Today’s guest post is by Aatifa Shareef, McSA’s Philanthropy Chair!

God says in the Qur’an, in Surah 2 (The Cow), Verse 83:

And [recall] when We took the covenant from the Children of Israel, [enjoining upon them], “Do not worship except God; and to parents do good and to relatives, orphans, and the needy. And speak to people good [words] and establish prayer and give zakah (almsgiving).” …

The idea of serving others is not some vague secular concept of doing things for others to make oneself feel good; it is an idea that is deeply rooted in at least the three Abrahamic faiths as emphasized by this verse in the Muslim’s Holy Book. It is an explicit commandment to help the needy and treat others with justice and kindness, and this commandment is on par with the command to establish prayer and give alms, two of the five pillars of Islam.

The concept of charity in Islam is broad. In a narration of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), he says, “Charity is prescribed for each descendant of Adam every day the sun rises.” He was then asked, “From what do we give charity every day?” The Prophet (pbuh) answered: “The doors of goodness are many…enjoining good, forbidding evil, removing harm from the road, listening to the deaf, leading the blind, guiding one to the object of his need, hurrying with the strength of one’s legs to one in sorrow who is asking for help, and supporting the feeble with the strength of one’s arms–all of these are charity prescribed for you.” He also said: “Your smile for your brother is charity.”

This broad definition of charity is in line with the Muslim ideal of doing everything with perfection, or “ihsan”. In a Prophetic narration, a man comes to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) asking about ihsan. The Prophet (pbuh) responds, “It is though you should serve Allah as though you could see Him, for though you cannot see Him, He still sees you.” This is true perfection.

In a Muslim’s life, actions are either in one of two categories: acts of worship, and acts that deal with others. Of course we must try to be perfect in our acts of worship, but most actions in one’s daily life fall in the latter category; thus, ihsan in dealing with others is of utmost importance. We must interact with the rest of humanity as if God were watching our every move. By being charitable by any means possible, we are employing ihsan in our dealings with others. As humans, regardless of faith, let’s all strive to perfect ourselves by being charitable in all acts of our lives.