Sacrifice or Investment

We just finished Ramadan where Allahﷻ gave us the opportunity to start over again, make our lives Shari’ah compliant and achieve closeness to Allahﷻ. In life, all human beings have only two Dharooriaat. Dharoori is something the absence of which will lead to death. The two Dharooriaat are not food or water or even air. They are Hidaya while we live and Maghfirah after we die. If a person has guidance and is forgiven when he dies, no matter what their situation in the Dunya was, they will go to Jannah. But if a person was misguided and died in that state, on Kufr or Shirk then they will go to Jahannam. The key is ask ourselves where we are. Ramadan came to put this into perspective where, by following the order of Allahﷻ, we held ourselves back from things which are otherwise Halaal during the specified hours. This reinforces the meaning of being a Muslim – someone who submits to Allahﷻ. Ramadan forces us to understand that when it comes to choosing between what is good for the body and what is good for the soul, we must give precedence to the soul. We remind ourselves that on top of the most beautiful face, the strongest body, the cutest child, the most dignified scholar, the most magnificent king, and queen, one day will be dumped thousands of pounds of earth. Talk about helplessness. Death is not the cessation of life. It is the cessation of ability, of power and authority, or the capability to help ourselves. It is the name of total helplessness and vulnerability that is impossible to imagine in this life. At that time, the only thing that will help us is what we send ahead. We need to change the way we think about charity and recognize it for what it is.

I want you to think of two words, spend and save. Which is a better word? Two other words, sacrifice and invest. Which is a better word? We have always been told to ‘sacrifice’ for the sake of Allahﷻ. Qurbani deejiye. I submit to you that this is a false narrative. There is no such thing as ‘sacrifice’ when it comes to Allahﷻ. Let me show you why. For something to be considered a ‘sacrifice’, it must satisfy two conditions. It must be something that belongs to you, and you must not get any return for giving it away. I can’t take what is in your wallet and donate it and call it my ‘sacrifice’. Similarly, I can’t sell you something of mine, take the payment and say that I ‘sacrificed’ it for you. I can only say that I sacrificed something if it belongs to me and if I get nothing in return for it. A sacrifice is therefore a net loss.

Let us see what happens when we spend in the cause of Allahﷻ. Let us see if the conditions of ‘sacrifice’ are satisfied. Firstly, everything we have, without exception, belongs to Allahﷻ and we hold it in trust for as long as He wishes. Our very life itself, our wealth, health, knowledge, time, ability, strength, influence, authority, everything of any description, belongs to Allahﷻ and not to us. The proof of this is that when Allahﷻ wants to take it back He can and there is nothing we can do to prevent or even delay that by so much as a second. All we can do is to behave with restraint and have patience and remind ourselves that it was not ours in the first place. That is why the poet said about the martyr: Jaan dee, dee hui usi ki thee. Haq tho yeh hai kay haq ada na hua. Allahﷻ warned us to spend before it is too late.

يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓا۟ أَنفِقُوا۟ مِمَّا رَزَقْنَـٰكُم مِّن قَبْلِ أَن يَأْتِىَ يَوْمٌ لَّا بَيْعٌ فِيهِ وَلَا خُلَّةٌ وَلَا شَفَـٰعَةٌ وَٱلْكَـٰفِرُونَ هُمُ ٱلظَّـٰلِمُونَ

Baqara 2: 254    O you who believe! Spend from that with which We have provided for you, before a Day comes when there will be no bargaining, nor friendship, nor intercession. And it is the disbelievers who are the Zalimun

Despite that when we spend it in the cause of Allahﷻ, the minimum return we get is 1000%. There is nothing smaller than that. So, where is this great ‘sacrifice’? Allahﷻ said as we all know:

مَن جَآءَ بِٱلْحَسَنَةِ فَلَهُۥ عَشْرُ أَمْثَالِهَا وَمَن جَآءَ بِٱلسَّيِّئَةِ فَلَا يُجْزَىٰٓ إِلَّا مِثْلَهَا وَهُمْ لَا يُظْلَمُونَ

An’am 6: 160    Whoever brings a good deed shall have ten times the like thereof to his credit, and whoever brings an evil deed shall have only the recompense of the like thereof, and they will not be wronged.

And then Allahﷻ said:

مَّثَلُ ٱلَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ أَمْوَٰلَهُمْ فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ كَمَثَلِ حَبَّةٍ أَنۢبَتَتْ سَبْعَ سَنَابِلَ فِى كُلِّ سُنۢبُلَةٍ مِّا۟ئَةُ حَبَّةٍ وَٱللَّهُ يُضَـٰعِفُ لِمَن يَشَآءُ وَٱللَّهُ وَٰسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ

Baqara 2: 261    The example of those who spend their wealth in the Way of Allah, is as the example of a grain (of corn); it grows seven ears, and each ear has a hundred grains. Allah gives manifold increase to whom He pleases. And Allah is All-Sufficient for His creatures’ needs, All-Knower.

What ‘sacrifice’ are we talking about? What do these Ayaat sound like to you? Giving up something without any return? Net loss? Or unimaginable gain, guaranteed by the One who has the power to guarantee it?

Another problem with the ‘sacrifice mindset’, is that since to sacrifice something is to give it away without any return, it is a zero-sum game and ends long before we reach zero. Even the most generous person will come to a point when he has nothing more left to give. Most will stop giving long before that. That is why we have the term ‘Donor fatigue’. Sadly, nobody seems to have a solution to that apart from doing what we do with grazing cattle; leave some fields fallow for a while for the grass to grow back before bringing the cows back to graze. What is very interesting to me is that the real solution is crystal clear in the Qur’an and Sunnah for anyone who wants to look at it. Allahﷻ said:

يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ هَلْ أَدُلُّكُمْ عَلَىٰ تِجَـٰرَةٍ تُنجِيكُم مِّنْ عَذَابٍ أَلِيمٍ

Saff 61: 10    O You who believe! Shall I guide you to a trade that will save you from a painful torment?

إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ ٱشْتَرَىٰ مِنَ ٱلْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَنفُسَهُمْ وَأَمْوَٰلَهُم بِأَنَّ لَهُمُ ٱلْجَنَّةَ

Tawba 9: 111   Verily, Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their properties as the price for Jannah.

Sale, purchase, trade, return – we are not talking about sacrifice. We are talking about investment. So, I want you to remove the word ‘sacrifice’ from your vocabulary and replace it with ‘investment’. I am a business consultant, and we talk about ROI. When considering investment opportunities and assessing Return on Investment, we look at two parameters. Rate of return and the reliability of the guarantor. What do you say about an investment where the rate of return is 1000% and the guarantor is the Only One who can give a guarantee without doubt? Sounds like a no-brainer, right? But that is only if we believe the Guarantor. Do we believe what He told us? Do we believe that we need to make these investments? Do we believe that we need them? That is the choice Allahﷻ gave us today.

Whether we want to save and invest for the life to come which has no end or whether we want to spend in this life which will end, we know not when. Let’s choose wisely because it is about us. You don’t call what you spend on Wall Street ‘donation’ or ‘sacrifice’. You don’t buy a beautiful house or car or jewelry and call what you paid for it, ‘donation’ or ‘sacrifice’. So, how is spending in the cause of Allahﷻ for a guaranteed minimum return of 1000% – ten times – guaranteed by Allahﷻ Himself, a ‘donation’ or ‘sacrifice’. Please remove these words and see how ‘donor fatigue’ disappears. Wall Street or Nasdaq never talk about ‘donor fatigue’, when they give no guarantees at all. So, why should we, when we have Allahﷻ’s guarantee to back our offering? I’m serious.

The problem is deeper than semantics or definitions of words or concepts. It has to do with how we think of Allahﷻ. I remind myself and you that we will all die and that is when our eternal life will begin. This is the reality. And reality doesn’t depend on belief for its existence. So, the question to ask is, “Do I believe that this will happen to me?” No, that’s not a dumb question. Let us look at our lives, what we do, how we earn, where we spend, what we eat, what comes out of our mouths and the truth about our belief will become totally clear. For those who do believe and live by that belief, there’s great good news. Allahﷻ said about the time which will come upon us all, when everyone, no matter what their level, will be afraid.

إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ قَالُوا۟ رَبُّنَا ٱللَّهُ ثُمَّ ٱسْتَقَـٰمُوا۟ تَتَنَزَّلُ عَلَيْهِمُ ٱلْمَلَـٰٓئِكَةُ أَلَّا تَخَافُوا۟ وَلَا تَحْزَنُوا۟ وَأَبْشِرُوا۟ بِٱلْجَنَّةِ ٱلَّتِى كُنتُمْ تُوعَدُونَ

نَحْنُ أَوْلِيَآؤُكُمْ فِى ٱلْحَيَوٰةِ ٱلدُّنْيَا وَفِى ٱلْـَٔاخِرَةِ وَلَكُمْ فِيهَا مَا تَشْتَهِىٓ أَنفُسُكُمْ وَلَكُمْ فِيهَا مَا تَدَّعُونَ

نُزُلًا مِّنْ غَفُورٍ رَّحِيمٍ

Fussilat 41:30-32    Verily, those who say: Our Rabb is Allah (Alone), and then they Istaqamu (remain steadfast), on them the angels will descend (at the time of death) (saying): Fear not, nor grieve! But receive the glad tidings of Jannah which you have been promised! We have been your friends in the life of this world and are (so) in the Hereafter. Therein you shall have (all) that your inner-selves desire, and therein you shall have (all) for which you ask for. A welcome from (Allah), the Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

The surest sign of life is the ability to feel pain. It is not the ability to feel pleasure or understand anything or recognize anyone. It is simply the ability to feel pain. That is why Al-Nu’man ibn Bashir (R) reported, that Rasoolullahﷺ  said, “The example of the Believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.” [Bukhari & Muslim]

When a person is in a coma doctors induce pain in different ways to see if he reacts. If there is no reaction, then it means that the person is dead. The same logic applies to the heart. When the heart can no longer feel pain, you can say that it is dead. It is merely a pump to move blood around the body. The concept of what we call ‘heart’ in English as a translation of the Arabic word ‘Qalb’, is a misnomer. The word Qalb as Allahﷻ mentioned it in the Qur’an is a place of understanding and feeling. A combination of emotion and intellect. Head and heart as we say in English. That is why Allahﷻ said:

فَإِنَّهَا لَا تَعْمَى ٱلْأَبْصَـٰرُ وَلَـٰكِن تَعْمَى ٱلْقُلُوبُ ٱلَّتِى فِى ٱلصُّدُورِ

Hajj 22: 46    Verily, it is not the eyes that grow blind, but it is the hearts which are in the breasts that grow blind.

My question to myself and you is, are our hearts alive? Do we feel the pain? The pain of being truly alone in the world. Remember that companionship is not someone sitting on the same bench, or the next seat or even living in the same house. Companionship is the one who is in the heart. For an orphan that is over. Forever. The companionship of the parents is irreplaceable. The technical term in Arabic for ‘orphan’ is Yateem. Linguistically it means something that is isolated and alone. Thank Allahﷻ if you can’t understand that. For there is only one way to understand any pain; by feeling it. If Allahﷻ spared you, thank Him and do your best to alleviate it for others.

Abu-Darda (R) reported that Rasoolullah said, “Seek me among the weak, for you are given sustenance and help only because of the weak amongst you.” [Abu Dawud].

Abu Huraira (R) reported that Rasoolullah said, ‘The best house among the Muslims is the house in which orphans are well treated. The worst house among the Muslims is the house in which orphans are ill-treated. I and the guardian of the orphan will be in Jannah like that, [indicating his two fingers held together.] [Al-Adab Al-Mufrad].  

Why is there an emphasis on bringing orphans into your household beyond just financially supporting them? Because having them in your house means you are also providing for their emotional needs, in particular the need for the love and care of a parent.

Sahl bin Sa`d (R), narrated that Rasoolullah  said, “I and the caretaker of the orphan will enter Jannah together like this (raising by way of illustration his forefinger and middle finger jointly, leaving no space between them).” [Bukhari]

Once again, the same question, ‘Do I believe?’ Remember that belief that is not followed by action is not belief. The currency of the Day of Judgement is deeds. Not claims of belief.

[Stories of Bashir Bin Ghuzayyah & Abu Dhada]