In the last article, I concluded my arguments for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to align SDG 1 to the Islamic teachings on poverty removal, rather than expecting Islamic finance to align to the SDGs.
From today, I will commence my argument on the need for the UNDP to align SDG 2 as well to Islamic teachings if it wants to achieve the objective to remove hunger by 2030, at least from the 57 Islamic countries to start with.
This is a very important subject for Islam since a healthy society cannot be formed with hungry people. Allah the most exalted has provided more than adequate food on the planet to feed three square meals to each and every person, irrespective of the population numbers shooting through the roof, or for how long the Earth shall survive in the solar system. Hence, the core issue, as I see it, is not the scarcity of food on Earth, or the inability of the Earth to produce sufficient food but the injustice in the distribution of food.
We have just passed through the month of Ramadan where Muslims fasted from dawn to dusk. Fasting is made obligatory by Allah on all adult, sane and healthy Muslims to let them feel the pain of hunger so that they start caring about those who experience hunger, not by choice but by force.
Allah has instructed Muslims to feed the starved and has praised those who care for them. The following Quranic verses are quoted:
1. ‘Sura Insaan (Chapter named as the Man or the Human) Verse 7-10
“They are those who fulfill their vows and fear a Day of sweeping horror, and give food — despite their love for it — to the poor, the orphan and the captive, saying to themselves: “We feed you only for the sake of Allah, seeking neither reward nor thanks from you, indeed, we fear from our Lord a Day severe and distressful.”
Scholars have interpreted the underlined part that while giving food to the hungry, the kindhearted people remind themselves that such offerings are purely to please Allah and not to expect even a ‘thank you’ from the recipients. Another version explains that they make clear to the recipients that although they would have loved to consume the food themselves, they are giving it away for the love of Allah without seeking anything in return from the receivers.
As to the ‘vows’ appearing earlier in the verse, scholars say it conveys the pledge the righteous people have made to Allah to do good deeds which include taking care of needy people.
2. ‘Sura Yasin (One of the Names of Prophet Muhammad) Verse 47
“And when it is said to them, ‘Spend from that which Allah has provided for you,” those who disbelieve say to those who believe, ‘Should we feed one whom, if Allah had willed, He would have fed? You are not but in clear error.”
In this verse, Allah the most exalted censures the arrogant pagans in Mecca who defied the order from the Creator to feed the needy, being sarcastic as if Allah Himself does not want to feed them so why should we? Scholars explain that while Allah is the owner of everything including wealth and food, He tests the people by blessing them with worldly resources to see how they would use Allah’s wealth for taking care of the needy slaves of Allah.
Prophet Muhammad used to emphasize a lot on feeding the hungry. The following are some of his sayings:
1. “Whichever believer feeds a hungry believer, Allah feeds him from the fruits of paradise on the Day of Resurrection.” (Tirmidhi)
2. “The believer is not he who eats his fill while his neighbor is hungry.” (Al-Albani).
In the second Hadith, the scholars have interpreted that the neighbor does not only mean the one living right next or opposite but it includes searching the whole community untill you find the hungry.
In another Hadith, Prophet Muhammad said: “Save yourself from hellfire even by giving half a date in charity (Al Bukhari).” This indicates that in Islam, there is no limit to what you can give for charity. Even such a small thing as half a date is acceptable by Allah provided it is given with the pure intention to help the needy to please Allah. Imagine even half a date can save you from eternal hellfire.
The desire and will to serve the hungry to please Allah and His Prophet were so strong and widespread that within a short span of time, you would not find any hungry person in the entire Islamic rule.
Why does Islam stress so much importance on keeping the hungry properly fed? In my opinion, there are two ways of interpreting it: the first is the socioeconomic angle and the second is the religious perspective. I will explain them in the next article.
The purpose of this educative series and the article is not to hurt any religious or commercial sentiments either consciously or even unwittingly.
Sohail Zubairi is an Islamic finance specialist, AAOIFI-certified Shariah advisor and auditor as well as CIAE-certified Islamic arbitrator and expert. He can be contacted at [email protected]
Next week: Discussion of SDG 2 – Zero Hunger to continue.