Racing Towards Goodness | Executive Director’s Statement
Assalamu alaikum Dear Community Members,
The blessed month of Ramadan is quickly coming to an end. This year, all of us were forced to adjust to a new norm of social distancing. While it did present some challenges, it also brought unique blessings as we tried to find our inner and new spaces of worship amidst a new solitude. More importantly, the last ten days present another great opportunity to gain countless reward through acts of worship, especially in the odd nights as we seek the night of Al Qadr – the Night of Power. This illuminates an important aspect of the framework of worship in Islam. It is built on motivation to pursue goodness.
The first aspect of this divine motivation is anchored on the balance between effort and reward. This motivation is multilayered and multidimensional. It is grounded in providing both inward and outward-looking acts of worship ranging from prayer to charity to volunteering. It is also grounded in providing special opportunities during blessed times powered by special multiplied reward such as the ten nights of Ramadan and ten days before Hajj. Therefore, the enhanced reward intrinsically drives believers to consistently and increasingly exert efforts that are inspired by attaining nearness to Allah(swt).
In Ramadan, beyond fasting, the three most important guideposts for goodness are prayer, social justice and charity.
وَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ
And establish prayer and give zakat – Yusuf Ali – Al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2:43
The second aspect of the motivation is grounded in the narrative about the pursuit of Allah’s forgiveness and blessings. Quranic expressions regarding this pursuit are framed as a competitive race between believers towards Allah swt. The essence of this pursuit is in giving and sharing of one’s possessions without holding back. The trophy is a blissful Garden, the wideness of which is the sum of the Heavens and Earth:
وَسَارِعُوا إِلَىٰ مَغْفِرَةٍ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ وَجَنَّةٍ عَرْضُهَا السَّمَاوَاتُ وَالْأَرْضُ
Be quick in the race for forgiveness from your Lord, and for a Garden whose width is that (of the whole) of the heavens and of the earth – Yusuf Ali, Al-Imran (The Family of Imran) 3:133
سَابِقُوا إِلَىٰ مَغْفِرَةٍ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ وَجَنَّةٍ عَرْضُهَا كَعَرْضِ السَّمَاءِ وَالْأَرْضِ
Race toward forgiveness from your Lord and a Garden whose width is like the width of the heavens and earth – Sahih International, Al-Hadid (Iron) 57:21
Fundamentally, the motivation system starts at the heart of the believer, where the first steps on the path to goodness start by encouraging good thoughts and discouraging bad ones through one of the most progressive and unique reward systems known to humankind. Ibn Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَتَبَ الْحَسَنَاتِ وَالسَّيِّئَاتِ ثُمَّ بَيَّنَ ذَلِكَ فَمَنْ هَمَّ بِحَسَنَةٍ فَلَمْ يَعْمَلْهَا كَتَبَهَا اللَّهُ عِنْدَهُ حَسَنَةً كَامِلَةً وَإِنْ هَمَّ بِهَا فَعَمِلَهَا كَتَبَهَا اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ عِنْدَهُ عَشْرَ حَسَنَاتٍ إِلَى سَبْعِ مِائَةِ ضِعْفٍ إِلَى أَضْعَافٍ كَثِيرَةٍ وَإِنْ هَمَّ بِسَيِّئَةٍ فَلَمْ يَعْمَلْهَا كَتَبَهَا اللَّهُ عِنْدَهُ حَسَنَةً كَامِلَةً وَإِنْ هَمَّ بِهَا فَعَمِلَهَا كَتَبَهَا اللَّهُ سَيِّئَةً وَاحِدَةً
Verily, Allah has recorded good and bad deeds and He made them clear. Whoever intends to perform a good deed but does not do it, then Allah will record it as a complete good deed. If he intends to do it and does so, then Allah the Exalted will record it as ten good deeds up to seven hundred times as much or even more. If he intends to do a bad deed and does not do it, then Allah will record for him one complete good deed. If he does it then Allah will record for him a single bad deed.
Thirdly, the motivation paradigm for the charitable giving is grounded in the abundance mindset. This premise is founded on the promise that Allah swt will replenish the resources we give.
وَمَا أَنفَقْتُم مِّن شَيْءٍ فَهُوَ يُخْلِفُهُ وَهُوَ خَيْرُ الرَّازِقِينَ
and nothing Do ye spend in the least (In His Cause) but He Replaces it : for He is The Best of those who Grant Sustenance. – Yusuf Ali – Saba’ (Sheba) 34:39
Because of the importance of charity as an instrument of wealth purification, it is highly regulated and emphasized in the Quran. Our love for wealth is tempered by the motivation to give. Giving is mandated through Zakat and encouraged through Sadaqah. However, both acts of charity are immensely rewarded and considered acts of kindness designed to help us develop compassion for one another, as well as allow us to build stronger cohesive communities.
Through alleviating hardship, investing and building community resilience, we can achieve the virtues of the higher ends that the Quran teaches us.
As we have learned in the COVID-19 pandemic, gratitude and appreciation are sometimes attained as a result of losing things taken for granted. Recently, we have acquired a new appreciation for the Masjid – the Friday prayers, meeting each other and enjoying community iftars and Taraweeh.
Remarkably, the following verse connects the three themes together – prayer, charity and mosques – and they are centered on the worship to Allah swt:
إِنَّمَا يَعْمُرُ مَسَاجِدَ اللّهِ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ وَأَقَامَ الصَّلاَةَ وَآتَى الزَّكَاةَ وَلَمْ يَخْشَ إِلاَّ اللّهَ
The mosques of Allah shall be visited and maintained by such as believe in Allah and the Last Day, establish regular prayers, and practise regular charity, and fear none (at all) except Allah – Yusuf Ali At-Tauba (The Repentance) 9:18
As we witness the last ten days and nights of Ramadan, I invite you to race towards goodness by seeking Allah swt’s mercy through prayer and paying charity.
وَرَحْمَتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ فَسَأَكْتُبُهَا لِلَّذِينَ يَتَّقُونَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَـاةَ وَالَّذِينَ هُم بِآيَاتِنَا يُؤْمِنُونَ
…but My mercy extendeth to all things. That (mercy) I shall ordain for those who do right, and practise regular charity, and those who believe in Our signs – Yusuf Ali, Al-A’raf (The Heights) 7:156
COVID-19 taught us that every community needs strong institutions, and institutions need to be strong to withstand shocks the size of COVID-19. I invite you to make a commitment to invest in your community. It is the race none of us should miss.
Wa Assalamu alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu,
Executive Director, Muslim Association of Canada