The Obligation To Do Charity

Question

We are in the process of building a Mosque in our town. I have a few questions regarding this. We already have a Mosque but this new mosque is being built because the old mosque is mainly run by Arabs and apparently is not big enough. Now for fundraising the Imam chooses several Ramadan nights and especially 27 Ramadan. A lot of people come to pray tarawih prayer but he holds tarawihs until after his speech which is a few hours and we loose significant portion of one of the most important nights of the year. Is it permissible?

He quotes hadith but changes interpretation to fit his purpose i.e. donation to the Mosque. He quoted the Prophet (sws) talk about a man or a woman who was a prostitute. He/she gave water to a thirsty dog and got all his or her sins forgiven. The Imam said if one donated to put water lines in the Mosque, will have his sins forgiven. He quoted another hadith which relates another event connected to a war. Hazrat Abu Bakr (rta) brought all things from his home and the Prophet (sws) told him to keep some for family but he said that Allah and His Prophet (sws) are enough for him. The Imam interpreted this to tell people that even if they cannot afford, they should donate and God will take care of that person's financial matters. What is our obligation in this as we know that he is misinterpreting Ahadith and is giving wrong impression to the ones who don't know, especially youth?


Answer

The quotes the Imam presented of course do not form the basis of his appeal. There is no doubt in that it is an act of great virtue to donate for the mosque but the Qur'an has given a very clear solution to the question of limit of spending. It quotes the question of people who wanted what to give away in God's name. Then the Book itself responds by saying what is over and above their needs.

وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ مَاذَا يُنفِقُونَ قُلِ الْعَفْوَ كَذَلِكَ يُبيِّنُ اللّهُ لَكُمُ الآيَاتِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَفَكَّرُونَ

And they ask you about how much they should spend [in charity] (maadhaa yunfiqoon). Say, "whatever is more than your needs." Thus does God clarify His directives for you so that you deliberate on matters relating to the life of this world as well as to the Hereafter. (2: 219)

In this context 'infaaq' [giving alms] specifically refers to spending for Jihad, propagation of the world of God, and security and defence of the nation. The maximum limit for this sacrifice in such extraordinary circumstances is to spend whatever is over and above basic necessities of life. It means that we are also required to fulfil our needs and not depend on others while going beyond limits in donations. The matter of Abu Bakr Siddique was quite different. It was in the battle which required great sacrifice and the Prophet (sws) of God had made a general appeal. The case for building a mosque of course is important but not that much to equal the needs of the time of the battle of Tabuk when the Prophet (sws) had issued general call for the participation in the battle and finances.

It is not right to plead to the weak and unreliable narratives or to interpret them wrongly to argue for one's case. The audience should listen to him but decide what and how much to donate considering how pressing is the need for building the new mosque and how much they need for themselves and the families. It will vary from person to person. As for the issue for the imam who delivers long speeches before the salah it is also not right. We should use the nights of Ramadan in remembering God and in prayers.

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