In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful; blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.
The Declining Day (Al-'Asr)
1. By the declining day,
2. Lo! Man is in a state of loss,
3. Save those who believe and do good works, and exhort
one another to truth and exhort one another to endurance.
THERE is a proverb which reads 'charity begins at home'. Yes, you should take care of family and people close to you before you worry about helping others. If you really want to make the world a better place, start by being polite to members to your family, said a scholar.
Scholars recommended us to be generous to our families before helping others. They were against people who forgot the fact that charity begins at home; for example a young mother who spends hours and hours on volunteer work and neglects her own children.
Regarding 'charity begins at home', I remembered a 'tazkirah' (Islamic lesson) by an 'ustaz' (religious teacher) at a masjid near my house not long time ago that 'zakat' authorities should give opportunity to the public to pay 'zakat' to their own family members.
The 'ustaz' recommended to those at helm of 'zakat' authorities and their officials to brief would be payers of 'zakat' to whom should their 'zakat' be distributed. By doing so, Islamic knowledge especially regarding 'zakat' could be passed to the public.
He said if 'zakat payers' have relatives who are among the eight group of people that have rights on the 'zakat', they could pay some of the 'zakat' money to them apart from making payment to the authorities.
He strengthened this by reading a 'hadith' with the meaning: "The Prophet peace and blessings of Allah be upon him (s.a.w.) said: 'Charity given to the poor is charity and charity given to a relative is charity and upholding of family ties'.” (Imam Ahmad, al-Nasaa’i)
The 'ustaz' said by doing so, we are 'making two good deeds' at a time 'with the same amount of money' - we are performing our 'fardu' (compulsory) obligations (paying 'zakat' as one of the pillar of 'Rukun Islam') and strengthening family ties which is regarded a very important aspect in Islam.
He then read the Qur'an verse which describes eight categories of people who are to receive 'zakat' in Surah 9, verse 60. "As-Sadaqat (here it means 'zakat') are only for the Fuqara and Al-Masakin and those employed to collect the (funds); and to attract the hearts of those who have been inclined (towards Islam); and to free the captives; and for those in debt; and for Allah's Cause, and for the wayfarer; a duty imposed by Allah. And Allah is All-Knower, All-Wise."
But the 'ustaz' was quick to explain that relatives who could have the 'zakat' money are not the immediate ones such as our parents, spouses and children. "They are in our charge, but please give your 'zakat' to your extended family as this is both an act of charity and upholds family ties."
He then enlightened his audience on the beauty of such a move: "Imagine we have a niece whose parents are poor but she had made it to a university...'insya-Allah' (God Willing) if we give our 'zakat' money to this relative who is in need, we have done our part in pleasing Allah SWT...and win the hearts of our relatives and fellow brothers."
The 'ustaz' when discussing the subject regarding priority in doing good deeds said, on top of the list is one's mother. Next is also the mother and then it is also the mother.
He then read a 'hadith' narrated by Abu Hurairah with the meaning: "A man came to Allah's Messenger s.a.w. and said, 'O Allah's Messenger! Who is more entitled to be treated with the best companionship by me?' The Prophet s.a.w. said, 'Your mother'. The man said, 'Who next?' The Prophet s.a.w. said, 'Your mother'. The man further said, 'Who is next?' The Prophet s.a.w. said, 'Your mother'. The man asked (for the fourth time), 'Who is next?' The Prophet s.a.w. said, 'Your father'." (Iman Al-Bukhari)
Next on the line is our children, grandfather and grandmother, our siblings, our uncles and aunts..."some are our immediate family members whose well beings are in our hands...payments of our 'zakat' cannot be made to them but it could be made to our extended family members such as an aunt who is poor or a nephew who is about to enter a university but short of fund."
The 'ustaz' stressed many times that in doing good deeds we should give priority to our relatives but reminded his audience to make sure the person or persons who are to receive our 'zakat' must be among the eight groups of people mentioned in the al-Qu'ran such as the poor and those in high debts for a good cause such as supporting the needs of his or her family.
"Well, it looks that not all our of 'zakat' money that is compulsory for us to pay must be given to the government's 'zakat' collection centre. This fact must be made known to the public and those who are administrating the 'zakat' centres.
"'Zakat' officials should not hesitate to explain to their clients that they may take some of the 'zakat' money to be given to their family members who falls into the categories of people stated other then making payment to the 'zakat' centres.
"Sadly this situation was not being practiced in our country. 'Zakat' centres took all of the money paid by the public without giving them opportunity to help their own family members. Those paying 'zakat' should be advised to take some of the 'zakat' money so that they could help their own relatives who are in need," said the 'ustaz'.
He also claimed that sometimes 'zakat' money was given away with hidden political motives - for example 'the money' was only distributed by top party leaders to those who qualified at certain times and period of the year such as in the time of election.
The 'ustaz' recommended that 'zakat' money should to given to those who qualified at any time of the year without waiting for the right time and season for the benefit of those who distribute them such as to gain support during elections.
"Yes, just give them away because those who delayed in handing the 'zakat' money to fulfill the political motives of those in power, would incur the wrath and anger of Allah SWT," he said.