By Maulana Dr. Fazl-ur Rahman Ansari (R.A.)
ALL RELIGIONS of the world preach charity and social good because religion as an organised institution cannot but aim at the common good of the group which it brings into existence. The conception of social good may be different in different religions as far as the details are concerned and the scope may also be different in keeping with the norms and ideals of every particular religion. But the fact remains that social service must form and has always formed an integral part of the religious life.
So far as Islam is concerned, its point of view is that of society above self. Selfishness in all forms and self-agrandisement of every type form the very negation of Islam. This is so, because the Holy Qur'aan
has set the ideal of Muslim life in the following words:
"Say: Verily my prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are all for Allaah, the Lord of the world Who hath no partner."
At another place we have been told in the
"Verily Allaah has purchased from the Believers their lives and their wealth in lieu of paradise."
This means that a Muslim is he who lives his life for God and God alone. A Muslim is he who submits his will and his desires to the will and pleasure of God. Whatever he owns in this world is a gift of God and when he sells it away to God he retains it in his possession only as a sacred trust. He is consequently the trustee and not the owner and as such he has to pursue all the obligations towards God, towards himself and towards others with unstinted devotion.
Self-interest demands that a person should care for himself alone. But no one lives in a vacuum. Indeed, every individual is born in a society and is sustained through that society. The society is therefore the very foundation of his existence, as also the source of life and light and survival. To serve the society therefore is, in the final analysis, to serve one's own self. The healthier the society, the more the opportunity for the individual to lead a healthy life. The more godly the social order, the better will be the chances for leading a life of piety. On the other hand, if the society is corrupt and the social order falls into ruins, even the men of character are bound to suffer and the avalanche of social sins will crush the good and the bad without discrimination. Therefore, while Muslims have been enjoined to fulfill the obligations towards themselves, a much greater emphasis has been laid on rendering service to others. The Holy Qur'aan
defines the character of a Muslim in this regard in the following words:
"They suffer hardships for achieving the well-being of others, although such hardships may be extremely painful."
The whole life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be on him) is an illustrious demonstration and the glorious embodiment of this principle. When he married the wealthy widow, Lady Khadija, who was forty while he was a handsome young man of twenty-five, that was an act of sacrifice of the sensuous fantasies of the youth for the sake of providing companionship and solace to a noble old lady to whom no young man would like to have offered his hand in marriage. Lady Khadija placed all her wealth at his feet as a homage to his love. But although he was poor, he distributed most of that wealth to the needy and destitute and that remained law of his life all through. Even when he was the master of all Arabia and wealth was pouring in from all quarters, he and his family would starve for days together. This most powerful and greatest man of human history lived in a mud-hut measuring 10x10x10 feet and he would sleep on a bare mattress made of palm leaves, while his hands continued to distribute gold and silver to thousands of human beings. If he had anything to eat and he found anyone who also was in need of food, he would give that food to him and he and his family remained hungry.. It was the rule of his life not to keep any gold or silver or eatables in the house for the next day but to distribute them to the needy before sunset every day. When this great leader of mankind passed away from this earthly existence, Lady Ayesha had to borrow oil for the lamp from a neighbour. The ideal of Islam in this connection is contained in the following Hadith:
"The best among human beings is he who benefits human beings most."