Charity towards man, in the widest sense of the word, is the cornerstone of the Islamic society and a constant theme in the Quranic teachings. There are two kinds of charities in Islam: the obligatory and the voluntary. The obligatory charity is called Zakat while the voluntary charity is called Sadaqah.
The concept of Zakat was not totally new to Islam; similar alms giving had been enjoined upon the Israelites and the Christians as well. In Islam, the Zakat takes the form of a prescribed contribution based on a person’s wealth and income. The rate of contribution varies with the kind of property owned but, on an average, works out to two and one half percent of the total value. The proceeds of Zakat are supposed to be devoted towards:
- relieving poverty and distress
- helping those in debt
- providing comfort and convenience for travelers
- providing stipends for scholarships
- providing ransom for prisoners of war
- propagation of Islam
- meeting the expenses for the collection of Zakat
- other things beneficial for the society
Zakat, therefore, is a duty enjoined by God in the interest of the society as a whole. While on one hand these charitable contributions provide for the needs of the society, on the other hand the act of giving in the name of God purifies the heart of the contributor from selfishness and greed.
Worship is common to all religions. What differs is only the manner and style of worship. That which is unique in Islamic mode of worship is that it contains features from the mode of prayers found in other religions. Some people pray to God in a standing posture and some in a sitting posture. In some religions people remember God by kneeling to Him, while others bow down to Him. Some stand before Him with folded arms, and others with arms hanging at their sides. In short there is no single mode of worship common to all religions as a whole. It is fascinating however to note that Islam instructs its followers concerning the manner of prayer so comprehensively, that all the postures of worship found in other religions are symbolically represented in the mode of Muslim prayer. Another step forward in the direction of ushering in an era of universal religion, it seems.
The institution of Islamic prayer is a most highly developed system, covering every human requirement. It should be membered at the outset that the purpose of worship is not just bowing to a superior being and paying homage to His greatness, as if God created man only for satiating His egotistic desire of being praised. All the purposes mentioned in relation to the philosophy of worship and the manner in which a Muslim is required to conduct his prayer, makes it manifestly clear that the benefit of prayer is drawn by the worshipper himself and in no way can it be taken as a favour to God. The Holy Quran declares that God does not stand in need of mens’ praises. He is so great in His nobility and so sublime in His character that the praises of His creatures do not add anything to His magnanimity and majesty. The Holy Prophet (sa) of Islam once mentioned that if the entire mankind had turned away from God and committed the worst possible sins, one and all, they would not diminish His universal grandeur even as much as when someone dips a sharp needle into a vast ocean; the water one finds adhered to the surface of the needle would be far more than the sins of the entire mankind could take away from the glory of God.
Worship in the Holy Quran is only prescribed for the sake of the worshipper himself. It is a vast subject, and we can only illustrate a few points in relation to this as mentioned in the Holy Quran and the traditions of the Holy Prophet of Islam.
As for the Islam veil, far from being a burden on women, it is blessing for them.
The true concept of the Islamic veil can be understood and judged correctly by studying the source of all the Islamic teachings, The Holy Quran.
The Holy Quran has preserved the teachings of Islam in its original form and it does not only prescribe the correct commandments but it also explains the reasons and the wisdom behind them and it points out the benefits which can be gained by following them.
One of the verses of the Holy Quran which deals with the subject of the veil is found in Sura Al Noor where God, the All-Mighty says:
And say to the believing women that they restrain their looks and guard their private parts and that they display not their beauty or their embellishment except that which is apparent, thereof, and that they draw their head coverings over their bosoms, and that they display not their beauty or their embellishment save to their husbands, or to their fathers or the fathers of their husbands or their sons or the sons of their husbands or their brothers or the sons of their brothers or the sons of their sisters or women who are their companions or those that their right hand possess or such of male attendants as have not desire for women, or young children who have not yet attained knowledge of the hidden parts of women. And that they strike not their feet so that what hide of their ornaments may become known. And turn ye to Allah all together, O believers that you may prosper. (24:32)
This verse directs the believing women to restrain their eyes when they happen to face men and to guard their chastity and also not to display their beauty and embellishment, whether it is natural or artificial.
The believing men have already been given a similar commandment, from God in the verse that preceeded this verse where we read:
Say to the believing men that they restrain their looks and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Surely, Allah is well-aware of what they do. (24:31)
It is clear that both men and women share equally the responsibility of observing this injunction. They should both restrain their looks when facing each other or, in other words, they should observe the Veil of the eyes.
Now we need to understand the benefits which can be achieved by following these directions. God never gives orders to his servants without a reason. Behind every commandment of God there is great wisdom.
Fasting in Islam begins everywhere at the first appearance of dawn, and ends with sunset. During this period one is expected to abstain from all food and drink completely. It is not just physical hunger and thirst that constitute the Muslim fast, but the nights prior to the beginning of the fast acquire a far more important character and play a central role in the institution of fasting. The Muslims wake up many hours before dawn for individual prayer and the remembrance of God. Also the Holy Quran is recited in every Muslim house much more than in ordinary days. A greater part of the night is thus spent in spiritual exercises which make upso the very essence of fasting.
During the day, apart from restraining from food and water, all is Muslims are particularly exhorted from vain talk, quarrels and fights, or from any such occupation as is below the dignity of a true believer. No indulgence in carnal pleasure is allowed; even husband and wife during the day lead separate lives, except for the formal human relationship common to all people.
In Islam, alms-giving and care for the destitute is so highly emphasised that it becomes part of a Muslim’s daily life. However when it comes to Ramadhan, the month of fasting, Muslims are required to redouble their efforts in this field. It is reported of the Holy Prophet that spending in the cause of the poor was a routine daily practice with him which has been likened unto a breeze, never ceasing to bring comfort and solace to the needy. However during Ramadhan, the reporters of the Ahadith — the sayings of the Holy Prophet (sa)– remind us that the breeze seemed to pick up speed and began to blow like strong winds. Alms-giving and care for the destitute are so highly emphasised, that in no period during the year do Muslims engage in such philanthropic purposes as they do during the month of Ramadhan.