What is the importance the religion of Islam gives to solidarity/helping others?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The religion of Islam is a religion of solidarity. No religion and ideology before and after Islam gave as much importance to solidarity and helping as Islam did and practiced this understanding of solidarity and helping like Islam.

Allah states the following in the Quran:

"Is it they who would portion out the Mercy of thy Lord? It is We Who portion out between them their livelihood in the life of this world: and We raise some of them above others in ranks, so that some may command work from others. But the Mercy of thy Lord is better than the (wealth) which they amass." (az-Zukhruf, 43/32)

We see this fact, which we learn from the Quran, in our daily life too. In no community today are people who share a common life and future in the same level; nor were they in history. The weak and the strong, the rich and the poor, men and women, etc. form a contrast and a harmony in the human communities. This diversity/contrast in nature forms the source of a movement, which we call "life". Due to this natural diversity, people in social life need one another. A rich person feels the need to apply to a poor person and a strong person to a weak person regarding several issues. No rich person can say, "I do not need anybody." For, he earns money through the power of the people he employs. He can say, "I have money, I can employ anybody I wish" but he cannot change this fact. No matter whom he employs, it means he will need them. We will see the same thing in all social relationships no matter what we look at.

We see that everybody needs others’ power, money and ideas. Therefore, they say, "A woman needs a man, a young man needs an old man, a bow needs an arrow / To sum up, people need one another."

That people need one another shows the necessity of helping one another. Helping one another is a natural result of living in a community. It is impossible to live with others without needing others’ help. Therefore, Islam deals with solidarity in the widest range that will encompass all aspects of our material and spiritual life and introduces it as a religious-ethical duty. This issue is mentioned in many verses of the Quran and Muslims are encouraged to help one another. The Prophet (pbuh) expressed the importance of material and spiritual helping in human life in many hadiths.

Allah Almighty states the following in the Quran:

"…Help ye one another in righteousness and piety, but help ye not one another in sin and rancor..." (al-Maida, 5/2)

If we consider that everything from charity to soft words and treating people kindly are included in the scope of righteousness and piety, we will understand better how wide our religion regards the scope of solidarity.

Self-sacrifice exists in the essence of the understanding of helping one another. This deed of giving is sometimes obligatory like in zakah and fitrah but it is generally voluntary. Zakah is given based on a certain rate but there is no limit in sadaqah. A person can give sadaqah as much as he wishes. Thus, Muslims help one another in great amounts. Along with material helping, Muslims are to do favors and love one another. It is their duty.  

It is regarded as sadaqah for a Muslim who does not do any charity not to harm others with his hand and tongue.  

Spreading the understanding of helping, which will be explained in detail below, will cause important changes in individual and social life; the benefits of helping one another will be felt at once. They can be listed as follows:

1. The poor will be protected through helping. If their material needs are met, they will be prevented from committing bad deeds. For, poverty and famine lead people with weak characteristics to bad deeds like theft and injustice. 

2. Amity and love will occur between those who help and who are helped. The people who are helped in the community will get rid of bad feelings like hatred, envy and enmity; they will not have their eyes on the wealth of the rich. For, the poor know that they give the poor their rights and help the people around them by obeying the order of the religion.

3. The Prophet (pbuh) said, "The hand that gives is superior to the hand that takes." Thus, he told Muslims that it is better to be a person that helps than to be a person that is helped. Those who are helped by their Muslim brothers when they are in trouble and undergo hardship will try to work and to be the people that give instead of the people that take. Thus, a race for virtue will start in the community.

4. Zakah, sadaqah and the other financial supports will become the most important factor that will make Muslims strong and in unity. It is difficult to think of a hungry person being in the same row as a rich person with the feelings of love and fraternity. Helping will close the gap between the rich and the poor along with establishing a bond of love and respect.

5. The feeling of friendship will be strong in a community where helping one another is widespread; wealth and welfare will increase; beggary, which is not regarded as nice by our religion, will disappear; haram deeds like theft and fraud will be minimized.

Types of helping

Allah Almighty states the following in the Quran:

"Knowest thou not that to Allah belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth? And besides Him ye have neither patron nor helper." (al-Baqara, 2/107);

"To Allah belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth; and Allah hath power over all things." (Aal-i Imran, 3/189);

"…To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and on earth..." (al-Baqara, 2/116, 255).

As it is understood from the verses above and similar ones, the real owner of everything we see is Allah. However, Allah Almighty states in other verses that all of the beings in the world and the sky were allocated to serve human beings as a grace and grant of Him:

"And He has subjected to you, as from Him, all that is in the heavens and on earth: Behold, in that are Signs indeed for those who reflect." (al-Jasiya, 45/13)

Allah, who is the real owner of the beings, explains as follows that He will give them to His slaves whom He wishes:

"Say: "O Allah! Lord of Power (And Rule), Thou givest power to whom Thou pleasest, and Thou strippest off power from whom Thou pleasest: Thou enduest with honour whom Thou pleasest, and Thou bringest low whom Thou pleasest: In Thy hand is all good. Verily, over all things Thou hast power." (Aal-i Imran, 3/26)

In addition, Allah did not leave human beings, whom He gave wealth and property, unattended and laid some responsibilities on them related to the wealth and property he granted them, and gave them some duties.  

"And in their wealth and possessions (was remembered) the right of the (needy,) him who asked, and him who (for some reason) was prevented (from asking)." (adh-Dhariyat, 51/19);

"Who believe in the Unseen, are steadfast in prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them; And who believe in the Revelation sent to thee, and sent before thy time, and (in their hearts) have the assurance of the Hereafter. They are on (true) guidance, from their Lord, and it is these who will prosper." (al-Baqara, 2/3-5).

We understand from the verses above that those responsibilities and duties are giving some of the wealth and property entrusted to them to other people. In about two hundred verses of the Quran, how, to whom and in what amounts to give it are explained. 

As it can be noticed, Allah Almighty orders “infaq (giving away)” just after belief and prayer in the verse above. "Infaq" means to spend/give away the wealth that Allah has given to others in a legitimate way. Infaq has parts like fard, wajib and mandub. Infaq that is fard is zakah and infaq that is wajib is fitrah; detailed information is given about them above.

The order "And be steadfast in prayer..." (al-Baqara, 2/43, 83,110; an-Nisa, 4/77) exists in many places in the Quran. The most important deed of worship in Islam is prayer (salah). That Muslims are ordered to give zakah immediately after prayer shows the great place of zakah as a deed of worship in our religion. After the foundation of the religion is laid with belief and the pillar is erected with prayer, there is an important mountain pass to pass through.

The Prophet (pbuh) states the following:

"Three things go to the grave after the dead person: His family, wealth and deeds. Two of them return and one of them remains with him. Those that return are his family and wealth; the one that stays with him is his deeds." (Riyadus-Salihin, I, 139)

It is an important duty to use and spend the wealth, which will remain in the world, based on Allah’s order. For, this spending will enable us to establish a strong bridge that will reach the pass in the hereafter.

Allah Almighty states the following in the Quran: "…Then strive together (as in a race) towards all that is good…" (al-Baqara, 2/148). Good deeds and charities are done with wealth, hand and tongue. All of those deeds that are done are called  "sadaqah"; the Prophet (pbuh) said, "Every good deed is sadaqah." (Riyadus-Salihin, I, 167)

The main good deed and help to be done with wealth is zakah.

"And be steadfast in prayer and regular in charity: And whatever good ye send forth for your souls before you, ye shall find it with Allah: for Allah sees Well all that ye do." (al-Baqara, 2/110)

Zakah is an obligatory kind of helping through one’s wealth. However, helping through one’s wealth is not limited to zakah. Muslims are ordered and advised to give what they have more than their needs to others. The following verses and hadiths tell us to help others by giving sadaqah along with zakah and inform us about its importance:

Allah states the following in the Quran:

"It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces Towards east or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfil the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah-fearing." (al-Baqara, 2/177);

"They ask thee what they should spend (In charity). Say: Whatever ye spend that is good, is for parents and kindred and orphans and those in want and for wayfarers. And whatever ye do that is good, -Allah knoweth it well." (al-Baqara, 2/215).

The Prophet (pbuh) states the following:

"Protect yourselves from fire even with half a date and if you cannot find it, with nice words."  (Muslim, Zakah, 95);

"What is eaten, stolen and taken from a tree that a Muslim has planted is sadaqah for him." (Riyadus-Salihin, I, 168).

If we accept the individual as the center of social activities, we will see that some concentric circles surround him. The closest circle to him is formed by his children and parents. It is followed by close relatives, neighbors and then the other individuals of the community he lives in. We understand from hadiths that man needs to help others based on this order.

Somebody who wanted to do charity from Sons of Uzra went to the Prophet (pbuh. He had only one slave. The Prophet sold his slave and gave the money to him. Then, he said to the man, 

"Spend this money on your needs first. If some money remains, spend it on your family. If some money remains again, spend it on your relatives. If some money remains again, give sadaqah to those people  - he showed the poor people around." (Muslim, Zakah, 41)

When Abu Talha wanted to give his orchard away as sadaqah, the Prophet (pbuh) advised him to give it to his relatives. Thereupon, Abu Talha divided the orchard among his relatives and cousins. (Muslim, Zakah, 42, 43).

The following is stated in another hadith:

"The hand that gives is high. Start giving away to the people whom you look after. Take care of your mother, father, sister, brother and then your close relatives and relatives." (Nasai, Zakah, 51)

In that case, if a Muslim wants to help others financially, he needs to start from his close relatives first and expand the circle gradually. The most important thing that he needs to consider is whether the people he will help are really poor or not.

The Prophet (pbuh) said,

"Real wealth is not abundance of property and goods. The real wealth is the richness of the heart."

However, man wants richness of goods instead of richness of the heart, which will never end; he becomes greedy and the more he earns, the more he wants. The Prophet (pbuh) explains this mood of people as follows:  

"If the son of Adam were to possess two valleys of riches, he would long for the third one. And the stomach of the son of Adam is not filled but with dust. And Allah returns to him who repents." (Muslim, Zakah, 116)

He states the following in another hadith:

"The heart of an old person feels young for the love of two things: love for long life and wealth." (Muslim, Zakah, III)

Thus, he informs us that love for wealth will continue throughout life.

Allah Almighty states the following in the Quran:

"The Evil one threatens you with poverty and bids you to conduct unseemly. Allah promiseth you His forgiveness and bounties. And Allah careth for all and He knoweth all things." (al-Baqara, 2/268)

"And let not those who covetously withhold of the gifts which Allah Hath given them of His Grace, think that it is good for them: Nay, it will be the worse for them: soon shall the things which they covetously withheld be tied to their necks Like a twisted collar, on the Day of Judgment. To Allah belongs the heritage of the heavens and the earth; and Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do." (Aal-i Imran, 3/180)

It is definitely a very noble act for a Muslim to overcome the greed for wealth mentioned in hadiths, the tricks of Satan and the feeling of stinginess mentioned in verses and to spend his wealth given to him by Allah as a grant, grace and boon in the way of goodness, and in the way that Allah and His Messenger order. Thus, he appreciates the boons, thanks Allah and attains His consent. However, we see that Allah Almighty seeks some qualities in real charity. Allah states the following in verse 92 of the chapter of Aal-i Imran:

"By no means shall ye attain righteousness unless ye give (freely) of that which ye love; and whatever ye give, of a truth Allah knoweth it well." (Aal-i Imran, 3/92)

In that case, we need to make a preference between love of wealth and gaining Allah’s consent. We are undergoing a test. We will pass the test if we give away some of the goods that we like to the poor for the sake of Allah. The behaviors of the close friends of the Prophet (pbuh) should be models for us.

Anas b. Malik narrates:

"Abu Talha, of Ansar, was among the rich people of Madinah. He liked the date orchard called “Bayraha” the most. It was near Masjid an-Nabawi. The Prophet often visited it, and drank its famous water. When the verse “By no means shall ye attain righteousness unless ye give (freely) of that which ye love…” was sent down, Abu Talha went to the Messenger of Allah and said,

Allah states the following in His book:By no means shall ye attain righteousness unless ye give (freely) of that which ye love.The most beloved of my property is Bayraha date orchard. I give it away now for Allah. I expect the reward of this charity and that it will be unending sustenance in the hereafter. O Messenger of Allah! Give it to the people that Allah orders.” (Muslim, Zakah, 42)

A kind of help done with wealth is "qard hasan". "Qard" means to lend money to a person without expecting any usury, interest, etc. It is a kind of financial help that Allah praises. This self-sacrifice is praised so much in the Quran that a person who lends money without interest is regarded to have lent money to Allah:

"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." (al-Hadid, 57/18)

In the verse above, those who lend money for Allah’s sake are praised like that. Thus, Allah promises spiritual rewards of manifold in the hereafter to the people who lend money to those who are in financial difficulty without expecting any returns and in accordance with the understanding of helping and doing favors of our religion.   

Fountains, bridges, mosques, schools, roads, hospitals, dispensaries and similar things are among the charitable deeds that can be done with wealth. Those charitable works are called sadaqah jariyah (ongoing charity); it makes man gain a lot of thawabs. The understanding of sadaqah jariyah caused foundations that served people to be established all over the Islamic world.

One of the most important ways of financial helping in terms of social and economic life is the rich people’s transferring their wealth to investment and provide employment for those who want to work. That is the best way of helping a person who wants to earn his living by working legitimately. Thus, a rich person will enable such a Muslim to earn his living and help to protect his honor and personality.   

Spiritual help: Allah Almighty states the following in the Quran:

"Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: They are the ones to attain felicity… Ye are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah..." (Aal-i Imran, 3/104, 110);

"Help ye one another in righteousness and piety, but help ye not one another in sin and rancor: fear Allah: for Allah is strict in punishment." (al-Maida, 5/2);

"The Believers, men and women, are protectors one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity, and obey Allah and His Messenger..." (at-Tawba, 9/71);

"If any one does a righteous deed, it ensures to the benefit of his own soul..." (al-Jathiya, 45/15).

According to what is narrated from Abu Musa, the Prophet (pbuh) said,  

"Giving of sadaqah is essential for every Muslim." They said,

"O Messenger of Allah! What do you say of him who does not find the means to do so?" He said,

"Let him work with both his hands, thus doing benefit to himself and give sadaqah." They asked,

"What do you say of him who does not find the means to do so?" He said,

"Then let him assist a needy person who is in difficulty." They said,

"What do you say of one who cannot even do this?" He said,

"Then he should enjoin what is reputable or what is good." They said,

"What about him if he cannot do that?" He said,

"He should then abstain from evil, which is sadaqah for him." (Muslim, Zakah, 55)

The prophet (PBUH) also said the following:

"All of the good and bad deeds of my ummah were shown to me. Removing something that disturbed people from the road was among the good deeds. Dirtying the mosque and leaving it like that was among the bad deeds." (Riyadus-Salihin, I, 157)

"Do not underestimate any good deed even if it is welcoming your believing brother with a smile." (Riyadus-Salihin, I, 159);

"The smallest good deed is the help that starts with removing something that disturb people or animals from the road." (Kashful-Khafa, I, 198)

We are ordered to do favors to people in many other verses and hadiths and we are shown the ways of helping.

It is a good deed for a person to fulfill his duties toward himself and the members of his family. It is also a good deed for him not to offend his neighbor and help him related to everything. It is a material good deed to feed and clothe an orphan and give him a place to live; it is also a good deed to treat him kindly, to win his heart with soft words and by caressing his head with love.   

It is a good deed to comfort a sad and aggrieved person, to teach others what one knows, to show the true path to the people around him, to visit sick, old and homeless people. It is also a good deed to help people around in all matters, give one’s seat to a sick, old or disabled person in the means of public transportation, to help a person cross the road by holding his hands and to show a traveler, a stranger the place he is looking for.

It is a good deed to remove something that disturbs and disgusts people from the street, market, etc. like stone, mud, filth and thorns. It is also a good deed to give water to a thirsty person or animal.

In short, it is good deed to do something that Allah and His Messenger (pbuh) want us to do and something that intellect and conscience regard nice. It is also good to avoid evil deeds and try not to do bad things to others. All of those good deeds are sadaqah.

It is the duty of every Muslim to do good deeds that are too many to count as if racing.  There is definitely a good deed that anyone can do. In fact, Muslims should not only do these good deeds but also help others do them and encourage them for good deeds and help. For, Allah orders us to help one another to do good deeds and to avoid bad deeds. Allah will certainly give the reward of anyone who does good deeds for Allah and who helps others materially and spiritually for His sake.

It is the duty of a Muslim to help one another in good deeds and also to try to prevent people from doing bad deeds. As it is quoted above, Allah orders us: "Help ye not one another in sin and rancor." "Enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil" is mentioned as a characteristic of virtuous people. All prophets fulfilled this order and tried to prevent the people to whom they were sent from bad deeds. Allah Almighty states the following about Sons of Israel, who did not obey the advice of their prophets and who were rebellious:

"Nor did they (usually) forbid one another the iniquities which they committed: evil indeed were the deeds which they did." (al-Maida, 5/79)

The Prophet states the following in a hadith: "When you see a bad deed, correct it with your hand; if it is not possible, correct it with your tongue; if it is not possible, disapprove it with your heart. That is the weakest belief." (Muslim, Iman, 78)

In that case, both enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil will be through words and deeds. A believer should try to prevent the bad deeds that he sees with his hands whether they are big or small. It is the ethical duty of those who cannot do it to try to prevent the bad deeds from being committed by giving advice to the people and telling them about the badness of what they do. If they fulfill this duty, the bad deeds will decrease, good deeds will spread and peace will be prevalent in the community. Doing the opposite will cause the bad deeds to spread like an epidemic and cause the community to corrupt. Therefore, our religion regards enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil among the important duties of Muslims.

The issues that need to be considered while helping others:

If helping is in question, there is one that helps and one that is helped, that is, one that gives and one that takes. To sum up, help usually occurs between two people. It is necessary to be careful about some issues for the help to be fulfilled properly. It should not be forgotten that the financial help that is given to people without searching usually leads to unwanted results. Therefore, it is necessary to take the following issues into consideration while helping: 

1. Help (charity) is given for Allah’s sake. If help is given without considering Allah’s sake, show off, hypocrisy and interest are present in it. Allah Almighty advises us to seek Allah’s sake in charities as follows:   

"…Whatever of good ye give benefits your own souls, and ye shall only do so seeking the "Face" of Allah. Whatever good ye give, shall be rendered back to you, and ye shall not be dealt with unjustly." (al-Baqara, 2/272).

2. When help (charity) is given, it is necessary to look for really poor people. Allah states the following regarding the issue:

"(Charity is) for those in need, who, in Allah´s cause are restricted (from travel), and cannot move about in the land, seeking (For trade or work): the ignorant man thinks, because of their modesty, that they are free from want. Thou shalt know them by their (Unfailing) mark: They beg not importunately from all the sundry. And whatever of good ye give, be assured Allah knoweth it well." (al-Baqara, 2/273).

Virtuous and modest people do not say that they are poor and they do not easily ask money from others. The rich people that help others should seek and find such people and should help them without harming their honor. There are many people who beg though they are not needy. It is necessary to keep away from those people whom the Prophet (pbuh) criticizes and not to regard them as poor people.   

3. We should not give worthless things as charity to others. It does not fit generosity to give away things that are mean and worthless. The following order of Allah Almighty should not be forgotten:

"O ye who believe! Give of the good things which ye have (honorably) earned, and of the fruits of the earth which We have produced for you, and do not even aim at getting anything which is bad, in order that out of it ye may give away something, when ye yourselves would not receive it except with closed eyes. And know that Allah is Free of all wants, and worthy of all praise." (al-Baqara, 2/267)

4. The help (charity) given to a person should not be reminded to him later to disturb him. The help that is reminded to the person later will bring no thawabs. It is necessary not to do bad deeds instead of good deeds. There is no doubt that the distress caused by rubbing the charity in will be more than that joy caused by the charity. Allah describes the charity that is reminded later as the work of those who are not believers:

"O ye who believe! cancel not your charity by reminders of your generosity or by injury,- like those who spend their substance to be seen of men, but believe neither in Allah nor in the Last Day. They are in parable like a hard, barren rock, on which is a little soil: on it falls heavy rain, which leaves it (Just) a bare stone. They will be able to do nothing with aught they have earned. And Allah guideth not those who reject faith." (al-Baqara, 2/264)

5. It is necessary to know about the mood of a poor person and treat him well. The person who helps another person financially should be clever. There are so many poor people who do not ask anything openly because they feel shy; they prefer to express their state indirectly. In fact, a needy person can be understood from his state. The people who help should be careful about it and should help them without despising them. It is necessary to treat the people who hopefully come to ask for help. They will be pleased if they are treated kindly even if they are not helped. Therefore, they say, "Welcome the needy people with smile; they will thank you if you give them something; they will understand you if you do not give them anything."

6. The Prophet (pbuh) said, "Do not underestimate any good deed even if it is welcoming your believing brother with a smile." (Riyadus-Salihin, I, 159) Then, no charity should be underestimated.

7. It is necessary for the person to do good deeds and charity to do it on time and not to miss the opportunity. The charity done late cannot meet the need.

8. It is necessary to help people secretly as much as possible. It is essential to help openly in fard worshipping like zakah but giving sadaqah secretly will save man from hypocrisy. Allah Almighty states the following in the Quran: 

"If ye disclose (acts of) charity, even so it is well, but if ye conceal them, and make them reach those (really) in need, that is best for you: It will remove from you some of your (stains of) evil..." (al-Baqara, 2/271)

The Prophet (pbuh) stated that those who gave sadaqah secretly so that the left hand would not hear what the right gave would be given shade under the shade of the Throne in the hereafter (Tajrid, II, 620). Hz. Abbas stated the following:

"A good deed is completed with three things: to hurry, to regard it something small and to keep it a secret. When you hurry, you will make the person happy; when you regard it something small, you will make it bigger; when you keep it a secret, you will be completed."

There are also some issues that those who expect help from others should be careful about. If they are not careful about them, those who help will be demotivated and abandon doing charity.

1. They should not ask more than they need.

2. They should accept the help without complaining and underestimating it.

3. They should ask help/money from generous people. To expect help from a person who does not like doing good deeds will lead the person who expects help to frustration. To ask help/money from a person who is not rich will put him into a difficult position. Hz. Ali said, "A person who does not understand that something is “unavailable” until he is told that it is unavailable is stupid."

4. It is necessary to respond to a person who helps with gratitude and prayer, not with ingratitude. The Prophet (pbuh) said,

"He who does not know how to thank people does not know how to thank Allah either and deserves the boon to cease." (Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad IV, 278)

In that case, it is an ethical duty not to be ungrateful and to thank for good deeds and help. This duty should be completed with a prayer.

The charities done with this understanding will make Muslims attain Allah Almighty’s consent.

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