Charity (Zakat) Islamic Character

Balance in Spending our Wealth

Becoming Servants of the Most Merciful Series

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A few days before Ramadan I saw the movie The Book of Eli. As a Muslim, if I watch a movie I try to find something with a meaning or a message that my believing heart can ponder. This movie had a few of those, although for a sensitive person I advise against this movie as there are a couple of gruesome scenes. The movie depicts the destitute state of the world after World War 3. It portrays the world in anarchy and that to obtain the things you need, you either find them, fight for them or trade something you have. In one scene the central character Eli, who lived before the war, explains to a young girl what life was like before. He makes his point after trading some “valuable” KFC wet naps, now used for bathing in a place with not much water saying, “We used to waste stuff much more valuable than this!”

This brought home a matter that is neglected even by some practicing Muslims. The fact that every penny of our sustenance is valuable and we should treat it that way. A Muslim should strike a balance between being frugal with his wealth and being generous to people in need. This brings us to our next characteristic of the Servants of the Merciful. Almighty God says that they are those who,


“When they spend, do so not excessively or sparingly but are ever, between that, justly moderate.” (Qur’an, 25:67)

The commentators on this ayah tell us that The Merciful is teaching not be extravagant or wasteful in spending our wealth. We are also prohibited from being greedy – or even stingy! Some of the commentators said that we must spend in the cause of Allah and that no matter how much is spent in the cause of Allah, it is not considered excessive or wasteful while spending even one penny on something unlawful is wasted. Some others explain that we must first provide for our families and then others in need with sufficient financial support. On the other side of the coin, we must avoid greed and stinginess in which we neglect the rights of our family, Zakat and charity.

We must pay off all debts as soon as possible. We have to make sure that we are expedient in providing our family all of the food, clothing and other things they need. If we buy a house, we should get one according to our income and family needs. We should also do everything in our power to stay away from an interest-based loan and try and support the growth of Islamic options.

If we buy a car it must be without interest and we should not spend thousands of dollars collecting cars. I know a brother who keeps a nice Porsche that he drives a few times a year in the spring and summer. This is wasteful.

If we buy or cook food we need to make enough for the people eating and not so much extra that will be wasted. At the same time if we take food we only take what we need, not dive in head first at the mosque iftar; be considerate of others. We avoid eating more than satiating our appetite and we never throw away food unless we are directly giving it to birds or cats.

My dear sisters need to refain from pressing their husbands or fathers to buy a new dress for a new celebration every few months (to the extent that they literally have a closet full of brand new clothes that have not seen daylight). If you have NEW clothes or shoes that you haven’t worn in over a year then there is a problem. We only have one body to cover. There are thousands of bodies on earth that do not have a sheet to cover their back. Give what is extra for you, to them.

Every Friday Prayer we attend we must have at least $10 for the collection as our good deed. And before the students and  those who are struggling say ‘we can’t afford that!’ I remind you we are all rich, and however much you give in Allah’s cause will come back to you ten-fold. It’s a guarantee. Unfortunately in most communities we only average $2 /$3 a person at Jumu’ah collection. That is almost $7 less than most Churches and Synagogues. We should direct our expenditure in supporting Muslim causes, keeping local ones in priority so we can build a comfortable infrastructure for Islam in America. If we see someone in need of what we have , then we should help them.

For those who are homeless or beggars, it is best to get them actual food or clothing because of the high probability of them using money for unlawful means. We should set the bar for our needs and the required savings for our future below that which goes for the sake of Allah.

This is the true balance of Islam – spending from His wealth that he has blessed us with, in His name for the greater good. May Allah guide us to be balanced spenders!

About the author

John (Yahya) Ederer

John (Yahya) Ederer

Imam John Yahya Ederer left a life of spiritual decadence and embraced Islam in 1998. In 2002, he accepted a scholarship offer from the Islamic American University in Michigan and spent 6 years travelling the Muslim world studying with prominent scholars. He attained an associates with IAU, a certification of mastery of the Arabic sciences from the ministry of education in Egypt, a diploma in Islamic Studies from the Cordoba Institute in Kuwait and a license with one of the highest chains of transmission in Qur’an memorization and recitation. He served as the Religious Director of the Islamic Foundation of South Florida for two years and now lives with his wife and two children in Charlotte, North Carolina where he serves as Imam of the Muslim American Society. He currently sits on the clergy board of one of the largest interfaith coalitions in Mecklenburg Ministries and is a board member of the Shamrock Drive Development Association.


  • Assallamu Alaykum…I agree with most things you say except for this part “Every Friday Prayer we attend we must have at least $10 for the collection as our good deed.”

    I don’t think you can say we must do anything like that…first of all you don’t know what people give by way of zakah or sadaqah to try to compel them to give a certain minimum “every Friday.” And if someone gives the annual prescribed amount, what right does someone else have over that person to compel him/her to give more?

    A comparison between masaajid, churches and synagogues is inappropriate in this context for many reasons. I don’t know where or how accurate those statistics are, nor do I think it appropriate to compare a temple where worshipers must contribute (some in excess of $500 a ticket per person) to attend certain holiday services. Clearly when you factor that element in the statistics you’ll end-up with a higher contribution rate per person for a synagogue. I don’t think you’re advocating that, but that’s how it works with many synagogues. Finally, there’s no need to set a bar where people that don’t meet measurement may feel inadequate…let’s not lose sight of the fact that there are many people still out of work.

    I’m always afraid of people telling others they must do something when they don’t know what those people already do or all the facts. Suggestions are always more appropriate and less presumptuous, and qualitative suggestions rather than quantitative ones may be more appropriate at times.

    Forgive me for the tone of my response…assallamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

    • I agree with you. People have different incomes and as you said we don’t know what people are already contributing. Often I put $5 sometimes $10, but I donate yearly, however I have become reluctant to do so lately because of the way Mosques go about raising money.
      A san example some of our Mosques have been selling the opportunity for people to have their names written on the brick used to build the extension to the Masjid for $1000.
      Even during the Khutba of Eid prayer the Imam was asking for donations and started at $20,000 when they had just raised $350,000 two or three days before Eid at a fundraising. The Imam went on to ask who would want to guarantee his place in Jannah. This ticked me off so much and I was so saddened by the material aspect of it. I had gone to pray and have a spiritual experience and found myself listening to stuff that Evangelical churches do. No one guarantee anyone a place in Jannah except Allah.
      I send an email to the mosque to express my disappointment but I haven’t even received a response from them. I found that unprofessional. I have decided not to contribute anymore to that Mosque. There is also no transparency in the way Mosques are run. If we contribute to them then I expect to have a say in what happens as all people in the community.
      I now give money to those I know to families that are in need.

  • Nice topic , great article. Imam Yaya is really a gold mind of Islamic teachings. That part with the $10 is really a good step for us students, eid Mubarak to the ummah, salaams.

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