Translated by: Manal Samhat
By His Eminence, the late Religious Authority, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra)
The Muslims used to pose questions to the Prophet (p.) concerning certain issues on their minds having to do with the duties incumbent on them or the forbidden acts they had to forsake, and that were often, as described by Ibn Abbass, plain and entailed no complications; a simple costless process, based on their feeling that the reason behind asking questions was to solve problems they faced at the level of the doctrine or in their daily life. If any problem was of no concern to them, they felt that they had no need to ask any question about it, which would turn useless and meaningless and a mere waste of time for both the one asking and the one to whom the questions are posed…
Allah says in His Glorious Book: “They ask you as to what they should spend. Say: Whatever wealth you spend, it is for the parents and the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer, and whatever good you do, Allah surely knows it.” (02:215).
This is the role of posing questions in Islam which can be described as an intellectual opportunity that enables man to know the affairs of the universe and life and all what is related to this world and the Hereafter that he should be aware of. On the other hand, we learn from other Ayahs that there are questions Allah does not want man to indulge in as they have nothing to do with the responsibilities he ought to shoulder and they add nothing to his life, as Allah says: “They ask you about the hour, when it will come.But what have you to do with marking it.To your Lord is the goal of it.You are only a warner to him who would fear it.” (79: 42-45). Allah has closed the door to the question about when will the Resurrection Day take place, as it is of no doctrinal or practical use. Rather, it is man’s duty to prepare and get himself ready to shoulder his responsibility before Allah on that day regardless of when it will take place. Moreover, the Prophet (p.) was charged with talking about what happens on that day and not about the time in which it will take place, which he himself might not be aware of, as indicated by some Ayahs: “They ask you about the hour, when will be its taking place? Say: The knowledge of it is only with my Lord; none but He shall manifest it at its time; it will be momentous in the heavens and the earth; it will not come on you but of a sudden. They ask you as if you were solicitous about it. Say: Its knowledge is only with Allah, but most people do not know,” (07:187), and: “O you who believe! Do not put questions about things which if declared to you may trouble you.” (05:101), and in some traditions which say: “Ask in order to understand, and do not ask in order to find fault.” In the meantime, Allah calls on us to: “Ask the followers of the Reminder if you do not know.” (16:43).
This is the true Islamic role of asking questions which should constitute an opportunity to know all about one’s faith, work and life.
The Prophet (p.) used to answer all kinds of questions posed to him, and he was never annoyed by any questions the answer to which the Muslims wanted to know, for he felt that his main task was to teach the people the Holy Book and enlighten them about all the affairs of their lives they are not aware of. However, his missionary position made his answers meticulous, as he chose answers that responded to their needs, yet not direct to the point as his role demanded that he guides the asker; i.e. the Prophet (p.) had, through his answers, to direct him to what he should ask about and not what he would like to know. Actually, this is evident in the aforementioned answer Allah taught His Prophet (p.), who answered the people on whom they should spend their wealth, including the parents, relatives, orphans, the needy and the wayfarers, instead of answering them on what kinds of food they should spend their wealth. We notice how he laid no emphasis on what they asked about and how he did not dive into its details; the reason is that perhaps he wanted to imply to them that the kind of food is not a problem in need of a solution, considering that it adds and takes away nothing in this respect as long as it is good and healthy. The main issue is the type of people to whom one should give out the alms, whether in terms of the blood relation that joins them or their need which helps in solving a social problem; if the money is not spent to either of the two then the money would be spent in vain and uselessly. Thus, the main concentration was on this point considering that it is the all-good, for the goodness of the act of spending is not related to the nature of the money man spends; but rather, to the case or problem it solves and the person one helps.
Then, the Ayah continues to call and encourage the people to do good and spend the money in the areas Allah loves, which is concluded by Allah’s knowledge about it: “And whatever good thing you spend, surely Allah knows it,” (02:273), which calls on us to go that way for nothing gets lost before Allah Who is aware of the intentions and good results of what we embark on.
They ask you, O Muhammad, in the course of detailed knowledge sought by the Muslims who followed you and the Divine revelation sent down upon you and who came across, through this course, several questions on this subject, that issue or the other reality to ease their minds and find answers to all the questions preoccupying them… as to what they should spend, referring to the types of food, drinks, clothes, money and others they ought to give out. Should they offer certain kinds and types of the aforementioned? Are they restricted to certain items? All are questions they asked you to make sure that their practical commitments, even when it comes to giving, are subjected to your missionary instructions and guidance that govern all man’s affairs in life. Give them, O Muhammad, an answer to the former question that is of no human value or significance when it comes to giving, for it is natural that the people spend the money they have and that represent people’s diverse needs so that the act of giving to every human to provide him with his private needs would be in the familiar way of this human behavior... However, the main issue lies in determining to whom we should offer the alms by determining the priorities of almsgiving, as we should not give out the alms to all the people, for some do not stand any chance for decent living and securing the foods, drinks, clothes and accommodation and other elements they are in need of, for life has abandoned them and they reached a dead end. As a result, they got besieged by suffocating harsh circumstances that deprived them even of fresh air to breathe and go on with their lives. Thus, they should have better asked about the people they should give their alms to and not what to give out to them; therefore, the Divine wise revelation sent down upon the Prophet whispered to him to answer them in a way to guide them to what they should have asked instead of what they actually asked about.
Whatever wealth you spend, referring to the money people own and give out to others, that brings about good to the people as it satisfies their needs, satiates their desires and fulfills their goals, considering that the good heads the act of giving in its spiritual connotations that are open to his valuable humanitarianism in the course of social solidarity that ensures looking after the difficult cases or those related to the human emotional aspect.
Whatever wealth you spend, it is for the parents, who are the core of human life and its existence, which renders man responsible of looking after them and taking care of them as they grow old, sick or tired, and to treat them kindly throughout their lives, as a token of gratitude to what they have offered him first, as illustrated in the following Ayah which stirs the memories of early childhood in man as he remembers all that: “And your Lord has commanded that you shall not serve (any) but Him, and goodness to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, say not to them (so much as) "Ugh" nor chide them, and speak to them a generous word.” (17:23).
And the near of kin, who are closely related to you by blood and who are your next of kin; those represent the first community you get attached to in your existence which renders it the first social circle from which you shape much of your personality both internally and externally. Actually, Allah stresses in His law on considering maintaining blood relations a positive moral value and breaking them a negative one, for that solidifies the narrower human social bond, which enables the society to solidify the other further bonds.
And the orphans who lost their parents at such a young age; thus, losing the persons who are supposed to look after them, embrace them, give them all the love and tenderness, hold them close to their hearts to satiate their hunger, quench their thirst and clothe them. Therefore, giving out money to them fortifies the society and ensures that those weak souls do not get lost in the mazes of life, by leaning on the strength of the society having lost one or both parents; thus, building their self-esteem and their confidence in life.
And the needywho have reached a dead end in life; thus, they were deprived of the elements that ensure their decent living as a result of the tough circumstances, pressurizing forces and complicated situations that have closed in on them. Therefore, giving out money to this group establishes a state of social balance and achieves some sort of human solidarity, which provides the society with the natural elements that ensures its safety, uprightness and strength instead of any realistic disturbance that results from the destabilized economic situations of people, as some die out of hunger while others die out of glut.
And the wayfarer whose journey came to a halt as a result of a shortage in money and he had no way to get the money he needs to go on with his journey. Actually, this imposes on the Islamic reality to find a solution to his problem by making him benefit from the circle of social solidarity in the public life.
And whatever good you do the good represented by the openness of man on what employs his energies and potentials in what solves one’s problem, fulfills his needs, elevates his materialistic and moral level and preparing the adequate circumstances to establish a reality of good and justice for man… Allah surely knows it, for nothing the servants do, whether out in the open or in secret, Allah is not aware of.
[Source: (Interpretation) inspired from the Holy Quran]