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Protection of the Weak and Vulnerable

The Islamic concept of social security and humanitarian motivation originates from the concept of the rights of God which was outlined earlier. This implies that the vulnerable have a right for their needs to be addressed since these form part of the rights of God that are an obligation which society is obliged to fulfill. From the following verses of the Qur’an and ahadith which enjoin the believers of Islam to support their poor and needy brothers who are unable to fulfill their basic human needs: “They ask you, (Oh Muhammad), what they should spend (in charity). Say That which you spend for good (must go) to parents and near kindred and orphans and the needy and the wayfarer. And whatsoever good you do; Lo! Allah is Aware of it.” Al-Baqarah (2:215). “The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled and to free the captives and the debtors, and for the cause of Allah, and (for) the wayfarers; a duty imposed by Allah. Allah is Knower, Wise.” At-Tawbah (9:60).

The message in these verses has been reinforced by many sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Abu Hurayra said: “The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, ‘Allah, the Mighty and Exalted, will say on the Day of Rising, Son of Adam, I was ill and you did not visit Me.’ The man will say, ‘O Lord, how could I visit You when You are the Lord of the worlds?’ He will say, ‘Do you not know that My slave so-and-so was ill and you did not visit him? Do you not know that if you had visited him, you would have found Me with him? O son of Adam, I asked you for food and you did not feed Me?’ He will say, ‘O Lord, how could I feed You when You are the Lord of the worlds?’ He will say, ‘Do you not know that My slave so-and-so asked you for food and you did not feed him? Do you not know that if you had fed him, you would have found that with Me. O son of Adam, I asked you for water and you did not give it to Me.’ He will say, ‘O Lord, how could I give You water when You are the Lord of the worlds?’ He will say, ‘My slave so-and-so asked you for water and you did not give it to him. Do you not know that if you had given him water, you would have found that with Me?’” (Sahih Muslim Book 032, Hadith no. 6232).

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is reported to have said: “If anyone spent a night in a neighborhood and he remained hungry till morning, the promise of God’s protection for that neighborhood came to an end.” (Ahmad 4880)

The Prophet (PBUH) said: “The government is the guardian of anyone who has no other guardian.” (Tirmidhi 1102)

From the above-mentioned verses and ahadith, it is clear that in Islam the state, being the guardian of the poor and helpless, is responsible for providing, at least, the barest necessities of life to its poor and needy citizens. Although the state is responsible to provide for the extremely poor who have no other means of support, Islam also enjoins upon its rich followers to help their poor relatives, friends, and neighbors. Thus humanitarianism is deeply rooted in Islamic principles and traditions.

Jamal Krafess explains that for a Muslim, humanitarian action is a “way of receiving help from heaven, of erasing sins, escaping punishment, thanking God for His mercies and of meriting Paradise”. Hence Islamic faith “motivates, channels, and intensifies the emotional and obligatory aspects of charity”. Monetary charity is highly ‘systematized’ in Islamic law to the extent that annual charity (zakat) is one of the five obligatory pillars of the religion.

In Islam, the recipients of humanitarian action are by no means limited to the Muslim community. The Qur’an and the Sunnah do not exclude non-Muslims from receiving humanitarian aid from Muslims. Indeed, the practice of the Prophet (PBUH) reveals that humanitarian action should be directed to all those who are in need.

The Maqasid al-Shari’ah confer the right to life and other constituent rights based on the inherent dignity of all humans. This makes it a duty for Muslims to act in cases of humanitarian need and to do so without discriminating against non-Muslims.

The Qur’anic words for charity, zakat (annual obligatory alms payment), and sadaqat (voluntary charity) have linguistic roots that imply purity and sincerity. Hence in Islam, spending on the reduction of poverty and suffering is seen as a purification of one’s wealth. Zakat is an annual payment of between one and twenty percent of one’s capital depending on the type of resource. Its objectives are to help the poor and various people in need in times of crisis, promote investment and a culture of work, and ensure equitable distribution. Sadaqat is an informal non-systematized charity that is aimed at promoting a culture of volunteerism, strengthening neighborhood and extended family relations, and promoting social solidarity. Islam also promotes a culture of endowments (waqf) that can serve every possible form of benefit to humans (individuals or society), such as disaster response and poverty reduction, or even the protection of animals, the environment, or heritage. Islam takes the concept of charity beyond the material to embrace ‘small’ acts of social charity. The Prophet (PBUH) has given examples such as ‘helping another carry their heavy belongings’ and ‘greeting someone with a smile.

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The divine scriptures are God’s beacons to the world. Surely God offered His trust to the heavens and the earth, and the hills, but they shrank from bearing it and were afraid of it. And man undertook it.
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