In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Tafseer Al-Baqarah Ayah 215 (Part 1)
We learned in ayah 196 that when one faces a blockade in their life, they should give something in the way of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. The previous ayah talked about trials therefore the ayah that followed is giving us the way out of trials: Spend in the way of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala seeking only His pleasure.
It is said that when the Sahabah radhiAllahu ‘anhum learned about taqwa – they became extra conscious of the pleasure of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Therefore, they asked questions to clear out their doubts. We have stated earlier that the Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum only asked intellectual questions. They did not ask questions for the sake of questions or arguments. In this ayah they asked what should be spent in the way of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Muqatil bin Hayyan said that this ayah was revealed about the voluntary charity.
The first question to be answered was: What should be spent in the way of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala?
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala informs us: Spend from the khair [good]. This is the number one thing that we should keep in our mind. When we are doing our annual cleaning, we should not hand over rags and broken appliances to others. We have learned in Hadeeth No. 13 that a Muslim loves for his brothers what he loves for himself. If torn clothes or broken appliances are no more fit for our use then we should not give the same to others. We should keep the etiquette of giving in our minds. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala commands us to give the good. Gather du’as from other people not scorn. If Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has put you in a position to give, then give generously and with grace seeking only the pleasure of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
Kindness is Not Limited to Material Help
When Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala commands us to give, remember that it is not limited to material help. One can also help others with their time, skills, intellect and other blessings. Helping an orphan child with his homework is as rewarding as sponsoring a child. Likewise, helping your mother with the house chores is as important as buying her present occasionally.
If one reflects on this then we learn that all of us are in a position to be kind. We do not have to wait to be rich to help others. Alhumdulillah, a majority of us are physically and intellectually capable. We can do our own housework and reduce the load of our mother or the housemaid. We are grown up teenagers, we can offer tutoring to those younger than us and earn a small sum, thereby reducing our father’s load.
If we think about it, we can come up with various ways to help others. One sister shared instead of giving gifts to a new born, we should offer our help to the new mother. If we are close to her, we can ask her if it would be appropriate to cook meals for her. This service can be offered for the first few weeks at least until the mother regains her strength and establishes a routine with the new baby. One person does not have to do all the work, rather two or three friends can cook on alternate days. Imagine the bond that it will create between you.
Who Deserves Our Kindness?
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala next teaches us the value of relationships. Who deserve our kindness the most? Our parents! It is because whatever we have today and whatever we are today is due to our parents. Had our parents not made the sacrifices and taken the right decisions for our good future we would not have been in this position. Therefore, begin from your parents.
It is not necessary that one’s parents be poor in order to be helped. One’s parents can be well-established yet they deserve generosity from their children. These are the etiquette that Islam teaches us.
Moreover, one must not wait for their parents to “ask”, many parents out of self-respect never ask their children for help. They understand that their children have their own families to take care of and they do not wish to add additional responsibilities on their children’s shoulders. However, as children our parents are our responsibility. In Islam there is no concept of old homes or nursing homes. If parents sacrificed their leisure time and health to raise us then it’s time for us to reciprocate with much greater love and kindness than they showed to us.
Also remember, if your parents were absent from your life when you were young, there is no need to be hostile toward them or take a revenge. Do not say: they deserve this. No! Be patient with your trials and whenever Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala blesses you do not hesitate to become a good Muslim.
Know that if your parents are no more alive and you have missed your chance to be of service to them, they are in need of your du’as. When a deceased person’s scales are raised in the Hereafter, he asks why he is being raised higher since his book of deeds is now sealed. He is informed that it is because of the supplications of his children. Therefore, instead of crying over their loss and going in depression make lots of du’as for them. (Here are some du’as for parents that a child can make.)
In a hadeeth it appears that while talking about who deserve one’s generosity the most the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,
أُمَّكَ وَأَبَاكَ وَأُخْتَكَ وَأَخَاكَ ثُمَّ أَدْنَاكَ أَدْنَاك
“Your mother, father, sister, brother, the closest and then the farthest (relatives).”
Treat Not Your Relatives as Competitors
The next people to be helped are our relatives. While the pre-Islamic Arabs took pride in keeping up family ties and standing up for their tribe even if they were wrong, we seem to be callous with our relationships. (I personally do not know any family that does not have issues with their extended family.) The people who had once been living in the same house under the shelter of their parents become enemies once they are married. Siblings rivalry does not end with adulthood rather it continues and is passed on to the children.
Cousins have to compete with each other and even put one another down to please their parents. Someone else’s success is not celebrated together and instead occasions are sought to demean one another. What kind of teaching are we imparting? When will this rivalry within the blood ties end?
It is because of this reason that many houses are broken. The in-laws do not accept the new bride and look for ways to insult her. The new bride does not settle in the new house because she does not consider it her family. What is the purpose of marriage if we can’t live together in love and harmony? Why must we always insult one another and be rude?
Let us commit to this ayah and remember to be good with our relatives. Spend on them by exchanging gifts. Do not wait for birthdays and anniversaries to give them a present, surprise them occasionally. Also, do not wait for them to give you a gift so that you can “return it”. Whether your relatives spend on you or not, have a big heart and spend on them for the pleasure of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. And remember to give them “good” and not your garbage.
Spending on the Orphans, Needy and the Traveler
One should not just spend on their own selves or their families but also look after the needs of others such as orphans, needy and the traveler. Why a traveler? It is because being unfamiliar with the town, the traveler is in need of our kindness. Perhaps, he has run out of money and needs to return home. Perhaps, he is hungry but has only enough money to either return home or eat. Perhaps, he has lost his way.