IOK Ramadan Reflections Series #23: Fixing Your Mindset When Donating
On today’s episode of IOK’s Ramadan Reflections Series, I will be discussing verse 47 from Sūrah Yāsīn (47). It is a verse that talks about a very wrong sentiment that many people might have and perhaps some of us may have even witnessed.
Allah says: “When it is said to them that ‘donate from what Allah has provided for you’, the disbelievers say to the believers, ‘Why should we feed those whom Allah could have fed if he wanted to? You are clearly astray’.” (36:47)
This verse is very powerful because it reminds us of a mindset that we may be influenced by, that whatever we have is because of our own efforts, talents, drive, ambitions, and goals. Allah reminds us that everything that we have is only because Allah had given it to us in the first place. And this type of sentiment is usually found when it comes to donating, when it comes to giving charity, because wealth is something very, very difficult to part from. A person might look at their account, might look at the money that they had accumulated and conclude that no one deserves this. Or why should I “give a handout” because others did not work as hard as I have?
Allah reminds us over and over in the Qur’ān that Allah has stipulated an amount of sustenance for each of us, and that no matter how much effort we put in or don’t put in, we will receive whatever Allah has designated for us. And whatever Allah has not designated for us, no matter what we do in this world, we will never be able to achieve it. So, whatever we have, we have it only because of the mercy of Allah.
This mindset is very dangerous because it prevents a person from doing good for others. They might look at their wealth and say, ‘Why should I give to those whom others could help?’ That Allah, if he was so merciful, could have fed them if he wanted to. And because he did not feed them, I shouldn’t have to as well. We, instead of thinking in that very destructive way, should look at opportunities of charity as a way of Allah allowing us to do something good. That when you and I are given the opportunity to be of help to others, whether through our money, time, resources, or even if it is just through our Du’ās, we should look at every single one of those opportunities as a way of gaining the mercy and pleasure of Allah and earning good deeds. Allah has given you and I the capacity to be of help to others. We should always look at these as not just opportunities to gain closeness to Allah and rewards, but also as Allah answering the Du’ās of someone else through us. That we are being given the chance to answer the call of a person and Allah is utilizing you and I for that purpose. That when Allah gives us the opportunity to give, and that when we can be of help to others, we should not back out from it or think of it as a burden. We should not think of it as cumbersome and because we have been given wealth. Rather, it should be taken as something that we are grateful for, that Allah has given you and I the ability to be of help to someone else.
It is difficult to remove this mindset when perhaps we had put in so much time and effort into earning our wealth. We might think that the person most deserving of it is just us and then those who are closest to us, then those who I like, so on and so forth. So, why should I spend on those who have no connection to me, who I do not know, who I am not going to benefit from? However, we do not know how our help will manifest on the Day of Judgment, where that good deed will say ‘Oh Allah! This person was in help of somebody else’. Allah reminds us in 3:92 that “You will never be able to achieve the height of goodness until you spend from that which you love.” And it is very difficult to spend from the things we love.
Think of how clothing drives usually are when any organization or a Masjid has a clothing drive. Think of yourself donating to that clothing drive. How many of us give from the things that are still very good, lightly worn, perhaps even something new that we have in our closet? Perhaps it was a gift given to us or something that we had bought but did not wear yet. How many of us give from those things versus giving the things that have been worn for a very long time, losing color, maybe even torn? And we may look at this opportunity as a way of getting rid of the clothing we no longer wear. If it is in good condition but we no longer wear it, maybe it does not fit us anymore, that is different. But just utilizing that opportunity to earn good deeds by giving what is from the best of us, we give the worst as a way of just disposing. That is not befitting the dignity of the person who is going to be the recipient of those clothes. Allah reminds us that when it comes to spending, you will only benefit from it as much as you give and from the things that you love the most, and we cannot expect any of our good deeds to be of benefit to us in the hereafter if we do not do them for the right reasons.
So, having this mindset of ‘why should I help someone else’ causes us to overlook the blessings that Allah has given us. Perhaps we, if we were in their shoes, would not have had the same resiliency as them. We never think of it that way. We never think of the challenges and the obstacles another person might be facing. We never think of the fact that perhaps Allah has given wealth to us as a test, and He gave another a burden because they have the capacity to bear it. We must think along those lines because when it comes to helping others, we must put ourselves in the shoes of the people we are helping. By doing so, we remind ourselves of the opportunities that Allah constantly presents in front of us. This mindset of ‘why should I help someone when Allah did not help them?’ is extremely destructive and is a trait of the disbeliever, because the disbeliever does not think Allah has benefited them.
Whereas the believer knows that Allah is the reason why we have all that we have. Allah is the reason why we can do all that we do. Allah reminds us in the very beginning of Sūrah Baqarah that the believers are people “who spend from that which We had given them.” (1:3) Allah is reminding us in the very beginning of the Qur’ān, that what you have with you, what you have been able to accumulate in this world, is only because we have given you it. When you spend, you are spending from what Allah has given you.
May Allah guide us and protect us, may He give us knowledge that benefits us, may He give you and I the ability to have the correct mindset when it comes to giving charity, when it comes to being of help to others, and give us all the ability to recognize these opportunities that He gives us, Ameen.
Tonight’s Ramadan Reflections Series talk on fixing your mindset when donating was brought to you by the IOK Seminary Faculty. Catch up on previous videos or catch the next videos on the IOK Ramadan Reflections Series page.