From left, Khalid S. Lateef of As Siraatal Mustaqeem Islamic Center, Sanaa...

From left, Khalid S. Lateef of As Siraatal Mustaqeem Islamic Center, Sanaa Nadim of the Islamic Society and Interfaith Center at Stony Brook University, and Faroque A. Khan of the Interfaith Institute of Long Island. Credit: Lateef Family; Newsday/John H. Cornell Jr.; Newsday/John Paraskevas

Ramadan, observed by Muslims worldwide beginning on the evening of March 22, is a time of fasting, prayer, reflection and charity. This week’s commenters discuss the obligations and benefits of charity — also called almsgiving and zakat — throughout the year as well as during Ramadan, the most sacred month in Islam.

Faroque A. Khan

Chairman, Interfaith Institute of Long Island, Jericho

The Quran tells us, "O believers fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so perhaps you will be mindful of Allah” (2:183). Ramadan is a month of fasting, renewal, self-reflection, compassion, patience, charity and the avoidance of all evil and bad deeds. In short, it is a great month to practice mind over body thinking.

Muslims are urged to donate to charity and to do good works, such as helping the needy. We are obliged to set aside a minimum of 2.5% of our wealth, a practice known as zakat, for this purpose. Most Muslims during Ramadan donate generously with the goal of helping the needy. I find myself being more productive, as I have more time to pray, contribute to good causes and write.

This year because of health issues, however, I will not fast (quite permissible in our faith). To compensate, I will offer fidya, a donation paid by individuals who cannot fulfill their obligation to fast because of illness. I intend to donate money to feed a person in need for each fasting day missed, which I estimate to be $15 a day for a total of $450 for the month.

Khalid S. Lateef

President and imam emeritus, As Siraatal Mustaqeem Islamic Center, Wyandanch

Islam is based on five pillars of faith, the third of which is charity. Giving in charity is encouraged during Ramadan and throughout the year. Islam encourages believers to share their blessings with others. Charity, or sharing, begins with one’s immediate family and relatives. Then, sharing with your neighbors is encouraged. Next are those who are needy in your community, state and nation, and finally, those in need in other nations.

The Quran teaches we should give beyond what is easy to give. To give one dollar of your savings when you have $1,000 saved is easy. To give $50 in charity from the same amount saved is more of a challenge and sacrifice. To give $100 in charity from a thousand dollars saved begins to really challenge what we value most. However, the Quran encourages believers to be realistic in their charity; never give so much that you become poor yourself and become a burden on someone else. Or, to quote the Prophet Muhammad: "He whose food exceeds his needs, let him share it with those who do not have food" (Fiqh-us-Sunnah, 3:93C).

Sanaa Nadim

Chaplain and director, Islamic Society, and chair, Interfaith Center, Stony Brook University

Providing for and serving others is a requirement in Islam. Underlying this mandate is an understanding that Allah has bestowed on you blessings that must be shared with others. When you give to others, you’re only transferring what Allah has bestowed on you, and thus you cannot expect praise or gratitude.

During Ramadan, Muslims are undergoing a spiritual purification through fasting and increasing their daily and nightly worship. This cleansing is both physical and spiritual. To receive the holiness of Ramadan, you must provide others with material support through almsgiving, which is a required percentage of your wealth to be paid on a yearly basis to underserved communities and those in need. You’re also expected to provide resources to the hungry. Quran 90: 11-16 specifies acts of charity that Muslims should participate in, such as giving food “on a day of severe hunger, to an orphaned relative or to a poor person in distress.”

Also during Ramadan, Muslims celebrate the revelation of the Holy Quran and the part of it that ensures empathy, kindness and a collective spiritual and material commitment to others. It's a month when Muslims grow closer to Allah. And that’s the power of giving. It gives back.

DO YOU HAVE QUESTIONS you’d like Newsday to ask the clergy? Email them to LILife@newsday.com. 

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