|DEALING WITH POVERTY: A MUSLIM PERSPECTIVE
“The best amongst the people are the ones who are the most beneficial to others.” Muhammad (S)
If there is anything that we – that is, all people of faith – can do together, it is to stand in solidarity, regardless of our differences, to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and clothe those who are cold. For me this is real faith – faith in action!
Every religious tradition emphasizes the importance of doing just these things, and if all faith groups took their teachings seriously and literally in this regard, we could indeed lessen poverty if not eradicate it totally from our neighborhoods and the world.
Our Creator wants us to care for those in need, for when we do so, we witness to the virtue of caring about ourselves too!
Let me share with you Islam’s approach to eradicating poverty and bringing some justice into our midst.
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was well aware of the impact of poverty on individuals and society in his own day and his teachings illuminate timeless truths for us in the 21st century:
First of all helping others and making their lives easier is the question of belief: “He is not a believer who goes to sleep at night with a full stomach knowing that his/her neighbor is hungry.” (Muhammad, pbuh). For me, the entire city of Ottawa is just the beginning of my neighborhood, for I belong to a global village of seven billion human beings.
Secondly, sharing is a believer’s policy: “The food of one person is sufficient for two; the food of two sufficient for four…etc.” (Muhammad, pbuh). The greatest prophets of the world’s leading faiths teach that no one has so little that it cannot be shared.
Thirdly, people who are generous are people who possess an excellent quality: It is even better when it comes from the efforts of a wealthy people, or society. (Muhammad, pbuh).
Fourthly, whenever asked for help, Muhammad (pbuh) would never refused a request from the needy.
Fifthly, giving benefits the giver more than it benefits the receiver: “Wealth is not diminished by giving.” (Muhammad, pbuh). Giving actually increases our faith and universal value. Therefore, from the faith perspective, giving helps those who give, as well as those who receive.
Lastly, being generous and giving charity will not decrease our wealth; on the contrary, it will increase our wealth and bring happiness in the lives of the ones who are generous.