The Sacred Door Project

Islam emphasizes the importance of giving charity, and more importantly, sharing the sustenance provided by God. A person’s act of benevolence has such a high status that God describes in the Holy Quran that the person, “…who generously lends to God will be paid back in many multiples of the loan. It is God who reduces and expands things and to Him you will all return.”[1] This is astounding because God is independent of everything and He does not need contributions, let alone a “loan”, from anyone. He also reminds us to “Seek the gains of the life to come through your wealth without ignoring your share of this life. [And] Do favors to others just as God has done favors to you.”[2] Thus, it is seldom considered that the greatest form of gratitude for God’s gifts and bounties begins with awareness.

The feeling of appreciation in a believer often goes hand-in-hand with gratification, or in the least, contentment with the current state of life. However, this is the most basic form of gratitude because it is restricted to a person’s own affairs. Awareness of God’s sustenance in its truest sense demands that a person not only acknowledges its positive effect in their life and uses it appropriately, but that they also recognize the spontaneous responsibility that is placed upon them in fulfilling the comprehensive purpose of what God has given. This is a right of that sustenance upon each and every one of us, and it means that someone else may have a right to benefit from it beyond our personal usage. Such is the example of the holy family of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh&hp) who gave away their meager food and drink at the end of each of three days of fasting to feed those who they saw had a right in their sustenance. The Holy Quran remarks, “They feed the destitute, orphans, and captives for the love of God, saying, “We only feed you for the sake of God and we do not want any reward or thanks from you.”[3]

Awareness requires that we begin by de-emphasizing our selves and curtailing the subtle arrogance that drives us to be self-centered and myopic. Although human needs are usually defined based on material availability and acquisition, deficits in the basic necessities of life go beyond what a person physically lacks. The World Bank describes that human poverty is more than just “monetary deprivation”, it includes lack of access to education, clean water and sanitation and basic infrastructure. As such, a more appropriate way to address how people are suffering is through a Multidimensional Poverty Measure, which takes into account more than just wealth and material possession.[4] Thus, when God says, “Do favors to others just as God has done favors to you”, He obliges us to give from our bounties, which we use to sustain ourselves and advance our social positions, so others can do the same. If He gives us wealth then we must distribute a share of it to those who are needy, if He gives us the opportunity to get educated, then we must open and enable such opportunities for those who do not have easy access, if He has given us access to healthcare, then we must use our health to serve others and work towards all people to have similar access, and if He has blessed us with leisure time, then we are required to use some of it to aid others. This is the basis behind an Islamic infrastructure of generosity, which is rooted in personal responsibility.

In conclusion, Islam’s approach to individual well-being and the mechanisms by which each person can thrive in the life of this world is based on empowerment. Indeed, the most important and immediate task is always to fill the void of food, drink and safety. Yet, this is just the first step, because even though a needy person is physically sustained through such generosity, they still may not have the means through which they can progress, especially once that physical charity runs out. This requires effort and expenditure of energy on our parts. Why? Because it is usually much easier to write a cheque or give away material possessions than to share of your own time or make an effort to open a door that was opened for you. The Holy Prophet has been reported to have said, “There are three things that this nation will not be able to bear, equality with a brother/sister in their wealth, equity towards people and upholding their rights through giving of their own self, and remembrance of God in every state.”[1] To truly rid the world of desperation and destitution, and close the disparity gap, not just in wealth and possession, but also education, social attainment and personal engagement, we must not only deepen our vision towards human suffering, but also actively seek out those in need and give of that which we love the most ourselves (whatever that is). God says, “You can never have extended virtue and righteousness unless you spend part of what you dearly love for the cause of God.”[2]


[1] The Holy Quran, 2:245

[2] The Holy Quran, 28:77

[3] The Holy Quran, 76:8-9

[4] The World Bank, Multidimensional Poverty Measure

[5] Bihar al-Anwaar, Vol. 74 page 45

[6] The Holy Quran, 3:92