Social Work and Community Service in Islam

“…God will aid a servant (of His) so long as the servant aids his brother.” – Rasulullah s.a.w.

Outline

Introduction

Alhamdulillah infinitely, all praise is due to Allah. All thanks are for Allah. All good is in the Good Hands of Allah. All affairs shall e returned to Allah. No god but Allah. We seek His Forgiveness at all time; and to Him alone we repent. May His Peace and Blessings be upon Habibi Muhammad, His family members, his companions and all those who follow his guided path.

This article aims to discuss one of the most important deeds that can grant a Muslim, greater rewards, and that may get him closer to Allah and to those loved by Allah. Such deeds grant one good name his life and after his death.

Social work and community service have been essential values in all societies, let alone in Islam. It’s therefore important that, there’s constant reminder, pertaining social work and community service, thus this article emerges.

In Surah Al-Maidah, 5:2, Allah says:

وَتَعَاوَنُوا عَلَى الْبِرِّ وَالتَّقْوَىٰ، وَلَا تَعَاوَنُوا عَلَى الْإِثْمِ وَالْعُدْوَانِ

It means, “And cooperate in righteousness and piety, but do not cooperate in sin and aggression.”

This verse has been the main motivator, throughout the process of reading materials, while writing this article.

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Social Service and its Importance in Islam

From Islamic perspective, I define social work or community service as any form of deed that one may carry out, which its effects extend to benefit fellow human beings, animals, or even the environment surrounding him. Such deeds can be visibly huge contribution to mankind at large, like the revolution of smartphones, which has changed the way people leave today. It may also be tiny invisible favour, like donating removing a branch of tree with thorn from the people’s walkway, in the mid of the night (in the presence of nobody).

With such broader framework given to social work and community service, every individual in every community is entitled to getting involved in social work and community service, in a way or another.

Such involvement (or contributions) can be physical, verbal, intellectual or moral, yet it leaves positive impact on the gaining parties.

Now, let’s take a look at what the Qur’an has said with regards to social work and community service, and their rewards.

In Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:177, Allah s.w.t. has outlined righteousness, when he distinguished virtues and righteous deeds from perpetual claims. He says:

لَّيْسَ الْبِرَّ أَن تُوَلُّوا وُجُوهَكُمْ قِبَلَ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ وَلَـٰكِنَّ الْبِرَّ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّـهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَالْمَلَائِكَةِ وَالْكِتَابِ وَالنَّبِيِّينَ وَآتَى الْمَالَ عَلَىٰ حُبِّهِ ذَوِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْيَتَامَىٰ وَالْمَسَاكِينَ وَابْنَ السَّبِيلِ وَالسَّائِلِينَ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَأَقَامَ الصَّلَاةَ وَآتَى الزَّكَاةَ وَالْمُوفُونَ بِعَهْدِهِمْ إِذَا عَاهَدُوا وَالصَّابِرِينَ فِي الْبَأْسَاءِ وَالضَّرَّاءِ وَحِينَ الْبَأْسِ أُولَـٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُتَّقُونَ

It means, “Virtue does not consist in whether you face towards the East or the West; virtue means believing in God, the Last Day, the angels, the Book and the prophets; the virtuous are those who, despite their love for it, give away their wealth to their relatives and to orphans and the very poor, and to travellers and those who ask [for charity], and to set slaves free, and who attend to their prayers and pay the alms, and who keep their pledges when they make them, and show patience in hardship and adversity, and in times of distress. Such are the true believers; and such are the God-fearing.”

In this verse, we understand that, even when one possesses strong belief in Allah, in His Angels, in His scriptures, and in His Apostles; even when one consistently establishes Solat (prayer), there are additional significant virtues,  added to all those mentioned, which a Muslim is expected to carry out. Such additional significant virtues are: Giving out part of one’s wealth (despite liking it much) to their relatives, to the orphans, to the very poor, to travellers and to those who ask (when in need).

In other words, we have to sacrifice ‘a little bit’ (more) of what we love, if we intend to be part of any social work and community service significantly. We also need to be faithful and punctual, as well as we are expected to be patient at all times as possible.

Wealth can be physically measurable, i.e. money, food, clothes, properties and others. It can also be immeasurable service or assistance that we offer to others, i.e. knowledge, guidance, counselling, role modelling, and etc.

It’s important to indicate that the physically measurable wealth we are referring to, in this instance, is not the decreed Zakat, which every abled Muslim is supposed to give out, willingly or unwillingly. It’s rather the wealth of convenience, leisure or surplus, which Allah has chosen to bestow upon us, which all come after we have done with the obligatory.

With physically measurable wealth, the rich can offer to feed the poor amongst us. When we adhere to faithfulness and practise punctuality, it will help us to maintain social respect and values in our communities. In fact, constant exercise of patience will retain peace, unity and solidarity.

Upon looking into the Sunnah of the Prophet, s.a.w., one of the Hadeeth(s) which Sayyiduna Abu Hurairah r.a. related states, that the Prophet s.a.w., once said:

مَنْ فَرَّجَ عَنْ مُسْلِمٍ كُرْبَةً مِنْ كُرَبِ الدُّنْيَا فَرَّجَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ كُرْبَةً مِنْ كُرَبِ الْآخِرَةِ ، وَمَنْ سَتَرَ أَخَاهُ الْمُسْلِمَ فِي الدُّنْيَا سَتَرَهُ اللَّهُ فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ ، وَاللَّهُ فِي عَوْنِ الْعَبْدِ مَا كَانَ الْعَبْدُ فِي عَوْنِ أَخِيهِ

It means, “Whosoever removes a worldly grief from a believer, Allah will remove from him a grief on the Day of Judgment. Whosoever alleviates [the] lot of a destitute (deprived) person, Allah will alleviate his lot in this world and the next. Whosoever conceals the faults of a Muslim, Allah will conceal his faults in this world and the next. Allah will aid a servant (of His) so long as the servant aids his brother.”

Even concealing other’s faults (which are not major crimes) which if they are not concealed may lead to personal harassment or family breakups, is counted and regarded as favour that entitles the doer for great favour from Allah on the Day of Judgement. What more about the big deals (favours) that are stated in the Hadeeth?

In addition to the fact, that the Hadeeth comes to supplement the above mentioned verse, it also highlights on the fact that, a single favour done to another Muslim will be recognized and be rewarded accordingly, regardless of how huge or tiny it may be perceived. To emphasize this meaning, Allah says in the Qur’an, Surah Al-Zhariyaat, 99:7:

فَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ خَيْرًا يَرَهُ

Meaning, “[… So] whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it (will be rewarded for it accordingly).”

If a deed of an atom’s weight (be it good or bad) shall be seen and be rewarded for, I wonder how bigger deeds would ever be neglected.

Also, in in Surah Al-Kahf, 18:30, Allah says:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ إِنَّا لَا نُضِيعُ أَجْرَ مَنْ أَحْسَنَ عَمَلًا

It means, “Indeed, as for those who have believed and done good deeds, We do not let the reward of anyone who does a good deed go to waste”.

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Social Work Leads to Islaah and Da’wah at the Same Time

When we take the responsibility of social work, and offer our expertise to fellow human beings, two types of people are likely to benefit from it. They are Muslims and non-Muslims. Either way, we present Islam in one of the ways it is supposed to be presented. Remember, people will forget our words, but not our deeds. This is because “actions speak louder than words,” and thus, leaves greater impact.

When fellow Muslims appreciate Islam through some favours we do them, and as a result, they adopt the attitude or kindness through which we did them the favour, that is called Islaah (correction). Similarly, when non-Muslims appreciate Islam through the favours we (Muslims) offer them, that is called Da’wah (calling to Islam).

So, if we carry out our social work and community service with Allah in mind, Islam will be appreciated. No doubt about that.

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Why must We be Involved in Social Work and Community Service?

Allah s.w.t. created creatures in this life, in a uniquely miraculous way; that they need one another for existence and survival. Human being continuously needs animals. He also needs the environment around him. In return, animals and the environment, too, need human.

But it’s important that we notice; the need that environment and animals do for human is unlike the need that human does for animals and the environment. Human being needs the environment and whatsoever in it, in order to survive in this life. He also has to take care of the environment and whatsoever in it (this is where the environment and animals need human being) so their type can be preserved for the next generations of human beings.

Indirectly; when we preserve the environment, we are doing social work and community service for the good use of generations to come.

Another way, in which human being is favoured by animals it that, human beings first learnt to bury their dead ones from the bird. Human being learnt to fly from the bird. Perhaps, human being learnt to be more organized from the ant. Human being learnt to dive and swim from the fish. Human being leant hunting from wild animals. Human being gets oxygen from plants and trees. And the list continues.

These facts do not contradict (in any way) with the fact that Allah has instilled ‘Fitrah’ (natural sense) in human being himself. The sense of learning from others itself, is Fitrah’.

Therefore, anyone (human) who presents himself in a way that, others (humans) will learn from him, will be rewarded for being good example and role model. Role models, with sincere intention live morally good life, and on top of that, Allah rewards them.

People who initiate change in their communities are greatly rewarded, because the effects and benefits of such initiatives remain useful generations after generations. That is why, the Prophet s.a.w. said in a Hadeeth narrated by Sayyiduna Abu Hurairah, and reported by Imam Muslim:

مَنْ دَعَا إِلَى هُدًى، كَانَ لَهُ مِنَ الأَجْرِ مَثْلُ أُجُورِ مَنْ تَبِعَهُ؛ لا يَنْقُصُ ذَلِكَ مِنْ أُجُورِهِمْ شَيْئاً. وَمَنْ دَعَا إِلَى ضَلالَةٍ، كَانَ عَلَيْهِ مِنَ الإِثْمِ مِثْلُ آثَامِ مَنْ تَبِعَهُ؛ لا يَنْقُصُ ذَلِكَ مِنْ آثَامِهِمْ شَيْئاً

It means, “Whoever calls to guidance (righteousness), will be rewarded, similarly to the rewards of those who follow him, without any of their rewards been reduced. And whoever calls to deviation, will carry sins, similar to the sins of all those who act upon it (the deviation), without their sins been reduced.”

Also, social work is everlastingly rewarding provided there is good intention (Allah’s Sake) behind it. This is understood in one of the famous Hadeeth, in which Rasulullah s.a.w. said:

إِذَا مَاتَ الإِنْسَانُ انْقَطَعَ عَمَلُهُ إِلَّا مِنْ ثَلاثٍ: إِلا مِنْ صَدَقَةٍ جَارِيَةٍ أَوْ عِلْمٍ يُنْتَفَعُ بِهِ أَوْ وَلَدٍ صَالِحٍ يَدْعُو لَهُ

It means, “When the son of Adam dies, all his good deeds come to an end except three: ongoing charity, beneficial knowledge or a righteous son who will pray for him.”

A righteous deed by a pious son can generate endless prayers for his parents, without him opening his mouth for dua’. This is in addition to the fact that a righteous (pious) child will definitely pray for his parents.

A continues charity through which one might have taken care of an orphan will inspire the orphan to pray endlessly for the one who devoted the charity that care for his growth.

Documented and transferred knowledge will be a continuity of the person who discovered and/or extended such knowledge, as if he’s still alive.

 

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How to Achieve Social Work and Community Service?

Social work and community service can be achieved in many ways. Some of these ways are structured and organized, and the most of the ways are unstructured. With the availability of countless options, every individual in our societies can join and participate in any social work or community service of their choice.

The bottom line is to have objective of serving others righteously. Al-Tabarani reported a Hadeeth which was narrated by Sayyidina Abdillah Ibn Umar r.a., that Rasulullah s.a.w. said:

خَيْرُ النَّاسِ أَنْفَعُهُمْ لِلنَّاسِ

It means, “The best of men is the most beneficent of them to others.”

Structured social work or community service, come in the form of charity organizations and community clubs, where one can volunteer to offer his or her services to the related needed individuals in the communities through such organizations, associations or projects. Such services range from eliminating grief from the hearts of the homeless, eradicating grief from the hearts of orphans, removing grief from the hearts of single mothers, rehabilitating prisoners and etc.

Mental health facilities, free or low cost medical clinics, drug rehabilitation centres, utility assistance programs and food banks are all examples of social work and community service that can be done through structured bodies.

Examples of unstructured social work, which everyone has access to participateing in, are taking away harm on people’s walkway, smiling in the face of our Muslim brothers (and/or sisters, where applicable), showing kindness to others, starting with relatives and then neighbours, and extending it to colleagues and strangers.

Each one of us can consider buying the facial tissues that are usually sold on roadside closer to bus stations and train stations, by the needy and the disabled. Doing so shouldn’t be because we need the product, but because the seller needs the money to survive. After buying such products (facial tissue in this case), the chance is we will come across someone in the mosque or in the college perspiring or sneezing but doesn’t have tissue to wipe out their sweat or to help himself or herself. Offer the tissue you just bought and observe the happiness you bring to the fellow you rescue. You see… You have done double community service with effort (money).

Also, consider this the next time you take a cab (taxi). After paying, ask the cabby to keep the change, if you don’t need it. The cabby may not be desperate in need of the change you ask him or her to keep, but they will surely be happy. You have made someone happy on that occasion. Allah will make you happy when you don’t expect.

The Prophet said in a Hadeeth narrated by Sayyidina Abi Zharr Al-Ghifari, and authenticated by Imam Muslim:

لاَ تَحْقِرَنَّ مِنَ المَعْرُوفِ شَيْئاً؛ وَلَوْ أَنْ تَلْقَى أَخَاكَ بِوَجْهٍ طَلْقٍ

It means, “Do not underestimate any kindness (which you extend to others), even if that should be meeting your brother with a smiling face.”

SubhanAllah! Islam does not only encourage community service to be extended to fellow humans, Islam also puts animals, i.e., birds and dogs to be considered when we carry out community service.

In a Hadeeth narrated by Sayyidina Anas Ibn Malik r.a., and authenticated by Imam Al-Bukhari, Rasullah s.a.w. said:

مَا مِن مُسلم يَغرِسُ غَرْسًا أو يَزرَعُ زَرْعًا فيأكُلُ مِنه طَيرٌ أو إنسَانٌ أو بهيْمَةٌ إلا كان لهُ بهِ صَدقَةٌ

It means “There is none amongst the Muslims who plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a human or an animal eats from it, but is regarded as a charitable gift for him.”

If deeds that save the lives of animals and birds are considered as charitable for the doer, I wonder, how would actions that save human’s life would ever be taken lightly.

The Prophet s.a.w. said in a Hadeeth narrated by Sayyiduna Abu Hurairah r.a., and authenticated by Imam(s) Al-Bukhari and Muslim, which means:

“While a man was walking on his way, he became extremely thirsty. He found a well. He went down into it to drink water. Upon leaving it, he saw a dog, which was panting out of thirst. Its tongue was lolling out and it was eating moist earth from extreme thirst. The man said to himself: `This dog is extremely thirsty as I was.’ So he descended into the well, filled up his leather sock with water, and holding it in his teeth, climbed up and quenched the thirst of the dog. Allah appreciated his action and forgave his sins”. The Companions asked: “Shall we be rewarded for showing kindness to the animals also?” The Prophet s.a.w. said, “A reward is given in connection with every living creature”.

Abu Hurairah also narrated another Hadeeth, also authenticated by Imam(s) Al-Bukhari and Muslim, in which the Prophet s.a.w. said:

بَيْنَمَا رَجُلٌ يَمْشِي بِطَرِيقٍ، وَجَدَ غُصْنَ شَوْكٍ فَأَخَذَهُ، فَشَكَرَ اللَّهُ لَهُ فَغَفَرَ لَهُ

It means, “While a man was walking by a roadside, he found a tree branch with thorn, he took it (out of the passers’ way), Allah appreciated his deed and forgave him his sins”.

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Examples of Sacrifice for Social Works and Community Service

In this part of this article, I am presenting to the dear readers of GSalam.Net vibrant stories, of Muslim brothers and sisters, who have taken social work and community service at heart, although none of them uttered that. Again, “actions speak louder than words”.

Before I present them, I have to acknowledge, that the stories outlined here are all narrated by Dr. Shaikh Muhammad Al-Areefi.

A group of brothers established a small charity boutique. Nothing in the boutique is for sale. All clothes are ‘second-handed’ (used) clothes, which are washed, cleaned, ironed and arranged nicely. Needy families are then encouraged to come with their children, and select for them their needs. And walk out for free!

A young man sets aside SAR500 (SAR = Saudi Riyal) from his monthly income, and uses it to buy some essential provisions to distribute it among needy families. I strongly believe that each one of us can do the same or better, but we mostly underestimate the importance of that. So let’s make it a point to start!

Another young man; Allah has bestowed upon him, lots of money. He established a group of Qur’an memorization schools for ladies. He bears the responsibility of all the needs of the schools, which include teachers’ salaries, transportation for students and others. What would you do if Allah gives you lots of money? Or why do you still underestimate the lots of money Allah has given you?

There are four brothers who study in a Qur’an memorization school. Every student in the Qur’anic school is entitled to monthly allowance of SAR250. The four brothers agreed among themselves to donate SAR50 each, from their income, on monthly basis, and they would donate the collected SAR200 as an allowance of an orphan in an orphanage.

Indeed the Prophet has said, “I and the caretaker of an orphan is like this –and he signaled with his middle and index fingers combined – (meaning togetherness) in the Paradise”.

A secondary school boy has always had the ambition of serving (providing) water to the thirsty. He started saving some of his pocket money for that purpose. After he had saved enough money, he bought a big water cooler, got it installed on a busy street where workers use to crowd at, and devoted it for their usage. To be honest, I’m impressed!

Another small boy would save little amounts of money, until when it’s Hajj time, he would buy small bottles of water, and distribute them among Pilgrims… Isn’t this amazing?!

This man is enriched with two farms (of dates). He has devoted one for his family and relatives. The dates from the other are all devoted for Allah. They are distributed for people to break their fast and for the needy.

A Primary 5 boy; would come with a plastic, anytime there’s a gathering at his house, encouraging the adults to donate from their monies to the needy. I wonder if you happen to be among such guest, what would bar you from donating. Why can’t we train our children to do similar, in the first place?

A bride, whose dowry was SAR40,000 divided it into two halves. One for her personal use, and she gave the other half for a mosque building project. The least I can say is that, this marriage will be blessed as long as the mosque is prayed in. I challenge any bride or bride-to-be reading this, to compete with this sister? Didn’t Allah say, “Race to righteousness” [Qur’an, Al-Baqarah, 2:148]? You are the s/hero if you are courage enough to do that!

This is a female employee, on the day her salary is released; she would encourage her colleagues (at her workplace) to donate something for charity. In fact, she would remind them of the importance of doing so. She even provides them with phone numbers of needy people and charity organizations for them to deliver their charity. If any of her friends are not able to send their charity themselves, she volunteers to sends their donations on their behalf. This is easy. Come on.. You can do it!

This is another sister who is a medical doctor by profession. She divides her income into two halves. One half for her needs, and the other for charity; for mosque building, for allowance of orphans, for students’ expenses, water wells, for da’wah purposes and others. I believe that, many of us receive an income valued more than this sister does, but why can’t we compete with her, or even overtake her? Come on… We can do it!

This is a secondary school girl, who gathered her family members and relatives; she reminded them of the importance of building mosques in our Muslim communities. The big family came out with a plan and started saving for the purpose. After a few years, a mosque was established. This is a teamwork… the initiator has rewards multiplied by the rewards of the number of people s/he is able to persuade to join.

Another Muslim lady cooks in her house when she can afford. She would then send the food to her needy neighbours. How many of us (readers) ever shared their food with their neighbours?

A young Muslim lady sews clothes in her house, and send them to needy families. The shortest story, but probably to most rewarding!

As you read these inspiring stories, if you know of any one who has been role model through social work or community service, kindly share their story with us in the comment area below.

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Conclusion

One of the greatest social work one can ever provide to mankind is to have an intention of doing everything for Allah’s sake (Ikhas), with a clear objective to serve mankind.

Social services, once it’s understood, it is everyone’s responsibility in the community. In fact, we should not undermine the effect of the service we provide, for we don’t know the extent, to which a small service can go. Also, we don’t know the number of souls a gentle (honest) smile can transform positively.

Let’s constantly remember that Hadeeth which Sayyiduna Abu Zharr, r.a. narrated a Hadeeth, which was reported by Imam Muslim, in which Rasulullah s.a.w. said to him:

لا تَحْقِرَنَّ مِنَ المَعْرُوفِ شَيْئاً، وَلَوْ أَنْ تَلْقَى أَخَاكَ بِوَجْهٍ طَلْقِ

It means, “Do not underestimate any kindness (which you extend to others), even if that should be meeting your brother with a smile face.”

A smile is not to be underestimated, and “whoever saves one (soul), it’s as if he had saved the entire mankind” [Qur’an, Surah Al-Maidah, 5:32].

“While a man was walking by a roadside, he found tree branch with thorn, he took it (out of passers’ way), Allah appreciated his deed and forgave him.” – Rasulullah s.a.w.

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Allah knows best.

Allahu Hafiz 🙂

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  • alhassan lawal

    Jazakumullah khairan katheera

  • Mukhtar Ahmed

    thank you very much you help for my assignment this is nice article
    indeed