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FEEDING THE HUNGRY – AN ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVE

By Mohammed Yusuf Dadani

While hunger in the land of plenty is not a new phenomenon, the last
few years of economic turmoil have worsened matters for the poor in
this country.  As unemployment has soared and bankruptcies and
foreclosures have increased, the ranks of the poor have swelled in
alarming proportions. So we find ourselves in the anomalous situation
that one out of every six people in the richest nation on earth, is
today living below the poverty line.

In New Jersey alone, four hundred thousand children are at risk of
going hungry each day. As Muslims living in this country, it is our
duty to ponder over and think of what we can do to solve this problem.
As Muslims we are supposed to be the guardians of this earth and all
its creatures. As the Prophet Mohammad Sallalalahu Alayhi wa Sallam is
reported to have said, “He is not a
Muslim who goes to bed satiated while his neighbor goes hungry
”.

So how can we as Muslims sleep contentedly while in our own
neighborhoods and in our own backyards, in our own towns and counties
and state and country, our neighbors go hungry ? And if we do so, then
in light of the above Hadith, can we call ourselves Muslim ?

In fact, no other religion puts greater emphasis on feeding the hungry
as Islam does. And this is no  hollow claim. All one has to do
is to compare the holy books of other faiths to the holy books of the
Muslims i.e. the Holy Qur’an and Hadith and just count the number of
times each one of them contains exhortations to feed the hungry and the
indigent. Not only does Islam exhort its followers to feed the hungry
and indigent but further in some instances it even legislates feeding
the hungry as expiation for some sinful acts or in exchange for
exempting one from the compulsory acts of worship.

Let me just give you some examples from the Qur’an to prove my point.

From the very early revelations, the Qur’an exhorts the faithful to
feed the orphans, the indigent and even the prisoners ( a clear example
of how the Qur’an even gives rights to prisoners).

So we find in Surah Al-Balad, while describing the virtuous path (which
often appears as a steep or difficult path), it says:

“And
what would make you conceive what is that steep uphill road ? [It is],
the freeing of a slave or the feeding on a day of hunger an orphan
relative or a needy person lying in the dust … “ (90:12-16)



Similarly while describing the virtuous people in Surah Al-Insan, it
says:

“And
they are those who give food – in spite of their own need , to the
needy, and the orphan,  and the captive, [saying in their
hearts],’We
only feed you for the sake of God, and we desire nothing in return from
you, not even a word of thanks’’” 
(76:8-9).

As an example of
legislating the feeding of the people, the Qur’an requires those who
cannot fast themselves, to compensate for this, by feeding a hungry
person for each of the missed fasts.  

Similarly if a person
takes an oath to do something and then has to break his oath, Islam
prescribes that this person feed ten poor people as expiation for the
sin of breaking an oath.

On the other hand the Qur’an warns
those who do not bring themselves to feed the poor and neither do they
exhort others to do the same, that they will suffer a grievous
punishment in the hereafter.

So we find in the Surah
Al-Muddaththir a dialogue between the denizens of Hell fire and the
dwellers of paradise who are asking them, what was it that led them to
hell ?

“What has brought you to
this burning abode? They will
answer, ‘We were not amongst those who worshipped God (out of
arrogance) and nor did we feed the needy….’” (74:42-44)

And
again in Surah Al-Ma’oon, “Have
you seen the one who denies the [Day of
] Judgement ? Then such is he who repulses the orphan and encourages
not the feeding of the needy …….” (107:1-3)

These are but a few
brief examples showing how closely Islam ties faith to actions that
show concern for ones fellow human beings and how it disowns those who
do not care about the suffering and hunger of others.

I hope
these words will give us some food for thought and make us ponder over
what we are doing to address the problem of hunger in our society.

In
conclusion, let me draw your attention to another saying of the Prophet
Sallalahu Alayhi wa Sallam, in which he has reported to have responded
to someone who asked him about the best of deeds in Islam, as, “Spread
the peace and feed the people
…… “

Let us all become people who follow the above advice of the last and
final Messenger of God Almighty.

 

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