Giving is Receiving
Next week, Muslims around the world will be embarking upon Ramadan, the holy month of fasting, contemplation and charity. However there is another pillar of faith that is just as important at this time: that of charitable giving.
The basic premise of fasting at Ramadan is that one should aim to conquer the senses and selfish desires, and instead give a thought to the tribulations of those who may be less fortunate. It is intended to be a time for quiet reflection, to empathise with the less fortunate, and to remember that many in this world are suffering hardship, poverty and starvation. It is a time to open our hearts to others.
In Islam there is the principle of giving a fixed portion of one’s wealth (zakat) in charity and beyond that there is voluntary giving (sadaqa). Every Muslim is encouraged to think of the welfare of others.
The idea of charity and charitable giving is embedded in every faith. There is a deep significance in sharing one’s wealth and assets with others. It reminds us that we are all connected, and that caring for each other is a fundamental human requirement for us all to not only survive, but thrive. It brings us together with a sense of community.
Of course real charity is not done simply out of duty, but is done from the heart. True giving is an attitude rather than an action. The giving of money and food is a real and necessary part of life, especially in a world where the rich getting richer means that the poor are inevitably getting poorer. However, to give from the heart rather than from compulsion will certainly imbue any gift with a different kind of energy. The one who gives from the heart is more likely to give unselfishly, and to give when and where they see a real need.
This is where we begin to understand that giving is also receiving, for it is well known that people who are ‘givers’, that is, who act from a place of real generosity, are healthier, happier, live longer, and enjoy better relationships.
Charity need not only be monetary. are so many ways in which we can give: uplifting someone with a smile, showing kindness, volunteering and sharing time, knowledge or skills with others, or just being a listening ear when it’s most needed. These things cost us nothing, but bring an unlimited reward of satisfaction. And, though a businessman may give thousands, it’s possible that a small, unseen, thoughtful good action done from the heart may reap an even greater return in the karmic bank account of life!
In a similar way to that great time of celebration in the Christian calendar, that of Christmas, the Ramadan message can easily be lost in the practice. Iftar feasts can become a time of gross overindulgence in the same way that Christmas can become a time of senseless spending and unnecessary excess, all of which are contradict the essence of the celebrations. When greed and selfishness enter the equation, then the spiritual principle behind the event is inevitably lost.
Charity, or real giving, is something that dissolves the selfishness in our nature and reminds us that we belong to a larger family – the human family. Pleasure in our relationships is derived from sharing and receiving in return. In a world where we sometimes think that that love is about sometimes giving and sometimes taking (conditional) to a mindset of sharing and receiving without measure (unconditional) then everyone wins. This is a credo that we can live by every day – not just on special occasions.
In terms of limited resources such as wealth and food, as Mahatma Ghandi wisely stated “There is enough for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed”. But in terms of the inner resources of love, compassion, caring and generosity, these are provisions that can never run out because the more we share them, the more they grow. Both giver and receiver will benefit. If we are only taking and not giving (not only physical things, but time and energy from others, from situations, etc etc) then we are the poorer for it. We are closed. When we are in giving mode, there is an energy that flows and comes back to us. ‘What goes around, comes around’, is a well known statement. This energy and flow is what brings joy into our lives. Hence another saying ‘It is better to give than to receive’.
Just take a look around and see: those people you know who are natural, unselfish givers, are usually the ones with the most happiness in their lives! At the same time, don’t allow your giving to be ‘taking’ – if we want people to notice our generosity, and we develop an ego around how good and kind we are, then this is not really giving. instead we will be left with a feeling of emptiness. The more we unselfishly share our treasures with others, the more they will increase!
It’s time… to give… and you will automatically receive.
By Carol Lipthorpe