Quran Read-A-Long: The Cow 267-273 Continues the Discussion of Charity

It’s interesting that in verse 268, when the Quran warns of Satan threatening us with poverty, it’s not that Satan will bring that poverty upon us himself. It’s that Satan is the one who makes us concerned that poverty might afflict us if we do not guard our money more carefully and if we don’t stop giving it to the needy. We cannot be swayed by his nagging.

I like the praise of wisdom in verse 269. Surely it’s not a praise of wisdom in a vacuum or praise of wisdom instead of faith, but that wisdom itself is valuable is important. These promises of other things (i.e. wisdom) all fall amidst this conversation of doing the right thing with the gifts that God has given us. By equating wisdom to wealth, it seems to me that intelligence and wisdom (which aren’t necessarily the same thing, and forgive me if I’m using them that way) should only be used for good – and charitably. If you are wise and capable, help other people with your wisdom and abilities – don’t keep them all to yourself, reading all day and trying to amass knowledge just for the sake of knowledge.

Verse 271 returns to the concept I addressed last week of doing charity secretly, because, as Maimonides tells us, the best form of tzedakah (charity) is that in which the recipient does not know his benefactor nor the benefactor his recipient. I’m curious about the atonement element here, though. It seems to me that perhaps giving charity to atone for your sins is not the right reason to give – that seems like a selfish reason rather than doing it for a godly reason (i.e. because it’s right). This could just be informational – ‘by the way, when you give charity like this it atones for your sins’ – but it seems hard to conclude that people would be able to set that informational fact aside and give charity in this fashion for the right reasons while knowing that to be true. Truly, I don’t look at this and think it’s a big deal – I just wonder about the order of priorities in the donor’s mind considering the emphasis placed on giving willingly and because it’s the right thing to do (next verse included!).

And in the next verse is that mention of whatever you give coming back to you – Islamic Karma 🙂

Asad, in the notes of his translation, mentions some very interesting ideas here that I’d like to bring up: that Mohammed had, because of Muslims’ penury, advised that charity only be given to Muslims in need. This verse reverses that and means that all people in need should be given charity – regardless of faith. A. That’s wonderful. B. It’s interesting because as Asad points out, giving charity to only Muslims could encourage converts for the wrong reasons and ultimately be construed as coercing conversion, something expressly forbidden (2:256). Very interesting.

Please feel free to share your thoughts about my comments and these verses.

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The Cow 267-273

267. O you who have attained to faith! Spend on others out of the good things which you may have acquired, and out of that which We bring forth for you from the earth; and choose not for your spending the bad things which you yourselves would not accept without averting your eyes in disdain. And know that God is self-sufficient, ever to be praised. 268. Satan threatens you with the prospect of poverty and bids you to be niggardly, whereas God promises you His forgiveness and bounty; and God is infinite, all-knowing, 269. granting wisdom unto whom He wills: and whoever is granted wisdom has indeed been granted wealth abundant. But none bears this in mind save those who are endowed with insight. 270. For, whatever you may spend on others, or whatever you may vow [to spend], verily, God knows it; and those who do wrong [by withholding charity] shall have none to succor them. 271. If you do deeds of charity openly, it is well; but if you bestow it upon the needy in secret, it will be even better for you, and it will atone for some of your bad deeds. And God is aware of all that you do. 272. It is not for thee [O Prophet] to make people follow the right path, since it is God [alone] who guides whom He wills. And whatever good you may spend on others is for your own good, provided that you spend only out of a longing for God’s countenance: for, whatever good you may spend will be repaid unto you in full, and you shall not be wronged. 273. [And give] unto [such of] the needy who, being wholly wrapped up in God’s cause, are unable to go about the earth [in search of livelihood]. He who is unaware [of their condition] might think that they are wealthy, because they abstain [from begging]; [but] thou canst recognize them by their special mark: they do not beg of men with importunity. And whatever good you may spend [on them], verily, God knows it all.

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