Sunday 24th of January 2021
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Charity is never extravagance

Extravagance differs from person to person, it also depends on the prevailing conditions. It is possible that spending a undeniable quantity may not be extravagance in times of prosperity but if a similar amount is spent in times of famine when people are starving to death, it will be counted as lavishness and squandering. It would be obligatory for those people to avoid spending like in normal times and instead distribute that wealth among those who are in need.

Moatab, a servant of Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says, "There was an acute shortage of food when Imam (a.s.) asked me, 'What is the position of our stocked grains?'

'We have sufficient to last us months,' I replied. Imam (a.s.) said,
'Take it out and sell it.'

I said, 'There is a shortage of wheat and barley in Madinah.' But Imam (a.s.) insisted I sell it.

When I had sold it all, Imam (a.s.) told me that I should buy the daily requirements from the market like the common people and said,
'Fix a diet of half wheat and half barley for my family, Allah knows that I am capable of feeding them all pure wheat bread but I like it that Allah sees me fulfilling duties of my life faithfully.'"

The same order applies to the matter of dressing. Some stupid people have accused Imam Sajjad (a.s.), Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) and Imam Reza (a.s.) for wearing fine clothes whereas their fathers, grandfathers, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and Amirul Momineen Ali (a.s.) all wore humble clothes. The Holy Imams (a.s.) have always refuted this accusation by saying that those times were different. In those days the majority of the people dressed in very ordinary clothes but now there was prosperity and affluence in society.

"If we were to wear the same types of clothes today, people would insult us."
(Wasaelush Shia)

In an incident connected with the same subject we find Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) asking his critic to come near. When he came near, Imam (a.s.) opened his outward garment and the man saw an old tattered shirt inside. Imam (a.s.) said,
"This is the dress I wear to show humility to Allah and the other (outward) dress is for you and people like you to see."
(Wasaelush Shia)

Extravagance that is haraam at all times

We must know that three types of extravagance are Haraam at all times and in all circumstances. Its prohibition is not conditional. The first variety of extravagance is when a person spends something wastefully; even if the thing wasted is of not much significance; like throwing the date seed away when it could be put to some use. Or throwing away water left over after drinking when there is a shortage of water and someone else could have used the same. Tearing up and throwing away old clothes is also a waste; because they can be given to people who are less privileged. Having a light on when there is enough sunlight. Handing over something valuable to a child or a foolish person who does not understand its value; and who will spoil the same. All these are a kind of wasteful expenditure or extravagance.

Hazrat Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) saw some half-eaten fruits that had been thrown out of a house. He said,
"What have you done? If your bellies are full there are many people as yet unsatiated. So you should give it to those needy people."
(Mustadrakul Wasael)

Whatever is left after eating must never be thrown away. Very many traditions have emphasised on the giving away of leftovers to animals, especially leftover bread.

During the time of Prophet Daniyal wastage of bread was rampant. The people used to throw away the leftover bread and it could be seen lying everywhere on the streets. Prophet Daniyal invoked Divine punishment for these people and hence they were inflicted with such a severe famine, that they were prepared to eat each other.

The book Wasaelush Shia has mentioned that once Imam Baqir (a.s.) entered the toilet and saw a piece of bread lying on the floor. He picked it up and handed it over to his slave. When he had finished, he called the slave to produce that piece of bread. The slave said that he had cleaned it properly and then ate it. Imam (a.s.) said,
"I emancipate you in the way of Allah."

The Imam (a.s.) was told, "The slave had not performed any such deed that he deserved to be freed?"

Imam (a.s.) said,
"It was because he had respected a great bounty, like bread and ate it; hence Paradise became
occupant upon him. I do not like to enslave a person for whom Allah has ordained Paradise."

A similar type of tradition has been narrated from the Chief of the Martyrs, Imam Husain (a.s.).

As regards the wastage of clothes we have already quoted a tradition from Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) where he has remarked about the wearing of fine clothes in common place situations. He (a.s.) himself wore the fine clothes to suit his eminent position.

Eating or drinking harmful things is also a waste

The second type of extravagance is spending on eatables and drinks that cause harm to the body, like eating when one is already full. It is harmful to eat on a full stomach and it is a waste. However, spending upon those things, which are good for the body, is not Israaf.

Al Kafi has a tradition from Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.). One of his followers approached him and said, "When we head for Mecca (for Hajj) we have to halt at a point to wear the Ehraam and we also feel the need to anoint our bodies with a pack made from flour husk. Since we do not have flour husk we use flour instead, but it makes me feel very guilty; though our Lord knows better."

Imam (a.s.) said,
"Whatever is necessary for the body is not Israaf. Quite often we mix sieved flour with olive oil and apply it to our body."

The narrator then asked Imam (a.s.) to distinguish extravagance from stinginess. Imam (a.s.) told him,
"Bread, meat, milk, vinegar and ghee; whatever you wish you can eat. But do not eat all of them at one time."

Spending on haraam things is Israaf

The third type of extravagance or wastage is spending on things and vices that are haraam according of Shariah. Like purchasing wine or purchasing items used in gambling; paying to singers or prostitutes, bribing government officials, spending money to obtain unlawful gains or usurping someone else's property by force, paying for oppressing a Muslim. All these ways of spending are Israaf. One who indulges in these activities commits two wrongs; one is the action itself and secondly he is also guilty of Israaf.

Tafseer of Ayyashi records a tradition through Abdul Rahman bin Hajjaj who asked Imam (a.s.) the meaning of ayat,
"And do not squander wastefully."

Imam (a.s.) said,
"If one spends in any other way than what Allah has ordered, it is squandering and if one spends in the way of Allah, it is moderation."

Charity is never extravagance

Some of the ayats that deal with the subject of charity emphasise it to such an extent that if one gives away all his belongings while he himself is in need of them, he has not been extravagant. On the contrary it is one of the recommended actions and is liked by Allah. As the following ayat of Quran states:
"...and prefer (them) before themselves though poverty may afflict them, and whoever is preserved from the niggardliness of his soul, these it is that are the successful ones."
(Surah Hashr 59:9)

Preferring others to ourselves means that even though we are in need of something that we have, we give it to someone else who also needs it. We prefer to fulfill the other person's needs rather than our own. This is the spirit of sacrifice mentioned in the Holy Quran. In another place we have,
"And they give food out of love for Him to the poor and the orphan and the captive..."
(Surah Insan 76:8)

Majority of the Mufassireen (commentator of Quran) agree that the above verse was revealed in praise of Ali (a.s.), Fatemah Zahra (s.a.), Imam Hasan (a.s.), Imam Husain (a.s.) and their maid, Fizza when they had fasted for three days consecutively and every day at the time of breaking the fast they gave the bread in the way of Allah and contended themselves by ending the fast with plain water.

A person enquired from Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.), "What is the best charity?" Imam (a.s.) replied,
"One who himself does not possess anything but toils and earns and gives it in the way of Allah. Have you not seen the ayat of Quran:
"And they give food out of love for Him to the poor and the orphan and the captive...?"
(Al Kafi)

A report from a Sunni narrator Asim bin Kaleeb is mentioned in Tafseer Minhajus Sadeqeen. He reports that a beggar came to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and requested him for something. The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) sent someone to his residence to get something for the beggar but he was informed that there was nothing at home. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) announced among the companions as to who will render help to this poor man. Ali (a.s.) volunteered, saying,
"This destitute shall be my guest tonight."

He (a.s.) took him home and informed Hazrat Zahra (s.a.) about his condition. Janabe Fatemah Zahra (s.a.) said,
"O Ali! We have food enough for only one person and I had kept it for my daughter Zainab but you may do as you wish."

Imam (a.s.) said, "It would be better to put the children to sleep and put out the lamp because such a less quantity of food will be insulting before the guest."

Janabe Fatemah (s.a.) did as instructed and the food was placed before the guest. He began to eat and the food was not yet finished when he said, "I am full and the Almighty Allah has given barakat in your food." Thus he departed happily.

In another narration it is mentioned that afterwards Ali (a.s.), Janabe Fatemah (s.a.), Imam Hasan (a.s.), Imam Husain (a.s.), Janabe Fizza and Janabe Zainab satiated themselves with the remaining food and the happenings were reported to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) the next day, and the following verse was disclosed:
"...and prefer (them) before themselves though poverty may afflict them, and whoever is preserved from the niggardliness of his soul, these it is that are the successful ones."
(Surah Hashr 59:9)

It is recorded in Al Kafi that Samaa enquired from Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.): "If a person has just enough food to sustain him for a day, is it incumbent upon him to give from it to a needy person? Or if one has provisions for a month, only enough for him; is he required to give to those who are destitute? Similarly the one who has stocks for a year or any appointed period. Is it in any way incumbent for him to curtail his own needs and give a part of it to the needy? Would he be implicated if he doesn't?

Imam (a.s.) explained,
"There are two aspects of this matter, one is that the best of you are those who do good and prefers others over oneself. They are inclined towards sacrifice and charity. Regarding them Allah says,
"...and prefer (them) over themselves."

The second point is that though one who keeps only the necessary quantity for himself is not blamed, yet the hand of one who gives is better than the hand of one who takes. You must take precedence in helping those who depend upon you."

Amirul Momineen Ali (a.s.) says,
"Selflessness is one of the highest degrees of belief."

The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) says,
"There is no goodness in Israaf and there is no Israaf in goodness."
(Safinatul Behaar)



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We must always practise moderation

In addition to these verses we also have ayats that emphasise moderation in spending. For example:
"And do not make your hand to be shackled to your neck nor stretch it forth to the utmost (limit) of its stretching forth, lest you should (afterwards) sit down blamed, stripped off."
(Surah Bani Israel 17:29)

The above ayat is commanding the believers not to exceed limits in spending, so as to avoid its ramifications. The Almighty Allah says in the Holy Quran:
"And they who when they spend, are neither extravagant nor parsimonious, and (keep) between these the just mean."
(Surah Furqan 25:67)

Ibn Abi Umair has related that a person asked Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) the meaning of the ayat,
"...and pay the due of it on the Day of its reaping, and do not act extravagantly; surely He does not love the extravagant."
(Surah Anam 6:141)

Imam (a.s.) explained,
"There was a man from the helpers (ansaar) who was a cultivator. When he received his income he spent it all on the helpless and distributed it among the poor. As a result nothing remained for his family. So the Holy Quran has termed it as extravagance and said that he should pay the fixed taxes from farming but he must not be extravagant because Allah did not like extravagant people."

Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says,
"One who spends all his wealth in charity has certainly done Israaf."

Reconciling the two types of verses

In order to reconcile the differing verses, the scholars have mentioned some clauses. In the Sharh of Al Kafi we find that according to Tabarsi it is possible that the arguments in favour of selflessness pertain to the times of poverty, for example the initial period of Islam and the recommendation emphasising moderation in charity pertain to prosperous times. Or they may differ according to the economic condition of the one who seeks help, i.e. some people deserve to be helped even by sacrificing ones own needs and there are some people who need not be helped at the cost of ones own needs. It also depends upon the person who is being charitable. If he possesses complete and perfect faith, there is no harm if he exceeds the limits of generosity to fulfill the needs of people, but if an ordinary person donates everything and is himself impoverished, he will not be able to bear it. In this case it is advisable for him to stay within limits in charity. Thus except for the divine personalities and extremely pious people the masses can be said to belong to the latter category. Therefore the ayat,
"And do not make your hand..."
(Surah Bani Israel 17:29)

is addressed to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) but it is meant for the guidance of the common Muslims. Muhammad Ibne Makki was of the opinion that the rules of charity vary with person to person. The traditions, which imply excessive selflessness, are only for those who give their personal belongings to the needy and the traditions that hint a moderation even in charity are meant for those who have wife, children and family etc. Such a person cannot prefer others to his own children. He cannot give away whatever is necessary for his family to other needy people. Sacrifice of our own needs is allowed but it is not permitted to give away the requirements of our family and children. The honourable scholar has also stated that it is makrooh (detestable) for a man to donate his total wealth in charity unless he is sure he will be able to bear the consequences. Also it is necessary that he does not have the responsibility of a family or children.
(Daarus Salaam of Noori)

Sayyed Muhammad Kazim Yazdi also remarks that according to the Holy Quran, sunnat of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and the unanimous opinion of the scholars, Israaf is Haraam, there is no objection against this verdict. Israaf is the expenditure on useless things which is considered as wasteful by common sense; whether the amount spent is appropriate to the occasion or not.

Is Israaf possible in charitable deeds? Some of the scholars including Sayyed Muhammad Kazim Yazdi believe that it is possible. Some well-known jurists have stated the contrary. According to the traditions, "There is no goodness in Israaf and no Israaf in goodness." But we should know that the former opinion is more precautionary on the basis of other traditions on this subject.

After quoting the traditions of Ibn Abi Umair and Sahih of Bazanti and other sources, the late Sayyed says, "The ayats and narrations denouncing wasteful expenditure revoke (mansookh) the ayat of selfless sacrifice." Therefore it apears that it is not proper to sacrifice and to give gifts extravagantly which are not appropriate to the status of the donor, or which common sense perceives such generosity to be excessive. There is no logic in giving and taking of such gifts and donations. As mentioned earlier wasteful spending in necessary matters is also prohibited. The only exception being the expenses of Hajj and Umra which are not subject to any limits. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) says,
"No spending is more likeable to Allah than one which is moderate and except for over-spending in Hajj, He dislikes all types of extravagance."
(Safinatul Behaar)

No extravagance in charitable acts

The author of the present work is very strongly of the opinion that there is no extravagance in charity. Even if a person gives his total wealth with the intention pleasing Allah and of achieving Divine blessings he does not do anything unacceptable. He justifies his opinion on the basis of a few of the many ayats.

The ayat, "And do not move your hand..." is a lenient prohibition and does not mention the act as Haraam or Makrooh. Also the ayat, "And they who when they spend, are neither extravagant nor parsimonious, and (keep) between these the just mean." may pertain to househld expenditure and not to that which is spent in the way of Allah. It may also mean that those who are not stingy and also not extravagant are the obedient creatures of the Beneficent Lord. As regards the ayat, "eat of its fruit when it bears fruit,...and do not act extravagantly" and "surely He does not love the extravagant..." we can say that both these sentences form a single statement. The tradition, which explains the ayat also shows that the two are interrelated. Though it is true that a person who donates the entire crop in charity and does not keep anything for his family and children certainly commits Israaf. Charity and selflessness is permitted, but feeding and clothing his dependents is Wajib upon him. One who deprives his dependents of the basic needs and gives everything in charity has acted against Divine commands. But if he feels assured that he will be able to fulfill the needs of his family from other sources or that his dependents will not claim their rights from him, it is permitted for him to give everything away for the sake of Allah. This can be supported by the examples from the lives of the Holy Imams (a.s.). For example, Hazrat Amirul Momineen Ali (a.s.) had time and again performed such sacrifice of his total belongings. Once he sold his orchard for twelve thousand Dirhams and distributed the thorough amount among the poor and needy. He did not save anything for his family, but Ali (a.s.) and other great personalities never deprived their own dependents. Whenever they performed such charitable deeds they had faith in themselves that they would be able to provide their families from some other means. Whatever has been stated with regard to the ayats prohibiting over-spending can also be supported with the tradition of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) wherein he denounced the person who spends all his wealth and dies leaving his minor children destitute and helpless. It is prohibited for a person to spend his thorough wealth in charity when he knows that after him his children will be in need of it. If he leaves a legacy for his children who have no other source of income; the legacy shall also be in the way of Allah.

It is for this reason that drawing a will for more that a third of one's total property is prohibited. It is also commanded for those who have young children to will for less than a third of their wealth.

The traditions of selflessness apply to only special circumstances. Extreme generosity is not prohibited and whatever has been said about the meaning of the ayats explains the tradition of Ibn Abi Umair. The narration of Sahih of Bazanti may imply that, it is not proper to over-spend where Imam (a.s.) has prohibited extravagance. The tradition of Faqih may concern those people who spend in recommended ways, where it is occupant for them not to spend. The tradition of Imam (a.s.) may also be a refutation of the Sufis' assertion that excessive selflessness is incumbent and the Imams (a.s.) have also pointed out that spending for ones family's needs is also like spending in the way of Allah. The words of tradition also imply that moderation in ways of charity is emphasised with a gentle command. In other words over-spending in charity is only a recommended prohibition whereas we are aware of the incomparable charitable acts of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and the Imams (a.s.), and verses that were revealed in the praise of these deeds (The ayat of 'Hal ataa' and the verse of 'Najva'). Moreover, we see that Imam Hasan (a.s.) in his life gave half his wealth in charity to the poor and needy, on three occasions. The charitable deeds of Imam Husain (a.s.) and other Imam (a.s.) are also prominent. Imam Reza (a.s.) donated his total wealth in charity at Khurasan on the day of Arafat. When Fazl ibn Sahl pointed out that Imam (a.s.) has suffered a great loss, Imam (a.s.) replied that,
"Whatever I received as my share is sufficient."

Again on the day of Navroz when he assumed the seat of heir apparent of Mamoon under duress, he gave away all the presents and gifts to a single poet who had recited in praise of Ahlul Bayt (a.s.).

Hazrat Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) has been reported to have said,
"If all the world becomes my property and becomes a single morsel and I place it in the mouth of a single believer; I will not consider myself extravagant."

Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s.) says:
"If all the world becomes a morsel and I give to a true worshipper of Allah I will feel I have not fulfilled his rights completely and if I give even a gulp of water to a starving disbeliever; I consider myself extravagant."

These two narrations expound the fact that even if the whole world is gifted to a sincere and a pious believer it will not be extravagance, because he deserves it.

Numerous instances of selflessness of pious scholars have been recorded. Some of these righteous people have seen the rewards of their charity in their worldly life. Rawzaatul Jannat contains an incident regarding Muhaqqiq Ardebeli that during the times of famine he used to give away to the poor whatever he had. He used to live in poverty himself. One day when he had donated all his possessions his wife became angry with him that he had deprived his children in such times when food was scarce. He left his home and went to the mosque and sat there in Ehtekaaf. An unknown person arrived at the door of his house and handed sacks of wheat and flour saying that master Ardebeli sent it and that he was in Ehtekaaf at the mosque of Kufa. When Muhaqqiq Ardebeli returned home from Ehtekaaf his wife told him that he had sent very fine wheat and flour. When he learnt of the details he realised that it was a Divine favour upon him and fell down in prostration to thank the Almighty. Many times it was seen that the Muhaqqiq left home with an expensive turban but if he encountered a beggar he tore a piece from it and gave it in alms. On numerous occasions he returned home bare-head.

Israaf in belief and actions

Until now we have discussed extravagance in monetary terms but since the dictionary meaning of Israaf is "exceeding limits" and "extremism" the same laws apply to beliefs and actions. Israaf in belief implies believing about oneself or others something that is untrue and inappropriate. For example the belief of Firon that he was God. As he told the people, 'I do not know any of the gods except myself.' The Almighty Allah has mentioned him as 'one who crossed the limits.'

"...surely Firon was lofty in the land; and most surely he was of the extravagant."
(Surah Yunus 10:83)

Regarding those who do not believe in Allah, Prophethood, Imams, Qiyamat etc.

The Almighty Allah says in the Holy Quran,
"And thus do We recompense him who is extravagant and does not believe in the communications of his Lord; and certainly the chastisement of the Hereafter is severer and more lasting."
(Surah Taha 20:127)

Performing detestable acts and avoiding advisable deeds is Israaf in action. For example the homosexual inclinations of the people of Prophet Lut (a.s.) have been termed as extravagance:
"Most surely you come to males in lust besides females; nay, you are an extravagant people."
(Surah Araaf 7:81)

In fact all the sins of actions and speech are a kind of extremism and every sinner is said to have crossed the limits. The Almighty says:
"Say: O my servants! Who have acted extravagantly against their own souls, do not despair of the Mercy of Allah; surely Allah forgives the faults altogether; surely He is the Forgiving, the Merciful."
(Surah Zumar 39:53)

But we must not despair of our deficiencies. If we turn to Allah He shall certainly forgive. We on our part should make a sincere toil not to be wasteful in our daily lives and not to exceed the limits in whatever we are engaged in. Moderation has to be practiced by us even in routine acts like eating, sleeping and talking. As the tradition says,
"Verily Allah hates the one who eats excessively and the one who sleeps excessively."

For those who wish to study the subject in more detail we recommend the book Me'rajus Sa'adat. This book discusses the method of living in accordance with Islamic principles.


source : GREATER SINS Shaheede Mehraab Ayatullah-ul-Uzma Al-Haaj Sayed Abdul Husain Dastghaib Shirazi (r.a.)
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