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One of You is Worth More than Rooms Full of Treasure

A letter to my daughter:

Umar ibn Al-Khattab (ra) was sitting with a group of his companions. He told them: “Make a wish!” One of them said, “I wish to have as much gold as would fill this whole house, so that I could spend it in Jihad.”  Then again ‘Umar said: “Make a wish!” and another man said, “I wish that this house was full of jewels and pearls so that I could spend it all in Jihad and charity for the sake of Allah.”

Umar said for the third time: “Make a wish.” His companions said: “We don’t know what to say, O leader of the believers.”

Thereupon Umar said, “I wish that this house was full of men like Abu ‘Ubaydah Ibn Al-Jarraah, Mu’aadh ibn Jabal and Saalim who works for Abu Hudhayfah in order to use them to spread the word of Allah.”
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I remember myself as the typical broke university student. There were times I barely had enough cash to buy a sandwich or cup of coffee in the middle of a long day of classes. This was a common struggle among students and it didn’t bother me much.

But there was something that bothered me about continuously finding myself in this state. I used to attend lectures and fundraising dinners with my family, or get caught up in impromptu fundraisers in that break between the eight rak’ahs of tarweeh. It didn’t upset me to hear about how good it was to give charity or how much just a few dollars would help the masjid. It bothered me that I didn’t have the money to give.

I remember I would leave those gatherings feeling down on myself, and thinking – when I graduate and start making money, I am going to make a difference. I am going to donate a set amount of my paycheck that I don’t need to charity. I sometimes daydreamed what it would be like to be extremely rich and give away from that wealth in a way that would change people’s lives and lift them out of poverty, etc.

Now, many years down the road, not much has changed. I’m still not rich. Although I’m not as desperately broke as I was as a student, I still can’t donate a ton of money to charity. But something has changed since then – my attitude towards giving.

Everyone speaks about the merits and rewards of giving charity, and there is great reward in it – even if all you can afford is a dollar every so often. Allah (swt) is Al-Kareem, The Generous. An “insignificant” dollar of charity can be multiplied as much as Al-Kareem chooses according to His generosity and mercy, as well as your sincerity. That one dollar could be the deed that just barely tips your scales on the Day of Judgment and enters you into Paradise.

But giving also means more to me now. Charity isn’t only about giving money to those in need. It is about giving of yourself to your family, friends and community. I mean the kind of charity that is to be a positive force on this earth, to establish goodness and fairness wherever you go – and to give from what is most personally yours – your heart, your smile, your good words.

I don’t think we really understand what charity means. It doesn’t mean that the person giving is rich, or noble or exceptionally philanthropic. Rather, those who continuously give are actually those who see themselves as in need.

They need Allah’s Mercy, His Forgiveness. They need to alleviate the distress of others so that Allah (swt) can alleviate a distress of theirs on the Day of Judgment.

Umar ibn Al-Khattab (ra) wished for a kind of wealth and commodity that his peers did not think of wishing for – people. He wished for more people to hold up the banner of the Oneness of God, to call towards what is good and to remove what is bad in society. To be pillars in the structure and history of this faith – holding steady those around them, propelling themselves and others into the service of God.

We have countless examples of men and women in our rich history who were not necessarily known for giving away wealth. There were poor people among them, and there were even homeless people among them. There were those who wished to fight alongside the prophet (saw) in battles, but couldn’t because they did not have access to a riding animal.

But their names are still in the history books because they gave what was most valuable – their lives. They lived their lives in truth to the commands of God. That’s what made
them great.

And even closer to you than them is your father, Amr. He wasn’t a very rich man, but he worked hard. He gave charity, but it was small (in his eyes, but to Allah, I hope that it was not small). But what made him different, what elevated him to a point of admiration was his strength of character. He stood his ground against injustice, refusing to let the voices of tyranny drown out the voice of peace and courage. And he was killed for it.

And those who killed him think that they’ve won. But everything I have seen after his passing indicates to me that Amr is the winner. He was not able to build mosques or change people’s lives with money. But he changed something that not many people are capable of – hearts.

After his passing, people came together and collected money on his behalf, donating it to build mosques and wells, to buy medical equipment for under-funded hospitals, to feed the needy, and I’m sure other causes I don’t know about. I pray that Allah (swt) accepts it from them and accepts it on behalf of Amr as well.

So yes, he was not a rich man in terms of wealth. But he was rich in that which is more valuable – faith. And in the end, that richness of faith and courage in the face of injustice caused people to give their wealth to charitable projects in his name. Now, inshaAllah, he has the added deeds of charity, even though it didn’t come directly from his hands. That is the heavy reward of strength of faith and character…

So, if you don’t have the money to give charity, it isn’t appropriate for you to slump in your chair thinking “maybe someday I will be able to give.”

You can give today. You can give something every day and every moment that you are alive because just one of you is worth more than every bit of wealth on this earth. The Messenger of Allah (saw) said: “To smile in the company of your brother is charity. To command to do good deeds and to prevent others from doing evil is charity. To guide a person in a place where he cannot get astray is charity. To remove troublesome things like thorns and bones from the road is charity. To pour water from your jug into the jug of your brother is charity. To guide a person with defective vision is charity for you.” (Bukhari)

Every day is an opportunity to become someone worth more than bank accounts stuffed with wealth. You can be the poorest person in your community, while simultaneously being the one who gives the most and brings the most benefit to others.

You can be worth more than rooms full of treasure given for the sake of Allah (swt). But you have to understand yourself and understand your world to know how to capitalize on the wealth that is your faith, skills, talents and dedication.

Just as it is not befitting for a believer to hoard wealth in the face of a community in dire need of it, it is not befitting that you should withhold all the positive forces within you from bettering yourself and your surroundings.

Now you have work to do. Get up.

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