The Two Ethics of Giving

In the name of Allah, al-Rahman, al-Rahim, al-Razzaq.

There are points in life where you are the giver or have the capacity to give. Giving is a noble act. Inside it lies the key to your happiness and contentment.

However, rarely spoken, inside it also lies the key to your own destruction.

Before we dive deeper, I want to invite you into one thought that pushes me to write this entry — have you ever been in a position where you need to ask for something from other people? Not out of “want” but out of “need”. The situation where you have no other option but to humble yourself and ask — could be for food or a favour.

I am truly privileged to never have to face such situations. Allah knows I’m among the weak. Nevertheless, I remember the gist of being in such a position.

I had no food left for breakfast and had to ask from a friend. To go out and buy it was impossible because the shops were still closed. Denying the hunger was not an option because I was starving and needed to prepare for a dry exhaustive day ahead.

I remember a feeling of inferiority and humiliation towards the giver; also a mix of shame and disappointment towards my own self.

This was clearly minute compared to people who are actually starving to death. But nonetheless, the experience opens a door of empathy towards the less fortunate.

Empathy is a very tricky trait. You can do numerous good deeds to the less fortunate in the name of empathy although deep down you were doing it for your own sake. You are socially and, arguably, even spiritually obliged to pretend to have it, but one will never sincerely feels empathetic towards others unless the similar misfortune is inflicted upon oneself.

The Ethics of Giving

1) Don’t feel superior towards the receiver

Superiority implies looking down on the receiver. With superiority, silently comes pride and hatred towards the receiver. Its subtle existence is often denied, yet it is there. When you are in the moment (of giving) you may see your superiority as a fact. After all, you get to decide whether or not the other person deserves your favour. But in actuality, that is but a mere delusion of your lower-self (nafs).

Understand: Anything that you decide to give towards a receiver is from Allah. It has been decreed that so and so will receive it at a very specific moment and day. You are simply a line of transmission, NOT the source of the gift. Allah answers the prayer of His servants, and sometimes, you become the means of acceptance of the prayer.

Know that when someone asks, and you are in a position to give, then do not give but with a feeling of humility and inferiority before Allah. How can you not be humbled when your Rabb decreed that His servant receives his sustenance through you? Worst yet, how delusional can you and I be to the point that we believe that indeed it is truly ourselves, who provide for the ones who ask?

2) Make abundance duas towards the receiver

We make duas (prayer) for the people that affect us deeply in our life. Sometimes, one wishes for goodness upon people whom one doesn’t even know personally because of the impact that person had on one’s life.

A person who asks you for favour may do so out of their need to survive. But the mere fact that they decide to ask you, out of every other people, is an interesting coincident. It is, in fact, Al-Razak (The Sustainer), who placed you in such a position to be a giver out of mercy for your own self.

When you make that conscious decision to give, say, a slice of your favourite pizza to someone who asks, you naturally give with a feeling of discomfort inside your chest. It’s certainly not easy, but it is the physical practice of purifying your heart from many of its diseases.

Having to give away food is a basic example of being a giver. On the larger lens, we are often placed in a position to offer the things that are scarce in nature, such as our time and possessions, to a receiver.

We can’t run away from being a giver no matter small or big because Allah is offering us multiple chances to purify our souls.

With this understanding, how can you not appreciate the one who asks from you? To an extreme, he might have just pulled you away from the fire. And what better appreciation can one offer than making abundance duas for them?

Summing it all up

Giving is a noble act that raises your status and envied by the dead. It was reported that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said

“The upper hand is better than the lower hand. One should start giving first to his dependents.”

- Sahih al-Bukhari (1427)

Having the ability to give is a great mercy from Allah for our own self. However, giving comes the great potential for you to have pride over the receiver. Giving, as with other good deeds, should be done with humility. And this humility stems from our deep awareness of the One who provides for us. To wrap this one up let us ponder upon a verse from the Holy Quran.

May Allah make us among the people who are grateful.

Ironic, but iconic. Stories connect people, but authenticity makes them fall in love.

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