In the previous article, we deepened our understanding of this Qur’anic character of sacrifice by understanding the correlation between sacrifice and the amount of reward one can get. We also related this trait to an experience of a contemporary, Tony Robbins, to ignite some inspiration. The fourth and final article of this series helps us to be motivated, and in turn embark on this journey of developing the characteristic within us.
Towards Improving Our Quranic Character – Sacrifice: “Preferring Others over Themselves even though they are in Need of that”
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
In general, strong moral values lead to long term and robust economic, social, and political prosperity. Unfortunately, many of us succumb to our desires, seeking the short term gains, thereby compromising our moral values.
We have seen how this dīn (religion of Islam) guides and equips us to attain our utmost potential, which requires us to be the most beneficial to our community and humanity at large. It beautifully and smoothly develops us to achieve our optimal level in a way where members of society around us gain the maximum benefit from our efforts. Our religion’s principles intertwine and strike a balance between personal and collective benefits. Through this series, we have gained some insights into how the Qur’an and Sunnah elegantly and wisely provide a system that consists of the most beneficial aspects of individualism, capitalism, and collectivism fused into one perfect, divine, and robust model. Thus, if practiced correctly, it will lead to fast prosperity on all levels. In fact, this was experienced in the past. For example, when ʿUmar b. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz was the leader of the Muslims, he corrected societal corruption through the principles of the dīn. This was to the extent that they could not find people who would accept their zakāh (obligatory charity). This occurred due to the reforms he made, which caused people – by the will of Allah – to become so prosperous through the barakah (blessings) of implementing such a system. It is a robust and wise system, the knowledge of which has been gifted to us via revelation (the Qur’an and Sunnah) from the One who created all the causes and effects.
By collectively developing this Qur’anic quality and establishing it as part of our culture, we can improve the economic conditions of society, which can lead to the increase of gross domestic product (GDP)as well. How so? The individuals who have their needs fulfilled by the sacrifice of another—whether that be through handing over some cash, providing them with some food supplies, or even a blanket—can become more effective economic agents, thus assets to the economy. This positive impact on the economy does not have to be limited in the form of these individuals spending their wealth to consume products which increase the profits of businesses, instigating job creation and so on. Rather, the positive impact on the economy could also be in the form of him making duʿā’ (invoking Allah alone) to bless the one who fulfilled his needs. This duʿā’ has a high chance of being accepted. It results, by the permission of Allah, in the giver becoming wealthier, by which they can then increase their giving. They repeatedly give to the needy people as this is who they are, they live up to this Qur’anic character of preferring others over themselves. In the long run, a community of people living up to this Qur’anic character leads to an abundance of wealth bestowed upon them by the Owner of all treasures, Allah. This is due to their repeated charitable acts towards the needy, even though they may themselves be needy. Thus, this naturally translates into much gains in GDP eventually.
Furthermore, after the needy people have their needs met, they can feel motivated and find the strength to maximise their energy and time in finding a source of income (i.e. seek financial stability or independence). They are motivated to take such action since they have felt the hardship and pain of poverty and so naturally would try their utmost to come out of such a state. Through this determination they can hopefully establish a source of income. Whether it is through finding a new job or selling something, they can then gradually also become more valuable as economic agents through their spending and output. When society heads in this direction collectively, that is, of enacting the Qur’anic quality of sacrificing their own benefit for the benefit of others, momentum is generated, which in turn can significantly increase the country’s GDP. The viability of this process is evident, as there are numerous accounts of billionaires who grew up poor, living a tough life, before they became successful in wordly terms. As a result, they transformed into highly valuable economic agents through job creation, innovation and so on, in turn, boosting the GDP. A few examples of such billionaires include: Oprah Winfrey who was ‘born into poverty’; steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal who was also said to be born into a poor family; and Francois Pinault who quit high school after he was bullied for being poor. What we realise from such realities is that we don’t only fulfil our moral duties when we sacrifice our own interests to help the needy. But it could be that one needy individual we help can unlock their potential to make thousands of lives better. By fulfilling the needs of this person, we can help keep them in a healthy mental and physical state, and in turn, buy them time even if it’s only for the short run. This gives them the ability and opportunity to make their dreams a reality. Of course, them succeeding, such as becoming an entrepreneur for example, can drastically improve the economic conditions and make life better for many. This can be in the form of job creation or providing new services and solutions people have been seeking for a long time.
To further understand this relationship between the Qur’anic quality of sacrifice to help others and how it ultimately leads to an increase in GDP, we will analyse some remarkable findings published in the Entrepreneur magazine. Based on data from the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey (S.C.C.B.S), one of these findings show that a person, by giving in charity, actually becomes richer. They presented a case where there were two families who were identical in terms of their ‘size, age, race, education, religion, and politics. The only difference is that this year the first family gives away $100 more than the second.’ Based on their ‘analysis of the S.C.C.B.S. survey, the first family will, on average, earn $375 more as a result of its generosity.’ The other finding they present is how a person giving in charity will actually bring about an increase in the country’s GDP. Based on ‘Data from the Statistical Abstract of the United States and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University’ they have deduced that ‘$100 in giving stimulated more than $1,800 in increased G.D.P. This rate of social return shows that economic-multiplier effects are not limited to private investment.’ They then question ‘How can this be? Is it a statistical anomaly—or even a metaphysical phenomenon?’ In response to such a reaction, the Muslims believe Allah, the one who created the universal laws, created this ‘effect’ for a person who gives in charity (which is the ’cause’). He clearly states this when He says:
يَمْحَقُ اللَّهُ الرِّبَا وَيُرْبِي الصَّدَقَاتِ ۗ…
Allah will destroy Riba (usury) and will give increase for Sadaqāt (deeds of charity, alms, etc.)…’
One of the notable scholars of Tafsīr (interpretation of the Qur’an), Ibn Kathīr, explained the section of this verse ‘And will give increase for Sadaqāt (deeds of charity, alms, etc.)’. He said it ‘means, Allah makes charity grow, or He increases it.’ To explain this further, Ibn Kathīr presented the following narration:
حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ مُنِيرٍ، سَمِعَ أَبَا النَّضْرِ، حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الرَّحْمَنِ ـ هُوَ ابْنُ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ دِينَارٍ ـ عَنْ أَبِيهِ، عَنْ أَبِي صَالِحٍ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ” مَنْ تَصَدَّقَ بِعَدْلِ تَمْرَةٍ مِنْ كَسْبٍ طَيِّبٍ ـ وَلاَ يَقْبَلُ اللَّهُ إِلاَّ الطَّيِّبَ ـ وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ يَتَقَبَّلُهَا بِيَمِينِهِ، ثُمَّ يُرَبِّيهَا لِصَاحِبِهِ كَمَا يُرَبِّي أَحَدُكُمْ فَلُوَّهُ حَتَّى تَكُونَ مِثْلَ الْجَبَلِ “. تَابَعَهُ سُلَيْمَانُ عَنِ ابْنِ دِينَارٍ. وَقَالَ وَرْقَاءُ عَنِ ابْنِ دِينَارٍ، عَنْ سَعِيدِ بْنِ يَسَارٍ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم. وَرَوَاهُ مُسْلِمُ بْنُ أَبِي مَرْيَمَ وَزَيْدُ بْنُ أَسْلَمَ وَسُهَيْلٌ عَنْ أَبِي صَالِحٍ عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم.
Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “If one give in charity what equals one date-fruit from the honestly earned money—and Allah accepts only the honestly earned money—Allah takes it in His right (hand) and then enlarges its reward for that person (who has given it), as anyone of you brings up his baby horse, so much so that it becomes as big as a mountain.”
A report by the Charity Commission for England & Wales pointed out the benefit for those who enacted this Qur’anic character of sacrifice by preferring to giving time to helping others, rather than serving their own interests. In relation to members of the public who volunteer for charity organisations, they highlight:
‘those who give their time and, in turn, derive value linked to the services they deliver but often also in terms of the social bonds they form or the catharsis offered.’
By incorporating a lifestyle of volunteering with impactful organisations to help the Ummah and humanity at large, one escapes the chains of individualism. This can clearly be understood when acknowledging the Charity Commission statement that
‘charitable activities build social capital in the form of increased trust and cooperation, and promote social inclusion, potentially bringing divided communities together.’
Such activities steer people away from suicide which individualism begets. As quoted in the first article of this series, Sociologist Emile Durkheim concluded in his text Suicide: a Study in Sociology:
“…the more socially integrated and connected a person is, the less likely he or she is to commit suicide. As social integration decreases, people are more likely to commit suicide.”
There are also other gains for the giver, that is, the one who sacrificed to help others for the sake of Allah when they were in need themselves. They can experience great benefit through feelings of deep satisfaction and happiness. This strong positive state of mind leads to them being more focused and productive in whatever they do. It also positively influences the people around them, thereby creating a new altruistic culture. In the grand scheme of things, it adds to civilisation and thereby significantly improves the country’s economic conditions. Furthermore, this innate character shines through them and as a result, they earn the love and respect of the people due to earning the love of Allah with these sacrifices. This is in fact the sunnah (way) of Allah, and it can be understood from the following report of Abū Hurayrah:
عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ إِذَا أَحَبَّ عَبْدًا دَعَا جِبْرِيلَ فَقَالَ إِنِّي أُحِبُّ فُلَانًا فَأَحِبَّهُ قَالَ فَيُحِبُّهُ جِبْرِيلُ ثُمَّ يُنَادِي فِي السَّمَاءِ فَيَقُولُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ فُلَانًا فَأَحِبُّوهُ فَيُحِبُّهُ أَهْلُ السَّمَاءِ قَالَ ثُمَّ يُوضَعُ لَهُ الْقَبُولُ فِي الْأَرْضِ
“The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, ‘When Allah loves a servant, He calls Jibrīl (Gabriel) and says: “Verily, I love this person so you should love him.’ Then Jibrīl (Gabriel) loves him and makes an announcement in the heavens, saying: “Allah loves this person and you should love him.” Thus, the dwellers of the Heavens love him and he is honoured on the Earth.’”
Having mentioned all these benefits that result from the Qur’anic character of sacrifice, it is important to mention here that a person usually derives the maximum benefit/reward in this world and the Hereafter when they sacrifice sincerely or give sadaqah (charity) for the sake of Allah alone. This means they are not after a worldly reward or appreciation from the recipient, but instead, are after the approval of Allah. We are inspired with such a mindset when He says:
وَيُطْعِمُونَ الطَّعَامَ عَلَىٰ حُبِّهِ مِسْكِينًا وَيَتِيمًا وَأَسِيرًا ﴿٨﴾ إِنَّمَا نُطْعِمُكُمْ لِوَجْهِ اللَّهِ لَا نُرِيدُ مِنكُمْ جَزَاءً وَلَا شُكُورًا
‘And they give food, in spite of their love for it (or for the love of Him), to Miskin (poor), the orphan, and the captive; (Saying): “We feed you seeking Allah’s Countenance only. We wish for no reward, nor thanks from you.’
In conclusion, we should start inculcating within us the Qur’anic character trait of “preferring others over themselves even though they are in need”. This can be achieved by first adopting the practice of spending from our surplus wealth, that is, the funds which go beyond the needs of both ourselves and our dependents (such as family members). Or we can start by preferring others over ourselves in the terrain of ‘wants’ before ‘needs’. We may adopt this initial course of action to make it easy for us to tread this path of development. By way of example, we may be sitting to eat together with family members, with only one piece of barbecue chicken wing being left. This type of wing might be our favourite, but we know a family member sitting with us who also considers this type of chicken to be a delicacy. In moments like these, we should resist the wishes of our nafs and let the family member enjoy the last piece instead. We enact this sacrifice, seeking to reach loftier ranks in the sight of Allah like the Prophets (peace be upon them) and the Sahābah. Thereafter, we are encouraged to build up on this characteristic. We strengthen it, even reaching the state where we may happen to need something but do not have the required item. We are in a state of struggle, hardship and pain. Soon after, we acquire the item through which we can now satisfy our needs. But before fulfilling our wishes, we then pass this item to someone else we happen to come across, who is also in dire need of it, thereby giving preference to others, despite needing it ourselves. By doing so, we develop this Qur’anic quality of sacrifice.
In treading this path of self development, we can spark a wave of moral revival in our communities, as well as re-connecting with our Ummah and humanity at large. This nurturing develops within us the deep care and concern for others, while also ridding ourselves from the selfishness that individualism steers us towards. Practicing this Qur’anic quality of sacrifice blossoms into various kinds of moral goodness, and can inspire others to practice such an admirable virtue. This generates a domino effect, and allows us to escape the clutches of individualism by mitigating loneliness and other negative, low feelings that it brings. Eventually, it steers people away from suicidal thoughts or deters them from actually committing suicide.
Finally, by working collectively to revive this Qur’anic quality of sacrifice, it can be a stepping stone to achieve our ultimate objective of being from the most beloved to Allah and the people closest to Him. We can be from amongst the Ṣiddiqīn and enter Jannah’s ultimate realm of al-Firdaws al-Aʿlā (the highest of levels in Paradise) for eternity.
 ʿAlī Muhammad al-Ṣallābī, ʿUmar ibn ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz:
 the total value of goods produced and services provided in a country during one year. [Oxford Languages]
 A person, company, or organization that has an influence on the economy by producing, buying, or selling [Cambridge Dictionary].
 Al-Qur’an, 2:276
 Ibn Kathīr, 2:276
 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 1410
 the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions. [Oxford Languages]
 The Value of the Charity sector, p10,
 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, 3037, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, 2637.
 Al-Qur’an, 76:8-9