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Importance of Feeding

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 Quran 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 Quran to prove my point.

From the very early revelations, the Quran exhorts the faithful to feed the orphans, the indigent and even the prisoners ( a clear example of how the Quran 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 Quran 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 Quran 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-Maoon, 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.