The act of spreading goodwill to others should not be limited to special occasions. Find out what Islam teaches us about financial planning so that we may be able to help those in need more regularly.
If you think about it, so many things in life are free: sunlight, wind, and the air that we breathe. Yes, there are mortgages and bills to pay. But if we tallied up the price of things that we pay for and those that come free from the Lord, which one would be bigger? What about the price tag on the smile of our family?
When we are aware and grateful for having more than we seek, whether they are material things or not, the urge to spread goodwill can come quite naturally. So, how well does the concept of sharing and caring sit within our family’s financial planning? Can we expand our financial goals to include helping those in need? If yes, how are we going to achieve this?
Should we plan a charitable action or should a special bank account be created for this purpose?
First, let’s talk about faith—something that reflects many aspects of our lives, including the way we manage our money and wealth. It influences how we prioritize and make financial decisions as well as how (and how much) we choose to spend. Islam is all about balance between our intentions and our deeds. Some deeds benefit ourselves, while some benefit others. These range from standing up during prayers to extending sadaqah (voluntary act of charity) to people who need help.
Surah Al-Baqarah (Quran 2:3) describes the faithful as those ‘Who believe in the unseen, establish prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them…’. Al-Anfal (8:2-4) further describes the faithful as ‘… those who, when Allah is mentioned, their hearts become fearful, and when His verses are recited to them, it increases them in faith; and upon their Lord they rely – the ones who establish prayer, and from what We have provided them, they spend. Those are the believers, truly. For them are degrees [of high position] with their Lord and forgiveness and noble provision.’
Faith is not only about our connection with Allah, but also with fellow humans. How we care for others, and how we spend and share what Allah gives to us in abundance—so that His blessings can be upon us all.
When giving is receiving
Now, let’s get a bit technical and broadly explore how we can allocate our wealth. How do we spend the money and wealth that Allah has entrusted us with?
Financial planning that cares for people among us is possible if we understand that we are obliged to share
There are two goals that we should achieve when allocating or spending our income, money or wealth. First, it should be towards the cause of the Lord. Second, it should be towards our family and ourselves. Sharing and caring for others falls into the first category. Let’s see what the Quran says about that:
And spend in the way of Allah and do not throw [yourselves] with your [own] hands into destruction [by refraining]. And do good; indeed, Allah loves the doers of good. (2:195)
And what is the ‘right’ amount of spending in the cause of Allah? How much from your income, or your wealth, are you urged to spend in the cause of Allah? We find a reference in Al–Baqarah (verses 2:215 and 2:219, respectively) as follows:
They ask you, [O Muhammad], what they should spend. Say, ‘Whatever you spend of good is [to be] for parents and relatives and orphans and the needy and the traveller. And whatever you do of good – indeed, Allah is Knowing of it. (2:215)
… And they ask you what they should spend. Say, ‘The excess [beyond needs].’ Thus Allah makes clear to you the verses [of revelation] that you might give thought. (2:219)
The beautiful concept of itsar—putting the needs of others before you—goes hand in hand in determining the act of spending in the cause of the Lord, portrayed in Al-Hashr (59:9) as ‘… but give [them] [the emigrants] preference over themselves, even though they are in privation. And whoever is protected from the stinginess of his soul – it is those who will be the successful.’The reward of spending in the cause of the Lord is tremendous: with faith driving the intention, and the intention being towards pleasing the Lord, the reward is beyond imagination.
Al-Baqarah adds that ‘the example of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is like a seed [of grain] which grows seven spikes; in each spike is a hundred grains. And Allah multiplies [His reward] for whom He wills. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.’ (2:261)
Everything in moderation
So, we have established that Allah and the needs of the self are the two major areas in which we should direct our income and wealth. This raises a question, Where do we draw the line between necessary spending and excessive splurging? How, when we are blessed with money and the means to use it, can we distinguish spending within acceptable perimeters from spending extravagantly?
Islam is full of messages that everything should be in moderation. This includes the planning of our personal and family finances, spending them or even giving them away.
Al-Isra’ (17:28-29) clearly puts across the message of ‘being in the middle’:
And if you [must] turn away from the needy awaiting mercy from your Lord which you expect, then speak to them a gentle word. And do not make your hand [as] chained to your neck or extend it completely and [thereby] become blamed and insolvent.
To spend for our own needs is totally permissible. We are allowed to use our money and wealth for our own welfare without being wasteful and extravagant. As mentioned in Al-A’raaf (7:31): ‘O children of Adam, take your adornment at every masjid, and eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He likes not those who commit excess.’
Another verse in Al-Baqarah (2:172) echoes this connection of faith with the permission to consume and spend what Allah grants: ‘O you who have believed, eat from the good things which We have provided for you and be grateful to Allah if it is [indeed] Him that you worship.’
Mind over matter
It is the beautiful dynamics of spending towards the cause of the Lord and spending on ourselves that can make our financial plan not just about money and numbers, but also about values and benefits to others. Financial planning that cares for people among us, whether they are kindred, friends or perfect strangers, is possible if we understand that we are obliged to share. Accept the rights of others to our wealth through charity, and realize that there is always more that we can do to care and share.