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"Removing the Middleman" Chapter 2: Surah Al-Baqarah (The Cow): Verses 214-215


Do you think you will have entry to Heaven while you have not faced (in the way of trial) something similar to what was faced by those who were before you? Difficulties and distresses descended on them to such an extent that they were terrified, and the prophets with their companions cried out, “When will God’s help come?” But surely God’s help is ever close at hand. 104

 They ask you (Prophet Mohammad) as to what they should spend. (Say), “Good spending begins with parents, relatives, orphans, the needy, and (stranded) travelers.” Whatever good you do, God has full knowledge of it. 105


104 This is an important aspect of God’s world and for those among His creatures who aspire to be close to Him and be successful as His agents on this earth. We need to prove to God through adversities and difficulties that we truly believe in God, have trust and reliance in God, and have conviction of our faith and confidence in our work, whereby we are truly committed to serving mankind. The lives of the Prophets Mohammad, Jesus, Moses, Abraham, and Joseph, among many others, and the history of mankind in various times and places give us proof of difficult times faced by people of various faiths and cultures. Yet, in almost all cases, oppressed people were eventually relieved and put in power to see if they learned any lessons and ensured justice rather than behaved in the manners of the oppressors. The Holocaust is a prime example of this in more recent times. While the Jewish people in Germany were subjected to horrifying torture and murder, ironically, as they were liberated by allied forces, they themselves created a state which violated human rights, forced millions of people from their homes, and humiliated people in a manner similar to what they had been subjected to. Muslims too have suffered in terms of human casualties and continued oppression in the last several centuries through colonization, communist oppression, ethnic cleansing, internal conflicts, and dictatorship. However, our major challenge today is to free ourselves of the rituals, cultures, and activities that are in opposition to the teachings of the Qur’an and the Prophet and realign our vision to eradicate illiteracy, ignorance, poverty, and hatred and create an environment conducive to human development.

105 The act of spending in terms of charity is a fundamental responsibility and norm of Muslims and Islamic societies and is not different from any other religious beliefs and civilizations. Resources given by God to each individual are a trust and a gift and need to be shared with others, starting with immediate family, relatives, and the needy. Aside from charity to offer immediate and limited help, Muslims need to build functioning institutions at various levels and a social safety network. The fact that we are failing miserably in these areas is evident in many Muslim countries and Muslim communities. We need to address this immediately with well-thought-out plans and conscious effort sat the grassroots and national leadership levels.


The endowment of knowledge and the freedom to choose for mankind also imply the necessity for trial and difficulties so that we are forced to utilize our knowledge and make appropriate choices—it is through these trials and responses that we will be able to define the extent to which we have fulfilled our obligations to God and to mankind. This is also fundamental to our existence in all spheres of activity, be they familial, communal, national, or global. Too many of us are getting comfortable with only the five pillars of Islam and are forgetting the need to establish a just and functioning society that ensures freedom and full development of human potential and guarantees human dignity for all, irrespective of ethnicity, religious belief, gender, or national origin. Muslims are miserably failing to do this and are instead engaging in fundamentalist and extremist views on religious and societal obligations and responsibilities.


Spending for others is a fundamental part of our responsibilities as Muslims and as responsible human beings. The Qur’an even goes into great detail to define and delineate the various ways in which resources should be spent for family, for the needy, for education, and for common causes that will help us improve the quality of life on this planet.

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