Charity is a virtue that is greatly valued in Islam. In fact, zakat (fixed charity) is one of the five pillars of the faith. Charitable giving is considered an obligation on all those who can bear it, as it is considered the duty of Muslims to ease the hardships of the less fortunate. It is also a way for Muslims to avoid becoming hard of heart, as is said in Quran, "So fear Allah as much as ye can; listen and obey and spend in charity for the benefit of your own soul and those saved from the covetousness of their own souls, they are the ones that achieve prosperity," (Surah 64:16). History records that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was a generous man, but during the month of Ramadan his charity was unmatched.
Ramadan is a month when Muslims pay more attention to the family, the community and the less fortunate. A feeling of unity is prevalent throughout the Muslim world as families sit down together for Iftar, as faithful gather in large numbers in mosques to pray, and charities are distributed in a spirit of fulfillment.
Being charitable in Ramadan, however, does not require one to give vast amounts of money to the poor or arrange an extensive food drive. All little things count as well. Send some of your iftari to your neighbors to help foster that sense of community. Know someone who is new to the faith? Help and educate them on the values and practices of Ramadan. Is the local mosque a little far? Offer to drive any elders who can't make it. The smallest acts of kindness, of helping those in need, count greatly during the holy month.
Volunteering yourself is also a great way to do charity that does not involve spending money. Check if the Islamic schools need any more teachers or helpers. Bring the community together by participating in planning Iftar and then help with the clean up later. Keep an eye out for fundraisers and charity events and organizations that may need volunteers. Bring together a group and offer to deliver food and supplies to the less fortunate in remote areas and villages.
The month of Ramadan is said to be the time when prayers have a greater chance of being answered. Pray not only for your own health and success, but also for your family, your loved ones, and for the ill and struggling.
"Those who spend their wealth by night and day, in secret and in public, shall have their reward with their Lord. On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve" (Quran 2:274).
"By no means shall you attain righteousness unless you give freely from that which you love. And whatever you give, Allah knows it well" (Quran 3:92).
Written by Lubna Sohraab (Special to Times of Oman)