Money is a tough thing to part with. We earn it painstakingly and save it with even more care. It seems almost unfair that we would be expected to share a portion of it with other people.
Some of us might argue that we are not “expected”to share it. That it’s ours and we may choose to share it. That this is actually a conscious decision that we make and there are calculations that go into it before we decide how much our community would ultimately get of it.
Here’s my take on this conundrum. Monetary charity is a form of tax of the soul. I hear the voices of dissent coming from you already. “All types of charity are a tax of the soul”. “All charities are equal”. “No form of charity should be considered less significant than another”. “Everyone contributes how they can”.
Agreed! But we are talking strictly about people who can make a monetary donation towards the community and may I add, without someone asking for it!
So why do I think that financial charity is particularly soul-purifying? This belief of mine comes after analyzing all the vices that money can actually evoke in us. Greed for more, conceit, envy when others have more than us, wasteful expenditure. So first of all, sharing money rids our soul of some of these traits that are truly unbecoming.
Also, if we really think about it, economy isn’t run by one person. Economy is run by people. Not sharing our money with our community and hoarding it isn’t good for the economy or the community. Not only that, hoarding atrocious amounts of money isn’t good for ourselves either. It gives a false sense of security but really, money isn’t a security at all.
However, sharing money can sometimes buy us the security that a direct purchase from money can’t. When we give our money to the community with an open heart we get love, trust, brotherhood, a fraternity in return. These things are actually the security that humans look for everywhere. They don’t “look” like security because we think that these are abstract concepts but take every one of these words and think about it. Can we run this world without any of them?
A lot of people reserve Ramadan for the Muslim obligation of Zakat. Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam and is compulsory for all Muslims who are able to donate. (There are different schools of thoughts on the question of it being compulsory. I belong to none and simply see it as a means to find a way to be charitable without feeling the need for a reason). It’s significance of course rises in communities where there is an uneven distribution of wealth. Many Muslim communities depend on Zakat to run community charity programs and sustenance of our more economically underprivileged population.
But I’ve asked myself this question and may be you have too. Just because we pay Zakat which is usually a very small percentage of our income if we meet criteria for it, are we absolved of any further financial obligation towards our community? Surely our community needs more. If a community depends on Zakat in any magnitude, it could surely do with more money. Do we consciously make an effort to donate more than what we think is necessary because we have too much? Because it is possible that we have too much. When we have more than what we need , shouldn’t our community get more than they need? To this thought I have made the following plan.
This Ramadan I’m taking a strong stand against myself. I’m letting my conscience override my brain’s constant rationalization of why I would need all the money that has been sitting in my bank for five years. I’m firmly telling my brain that I have to purify my soul more, I have to build my community stronger, I have to help my brothers and sisters in their hunger and homelessness and discomfort. This year I’m going to make a change. And I can’t make a change by sticking to a calculation with a disconnect to the reason behind the calculation. I can only make a change by going above that calculation and beyond the financially-wise but morally-lacking rationalizations of my brain. This year I’m hoping for my brain to join hands with my conscience in helping me make good financial decisions for my community.