Quranic Reflection No. 439. Āyat 2:262 – Islamic etiquette of Giving

اَلَّذِينَ يُنْفِقُونَ أَمْوَالَهُمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ ثُمَّ لَا يُتْبِعُونَ مَا أَنْفَقُوا مَنًّا وَلَا أَذًى ۙ لَهُمْ أَجْرُهُمْ عِنْدَ رَبِّهِمْ وَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ
Alladhīna yunfiqūna amwālahum fī sabīlillāhi thumma lā yutbi‘ūna mā anfaqū mannan walā adhan lahum ajruhum ‘inda rabbihim wa lā khawfun ‘alayhim walā hum yahzanūn
Those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah and then do not follow up what they have spent with reproaches and affronts, they shall have their reward near their Lord, and they will have no fear, nor will they grieve.
(Sūrat al-Baqarah, No.2, Āyat 262)

One of the best acts in Islam is to give for the sake of Allah ‘azza wajall. Giving to others for the sake of Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā awakens the soul, triggers concern for the well-being of others, and results in countless rewards for a believer. It is how society moves forward, with members caring for and supporting one another. Such a society is blessed by Allah (swt). Imam Ali (a) says: If you spend your wealth for the sake of Allah then indeed Allah is quick in recompense (Ghurar Al-Hikam, H. 10,156).

The above verse is embedded in a passage of verses that discuss the benefits and rewards of spending in the way of Allah (swt). It explains that for the spending to be accepted and to reap its rewards, there are conditions to be met.

What is spent in the way of Allah is not accepted if that giving is followed by annoying and reminding the receiver, whether directly or subtly. The reproach and reminders would hurt the other party and be an embarrassment to them. It could reduce their self-respect and contentment in life. Such type of charity does not serve the objective of supporting others. It is clear in this verse that these two subsequent acts nullify the reward of the charity. Tafsīr of this verse highlights that when the giving is followed by such poor conduct it is essentially as if nothing has been given.  Any good investment produces benefit in return. This type of giving does not produce any value and results in detriment.  It is the giver that becomes the one indebted due to negligence of the soul.

It is interesting to note that the words ‘manná’ and ‘adhā’ come after the word ‘thummá’.  This alludes to a passage of time between the two actions (giving and reproach). Not only should the receiver not be criticized, nor insulted while being given but there should not be any annoyance or reminder at any point after the action. It is important to remember that the receiver in reality is doing a favor to the giver by granting him the opportunity to give. That understanding changes the attitude behind the giving. It leaves no room for follow ups with reminders and injuries. Imam al-Husayn (a) says: Surely, the people’s needs towards you are from among the blessings of Allah upon you. Therefore, do not be tired of these blessings (Bihar-ul-Anwar, vol. 75, p. 127).

The last part of this verse tells us that if these conditions are met when giving, Allah will increase the reward and one will not have to fear poverty or any negativity.  The act of giving with the right intention brings about an internal sense of peace.  In another verse Allah says: Those who give their wealth by night and day, secretly and openly, they shall have their reward near their Lord, and they will have no fear, nor will they grieve (Q 2:274).

This verse does not just refer to giving money to the needy. It is essentially a general principal to be followed at any time when we give anything to anyone.  The act of giving should be selfless and only for the pleasure of Allah. It should be done with a lot of respect for the receiver.  Imam al-Bāqir (a) said, describing his father Imam Zayn al-‘Ābidīn (a): He used to go out in the dark night carrying a sack on his back and going from door to door, knocking on each and giving to whoever came out to answer it. He used to cover his face when giving to the poor in order that they may not recognize him (Bihār Al-Anwār, v. 46, p. 89, H. 77). Only two days ago we commemorated the shahādat of this generous and selfless Imam who suffered numerous tortures as he was taken prisoner along with his aunts and sisters from Karbala to Kufa and then to Damascus under the care Umayyad army. May we never compromise on Islamic etiquette of giving under all circumstances!

Recall this verse every time you give your time, money or efforts. Give purely for His sake and respect the receiver. In turn, He will give you more and make the act of giving a source of peace and joy for you.

Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī, Al-Amthal fí Tafsīr Kitāb Allāh al- Munzal, ‘Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān.