Forgotten Virtues – #2: Give of yourself

a candle loses nothing

And spend in the way of Allah and do not throw [yourselves] with your [own] hands into destruction [by refraining]. And do good; indeed, Allah loves the doers of good.

– Translation of the Quran, 2:195

I was going to title this post “Be Charitable”, but i when i thought about the word ‘charity’, too many bad things came to my mind.

To me, charity sounds like a chore. It sounds financial. It sounds forced. It sounds ‘religious’, in the worst possible way: it reeks of collection plates and coercive methods and luxuriant temples built on donations that belong to the poor.

That said, charity is one of the most beautiful principles i can think of, and is inherent to every faith/philosophy. Allah Subhanna wa T’ala constantly encourages believers to be charitable, but His wording is interesting. Allah tells us to spend of that which He has bestowed upon us. So is that just money?

No. That includes any and all the blessings Allah has provided us with: our health, our time, our talents, our smiles and yes, our savings. It expands the definition of charity to include everything we can think of.

So this time, instead of encouraging myself and you to spend, or to be charitable, let’s just give of ourselves – in every way possible.

The point

  • Charity is only limited by your definition of it.
  • In Islam, even smiling at a person is charity, which goes to show you just how expansive – not expensive – charity can be.
  • Giving of ourselves means giving in every way possible – in our speech, our actions, our manner – if it includes kindness, it’s charity!

mother teresa feed one person

What we can do

  • Start small. The above quote is a wonderful reminder from a very charitable lady. Like all things, quality matters more than quantity. Just help who and what you can –  God will take care of the rest.
  • The greatest gifts are immaterial. Almost always, the greatest moments of charity in our lives don’t involve money at all. When she listened to you with real attention; when he held the door open for you with a smile, when you thought you’d never get home, but the one in front let you take their place in the long queue. Giving of yourself is like lighting another’s candle with your own flame – you’ll never run out of fire.
  • Give the way you would like to receive. You know that person that just has to remind you of their generosity whenever they’re being generous? Don’t be that person. Don’t let a generous heart lead to a big head.
  • Don’t expect a thank-you. Give for the sake of God and be pleased knowing your reward lies with Him – not with the person you’re showing charity to.

Some ideas for charity

  • Listen to people. It’s amazing the things people will tell you when they feel they have your full, non-judgemental attention. This is rewarding in itself.
  • Give of your time. You don’t have to join a volunteer organisation, just give five minutes a day to someone by helping them with a task.
  • Pray. This costs nothing, increases you in your own faith, and benefits the other person enormously. Not only do we also gain whatever we ask for the other person, we get to perform an act of charity in secret, without involving the other person at all.

“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle”. Whatever you give of yourself for the sake of God, a better, longer-lasting version of your charity is waiting for you in the Hereafter. So give – and expect no recompense except His recompense.

May Allah remind us of His blessings to us and increase us in His charity.

May Allah increase us in His provision so that we can increase in our generosity.

May Allah accept our acts of charity – big and small, open or secret – and make us people who give of ourselves.


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