The story of two point five per cent
In the name of the Almighty, the Beneficent the Merciful
“The alms are only for the poor, and the needy and those employed to collect it; and to strengthen the hearts of those who incline towards Islam; and to free the captives; and for those in debt; and for His Cause, and for the wayfarer (a traveler who is cut off from everything)… (Al-Quran 9:60).
Brethren, we are back to the school once again. Yes, the ‘school’ of Ramadan. But I have always argued that not all those who have found themselves in this ‘school’ ought to be here. Not all those who fast in the month of Ramadan should actually be counted as being on the ‘register’. It is not all those who invoke the name of the Almighty who actually recognize His presence and affirm His authority in their wakeful moments. I thought it is consensual that the schisms and contradictions we behold in certain parts of the Muslim world are partly owed to those who identify with Islam but, in reality, are actually at war with it. I thought the Arab-American shooter a couple of days ago in Orlando Florida, Omar Siddique Maten, amply demonstrates this assertion: Muslims whose conducts represent the very antithesis of Islam. It is my considered opinion that the greatest challenge confronting Islam is neither the cross nor the cassock; the greatest iniquity being perpetrated against the Crescent is that which proceeds from some Muslims.
In other words, brethren, the reason Ramadan does not impact our lives on a permanent basis is simply because some of us do not possess the basic qualification for admission into this ‘school’. To fast in the month in this month means your faith in the Almighty should be stellar and untainted.
Today’s sermon is however not targeted at exploring the above in detail. Rather, I wish to call your attention to an important pillar of our faith which majority of us often treat with levity. Here I am referring to Zakat, alms giving to the poor and the needy. A quick perusal of the last testament, the Glorious Quran would inform you that each time the second pillar, Salat, is mentioned, it is usually followed by the injunction on payment of Zakat. Thus in order to be a dutiful and conscientious believer, you must not only establish Salat, you must be a faithful payer of Zakat. Brethren, Zakat is not charity. It is not an optional act of faith. It is compulsory; it is an obligation. The following anecdote is very instructive of my argument.
One day, a very wealthy man was walking on the road. Along the way, he saw a beggar on the sidewalk. The rich man looked kindly at the beggar and asked him why he was begging. The beggar said, “Sir, I’ve been unemployed for a year now. You look like a rich man. Sir, if you’ll give me a job, I’ll stop begging.”
The rich man smiled and said, “I want to help you. But I won’t give you a job. I’ll do something better. I want you to be my business partner. Let’s start a business together. The beggar blinked hard. “What do you mean, Sir? “I own a rice plantation. You could sell my rice in the market. I’ll provide you the sacks of rice. I’ll pay the rent for the market stall. All you’ll have to do is sell my rice. And at the end of the month, as business partners, we’ll share the profits”. The rich man added saying: “My share shall be five percent while you get ninety-five percent?”.
For a moment, the beggar could not believe what he heard. He was speechless. The deal was too good to be true. Eventually, the beggar was bestowed with all necessary facilities that would make him prosper. His business witnessed an upward swing.
But alas, at the end of the month, the ex-beggar refused to keep his own side of the agreement. He told himself: “why should I give two point five percent of my profit to my business partner? After all, I was the one who was working day and night for this business. I did all the work. I deserve hundred percent of the profits”.
Brethren, the above similitude of the beggar is reminiscent of our beggarly and poor status when we came to the world. Our Creator (the Business Partner), gave us life, gave us talents and everything that we need to make a success of our stay on this ephemeral planet. He gave us eyes, ears and mouth. He gave us imagination, emotions, reasoning and guidance.
In return for this uncountable favours and blessings, He demands that we return just two point five percent of whatever we earn back to Him not ten percent; that we give that percentage in alms to others who are not as lucky as ours. Your refusal to do so therefore, positions you in the same class with the beggar referenced above. To give Zakat in the month of Ramadan is to transact a business with a Partner whose sole concern is to make you richer. Would you then hearken to this admonition?
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