Today is the 12th day of this year’s Ramadan. As if on a fast lane, we are almost at the middle of it. Gratitude is due alone to Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala, SWT) for counting us among those observing the 1442AH Ramadan. As a unique month, Ramadan provides an opportunity for Muslims to strengthen the bond of brotherhood among themselves. This is aside of reinforcing their spiritual ties with the Creator of heavens and earth.
Pubic feeding of the poor and the needy during Ramadan is one of the ways of spending in the way of Allah. It is called Iftar Jama’i in Islamic literature. Explaining the inestimable reward for every act of charity, Allah (SWT) states in Qur’an 2:261 that “The parable of those who spend their substance in the way of Allah is that of a grain of corn; it grows seven ears and each ear hath a hundred grains. Allah gives manifold increase to whom He pleases; and Allah cares for all and He knows all things”.
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Ordinarily, the reward for feeding one person shall be equivalent to the reward of feeding ten persons. In Qur’an 6:160, Allah (SWT) states “He that does good shall have ten times as much to his credit…” The reward that would accrue from feeding person(s) observing Ramadan fast is actually greater than the reward that ensues if it were outside of Ramadan. This is because the reward for fasting is unique. And as we may have learned, fasting as an act of worship is so revered that Allah (SWT) said fasting is for Him, and He (not the angels), gives the reward for it. Let us therefore take advantage of this ‘bonanza’ which is exclusive to the month of Ramadan.
One does not have to be a ‘Dangote’ or an ‘Abdus-Samad’, governor, senator, minister, or local government chairman before he or she qualifies to feed the indigent and vulnerable persons in Ramadan. Of course, one can and should only give what he has. Allah (SWT) already guides us in Qur’an 65:7 where He says “Let the man of means spend according to his means; and the man whose resources are restricted should spend according to what Allah has given him. Allah does not put a burden on any person beyond what He has given him…”
Nonetheless, Islam exhorts us to give or feed with what we cherish most within the context of our individual financial disposition. Allah (SWT) reminds us in Qur’an 3:92 that “By no means shall ye attain righteousness unless ye give from that which ye love…” The one who cherishes and eats rice with his family is encouraged to feed others with same. But if one gave out or fed others with Guinea corn or Cassava whereas he can afford rice, he should not expect the same reward with those who feed their families with rice and gave or fed others with same. Let us not pretend to be clever in our quest for reward.
The reward for feeding others in Ramadan is re-assured if it is done with sincerity, modesty and fear of Allah. It should be for the sake of Allah (SWT) and not for any cheap political gains. The act of feeding others must not be followed by public references. This is sheer hypocrisy. Allah (SWT) cautions us in Qur’an 2:264 and states “O ye who believe! Cancel not your charity by reminders of your generosity or by injury like those who spend their substance to be seen of men…” The essence of charity including feeding the indigent and the vulnerable is preserved if the giver turns a blind eye to the predicaments of the receiver(s). The sanctity of any act of charity is further protected when the left hand of the giver does not know when the right hand gave out alms.
To feed a person or group during Ramadan or carry out any other acts of charity in order to be seen of men is actually no charity. If anything, it is false charity. Such is metaphorically compared to a hard rock on which a little soil had fallen by chance. When rain which benefits soil falls, it will simply wash away the little soil and leave the rock as bare, as it were. The lesson here is that sponsors of hypocritical charity derive no benefits from the wealth they may have amassed.
Allah (SWT) likens sincere charity to a farm with fertile soil that is further matched with abundant showers of rain. Favourable weather conditions and the moistures that penetrate the soil all add up to increase the yield from the farm. Allah (SWT) mentions in Qur’an 2:265 “And the likeness of those who spend their substance seeking to please Allah and to strengthen their souls is as a garden, high and fertile; heavy rain falls on it but makes it yield a double increase of harvest; and if it receives not heavy rain, light moisture suffices it. Allah sees well whatever ye do”
The act of feeding the poor and the needy in Ramadan could be carried out directly by the financier or indirectly through mosques where formal arrangements for such public feeding in Ramadan exist. Some mosques have even developed the system further by defining what it costs in naira and kobo to feed a person so that interested financiers only pay the amount it costs to feed the number of persons they choose.
As some state governments appropriate huge sums for public feeding of the poor and the vulnerable this Ramadan, we urge them to remember Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). We appeal to persons in charge of the arrangements to fear Allah (SWT) in coordinating the public feeding. The food items should not end up in the houses of officials entrusted with the food items. Neither should the raw foods supplied for the exercise find their way to shops in the markets.
According to the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW), charity including feeding the poor is a strong instrument of recovery from illnesses and a means to averting calamities. The Prophet (SAW) exhorts us in one of his sayings to treat the sick among us with alms. As we engage in feeding the poor, the needy, IDPs, orphans and widows during this Ramadan, we pray that Allah (SWT) delivers us from all our critical security challenges including banditry, kidnapping, and insurgency. May Allah resolves our personal worries such as ill-health, poverty and unemployment, amin. Ramadan Kareem!