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Spending for the Cause of Allah: Wrongdoings and their Remedies
Jhangeer Hanif


Spending for the cause of Allah is a great virtue. It relates a person to the society he lives in. A person who is indifferent to the needs of his fellow human beings is in fact a person who is ungrateful to his Lord – for it is His Lord who gave him wealth and riches to test and try him. Conversely, a person who is grateful to his Lord can never be indifferent to spending for His cause. However, a person who wants to spend for the cause of Allah must be aware of certain wrong doings that may tend to mar this noble gesture. In case, he allows them to flourish and does not tries to get over them, he will never attain the benefits and blessings such spending is supposed to bring him.

In the following paragraphs, a mention of some common wrongdoings of spending in the cause of God shall be pointed out and, then, their remedies under the guidance of the Qur’ān and Hadīth shall be explained.

1. Spiritless Discharge of Duty

Many people do spend in the way of Allah but without joy and delight. They seem only desirous of fulfilling a responsibility. They give in charity with apathy and great indifference. Since they do not have any genuine interest in this sort of spending, they contrive a way of giving in charity what does not weigh on their hearts – something which is either superfluous to them or of no value at all. When they choose to perform the worship of sacrifice, a worthless animal would be their choice. The alms they, at times, intend to give to the poor would be such that they themselves would recoil in disgust had the same been offered to them.

Obviously, this kind of spending does not attract any heavenly favors since it is accepted not the least by the Almighty. For any spending to be fruitful, the first and foremost condition to be complied with is whether the spending has been carried out whole-heartedly. A spending devoid of personal devotion and sincerity finds little favour with the Almighty. What gives birth to this devotion and sincerity is the realization of the fact that God, under no circumstances, needs us or our riches to have His will done. On the contrary, we ourselves need Him the most. He has actually put us through a test: He first provides us with His bounties and then asks us to return the same to Him in order to see whether we give them back with pleasure and delight. People who are mindful of this test give in His way what they themselves value in life. To present something highly valuable in His way in itself is sufficient evidence that it is being offered with utmost sincerity.

Some things may be valuable because they are simply priceless but, sometimes, circumstances may as well render an inexpensive thing to be most valuable, for instance, in the times of famine, a handful of wheat would account for an indescribable price. Similarly, for the poor, a handful of pennies would be as much valuable as a treasure to a millionaire. All such things are also valuable in the sight of Allah and when they are spent in His way with sheer sincerity they are sure to bring the best of rewards to the spender in this life as well in the life to come. To put it another way, what augments the value of spending is the sentiments attached with it regardless of the pecuniary value it carries. Consequently, the reward of a worker who spends few pennies will be as much as of the tycoon who offers countless wealth in the way of Allah since both are giving in His way what is equally valuable to them. When we spend in His way what we hold dear to us, we in fact reinforce our claim of loyalty to the Lord. However, those who strive to demonstrate this loyalty through a long litany of mere fiscal projections better be mindful of the Qur’ānic verdict in this regard:

لَنْ تَنَالُوا الْبِرَّ حَتَّى تُنْفِقُوا مِمَّا تُحِبُّونَ (٩٢:٣)

You shall not achieve supreme loyalty [to Me] till you spend in My way what you hold dear. (3:92)

 People who endeavor to discharge this duty of spending by giving in His way what they themselves dislike or from what they have accumulated through ill-means are reprimanded in the following words:

 يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَنفِقُوا مِنْ طَيِّبَاتِ مَا كَسَبْتُمْ وَمِمَّا أَخْرَجْنَا لَكُمْ مِنْ الْأَرْضِ وَلَا تَيَمَّمُوا الْخَبِيثَ مِنْهُ تُنفِقُونَ وَلَسْتُمْ بِآخِذِيهِ إِلَّا أَنْ تُغْمِضُوا فِيهِ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ غَنِيٌّ حَمِيدٌ (٢٦٧:٢)

O you who believe! Give of the good things which you have [honorably] earned and of the fruits of the earth which We have produced for you and do not even aim at getting anything which is bad in order that out of it you may give away something when you yourselves would not receive it except with closed eyes. And know that Allah is free of all wants and worthy of all praise. (2:267)

The word ‘طَيِّبَاتِ’ (tayyibāt: good things) in the verse quoted above alludes to any thing which itself is good and has also been earned honorably. The event, outlined below, from the life of a companion of the Prophet (sws) shall exemplify the behavior that Allah has asked of all the believers:

I heard Anas Ibn Mālik saying: ‘Abū Talhah had more orchards of date-palm trees than any other amongst the Ansār in Madīnah and the most beloved of them to him was the Bayrhā orchard, and it was in front of the mosque of the Prophet. Allah’s Prophet would go there and drink its nice water.’ Anas added: ‘When these verses were revealed:  “By no means shall you attain supreme loyalty [to Me] unless you spend [in charity] of that which you hold dear” (3:92), Abū Talhah said to the Prophet: ‘O Allah’s Prophet! Allah, the Blessed, the Superior says: “By no means shall you attain supreme loyalty [to Me], unless you spend [in charity] of that which you hold dear”, and, no doubt, the Bayrha orchard is the most beloved of all my wealth to me. So I want to give it in charity in Allah’s cause. I expect its reward from Allah. O Allah’s Prophet! Spend it where Allah makes you think it feasible.’ On that the Prophet said: ‘Bravo! It is a useful asset. I have heard what you have said, and I think it would be proper if you gave it to your kith and kin.’ Abū Talhah said: ‘I will do so, O Allah’s Prophet.’ Then Abū Talhah distributed that garden amongst his relatives and his paternal cousins. (Bukhārī, No: 1392)

 2. Showering Reminders of Generosity and Expecting Reward

The second common wrongdoing is that many people no doubt have the goodness of spending in the way of Allah but sadly this spending has mean motives behind it as well. Through whatever they spend, they want either to repay the favor already done to them or oblige someone since they know very well that by placing any person under the debt of gratitude they will be able to extort some benefit from him. Obviously, this sort of spending is nothing but merely a business in which a person invests in order to get returns. In case he does not foresee a profit, he will never be willing to risk anything. If, however, he happens to spend some money, he shall attempt to obtain full return for his investment. But, if circumstances somehow prevent him from realizing this return, he will be greatly irritated and will resort to despicable ways to heal his wounded lust. He, for instance, would boast to the world that he has done a favor to some poor fellow and that he has turned out to be an ingrate. His reminders of generosity would not cease even in the presence of that pitiable creature. The worst of it comes when his poisoned daggers mercilessly aim at the hearts of the alleged ingrate’s wife and children.

This type of conduct sweeps away all the good that the spender has originally done and instead of bringing reward to him causes him to suffer huge losses. In the sight of Allah, a kind word that one shares with his brother is better than to give him a treasure and thereafter hurt his self-esteem. The Qur’ān delineates this fact in the following words:

الَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ أَمْوَالَهُمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ ثُمَّ لَا يُتْبِعُونَ مَا أَنفَقُوا مَنًّا وَلَا أَذًى لَهُمْ أَجْرُهُمْ عِنْدَ رَبِّهِمْ وَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ قَوْلٌ مَعْرُوفٌ وَمَغْفِرَةٌ خَيْرٌ مِنْ صَدَقَةٍ يَتْبَعُهَا أَذًى وَاللَّهُ غَنِيٌّ حَلِيمٌ يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تُبْطِلُوا صَدَقَاتِكُمْ بِالْمَنِّ وَالْأَذَى كَالَّذِي يُنفِقُ مَالَهُ رِئَاءَ النَّاسِ وَلَا يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ فَمَثَلُهُ كَمَثَلِ صَفْوَانٍ عَلَيْهِ تُرَابٌ فَأَصَابَهُ وَابِلٌ فَتَرَكَهُ صَلْدًالَا يَقْدِرُونَ عَلَى شَيْءٍ مِمَّا كَسَبُوا وَاللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الْكَافِرِينَ (٢: ٢٦٢-٤)

Those who spend their wealth in the cause of Allah and follow not up their gifts with reminders of their generosity or with injury for them, their reward is with their Lord; on them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve. Kind words and the covering of faults are better than charity followed by injury. Allah is free of all wants and he is Most Forbearing. O you who believe! Cancel not your charity by reminders of your generosity or by injury like those who spend their wealth to be seen of men but believe neither in Allah nor in the last day. They are in parable like a hard barren rock on which is a little soil; on it falls heavy rain which leaves it [just] a bare stone. They will be able to do nothing with what they have earned. And Allah guides not those who reject faith. (2:262-4)

 The Qur’ān also enlightens the believers through another allegory about how reminders of generosity can damage their spending:

 أَيَوَدُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَنْ تَكُونَ لَهُ جَنَّةٌ مِنْ نَخِيلٍ وَأَعْنَابٍ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ لَهُ فِيهَا مِنْ كُلِّ الثَّمَرَاتِ وَأَصَابَهُ الْكِبَرُ وَلَهُ ذُرِّيَّةٌ ضُعَفَاءُ فَأَصَابَهَا إِعْصَارٌ فِيهِ نَارٌ فَاحْتَرَقَتْ (٢٦٦:٢)

Does any of you wish that he should have a garden with date-palms and vines and streams flowing underneath and all kinds of fruit while he is stricken with old age and his children are not strong [enough to look after themselves] that it should be caught in a whirlwind with fire therein and be burnt up? (2:266)

The best way to be rid of this wrongdoing is to realize that our act of generosity is a direct consequence of God’s abundant grace since it is He who provided us with enough resources so that we could be able to spend in His way. In addition, He graciously chose us to carry out this beneficial task. So, we must divest ourselves of the psyche of a businessman when we are to spend in His way. The specific mindset that the Qur’ān wants us to have while spending has been illuminated in the following verse:

إِنَّمَا نُطْعِمُكُمْ لِوَجْهِ اللَّهِ لَا نُرِيدُ مِنْكُمْ جَزَاءً وَلَا شُكُورًا (٩:٧٦)

We feed you for the sake of Allah alone: No reward do we desire from you nor [any expression of] thanks. (76:9)

 Those who long for such reward from the Almighty that they may rejoice at must always keep in mind the following verses of the Qur’ān:

الَّذِي يُؤْتِي مَالَهُ يَتَزَكَّى  وَمَا لِأَحَدٍ عِنْدَهُ مِنْ نِعْمَةٍ تُجْزَى  إِلَّا ابْتِغَاءَ وَجْهِ رَبِّهِ الْأَعْلَى  وَلَسَوْفَ يَرْضَى (٩٢: ١٩-٢١)

Those who spend their wealth for increase in self-purification, and have in their minds no favor from anyone for which a reward is expected in return. But only they desire to seek for the countenance of their Lord Most High. And soon will they attain [complete] satisfaction. (92:18-21)

3. Treatment of Beggars

Another ailment which eats into the spirit of spending is ill-treatment of those who ask for their needs. It is commonly observed that such people  have to suffer great humiliation before they are awarded a penny or two. This humiliating behavior that people so often adopt incurs more sins than any divine reward. What is hidden behind the stream of abuse they hurl at the destitute is their heartlessness; but they argue that they actually want to eradicate the evil of begging from the society. It is awfully absurd that they should claim so mainly because their so-called social-reform plan does not appeal at all to sense and reason. But if, for a moment, we assume it to be fruitful to some degree, even then there is no need to cuss since polite and decent talk can do much better to achieve this end without grieving anyone.

No doubt, some beggars we come across get on our back with their never-ending appeals. Sometimes, we encounter beggars who are actually disguised and have resorted to beggary merely to earn easy money. Of course, these observations naturally add to our exasperation. But still we must try not to censure or repulse them because this is not going to induce them to mend their ways. On the contrary, it may wrongly influence our own moral character. The befitting way to deal with such people is to return them with some words of good advice if one cannot or chooses not to give them anything.

The Qur’ān, on several occasions, has urged us to compassionately deal with beggars simply because their behavior, at times, may be very much annoying and Allah does not want us to let go of patience under any circumstances:

الَّذِينَ يُنْفِقُونَ فِي السَّرَّاءِ وَالضَّرَّاءِ وَالْكَاظِمِينَ الْغَيْظَ وَالْعَافِينَ عَنْ النَّاسِ وَاللَّهُ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ (١٣٤:٣)

Those who spend [freely] whether in prosperity or in adversity; who restrain anger and pardon  men; for Allah loves those who do good. (3:134)

 قَوْلٌ مَعْرُوفٌ وَمَغْفِرَةٌ خَيْرٌ مِنْ صَدَقَةٍ يَتْبَعُهَا أَذًى وَاللَّهُ غَنِيٌّ حَلِيمٌ (٢٦٣:٢)

Kind words and the covering of faults are better than charity followed by injury. Allah is free of all wants and He is most forbearing. (2:263)

 It is not to be feared that our mild interactions with beggars will encourage many other indolent people to seek refuge under the profession of begging. People do not assume this degrading office thinking that there are many philanthropists who will shower them with gold coins. There are indeed far deeper reasons than this the explanation of which is beyond the scope of this article. If the mere existence of philanthropists were the real cause for the proliferation of begging, then how could it be that, during the last days of the Caliphate of ‘Uthmān (rta), no one could find anyone in Madīnah whom one could give the ordained share of Zakāh.

One thing that needs to be kept in mind is that it is not the responsibility of individuals to put a check on begging. A government must endeavour to curb it through a wide range of social and ethical reforms. Individuals must maintain strict adherence to the injunctions issued by the Holy Qur’ān about beggars.

 4. Sentiments of Hate or Revenge

Sometimes, the desire to take revenge may have a deterring effect on the realization of the benefits of spending. This situation arises when a person cherishes vengeful sentiments against someone who holds a primary right to receive every kind of help. But, he ignores such people and instead of helping them out, he opts to spend somewhere else. Let’s understand this by another more explicit example. Suppose, you have a relative or a neighbor who is needy. According to the hierarchy established by Islam, such a relative or neighbor holds a right to be helped out first. But for some reason you bear a grudge against him. So, you leave him and give away your charity to someone else. Thus, you run counter to the divine scheme of Allah.

This behavior disturbs the natural hierarchy ordained by the Almighty and as a result contravenes all the requirements of justice. What needs to be appreciated is the fact that this order has been stipulated by Allah on the basis of His all-embracing wisdom and sagacity and that it has many hidden benefits for the prosperity of a society as a whole. Another thing which needs to be deliberated upon is that if we consider only those people deserving of our help with whom we have good relationships, then can we claim our spending to be devoid of self-interest? Is it not like a business transaction which you affect only when you anticipate returns?

Anyone who does not want to be deprived of the benefits of spending, ought not to alter the hierarchy specified by the Almighty and His last Prophet (sws) viz-à-viz spending in His cause. In the verses quoted above (3:134), the attributes of those who spend in the way of Allah have been described as: ‘they restrain anger and forgive the faults of others.’ This is in fact a stark reality to which the Qur’ān has alluded. Because only those people can discharge the duty of spending well who have the generosity to forgive them with all their heart and soul.

5. Delusions of Grandeur

Another ailment a spender suffers from is a false notion of his grandeur that he may develop when he spends hugely for the betterment of his nation. When he sees that people all around him are holding out their hands to him, he puts on airs and brands everyone as inferior to himself in his mind. Since his pride and pomp feeds on the entreaties made by the indigent, he continues to ‘serve’ them. He gets so accustomed to hearing his praise that when no one else is performing the task he himself starts to sing his own praises. He at last gets so captivated by the erroneous illusion of his superiority that every one who speaks about his true status ignites the flames of hatred within his heart.

This attitude uproots the very sentiment of gratitude that should be the basis for spending for the cause of Allah. Furthermore, it gives rise to haughtiness, arrogance and egoism on the one hand and effaces completely the feelings of humility and modesty on the other. He instead of learning a lesson from the poverty of people takes advantage of it and establishes his ascendancy over them. He gets so lost in his exploitation that he forgets the stark reality that everything which he has at his disposal has been awarded to him by the grace of his Lord and that he himself has not fulfilled a criterion to deserve them. Anyone who wants to cure this ailment must always remember that riches have wings. The world is an uncertain round but so much is certain that we are bound to face whatever the Almighty destines for us. What if He decides and the next moment we are broke? Can any amount of rebellion stop this to happen?

The other thing which should bear deep roots in our soul is humility. We ought not to feel proud that we are offering something in His way. On the contrary, our heart must be brimming with the feelings of humility and modesty. We must be thankful to Him that He graciously chose us to carry out this beneficial task.

The Qur’ān sheds light on such behavior in the following words:

 لَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ الصَّلَاةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُمْ رَاكِعُونَ (٥٥:٥)

Those who establish the prayer and give Zakāh while their heads bow down with humility. (5:55)

 6. Pomposity and Showing Off

The most common wrongdoing which damages the true spirit of spending is one’s yearning to earn fame through spending. Although this ailment is feared to be present in every virtuous deed, there are certain branches where it will play its detrimental part most effectively. Spending also falls within this realm. Its tentacles entangle every person who decides to spend in the way of Allah. Because people usually cherish the craving that they be recognized as wealthy and generous throughout the world not to mention the fame that knocks their door in the disguise of religion. Thus, many a time, those who set about to carry out this virtuous deed, end up spending for the sake of worldly fame and renown. Sometimes, other objectives also add to their list of priorities, for example, to please the political party in power or to attain charge of some organization or to the win the vote of some important faction of the society. Try as they might, they are unable to conceal their yearnings. Because they will be right there where their contributions are going to make the first page headline. Some of them even go to the extent that they desire that their fiscal plans be broadcasted around the world securing them full fame before they even begin spending. Consequently, the very act which is actually meant to increase the self purification of the spender turns out to be a mean business.

Some people contend that the advertisement of their spending in the papers is intended to motivate others to come forward and do something for the welfare of the society. No doubt, it helps in achieving this end but, today, it seems that only this way has been left to those who spend in the way of Allah. Whereas, from objective of self-purification, there is nothing equivalent to the spending done in secret.

Anyone who wishes to save his spending from this wrongdoing must spend more in secret than what he spends publicly so that the Lord who sees in secret will Himself reward him openly.


(Adapted from Islāhī’s ‘Tadhkiyah-i-Nafs’)


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