On Zakat, Or “Why Is So Hard to Part with Money?”

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Quick reflection: Walking back from lunch I was asked by a homeless gentleman if I could spare some money; not unusual in DC and I try to give whatever I can if asked. This time, however, my conversation with this particular man was longer than most; he asked if I knew of any programs assisting homeless veterans. I replied that I did not, but I would look into programs (I did not mention that aloud, but am going to do that and any recommendations are appreciated). What followed is what I wish to bring more attention to and some of the feelings that emerged in my mind as it happened. Upon saying I did not know of any programs, the gentleman told me about trying to get to Augusta, Georgia for his mother’s funeral but did not have the $98 to buy a roundtrip ticket. At this moment my mind instantly felt divided; I had just taken out some money for a haircut, as well as some extra so I could give him some money and be cool. Another more cynical side of me thought, “This is probably bullshit; how do I know he will honestly use this to buy a bus ticket and not something else?” Fortunately and al-hamdulilah for it, the former part of my conscious won out and I handed the man some more cash and said that God willing he would get to see his family soon. As I walked away my thoughts continued to race, and it made me think, “Man, perhaps it is this type of internal debate that prevents people from giving charity.” Add onto that the anxieties many of us carry with us about money, especially amid a recession. “I have bills to pay; I need to save for this and that….” I often use these excuses to rationalize not giving or lying about what is in my wallet or rolling up my window when someone approaches. To be clear, my intention in sharing is not to put myself others or claim something special. All I am saying is that for all of us, especially those who claim that we care about fellow humans’ well-being and believe in giving charity, it is a struggle and I think that is the beauty of it. Whether you attribute altruism to God (in Its many forms) or being inherently human, rising above ourselves, particularly the impulse to horde things, and giving without want for repayment is a beautiful experience and becomes easier each time.

Salams for now.

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