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If Prophet Muhamad Were in Haitiā€¦

Dr. Hesham A. Hassaballa

According to Prophet Muhammad, we must help those in need, regardless of their religion.
I recently had a heated discussion with a very dear and close relative of mine about the relief efforts in Haiti. When it was mentioned that some of the people of Haiti followed the religion of Voodoo, he remarked that we should not help them because they are not of the People of the Book (an Islamic term referring to Christians and Jews).

I took very strong exception to this because according to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Muslims should help anybody and everybody, regardless of their faith tradition. Had Prophet Muhammad been alive today, I believe he would have said the same.

One of Prophet Muhammad's companions was preparing some meat and insisted that some be sent to his Jewish neighbor.

It goes without mentioning that it is our duty to help our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters whenever disaster strikes them. It is part of our duty as members of the Muslim Ummah (worldwide community). But, being a part of the Ummah has an additional obligation: to help anyone who needs help around the world.

One of the first things Prophet Muhammad said to the Companions was: "Spread peace, feed the hungry, keep strong the family tie, pray when other people are sleeping, and you will enter Paradise safely" (Al-Tirmidhi). This has been interpreted to be a general exhortation, not just to Muslims. We are supposed to spread peace to all those around us, and we are supposed to feed all those who are hungry.

Allah (God) says in the Quran that Muslims are {the best nation sent forth for humanity} (Aal-Imran 3:110). Note, the Lord did not say "the best nation for believers," but rather all of humanity. Another trait that Muslims should have is that they {give food - however great be their own want of it - to the needy, the orphan, and the captive} (Al-Insan 76:8). Again, notice that the verse does not mention the faith of that needy person, or orphan, or captive.

The traditions of Prophet Muhammad are consistent with these Quranic injunctions, and he further elaborated on the point that kindness and compassion is not linked to the faith of the recipient. One such tradition came into play when a companion of the Prophet was preparing some meat and insisted that some be sent to his Jewish neighbor. When asked about his insistence he replied that Prophet Muhammad had said "Gabriel has repeatedly recommended me to be good to my neighbor to the extent that I thought that he would include him [my neighbor] among my heirs" (Ahmad and Al-Tirmidhi).

This tradition clearly indicates the importance of kindness and giving to others, regardless of the fact that the recipient of this kindness is not Muslim. In a similar tradition, Prophet Muhammad also said: "A believer is not the one who eats his fill when his neighbor is hungry" (Al-Bukhari,  Al-Hakim, and Al-Baihaqi). Once again, no mention of the faith of that neighbor, and during the time of the Prophet many Muslims had non-Muslim neighbors – as evinced by the above tradition.

I overheard someone say, "If I had the choice to give charity to Haiti or Palestine, I would give to Palestine." I say, "Give to both,"

There are many other traditions and sayings of Prophet Muhammad that exhort Muslims to compassionate giving, with no mention of the faith of the recipient. Such traditions include:

"Give food to the hungry, pay a visit to the sick and release (set free) the one in captivity (by paying his ransom)" (Al-Bukhari).

"I and the person who looks after and provides for an orphan, will be in Paradise like this," putting his index and middle fingers together (Al-Bukhari 8:34).

"The one who looks after and works for a widow and for a poor person, is like a warrior fighting for Allah's Cause or like a person who fasts during the day and prays all the night" (Al-Bukhari 8:35).

 Some may concede that we should help non-Muslims so that the world may know the true, compassionate face of Islam. I say NO! We are not a missionary people who have an ulterior motive behind its charity work. We feed the hungry {for the sake of God alone…we desire neither thanks nor reward from you} (Al-Insan 76:9-10).
We feed the hungry because it is our duty, as believers, to help all those who are less fortunate. Yes, as members of the Ummah, it is our duty to help those fellow Muslims who are in need; but the concept of the Ummah is more transcendent: it exhorts us to help all people who need our help, Muslim or otherwise.

 I overheard someone say, "If I had the choice to give charity to Haiti or Palestine, I would give to Palestine." I say, "Give to both," and I believe the Prophet Muhammad  would have said the same thing. The people of Haiti have been absolutely devastated by the recent earthquake, and the reports and images coming out of that country have been absolutely heart-wrenching. They are our neighbors: if we have no compassion for these people, then we must check our faith.

Prophet Muhammad said "He who is not merciful to others, will not be treated mercifully" (Al-Bukhari). This saying clearly uses the word 'others' which can encompass people of any faith. In another saying, Muslims are told, "If any Muslim plants any plant and a human being or an animal eats of it, he will be rewarded as if he had given that much in charity" (Al-Bukhari). This saying is exceptionally clear in its use of "human being", which by definition encompasses all of humanity.

Had Prophet Muhammad been alive today, he would have been in Haiti himself, helping the people with his own blessed hands. Alas, he is not, but his people are: Islamic Relief and the Islamic Society of North America, among many other Islamic organizations, have pledged their support for the relief effort in Haiti.

We must support these efforts.

The people of Haiti are calling out for help. We must answer their call. Prophet Muhammad would have done so.
When My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them): I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me: Let them also, with a will, Listen to My call, and believe in Me: That they may walk in the right way.

Quran: 2:186
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