agent has got his own duty and both are mas'oo, both will be asked about this, responsible about this, 'That you had, why did you not share? And you did not have, why did you not do sabr?' All this thing is part of it.
So knowing that everything you do in this month is magnified by God greatly. We are told this is the month of charity and we should give charity. Why should we give charity? First of all, giving out from your money, wealth, it purifies what you have. It gives barakah and effectivity to what you have. Sometimes having a lot of money doesn't mean barakah. Sometimes people with less money can do bigger things and having more money doesn't necessarily allow them to do those same things. So it purifies the wealth.
Qur'an, in Surah At-Tawbah says "'A'udhu billahi min al-shaytan al-rajim. Khudh min amwlihim sadaqa, tutahhiruhum wa tuzakkeehim bih" (9:103). 'O Rasul Allah, take from their money, sadaqa, take from their money, charity and sadaqa so that it not only purifies them but also cleanses them like this.' So sadaqa is something very important.
In the Akhirah, we have a very beautiful Hadith that on the Day of Judgement, the main problem, the main commodity that everybody will be seeking, is shade. People don't have shade. And Imam has said 'Everybody will be in the shade the side, the size of his sadaqa.' The amount of sadaqat you used to give in life, is the amount of the shade you will have.
The Qur'an has a very interesting verse where you know when people die, we have many verses that say, when people die, they say to Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala, 'Take me back, for one day I will change, let me go back. I will get closer to you.' In one of the verses we have that the people say 'I wish I had stayed longer in dunya, not to pray, not to fast so that I could give sadaqa. Why? Because when they come into Barzakh and Akhirah, they see the huge, huge station of those who used to give sadaqat, right? So they say 'Send me back so I can do more sadaqa.' Why? Here in dunya, we feel that this money is mine, I deserve it. And the other one, he doesn't have, that's his problem and I should. But we will leave it all behind and we have accountability for that, right? We have to answer for what we have and imagining that it is ours is a big mistake.
When it comes to giving out in Khums or Zakat or Sadaqat, we find our hands are trembling. Why? Imam Al-Sadiq salawat Allahi wa as-salamu alayh, told one of his companions, he was an old man by then, Unwan al-Basri. He said to him 'If you want real,' because he said to him 'Show me the secret of Ubbudiyyah, of Servanthood, of being the Abd of Allah.' He said 'If you want to know this secret, then remember, Abd doesn't own anything.' By definition, the slave owns nothing. Everything that he uses, the clothes he has that, is for the master.
If you realise the wealth you possess, is not yours, but you are the custodian of it. You are like the accountant. When a rich businessman phones his accountant and says to the accountant 'Can you transfer £5000 from this account to that account?' Do you think the accountant worries about it? No, it's not his. He's only following the instruction of the owner. Straight away he writes, and the money goes. If the accountant thought it was his own money, he would be nervous about it but he says 'It's not my money, I'm being instructed by the owner.' When we say this is not my money, I'm instructed by the owner, who is Allah to do khayrt, to do sadaqat, then we do it without worrying.
So in this month we give sadaqa and sadaqa, you know everything that is done for Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala is written down by the Angels, received by the Angels, except there are two exceptions to this. Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala "'A'udhu billahi min al-shaytan al-rajim . Alam ya'lamooo anna Allaha Huwa yaqbalu at-tawbah" (9:104). 'Do they not know that when it comes to Tawbah, Allah Himself takes it.' "An ibdihee wa ya'khudhu as-sadaqat" (9:104). And when you give sadaqa, Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala is immediately processing it.' It is not by others. God looks at these things personally, tawbah and sadaqt. When you give, Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala, personally is involved in that, in that way.
So this is something important. It requires thinking. It requires understanding and it requires a kind of softness of the heart which comes in fasting. Because how can you look forward to your iftar when you see your family preparing iftar for you? You are hungry and you know in 2 hours I will eat all these delicious foods. I will go to friends and we will share good food and we will eat you know in the night and all that. And yet, you know there are children, they have nothing like this. Their stomach is just as hungry as yours but they will not get any relief at iftar. They will get what little they can get and tomorrow the same and the day after the same. So why don't you send something to them? InshaAllah wa Ta'ala. May Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala give us the heart for this, InshaAllah.
In terms of masa'il, just one thing today that has been highly recommended that sometimes I think we do not do because maybe we do not take it very important. And that is the great emphasis in many many Hadith on Suhoor, on having something in the morning. First of all, the time of Suhoor, the time just before the fast starts or just before Fajr, is a very blessed time. In spiritual terms, a very blessed time. Imam Ali 'alayhi as-salam , would say, if you want to pray in the night, pray at this time, just before that, the salt time comes in, it is the best time to pray and it is the best time to ask for your Du'as. And it has special 'Amals. The Imams have taught us Du'as for Suhoor.
But we have in Hadith that Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala says to His Angels, that 'Whoever asks Me to forgive him at this time of Suhoor, I am quick to listen to him and forgive him. And whoever eats some food and some morsel at that time, at Sahar time, just before the fast starts, I am especially merciful to him. So it is not about breakfast or pre-breakfast or people say 'You know what? I am sleeping through.' You have to wake up for Fajr Salt anyway. So Suhoor is not a tradition or a custom, rather it is a Sunnah and mustahab and highly recommended to do. That you have, even if it is just a few dates or few something, a little bit of water, a fruit before you start the fast.
May Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala accept from us our 'Amal, InshaAllah wa Ta'ala. Wa as-salamu alaykum, wa rahmatullahi, wa barakatuh.