We continued our Tafseer session this morning. And subhanallah it was so relevant to what we did yesterday. We did Ayah 3 today.
And does not encourage the feeding of the poor.
Wa laa yahuddu ‘alaa taAAami almiskeen
To make this post easier to write for me, this is an excerpt of notes from Linguistic Miracles :
The previous aayaat was in regard to their personal lives.
But this ayah is directly affecting their public reputation that they’ve took so long to build up.
These people who are being criticized – are the leaders of the Quraysh (i.e. Abu Lahab who is the treasurer) – who have the duty and role of feeding and supporting the weak (atleast at an official level). However, they do not fulfill this role.
Leaders should be at the forefront of feeding the poor, serving the public, and helping the weak. But instead, these leaders are wasting the money they are entrusted with to the other rich men in society, whereas this money is public money. Thus showing their corruption and lack of responsibility in their role as leader.
They had the mentality that they needed to protect the agenda of the rich instead of protecting the weak. Because the rich support their high position, and keep their support in place. If they helped the poor – they would not get such benefits.
So they didn’t help the poor, neither enjoin people to help them – so that they would keep their power and position in society.
Why doesn’t he encourage people to give to the poor?
– If he encourages people to feed the poor – people will ask him why he doesn’t feed the orphan and poor himself?
Allah is exposing this corrupt rich persons psyche – you don’t want to encourage people to spend on the poor, otherwise you won’t be able to use this money in corruption and dealings with other rich people.
This is all over the world. The leaders trample over the rights of the weak.
Yesterday we volunteered at the local soup kitchen, all 3 older kids and I. The kids love volunteering at the soup kitchen and for this I am very grateful to Allah for giving them this taufeeq, because that makes it that much easier for me. Alhamdulillah. Last weekend was actually hectic. The girls went to the Animal Shelter open house right after the soup kitchen, and S even forgoed Tennis that morning so she wouldn’t be too overwhelmed with the back to back activities.
So while we were discussing after the tafseer session, I brought up our volunteering at the soup kitchen.
“What is the significance of Allah using the word Ta’aam versus It’aam?”
Ta’aam = Food, It’aam = Feeding. In the ayah, it says Ta’aamul miskeen (Food of the needy) not It’aamul miskeen (feeding of the needy) though in translation of course they put it as the latter to make for an easier read. But the significance here is that it points out that the food is the right of the needy in the first place. When you feed someone, it can be your food or someone else’s, but when you say food of the needy, it means it’s THEIR food in the first place.
I also asked them, “So, whose rights are upon us? Two big categories.”
They weren’t able to come up with the second. They came up with the first (Allah).
“The first is Allah, the second is His creations, which includes, ourselves, parents, orphans, people, animals, plants, the earth.”
“What is our body’s right upon us?”
N: “To take care of it because Allah already gave it to us and everything.”
“What can’t we do if we don’t take care of our body?”
H: “We can’t worship Him.”
It’ll be hard to engage in acts of worship with health problems though that is not an excuse to slacken in them.
I asked them,
“Did you hear yesterday this man was asking this girl next to me, ‘Are you here on a voluntary basis? Or serving community service hours ? Got in trouble?'”
H: “He was joking wasn’t he?”
Me : “Yeah he was, but let’s talk about this. So, what does this tell you? How easy is it to get people to volunteer?”
H : “Hard.”
“What else does it tell you?”
H: “Community service helps people.”
Me: “So, if people ask you, what does your Koran teach you, what is one of the things you can say?”
H: “Feeding the needy.”
Me: “So is volunteering at soup kitchens part of Islam then?”
Yes. If you notice, it’s part of almost every religion, mainly Christianity, Judaism, Islam, though there are some misconceptions about participating in it among Muslims living in the west.
Me:”They have a right upon us, those needy, they have a right upon us. Islam doesn’t teach us to just mind our own business and do our thing, but it teaches us balance. We fulfill rights of Allah, and we fulfill rights of others too.”
Then I started talking about GMO food and the arsenic in rice. I had just watched Genetic Roulette, and so I relayed to them some of what struck me in that documentary.
Me: “Being Muslims, having Islam, is a beautiful thing, because we have a ‘weapon’ against these corruptions done by human beings that go into our food. What is that weapon?”
Me: “When we eat, if we say Bismillah each time, and Allah blesses the food, inshaAllah, we’ll be okay. Because not everyone can buy organic or GMO-free. Instead of being stressed out and despairing, Allah makes life simpler for us, but this is not a ticket to just sit back and not put effort in choosing good food. We still have that responsibility.”
And H apparently drew this ‘weapon’ which I find worth including in this post, mashaAllah. On second thought, it’s more of a protective shield than a weapon.
On our time yesterday at the soup kitchen: N ws given the task of serving corn, but when serving time came, she was assigned to help the handicapped with their trays, and I was serving sandwiches. I noticed that she wasn’t doing her job as a couple of people on wheelchairs passed through me. She had this expression on her face that conveyed she didn’t like her assigned task, so I quickly switched with her.
I have to admit that I feel slight apprehension even with serving, because once, a man actually touched my niqab saying,
“So what’s this?”
and I was even then more apprehensive about helping them at the tables because of what they may say or do, but alhamdulillah, they were mostly just grateful. Even though I looked very different from what they’re used to seeing or even from the rest of the Muslim women who have served them at the soup kitchen, they didn’t say or do anything that violated my physical or emotional well-being. Alhamdulillah.
Later, N asked me, “So was it fun helping people with their trays?”
It actually feels good. It’s more direct interaction with the people and I really felt the humanity from them too. There was a man who probably has Parkinson’s and he needed help with carrying his tray and getting his cup of water. Then there was a woman who was shaking so much, she dropped her watermelon and she even slightly stumbled upon sitting on her chair. We had actually seen her walking towards the soup kitchen. Nt even talked to her at length about the Hijab and niqab, so when she saw me, she said,
“Niqab, Hijab, I remember those words! I love those outfits!”
For now, the kids are in love with serving the food. They don’t really want tasks where they have to interact with the people as much. I was watching them yesterday and I asked that Allah correct and purify our intentions in doing this. For them, even if it’s just the fun of serving food for now, it’s good. I do hope that they also realize the deeper significance of this deed and may Allah bless it such that it makes them into giving, loving, and helpful people to any and everyone who needs it, Muslim or not. May Allah bless it, for if He doesn’t, no matter how much effort we put into it, it will all be for naught, if not in this world, then in the hereafter.
Right after we were done, hubs picked H and I up, while the girls waited for Jn to pick them up for the Animal Shelter’s open house event. We had told them to make sure they pray Zuhr, and find a place. When they got back home, I asked them if they prayed Zuhr. Alhamdulillah, they did. Again here, balance. Fulfilling Allah’s rights and the rights of His creations. You can do all the volunteering jobs you can do, but if you don’t worship Allah as He has ordained, you’re going off balance. And you can worship Allah all you want in terms of rituals, but if you don’t fulfill the rights of His creations, you’re going off balance. You’re being an extremist.
Praying in awkward circumstances is one of the challenges of living in a majority non Muslim country. Ever since they were young, we’ve struggled with this and we kept training them to excuse themselves or just take a few minutes from class, soccer practice, games etc, to pray when the time comes, whether it be in a secluded corner, on the soccer field, in a hallway, behind the staircase, etc. But they have to pray. This is one experience they have that Muslims living in Muslims countries are probably not familiar with as Musallah are easily found in Muslim majority countries. It makes it easier to just go to a masjid or musallah and do your prayer when the time for that prayer comes in, but here, you have to be creative while also keeping in mind the Islamophobia that is going on. They might think we are warming up for a ‘terrorist’ attack of some sort when they see us in bowing and prostrating positions in a weird place like a parking lot. You never know. People think all sorts of things, and so this is the challenge we have to face in practicing our religion where Islam is seen in a horribly bad light. But alhamdulillah, I hope the kids are pretty established in their prayers so far, that they know what to do even when we’re not with them. Prayer is non negotiable. They know that.
Rabbij ‘alnee muqeema salaati wa min zhurriyati Rabbana taqabbal du’aa. Ameen!
Oh my Rabb, make me of those who establishes prayer and from my progeny too, Oh our Rabb, You are the acceptor of supplications. Ameen!