Weekly Activity – Charity & Society

In this activity we broke up into small groups and discussed one of five topics relating to charity.

Charity and Community
                                         The Best Community
[3:110] You are the best community ever raised among the people: you advocate righteousness and forbid evil, and you believe in GOD. If the followers of the scripture believed, it would be better for them. Some of them do believe, but the majority of them are wicked.

Appendix 36 – What Price A Great Nation
3. Prosperity for all the people. God’s economic system is based on constant circulation of wealth, no usury, and productive investment. Non-productive economy such as gambling, lottery, and high interest loans are not permitted (2:275-7, 59:7).

Giving to charity brings people of different socioeconomic statuses together. This makes us less selfish and more involved in the decisions that affect the community at large and not just our own demographic.

People who give show that they don’t have dependency to the worldly material and this send a good message to the community at large. By giving we are releasing our worldly attachments. God tell us that we cannot attain righteousness until you give from the possessions you love

Charity also creates bonds between people and also brings awareness towards causes in the community or society at large and ways to address them.

Charity and Activism (Social Change)
Sometimes charity can be given towards a cause. This rallies people around a common cause and brings awareness to the topic and ideally a plan of action on how to address the issue. People pick a cause that they feel passionate about that they want to help. We have numerous examples of people giving money to help in causes in other countries and societies to impact social change. The example of Charity Water shows how giving people easy access to fresh drinking water can change an entire society, because so much of person’s time in these villages revolves around obtaining and transporting water. When this time is freed up in particular women are able to be kept safe and productive in a society.

Charity Water
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rphhfy4qCfc

Charity and Equality
Charity creates equality in a community because it provides a circulation of wealth. Charity also helps prevent theft. Charity can also fund education and with a more educated society can bring more equality to the community.

Appendix 36 – What Price A Great Nation
4. Social justice for all. Because of the obligatory charity (Zakat), no one will go hungry or un-sheltered (2:215, 70:24-25, 107:1-7).

Charity and Humility
[2:262] Those who spend their money in the cause of GOD, then do not follow their charity with insult or harm, will receive their recompense from their Lord; they have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.

Deuteronomy 15:7
“If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother;

Charity is not only limited to money. It can be our time our expertise, labor etc. God also tells us that a kind word is better than a charity followed by insult as we previously learned. When we give to charity or receive charity we realize that is a blessing in either way and this teaches us humility.

Charity and Socioeconomic Class
God advocates us to give to charity across different classes.

[2:273] Charity shall go to the poor who are suffering in the cause of GOD, and cannot emigrate. The unaware may think that they are rich, due to their dignity. But you can recognize them by certain signs; they never beg from the people persistently. Whatever charity you give, GOD is fully aware thereof.

When we give to charity it requires us to go inside a community and understand the problems at hand. Sometimes money can solve the problem, but sometimes it requires a deeper understanding of the root of the problem and then determining the best way to approach it. It is good to give to a charitable organization, but can really form a connection when we give directly.

Take Away
When we give to charity it is important to get involved in the community and seeing who needs help. Think about what areas of the community do we want to know better and what problems we can help solve with our charitable giving.

Advertisements

God Protect Us From Sin (2:285 – 2:286)

         You Shall Not Make Any Distinction Among God’s Messengers
[2:285] The messenger has believed in what was sent down to him from his Lord, and so did the believers. They believe in GOD, His angels, His scripture, and His messengers: “We make no distinction among any of His messengers.” They say, “We hear, and we obey.* Forgive us, our Lord. To You is the ultimate destiny.” 
*2:285 One of the major commandments is: “You shall not make any distinction among God’s messengers” (2:136, 3:84, 4:150). The believers react by saying, “We hear and we obey,” while the idol worshipers argue back to justify their insistence upon mentioning Muhammad’s name next to God’s, to the exclusion of all other messengers. The corrupted Muslims mention Muhammad in their profession of faith (Shahaadah) and during their Contact Prayers (see 72:18).

[2:286] GOD never burdens a soul beyond its means: to its credit is what it earns, and against it is what it commits. “Our Lord, do not condemn us if we forget or make mistakes. Our Lord, and protect us from blaspheming against You, like those before us have done. Our Lord, protect us from sinning until it becomes too late for us to repent. Pardon us and forgive us. You are our Lord and Master. Grant us victory over the disbelieving people.”

Safe with God 

Financial Transactions (2:282 – 2:284)

                                Write Down Financial Transactions
[2:282] O you who believe, when you transact a loan for any period, you shall write it down. An impartial scribe shall do the writing. No scribe shall refuse to perform this service, according to GOD’s teachings. He shall write, while the debtor dictates the terms. He shall observe GOD his Lord and never cheat. If the debtor is mentally incapable, or helpless, or cannot dictate, his guardian shall dictate equitably. Two men shall serve as witnesses; if not two men, then a man and two women whose testimony is acceptable to all.* Thus, if one woman becomes biased, the other will remind her. It is the obligation of the witnesses to testify when called upon to do so. Do not tire of writing the details, no matter how long, including the time of repayment. This is equitable in the sight of GOD, assures better witnessing, and eliminates any doubts you may have. Business transactions that you execute on the spot need not be recorded, but have them witnessed. No scribe or witness shall be harmed on account of his services. If you harm them, it would be wickedness on your part. You shall observe GOD, and GOD will teach you. GOD is Omniscient. 
*2:282 Financial transactions are the ONLY situations where two women may substitute for one man as witness. This is to guard against the real possibility that one witness may marry the other witness, and thus cause her to be biased. It is a recognized fact that women are more emotionally vulnerable than men.

[2:283] If you are traveling, and no scribe is available, a bond shall be posted to guarantee repayment. If one is trusted in this manner, he shall return the bond when due, and he shall observe GOD his Lord. Do not withhold any testimony by concealing what you had witnessed. Anyone who withholds a testimony is sinful at heart. GOD is fully aware of everything you do.
[2:284] To GOD belongs everything in the heavens and the earth. Whether you declare your innermost thoughts, or keep them hidden, GOD holds you responsible for them. He forgives whomever He wills, and punishes whomever He wills. GOD is Omnipotent. 

How do we determine if it would be better to give to charity or providing a loan? 

It depends on the person’s circumstances and their ability of being able to pay back a loan. If the likeliness of paying back is low then we should think of it as a charity and this way we won’t be disappointed if we are not able to be repaid. Loans when possible are productive in the way that they create a productive economy and allow people to not feel like they are burdening others.

Interesting that the longest verse in the Quran is also describing financial transactions and not tiring from writing the details. Scribe needs to write will the debtor dictates the terms.

I wouldn’t give more for a loan than I can’t afford to give away as charity.

Why do the witnesses in the case of financial transactions need to be two women for any one man?

According to the verse the witnesses are either two men or one man and two women. This reduces the possibility of their being a bias in the witnessing. This also protects a women from being bullied by the other witness if it was only one man and one women. Unfortunately in society women are more apt of being oppressed and therefore more prone to being made bias to a situation. As stated in the footnote women are also more emotionally vulnerable than men.

Being a witnesses is a a big responsibility to keep the transaction honest and fair.

Financial-Transactions

Usury (2:275 – 2:281)

                                                  Usury Prohibited*
[2:275] Those who charge usury are in the same position as those controlled by the devil’s influence. This is because they claim that usury is the same as commerce. However, GOD permits commerce, and prohibits usury. Thus, whoever heeds this commandment from his Lord, and refrains from usury, he may keep his past earnings, and his judgment rests with GOD. As for those who persist in usury, they incur Hell, wherein they abide forever.
[2:276] GOD condemns usury, and blesses charities. GOD dislikes every disbeliever, guilty.

                                                 Divine Guarantee
[2:277] Those who believe and lead a righteous life, and observe the Contact Prayers (Salat), and give the obligatory charity (Zakat), they receive their recompense from their Lord; they will have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.
[2:278] O you who believe, you shall observe GOD and refrain from all kinds of usury, if you are believers.
*2:275-278 It is an established economic principle that excessive interest on loans can utterly destroy a whole country. During the last few years we have witnessed the devastation of the economies of many nations where excessive interest is charged. Normal interest – less than 20% – where no one is victimized and everyone is satisfied, is not usury.

[2:279] If you do not, then expect a war from GOD and His messenger. But if you repent, you may keep your capitals, without inflicting injustice, or incurring injustice.
[2:280] If the debtor is unable to pay, wait for a better time. If you give up the loan as a charity, it would be better for you, if you only knew.
[2:281] Beware of the day when you are returned to GOD, and every soul is paid for everything it had done, without the least injustice.

Any loan we give should be to help the person out, not to profit from because if the person cannot pay back the loan you should give up the loan according to 2:280. Alternatively, a loan given to someone who is in need because of a sudden expense is different than someone who is taking a loan for a business expansion. This shows that the motive for profit should vary dependent on the kind of loan.

Day of Jubilee
In the Biblical Book of Leviticus, a Jubilee year is mentioned to occur every fiftieth year, in which slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven and the mercies of God would be particularly manifest. In the Bible, Leviticus 25:8-13
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jubilee_%28Christianity%29

Does taking interest from a bank constitute usury?

No, as long as no one is victimized in the transaction. The bank is making profits from the money you keep in the bank and they are returning a portion of that profit back to the lenders as a form of interest. 

Who is at fault when you get into credit card debt and being subject to 15% – 30% interest rate?

If someone is burdened by sudden expense and is in dire need of money and only has the option of taking on credit card debt is different than someone who is spending beyond their means. If the person is forced into a high interest loan then they are the victim. If the person does have a choice and chooses to spend do beyond their means then they are responsible . Many credit cards entice consumers with their promises of 0% interest rates and trick individuals into their system only to be caught in the fine print.

John Oliver – Payday Loan – Predatory Lending
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDylgzybWAw

Usury – Bill Mahr
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLZXe90etL4

Euvoluntary Exchange – Charlie Munger
When is a transaction no longer voluntary?
http://people.duke.edu/~munger/euvol.pdf
http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2011/06/munger_on_excha.html

Additional verses on usury in the Bible:
Psalms 15:5
He does not put out his money at interest, Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken. 

Leviticus 25:35 – 37
“ ‘If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you. Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you. You must not lend them money at interest or sell them food at a profit. 38I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.

Deuteronomy 23:19 – 20
Do not charge a fellow Israelite interest, whether on money or food or anything else that may earn interest. You may charge a foreigner interest, but not a fellow Israelite, so that the Lord your God may bless you in everything you put your hand to in the land you are entering to possess.

Ezekiel 18:8
if he does not lend money on interest or take increase, if he keeps his hand from iniquity and executes true justice between man and man,

Luke 6:34 – 36
And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Charity For Greater Social Good (2:272 – 2:274)

                                God is the Only One Who Guides
[2:272] You are not responsible for guiding anyone. GOD is the only one who guides whoever chooses (to be guided). Any charity you give is for your own good. Any charity you give shall be for the sake of GOD. Any charity you give will be repaid to you, without the least injustice.
[2:273] Charity shall go to the poor who are suffering in the cause of GOD, and cannot emigrate. The unaware may think that they are rich, due to their dignity. But you can recognize them by certain signs; they never beg from the people persistently. Whatever charity you give, GOD is fully aware thereof.
[2:274] Those who give to charity night and day, secretly and publicly, receive their recompense from their Lord; they will have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve. 

Making A Difference: The World of Giving – US Charitable Giving Increases for the Fourth Year in a Row! – Huffington Post

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-m-dietlin/making-a-difference-the-w_36_b_5499853.html

For the calendar year 2013, the just-released numbers indicate that contributions from individuals, corporations, foundations, and bequests totaled $335.17 billion. Americans continue to be seen as the most generous people in the world. Did you know that giving by individuals – people like you and me – account for more than 80% of all donations made in 2013 (including bequests)? And this is not unique to last year, but has been the trend for many years, even throughout the recent economic recession.

Heifer International – Fighting Poverty One Cow at at Time
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDIedFMSN64

Anonymous Charity is Better For Our Souls (2:270 – 2:271)

Anonymous Charity Better
[2:270] Any charity you give, or a charitable pledge you fulfill, GOD is fully aware thereof. As for the wicked, they will have no helpers.
[2:271] If you declare your charities, they are still good. But if you keep them anonymous, and give them to the poor, it is better for you, and remits more of your sins. GOD is fully Cognizant of everything you do.

Who is this referring to that they declare it?

This is referring to announcing our charity either to the receiving party or other individuals. When we give to charity secretly it shows that we are doing it 100% to please God and not for the accolades or acknowledgement of others.

This verse also shows that charity needs to be done both publicly and secretly. When we give publicly we encourage others to give. People are apt to behave in similar manner based on how a community behaves in the public.

Behavioral Science and Social Impact
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwkqIsD807E

Matthew – Chapter 6
                                    Giving to the Poor and Prayer
1“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. 2“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3“But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you

 

Wisdom: A Great Treasure (2:269)

                                     Wisdom: A Great Treasure
[2:269] He bestows wisdom upon whomever He chooses, and whoever attains wisdom, has attained a great bounty. Only those who possess intelligence will take heed.

God gave us the key to wisdom in the first three revelations of the Quran: read, write, think and read the Quran from cover to cover

Firstly: Read
[96:1] Read, in the name of your Lord, who created.
[96:2] He created man from an embryo.
[96:3] Read, and your Lord, Most Exalted.
[96:4] Teaches by means of the pen.
[96:5] He teaches man what he never knew.

Secondly: Write
[68:1] NuN,* the pen, and what they (the people) write.

Thidly: Think and Read the Quran from cover to cover
[73:2] Meditate during the night, except rarely.
[73:3] Half of it, or a little less.
[73:4] Or a little more. And read the Quran from cover to cover.

When we read, write and think we are absorbing information and knowledge. A smart person learns from their own experience, but a wise person learns from other peoples experience. If we weren’t for writing and the ability to store information and for others to be able to read it we would never have advanced as a civilization because we would never be able to build on top of the knowledge of the people who preceded us. 

How to read a book a day
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_hh0i6PML8