In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Al-Baqarah Ayah 264 – Don’t Spend Your Wealth Only to be seen by People
In ayaat 264 – 266, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala explains to us through examples how charity can be preserved and how it is nullified. He says,
We have learned previously that when an ayah begins with, “O you who have believed…” then whatever follows next is an important part of our belief. That if we are true believers then we must do this (whatever is the instruction in the ayah).
The word sadaqah [صَدَقَا] is from the root letters saad-dal-qaf – we know that siddiq means truthfulness. Therefore, sadaqah is not something that will only be accepted if we advertise it but its acceptance depends on the truthfulness of our intention. What was your intention? Did we spend money in the Way of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala for His pleasure or to be seen by other people?
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala reminds us that the charity will be rendered in vain if it is followed by harm or reminders. In this case, the reward of giving away charity is not sufficient to nullify the harm and reminders.
“…one who spends his wealth [only] to be seen by the people…” meaning, do not nullify your act of generosity by your insincere intention. Whenever one is giving something in the way of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala – they must check their heart. What kinds of feelings are entering the heart? Does one feel arrogant that he is richer or better than others? A boastful person pretends to give away charity for Allah’s sake, but in reality, seeks to gain people’s praise and attention. He adores the reputation of being called kind and generous or perhaps desires some material gains of this life. He is insincere and does not think about the pleasure of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and His generous rewards. This is why Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said, “does not believe in Allah and the Last Day.”
Why did Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala say this? It is because if the person believed in Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and the Last Day, he would seek his reward from the King and not the servants. His intention would be pure and he would try his best to conceal his good deeds and not publicize them.
(Note: We read in the Qur’an that charity should be given both openly and hidden. The purpose behind giving openly is not to show off but to encourage others to spend in the Way of Allah).
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala next sets the example of whoever gives charity to show off. Ad-Dahhak commented that the example fits one who follows his acts of charity with reminders or harm. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said,
فَمَثَلُهُ كَمَثَلِ صَفْوَانٍ عَلَيْهِ تُرَابٌ فَأَصَابَهُ وَابِلٌ فَتَرَكَهُ صَلْدًا ۖ
“His example is like that of a [large] smooth stone upon which is dust and is hit by a downpour that leaves it bare.”
Safwan [صَفْوَان] is a huge rock that is visible from a distance.
Wabil [وَابِل] is continuous, heavy downpour.
One who spends for public exposure, for name and fame, can be likened to someone who sows a grain on a clean rock which has collected a layer of soil. Then the rain comes and washes it away. A person spending for the pleasure of people and not for the pleasure of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala will reap no reward for his good deed in this world or the next.
So Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said, “They are unable [to keep] anything of what they have earned. And Allah does not guide the disbelieving people.”
Why was this linked to one’s emaan? We should remember that disbelieve does not only mean rejecting something. The same word is used when a person is ungrateful such as kufran-e-naimat [when a person is ungrateful despite having a blessing]. Another reason is that a believing person will not follow his charity with harmful words, reminders or publicity. He will be conscious of its acceptance and seek the reward only from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
-We learn that 3 things nullify charity (a) harm, (b) reminders and (c) showing off.
-We also learn that spending to be seen by the people is a hypocritical trait. A true believer would be clear in his intention – he will not seek rewards from the people.
-We learn that firmness in faith encourages a person to conceal his good deeds.
DOWNLOAD PDF: Tafseer Al-Baqarah Ayah 264