The Observer (Kampala)

4 December 2012

Uganda: Don't Forget Simple Acts of Charity

It is a sanctioned practice in Islam that believers should give part of their wealth and perform such good deeds in the way of Allah - it will help in extinguishing their sins on the day of judgment.

According to the Qur'an and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, it has been appreciated that giving from one's wealth is one of the greatest actions that Allah has blessed believers with.

"And spend [in the way of Allah] from what we have provided you before death approaches one of you and he says, "My Lord, if only you would delay me for a brief term so I would give charity and be among the righteous," reads Surat Al-Munafiqun (63:10).

Charity is hinged on a discourse that the Prophet had with his followers as the Hadith captures: "Prophet Muhammad said: 'Every Muslim has to give in charity.' The people then asked: '(But what) if someone has nothing to give, what should he do?'

The Prophet replied: 'He should work with his hands and benefit himself and also give in charity (from what he earns).' The people further asked: 'If he cannot find even that?' He replied: 'He should help the needy who appeal for help.'

Then the people asked: 'If he cannot do (even) that?' The Prophet said finally: 'Then he should perform good deeds and keep away from evil deeds, and that will be regarded as charitable deeds'." - Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 524.

Sheikh Kassim Kigongo of Makerere University mosque says: "The greatest shield that will be used by believers will come from the charity they perform while living."

Kigongo, who hinges his observations on the teachings of Prophet Muhammad and the Qur'an, argues that performing charity can be through donating to the needy, Islamic charity needs like building mosques, as well as funding those who are doing Allah's work.

"Everything done righteously and out of will for the benefit of another is appreciated by Allah as charity," he said.

Charity is prescribed for each descendant of Adam. And this can be performed through enjoining good, forbidding evil, removing harm from the road, listening to the deaf, leading the blind, guiding one to the object of his need, hurrying with the strength of one's legs to one in sorrow who is asking for help, and supporting the feeble with the strength of one's arms.

Besides the heavenly benefits that come from performing charity, such good deeds promote harmony, togetherness and brotherhood.

"When you bring a smile to your brother, it will not only grant you a good status in heaven but it will promote togetherness and bonding between the benefactor and beneficiary," says Sheikh Saleh Muyangu.

Charity in Islam has been appreciated differently by different believers although it has underlying virtues as provided in the Qur'an and narratives of the prophet. For instance, charity has to be timely and out of sincerity; if it is money or material wealth, it should have been earned righteously and done without expectation for recognition.

"The prophet said that give charity without delay, for it stands in the way of calamity and it should be done without expectation of fame," says Jaffar Ssenganda, president of the Muslim Centre for Justice and Law as he cites Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 589. Besides, the prophet also teaches that charity should start from our closest proximities.

"Give (regular charity) out of your property, for truly it is a purifier, and be kind to your relatives and acknowledge the rights of the poor, neighbours and (those in need who seek your help), " reads -Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 3, Number 3. The Qur'an, 2:215 also provides that, "Whatever you spend with a good heart, give it to parents, relatives, orphans, the helpless, and travellers in need."

In light of the above, Kigongo says that before believers give out material wealth, they should always first work on themselves to improve on the status of their family members before the charity is spread to the rest of the community.

"Even when in a mosque, you can only donate to another mosque so long as it is established that there are no needs in your own mosque," he says.

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