GUEST POST BY MANDI NARR
I’m writing this now, in the month of Ramadan because I feel it is an appropriate time to bring this up. I feel the true spirit of giving is lost among Muslims. We have reduced charity to a mere point-earning system, where in we are rewarded in coin values of Mercy, Forgiveness and Blessings.
The more good we do, the more coins we stash so we can buy things in heaven. A lavish house within one of the suburbs where the Prophets live. A river of honey out the back door. Or perhaps a second floor filled with nothing but gold furnishings?
To me this seems like materialism. Just because we place it within the context of “hereafter” doesn’t make it any less comparable with the consumerism we try to escape right here on earth. And to believe otherwise, to consider the possibility of doing good just for good’s sake is, well, that’s just blasphemy.
I will tell you a story. And when you consider this story, remember that I am only talking about a brick. That’s right. A simple, red, jagged-edged, heavy brick.
It was a cold January morning. The kind of cold born out of a clear, crisp sky with no cloud in sight to hide the sun or keep the biting Canada cold winds at bay. I was walking into work and happen to notice that one of the bricks that decorated the edge of the grass was out of place. I stopped and picked it up and put it back in its rightful place, and to ensure no one would happen to trip over it.
As soon as a finished, one of the ladies who worked there as an Islamic studies teacher exclaimed from behind me: “Oh Mandi! So many times I walked past this brick and I never pick it up, I always say I will get it next time… but this morning you did, so you will get the blessings!” Now remember, we’re just talking about a brick. I turned to her, smiled and said “the ability to do good is a blessing in itself.”
She looked at me as if I just killed one of her kittens. “Oh no no no no! Don’t say that! Sister, you do believe in heaven and hereafter, right? That’s our belief!” she said as almost she as about to cry in shock and disbelief. Heaven forbid I should be an atheist for thinking such things! To keep from starting an all out argument, I smiled and nodded and went along my way.IT WAS JUST A BRICK.
I didn’t have it in me to explain it to her, nor did I have the time. Actually, I probably did have the time, but I simply didn’t know where to start. It astonished me that to her, the simple idea of the ability to help, do good, spread light and to even know God as a blessing in itself was not just something on heard of, it was a no-no. To her, and to far too many people, doing good isn’t a blessing, it’s only a way to get blessings. They don’t see it as an elevated state of being, as an expression of God consciousness.
No. Do good, behave, follow the laws and you will earn your points.
What has happened to us? Why is this version of Islam being spoon fed to the masses as truth? Where is the elevation? When do we start believing that not only are we the result of good, we can also be the expression of it? Whenever I think back on this cold day just a few years ago, I feel just as sad and astonished at her reaction and protests as I did then.
The true spirit of giving has been lost, and I wonder what it will take to bring it back. I urge us all, during this Holy month of Ramadan to bring this spirit back. To remember that it’s not about earning points or intangible coins of blessings but because we truly can feel the pain of another, and we want to alleviate that because we want no one to be in pain, because God Himself wishes for no one to be in pain.
Let us reflect on this, and reflect on the saying of Muhammad, that we should want for our brother what we want for ourselves. For that, we need closeness.
Reduce the spirit of giving to a mere point-earning system, and all we are left with is distance, coldness, and disconnection–not only from our fellow human beings, but from God as well.
Image courtesy: Getty Images
Mandi Nar is an avid seeker and traveler with a down to earth approach to spirituality. She sometimes suffers from giving too much to help others, and is working on her first book to discover what motivates kind hearted people to do so. You can follow her on Facebook.
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