Let’s Do Charity!
Umar Ibn Khattab ever refused to receive his salary to give it to the poor. Then the Prophet -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- ordered him to take his salary and after that spend it on charity. This message contains a million meanings about the way of charity and pay the zakat well.
Indeed, there are so many scattered pearls of goodness in this world, in our religion. All has been shown its kind, place, and time. We will be very happy if all of us are able to possess all of those pearls, by diving with our all to the bottom of the sea of life struggle. One of those pearls is the pearl of charity. Let’s participate in digging it!
Umar Ibn Khattab -may Allah be pleased with him- at a time called one of his employee to ask him about a matter. He heard that the employee refused to take his wage. He said that he already has many horses and slaves, and he felt that he was living well thus he considered that it would be better to keep his salary as the country’s cash thus it could be donated to the poor.
Umar Ibn Khattab -may Allah be pleased with him- ordered that employee not to do that. He said, “In the past, I had the same principle as you. When the Messenger of Allah -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- presented me something, I refused it, saying, “O Messenger of Allah, please give it to the poor who need it more than I do. But the Messenger of Allah said different. He said,
‘Take it, O Umar. Use it for yourself, or you may donate it to others! If there are some wealth coming to you without you asking it, then take it. But if doesn’t come to you, then don’t fulfill your desire of it.” (Narrated by Bukhari, no. 6744).
If we look closer, we’ll find some precious lessons in this advice of the Messenger of Allah -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- to Umar Ibn Khattab -may Allah be pleased with him-. Here are some of it:
1. The Messenger of Allah -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- persuaded Umar Ibn Khattab to do charity with his wealth; not only with his words. Indeed, at a glance, it seemed like Umar’s refusal -may Allah be pleased with him- to take the wealth was based on a noble reason. He wanted the wealth to be used by the poor, since he already felt enough with current wealth. This attitude he showed is also named as ‘itsar’, that is, putting the other person rather than yourself to get something. In that occasion, Umar Ibn Khattab -may Allah be pleased with him- had shown his participation in charity through suggestion and words. But the Messenger of Allah -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- gestured that there was a better attitude that that. He persuaded Umar Ibn Khattab, that if he wanted to donate, he better choose a better way, that is by doing charity with his own wealth; not merely by suggestion and words. There is no doubt that encouraging people to do charity is a noble deed. Showing people where to give alms, donation or charity is a commendable thing. But to give charity from our own pocket is something that even more commendable.
2. The Messenger of Allah -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- persuaded Umar Ibn Khattab to fight his miserly nature.
We might agree that any wealth that hasn’t been in our pocket is easier to let go. Probably because there is still some impressions that the wealth belongs to public interest, or an institution, or cash of a foundation. But the case will be different when the wealth has became our possession and been added to our saving. Do you think it will be easy for someone to spend that wealth to help the poor?
You could imagine that, if you were an employee who routinely receives your monthly wage. Usually, on your salary cheque, there is a writing, “Social fund donation IDR 20,000.’. This amount of money is taken from your salary. You maybe think that it is a light matter. But imagine if there were no cutting of salary for social fund. Will you routinely spend IDR 20,000 from your salary to support the social fund?
Allah has adorned our hearts with love towards wealth and riches, whether it is in the form of gold, silver, animals or vehicles to ride upon, farm or animal husbandry. This is the form of love that is natural of human being towards the world.
Within our souls, we’ve also been embedded with miserly nature, selfish, and self-priority. But those who manage to restrain those characters are the truly lucky ones. Allah the Exalted decreed, which can be translated as, ” Man is prone to selfishness.” (QS. An-Nisa/The Women: 128). Allah the Exalted also decreed, which can be translated as, “So hold Allah in awe as much as you can, and listen and obey, and be charitable. This is for your own good. And whoever remains safe from his own greediness, it is such that will prosper.” (QS. At-Taghabun: 16)
One of the way to fight our miserly nature is as advised by the Messenger of Allah -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- to Umar Ibn Khattab -may Allah be pleased with him-. That is by letting the wealth that is legally ours to be in our saving, then “forcing” it to go out to charity so that it wont stay at the bottom of our pot of lust due to our rusty miserly.
Is it allowed to Pay the Zakat by Erasing Some Debt?
There is a problem regarding zakat that is related to this matter; Is it allowed for someone to erase other people debt to him, and intend it as his zakat payment?
This is the illustration: After counting the amount of zakat that he has to pay, A concluded that it was IDR 2.000.000,-. Coincidentally, A remembered that he ever lent IDR 2000.000,- to B, a poor man. Then A said to B, “You don’t need to pay for your debt, just consider your debt payment as the zakat I gave for you to settle your debt.”
According to the majority of the scholars, this payment of zakat is considered illegal. (See references: Majmu’: 6/210-211, by An Nawawi, and “Syarh Mumti’”: 6/237, by Ibn Uthaymeen). The reasons are:
- Zakat should be given by the payer and taken by the one who received it. Allah the Exalted decreed, “(O Prophet)! “Take alms out of their riches.” (QS. At-Taubah/The Repentance: 103). Whereas in this case, there was no handover between the two parties, since the ones who supposed to pay zakat didn’t actually give his wealth, but merely erase other people’s debt.
- Allah the Exalted decreed, which can be translated as, “and choose not for your spending the bad things.” (QS. Al-Baqarah/The Cow: 267). The verse forbids people to spend the bad things for alms, but in this case, the zakat that was given was still in the form of debt. We should admit that people’s view over debt is way different with his view over his own wealth (the wealth that was still in his hand, -ed).
- Usually, people would be easier to erase other people’s debt, or extend the period. It is different with the wealth that is still in his possession. He would feel much troubled to let it go. Therefore, a debt is considered as a bad wealth compared to one’s savings.
- Usually, people would erase the debt if he already had no hope that the debtor would be able to pay for his debt. In the end, he decided to consider the settlement of that debt as his zakat payment. The truth is he was just keen to protect the wealth that he lent and was hard to paid back, and thus he tried to find a safe way to not paying his zakat. And Allah knows best.
Author: Muhammad Yassir, Lc