Posted by: wasim | 10th Feb, 2007

Learning to give from what you love

An emergency on the subway last week forced me to switch to the bus in the middle of the city.  I ended up waiting at a bus stop outside a soup kitchen serving breakfast.

As I waited, a homeless man leaving the soup kitchen asked me for a pen.  I wanted to help him out, and of course I’m not one to refuse such a simple request, or just ignore him (like so many do with the urban poor) so I reached into my bag and I eyed a pen I didn’t really want.  I looked at it again as I handed it to him, making sure it wasn’t one I “needed.”  He got on a payphone, asked someone for an address so he could apply for a job, and then left.  With the pen. 

Later, as I studied the faces of the other passengers on the bus (I am always amazed by the immense class difference between the city bus and the Metro), I started to feel guilty.  I felt guilty not because I had given him a pen, but because I am instinctively selfish.  Without really thinking about it, I made sure to give him something I didn’t want or like.  Sure, functionally, I gave him what he needed.  But had I really been charitable?  What if I had just reached into my bag blindly and pulled out whatever I saw?  Most of the pens I own are ones I’ve found here and there — mostly just freebies I’ve up from offices or the Lexis/Westlaw printing room. 

The point is that even when faced with small, easy moments to be charitable, I try to minimize the cost to me.  What about giving charity freely, for its own sake, especially when it is so easy?  I hate that I don’t give freely from what I love.  Charity has to be more than just convenient. 

 So if I could go back and do it again, I’d reach into my bag and pull out the pen I’d want to keep (not that I think about pens in those terms really). 

 I need to learn how to give from what I value, to sacrifice.  Isn’t that the point of relgion for the people who “have”? Aren’t we are supposed to learn how to give to the “have nots”?

Muslims have to learn to give from what they love — whether that means their pens, their time, their energy, their money… we need to learn to be charitable and take advantage of the small opportunities as they arise. 

This reminds me of Surah Ma’uun, 107 of the Qur’an:

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

أَرَأَيْتَ الَّذِي يُكَذِّبُ بِالدِّينِ

Have you seen the one who denies the Reckoning?

فَذَلِكَ الَّذِي يَدُعُّ الْيَتِيمَ

Who shuns the orphan,

وَلَا يَحُضُّ عَلَى طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ

and forgets the hungry?

فَوَيْلٌ لِّلْمُصَلِّينَ

الَّذِينَ هُمْ عَن صَلَاتِهِمْ سَاهُونَ

Who worships mindlessly,

الَّذِينَ هُمْ يُرَاؤُونَ

and only to be seen,

وَيَمْنَعُونَ الْمَاعُونَ

and fails in neighborly kindness?


im looking for a wasim rahman who went to HDS a few years ago. is this you?

very moving post, we need to think about this more often.