Boundless Charity and Love
The more expansive and wider the scope of human feeling, the greater the number of people that it embraces. Such an expansive love and benevolence cannot find room in the breasts of people who have narrow and straitened hearts. Their benevolence is not universal so as to embrace people belonging to every group and class. Such a benevolence and compassion is not close to Divine mercy.
(A man said in the presence of al-Husayn ibn 'Ali:) "Goodness is wasted when done to those who are not worthy of it." The Imam said to him: "That is not true; for benevolence is like a torrential rain which comes down everywhere and equally waters orchards as well as wastelands." 10
Al-Imam al-Sajjad ('a) exhorted al-Imam al-Baqir ('a), his son, not to hold back his kindness and benevolence from anyone and to carry out this moral and human duty to the extent of his capacity in respect of all human beings:
My son, don't hold back your kindness from anyone who seeks your charity and benevolence; for even if he were not worthy of that kindness you would prove to be worthy of it by responding positively to his request. 11
Al-Husayn ibn 'Ali, the master of world's freemen-may peace be upon him-in a profound and eloquent sermon, calls men to benevolence. The following is a free paraphrase of his speech.
O people, adopt the virtues of benevolence and chivalry and hearken to solve the difficulties of the destitute, for benevolence is a greatly profitable quality. O people, seek salvation and felicity by the means of service to God's creatures. You, who have the capacity to alleviate the pains of those who suffer, should not let others speak ill of you on account of your negligence in rendering benign service. If you give a helping hand to the weak and the disabled and they do not thank you for your kindness, do not be disappointed and dispirited in your altruism, because God will give you a great reward and grant you His inexhaustible favours and bounties. In fact, it is one of His great favours that God has given you the capacity to satisfy the wants of the needy.
It does not behove you to be greedy and avaricious. For, should you acquire all the bounties of God and yet be unwilling to help the deprived and bring relief to the suffering, God shall change the favours that He has granted you into suffering and pain. He will make you face humiliation and let you taste the afflictions of the deprived and the suffering.
How delightful it is to bring solace and consolation to a broken heart or offer relief to some destitute! Should you be worthy and honourable, you will achieve a good name amongst the people, and they will look upon you with gratitude and affection instead of resentment and rancour when you pass by them. Perhaps many of those who are needy today will be able to reward you for your kindness in their better days.
Were benevolence to take the form of a human being and were you to behold his beautiful and luminous visage, you would see him as a most handsome and charming youth whose sight gladdens your heart. And were it possible for vice and misconduct to appear before you in a human form, you would undoubtedly be so repelled by the sight of his ugly and hateful countenance that you would close your eyes in horror and revulsion.
O people, be generous and munificent in order to enjoy honour and dignity, for one who is parsimonious and stingy shall be petty and contemptible.
The most generous of men is he who gives to someone in need who cannot return his kindness and the most forgiving of them is one who forgives despite possessing the power to retaliate. The noblest of kinsmen is he who does not neglect to be benevolent and caring in regard to his relatives, though they should not observe the demands of familial ties with him.
If you were so noble and forbearing, you would be like a tree that bears plenteous fruits, a tree whose roots are nourished by goodness and blessing. The branches of felicity and good fortune would spread over you and others will benefit from their shadow. Its sweet and pleasant fruits will free you of all bitterness.
Every good man should make haste in performing good works and service to God's creatures. He will receive such a reward and blessing for it in the future as he had never expected. Should he, for the sake of God's good pleasure, offer a helping hand to someone in need the generous and magnanimous Lord will assist him on the day of his need and save him from facing hardships.
O people, God shall take away the sorrow and darkness of the world and the hereafter from the heart of everyone of you who brings relief to a suffering soul.
He will reward the good-doers for their good-doing, for God loves the good-doers. 12
Good doing and charity are not confined to monetary help, or to providing relief from physical suffering and hardship. Rather, spiritual assistance, moral guidance and correction of moral conduct and qualities have a higher and greater value than material charity.
Hence if one were to assist those who are lost and help them extricate themselves from the clutches of corruption and misguidance and enter the luminous environs of the truth, he would be doing the greatest favour to them. From the viewpoint of Islam, the sublimest and the most valuable act of charity and benevolence is to help the deviant and deliver those bogged down in the mire of corruption and wretchedness.
The sublime leader of Islam (s) said to 'Ali ('a):
If God were to guide a single person through you, that is better for you than every thing under the sun. 13
10. Al-Harrani, Tuhaf al uqul, p. 245.
11. Al-Kulayni, op. cit, p. 153.
12. Al-Irbili, Kashf al-ghummah, vol. ii, p. 204.
13. Shaykh 'Abbas al-Qummi, Safinat al-Bihar vol. ii, p. 700.
Adapted from: "Ethics and Spiritual Growth" by: "Sayyid Mujtaba Musawi Lari"
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