Nature gives freely. A tree doesn’t question who comes under its shade; she doesn’t try to inspect the heart, intention, motives of everyone that comes to admire her leaves, eat of her fruits, or seek shelter from the sun’s harsh rays.
In the same vein, she doesn’t dissuade the chirping birds from tousling her hair, creating homes on her crown, or waking her up at the crack of dawn with their fluttering and singing. Every part of her gives and gives freely.
Her roots don’t withhold water, because they are afraid of a portending drought. The leaves don’t refuse to breathe oxygen “just in case.” Her mesmerizing flowers celebrate their liberating beauty in laughter even at the point of sure death. Her fruits don’t think once of refusing to ripen on time, lest someone eats them. They ripen with abandon looking forward to the day they will be stripped to the core, only to become blooming trees again.
The secret that is shared between the tree and her leaves, roots, branches, fruits; is that for any of them to withhold, to decide willfully not to give, would result in the sure death of them all. The same analogy applies to the sun, the moon, mountains, rivers and seas.
For us humans, endowed with the double edged sword of free will, the act of giving becomes an exercise of the will. Each one of us is obligated to give, this is not a matter of extra kindness or options; it is what is expected of us through our sheer humanity. But no one can twist our arms to do it.
If we give anything of our time, energy, of our resources; we are joining the procession of (our) nature; we are harmonizing our existence to that of the universe around us.
When we withhold that which has been gifted to us; whether it is money, our time, what our hands can make, what our lips can say, where our legs can take us; we are eclipsing a part of our soul and creating an opaque barrier between us and the constant flow of free energy swirling around us.
When we make it a habit to withhold for fear of what evil may lie yonder; we are in essence tying a knot in our souls; and our fears and paranoia will only be compounded. For who knows what tomorrow will bring? How many infinite sorrows are held within that unfathomable bosom? And more importantly how many of those sorrows can we realistically stave away with our collection of paltry material accumulations?
On a pragmatic level, when we don’t give at a societal level, and the gap between the poor and rich increases then the whole society is going to be affected by violence, strife and instability. The dire consequences of poverty can not be circumscribed to the ones afflicted by it only.
If the biggest fear of mankind is death; then our mortality should only serve as a reminder that we are guaranteed to be separated from all that we love and hoard. And what terrible agony must it be at the point of death, to know that we are buried with our now useless talents, abilities and possibilities.
What is distributed after our death, even if done in our name, becomes a matter of course; because those “things” were never meant for us in the first place. The more salient aspects of giving, are completely lost in the process.
A few reminders from the Quran and sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him) on giving are as follows:
a) Give that which you love and love for your brother that which you love for your self. Don’t give anything which is in such bad shape that you would not want to receive it were it handed to you.
b) When you give don’t follow it up with reminders or expect reward from the recipient. c) Accord the recipient due dignity. This could be something as nuanced as checking the impulse to feeling superior or condescending to the recipient.
d) Check your motive: The intent should not be to show off, please others, or gain something else out of the transaction. We should give to please our Creator and continue the cycle of freedom and beauty in sharing, giving and receiving.
e) Don’t worry about the consequences: It is the effort that matters never what results out of it.
f) Give what you have in excess of: An example of this would be not to give your rent money away if that will leave you homeless. In the same vein, there is priority in giving and making sure your needs are taken care of, your family needs, your close relatives, neighbors etc. The ripple starts at a single point and continues reverberating into eternity.
“For those who give in Charity, men and women, and loan to Allah a Beautiful Loan, it shall be increased manifold (to their credit), and they shall have (besides) a liberal reward” (Quran 57.18).
Allah uses the term “loan” in the Quran to denote giving. But how can we “loan” to Him who is the Source of All blessings and Goodness? Doesn’t He have Power over everything in the Heavens and Earth? On further reflection, the term “loaning” implies we are anticipating a return, but not from fellow man but from Him. The transaction of giving although horizontal in our plane, acquires a vertical dimension as well; and God becomes the third party and witness to it. It also puts us in a position of privilege. Though we don’t really own what we have; the act of giving is wrapped in nobility; we are loaning to Allah a beautiful loan. What higher inspiration do we need than performing such an exalted deed at the gate of our Beloved?
So give freely, naturally, and abundantly; in this month where the Prophet (Peace be upon him) gave at the speed of wind; let go and be part of the energy that seeks to spread, nurture, and heal. May we be of the ranks of givers adorned by the beauty of compassion and depth of spirit (amin).