This is a thought-provoking story that may teach us a lesson or two regarding donating to charity, insha Allah.
The Three Rich Men
“In a land far away, once upon a time , there was great poverty. There were no rich persons here but if there were any, only the extremely rich in this land would be able to manage without great problems.
One day, three rich men, and their servants, were travelling on the same road, in a convoy, when they came to this very poor village. Seeing all the extreme poverty around them, it provoked different reactions in all three men.
The first rich man couldn’t stand looking at the impoverishment, so he took all the gold and jewels from his wagons and quickly shared them among the villagers. He wished them all the best of luck, and he hurriedly left to carry on with his journey.
The second rich man, seeing the desperate situation, stopped for a longer time than the first rich man, and gave the villagers all his food and drink, since he thought that money would be of little use to them. Then, upon ensuring that each villager had received their fair share and would have enough food to last for some time, the second rich man eventually left the village.
The third rich man, on seeing such poverty, speeded up and travelled straight through the village without stopping. The two other rich men saw this from a distance, and commented with each other how the third rich man lacked decency and compassion. It was good that they had been there to help the poor villagers.
However, three days later, they met the third rich man who was traveling in the opposite direction. He was still travelling quickly, but his wagons, instead of the gold and valuables they had been carrying, were now full of farming implements, tools, and sacks of seeds and grain. He was heading to the poor village to help by teaching them the way out of poverty. He stayed in the village for a few weeks, if not months, to ensure that he had taught all that he knew regarding agriculture to the villagers before he left them.
Therefore, one may conclude that the third rich man’s contribution to the poor village was the most lasting and beneficial despite being the slowest, among the three, to arrive.
This story may have happened a long, long time ago, but we can see the very same thing happening in today’s society too. There are quite a few types of donors, but we shall examine three types in this post:
There is the first group of generous people who donate plenty, but may have another motive besides pleasing God. These people may also want others to see how much they are giving. They may not want to know anything more about the people they are giving to.
Another group of generous people really try to help others, but only so that they can feel better about themselves.
But there is also a third group of generous people: perhaps the best kind. Firstly, they aim to please God, as they know that God would want them to share their knowledge and wealth with people who are lesser privileged than them. To them it doesn’t matter what others may think of them. Nor do they donate in a showy way. Instead, they truly worry about how best to improve the lives of those they are helping. They give greatly of something much more valuable than money or food. They give their time, their vision, their tools and their knowledge.
مَّن ذَا الَّذِي يُقْرِضُ اللَّهَ قَرْضًا حَسَنًا فَيُضَاعِفَهُ لَهُ أَضْعَافًا كَثِيرَةً ۚ وَاللَّهُ يَقْبِضُ وَيَبْسُطُ وَإِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ
“Who is he that will lend to Allâh a goodly loan so that He may multiply it to him many times? And it is Allâh that decreases or increases (your provisions), and unto Him you shall return.”
Quran, 2: 245
In another Surah, Allah said:
مَّثَلُ الَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ أَمْوَالَهُمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ كَمَثَلِ حَبَّةٍ أَنبَتَتْ سَبْعَ سَنَابِلَ فِي كُلِّ سُنبُلَةٍ مِّائَةُ حَبَّةٍ ۗ وَاللَّهُ يُضَاعِفُ لِمَن يَشَاءُ ۗ وَاللَّهُ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ
“The likeness of those who spend their wealth in the Way of Allâh, is as the likeness of a grain (of corn); it grows seven ears, and each ear has a hundred grains. Allâh gives manifold increase to whom He pleases. And Allâh is All-Sufficient for His creatures’ needs, All-Knower.”
Quran, 2: 261
As narrated by Abu Huraira:
The Prophet said, “Seven (people) will be shaded by Allah by His Shade on the Day of Resurrection when there will be no shade except His Shade. (They will be), a just ruler, a young man who has been brought up in the worship of Allah, a man who remembers Allah in seclusion and his eyes are then flooded with tears, a man whose heart is attached to mosques (offers his compulsory congregational prayers in the mosque), two men who love each other for Allah’s Sake, a man who is called by a charming lady of noble birth, to commit illegal relations with her, and he says, ‘I am afraid of Allah,’ and (finally), a man who gives in charity so secretly that his left hand does not know what his right hand has given.”
Hadith Sahih Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 82, Number 798
Remember that God has given a person wealth not because God favours him more than the others, but God gives him wealth as a form of test.
As narrated by Abu Dhar: “…So I accompanied him for a while and then he said, “The rich are in fact the poor (those that are little rewarded) on the Day of Resurrection except him whom Allah gives wealth which he gives (in charity) to his right, left, front and back, and does good deeds with it…”Hadith Sahih Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 76, Number 450
Wealth is also a form of affliction or hardship, as this hadith states:
The Prophet used to seek refuge with Allah (by saying), “O Allah! I seek refuge with You from the affliction of the Fire and from the punishment in the Fire, and seek refuge with You from the affliction of the grave, and I seek refuge with You from the affliction of wealth, and I seek refuge with You from the affliction of poverty, and seek refuge with You from the affliction of Al-Masih Ad-Dajjal.”
Hadith Sahih Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 75, Number 387
Imam Ibn Katheer said : “Allah’s statement وَاللَّهُ يُضَـعِفُ لِمَن يَشَآءُ (Allah gives manifold increase to whom He wills) is according to the person’s sincerity in his deeds”.
How about the middle class or not so poor?
Narrated Abu Huraira:
The people said, “O Allah’s Apostle! The rich people have got the highest degrees of prestige and the permanent pleasures (in this life and the life to come in the Hereafter).” He said, “How is that?” They said, “The rich pray as we pray, and strive in Allah’s Cause as we do, and spend from their surplus wealth in charity, while we have no wealth (to spend likewise).” He said, “Shall I not tell you a thing, by doing which, you will catch up with those who are ahead of you and supersede those who will come after you; and nobody will be able to do such a good deed as you do except the one who does the same (deed as you do). That deed is to recite ‘Subhan Allah ten times, and ‘Al-Hamdulillah ten times, and ‘AllahuAkbar’ ten times after every prayer.”
Hadith Sahih Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 75, Number 341
Therefore, let us not despair if we have not gotten much wealth in this world. We are actually having life much easier than the rich, who will have plenty to account for on the Day of Judgement.
As narrated by Usama:
The Prophet said, “I stood at the gate of Paradise and saw that the majority of the people who entered it were the poor, while the wealthy were stopped at the gate (as their plentiful wealth on earth need to be accounted for). But the companions of the Fire were ordered to be taken to the Fire. Then I stood at the gate of the Fire and saw that the majority of those who entered it were women.*”
Hadith Sahih Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 62, Number 124
However, if one is wealthy, do not despair either. One still has time to change his ways of donating to charity, if he has donated inefficiently in the past. Perhaps he would remember this story so that he gets reminded to ask Allah for help, so he can be amongst those in the third group of rich donors, insha Allah…
[This article has been edited a story from http://www.facebook.com/MannersInIslam/ with additions by V.M.; References from The Holy Quran and Hadith]
* Why are the majority of residents in Hellfire women? This question will be examined by Victorian Muslimah soon, insha Allah.