Philanthropy in Islamic Civilization

Since 2001-10-29

It is not possible for a person discussing our immortal civilization and its impressions, to lose sight of one such peculiarity of our civilization in which it stands out among civilizations. This peculiarity is the love of man. Our civilization ridding mankind of hatred, malice, dissention has taught it the lesson of love, generosity, co-operation and equality. In keeping with the Islamic law and the Islamic social principles, no question of superiority on the basis of race, class, or nationality arises. This principle is conspicuously at work in the bases of our civilization and its finer details.

Where the Islamic principles and elements are concerned it has declared that all men have been born from a single pair, Adam and Eve: {O mankind! reverence your Guardian- Lord, Who created you from a single Person, created, of like nature, His make, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women}

So humanity comes from the same origin. And it was from this common origin that people got divided into tribes, countries and classes. Their example is that of different brothers and sisters born out of the same parents. Such being the fact, the variations of classes and nations should only be a means of mutual recognition in good deeds. The Qur'an says:  {O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that ye may despise each other}

After that some individuals advance in life and others lag behind. Some become prosperous and others indigent. An individual becomes the ruler and a nation becomes subjugated. Some are white skinned and others get tanned or even become black.
And now all this is in accordance with the natural laws and the unchanging system of life. But certainly it does not mean that these discrepancies and this uneven-ness should be allowed to become the cause of distinc-tions and dissentions. The prosperous have no superiority over the indigent, the ruler over the ruled and the white skinned over the black. At the basic level of humanity they are all alike. Superiority, if any, lies in Taqwa or the fear of God: { The most honoured of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you.}

They are all equal in the sight of law and the law equally holds sway over and is superior to them all.
Distinction shall be made on the basis of truth and just-ice only. The Qur'an says: { Then shall any one who has done an atom's weight of good, see it! and any one who has done an atom's weight of evil, shall see it.}

In the collective form all have an equal position. The powerful of them supports the weak. And in this way the entire society serves every individual. A tradi-tion of the holy Prophet, says: "The example of the Muslims in the matter of mutual love and affection is that of a body. When one of its organs is affected with disease, all other organs suffer from fever and sleeplessness in sympathy." (Muslim and Ahmad)

Thus, Islam has been constantly proclaiming that humanity is a unity, and all its individuals are the off-spring of the same parents. Human society is like a tree that when the wind blows all its branches at all levels, high and low without distinction move to and tinction move to and fro. From this it can be easily understood that the Qur'an addressing mankind as "O ye men" or "O ye children of Adam", is for the reason that it wants to create and impress the concept of the unity of mankind. Similarly, the followers of Islam have been addressed as, "O ye who believe" and "O ye believers", and no racial or class ditinctions were allowed.

  • The Universality of Islamic Equality

Where the laws of our civilization are concerned, every aspect of them hem is pervaded by man's equality. In prayer they all stand before God in the same capacity (as slaves of God), there being no place of distinction reserved for any monarch, chieftain or a learned person. In fasting too, they all abstain from food alike, there being no distinctive facility for the rich. And on the Hajj pil-grimage, people are all clad alike (in a white shroud), stand alike. And there is no distinction of any kind whatsoever made between (those living) far and (those living) near, the strong and the weak, and the classes and the masses. Then if we look at the civil code, we find that one and all are treated on the basis of the truth and justice. The main objective of legislation is dispensation of justice. The law lifts its banner to check people from injustice, so that all aggrieved and deprived persons may find refuge under its shade. Again, when we come to study the criminal law, we see that all men are equally liable to punishment in case of violation of the legal limits. The murderer gets murdered, the thief gets punished for theft and whoever is guilty of violence is admonished and corrected. The murderer may be a learned person or an ignorant clod and the murdered person may be rich or poor "whoever has been oppressed may be an Arab or a non-Arab, may belong to East or West, they are all equal in the sight of Law." {The free for the free, the slave for the slave, the woman for the woman} (Qur'an 11:178)

  • Magnanimity of Islam

The Islamic Law is still more magnanimous, and irres-pective of faith, race and race faith, and colour, it honours the entire humanity. The Qur'an declares: {We have honoured the sons of Adam}

This honour is the birthright of all persons, and with respect to creed and knowledge and the mode of living provides the same opportunities for all men. It is the duty of the Islamic state to support them all in all these matters without distinction. The Islamic Shari'ah takes man to an even higher plane, and says that decisions shall be taken by God in matters of the rewards and punishments not on their outward appearances and acts but in accordance with their intentions (niyat).
The Prophet says: "Certainly, Allah does not look to your forms and countenances but to your hearts" (Muslim)

Rewards and punishments depend on intentions. So we find the following tradition of the Prophet, which has been reported by all the Traditionalists: "All acts depend on intentions and there is for everybody what he intended"

And along with that Islam has also pointed out that the intention agreeable in the sight of God is that doing good, beneficence and seeking the countenance of God must be intended and no material or commercial object-ives must be in sight. The Qur'an says:
{And adore your Lord; and do good; that yet may prosper}

For this good turn that is done only to seek the countenance of God, it is not right to expect any return from the person benefited. The Qur'an has said: {And they feed, for the love of God, the indigent, the orphan, and the captive, (Saying), "We feed you for the sake of God alone; no reward do we desire from you, nor thanks}

The Wide Scope and Perfection of Magnanimity
Islamic legislation takes its philanthropy to perfection when it brings men, animals, plants, in-animate objects, the earth and the heavens to slavery of God and obedience to the Jaws of nature. The Quran reminds every believer in a beautiful manner in every unit (Rab'at) of the prayer: {Praise be to God, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds; Most Gracious, Most Merciful} (Al Qur'an I:1-2)

And in this way it demands of every Muslim that he must always keep it in view that he is a part of the universe which is the creation of the Most Gracious, Most Merciful Creator, Whose Mercy extends to every-one and everything. Therefore every Muslim ought to make himself the manifestation of His attribute of Mercy in this universe of His in which he is living and depends on it too for his needs, although God does not in the least stand in need of his devotion and service.

  • Were these Proclamations a mere Show?

These were the manifestations of the philanthropy of our civilization, at work in its basic concepts also and manifest in its laws when they were proclaimed for the people. Now the question arises whether it factually behaved like that when it came in power. Or this principle just remained on paper like the Charter of Human Rights of the United Nations, whose anniversary is celebrated every year with great pomp and show, but the great powers of the world are trampling them under their feet every days, every hour throughout the year. Again, were these principles confined to the countries in which they had been proclaimed like the principles of the French Revolution that remained limited to the confines of France only, and those in the French dominions, colonies and those under mandatory rule were denied the privileges of liberty, equality and fraternity? Has any statue of liberty been erected anywhere else in the world like the one standing on the sea shore in New York that every one entering that country witnesses? And in the world outside, American policies and activities are practically chiding liberty, and the lovers of peace and liberty are being oppressed and crushed.

No. It was not so with the Islamic civilization. It accomplished what it professed. We ought to ask history since that is the only true witness. We ought to look at the brilliant aspects of the philanthropy of our civilization and see for ourselves what the facts, attitudes and acts of those in authority and ordinary individuals of our civilization, that are deeply impressed on the pages of history, are proclaiming loudly.

For Additional Reading: Evidences of Equality in Islamic History

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