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Charity between Islam and Hinduism

Extending a helping hand to the poor and the needy is an ethical and moral value that can be realized even through mere human mind.

Extending a helping hand to the poor and the needy is an ethical and moral value that can be realized even through mere human mind.

By Editorial Staff

Islam encourages humanitarian works; it has a complete system of charity and philanthropic activities. The concept of charity in Islam is represented in Zakah (almsgiving), Sadaqat Al-Fitr (zakah for breaking the fast), Kaffarah (expiations) of various kinds, emancipation, feeding the poor, etc. Islam has prescribed expiations for particular actions and words. In Islam, there is expiation for missed days of fast by a person who is unable to fast. In the case of oath, there is expiation. It is articulated in a charity given to the poor and the needy.

Merits of Charity in Hinduism

As for charity in Hinduism, it is among the good features of Hinduism that it also invites and exhorts its followers to give charity. For example, we find the following texts that call for charity:

“Give charity to poor as today you are rich and tomorrow you may be poor.” (Rig Veda, Book 10, hymn 117, V 5)

And Bhagvad Gita says regarding charity: “Various types of sacrifice, charity, and austerity are performed by the seekers of nirvana (salvation) by uttering “TAT” (or He is all) without seeking a reward.” (17.25)

Furthermore, Geeta exhorts its followers for charity and says: “Acts of sacrifice, charity and austerity should not be abandoned, but should be performed, because sacrifice, charity and austerity are the purifiers of the wise.”

Every religious work that is done by a devotee has one of three positions, as was asserted by Arjuna who said: “What is the state of devotion of those who perform spiritual practices with faith but without following the scriptural injunctions, O Krishna? Is it Saattvika, Raajasika, or Taamasika?” (The Bhagavad Geeta 17.01)

Charity in Hinduism is of three kinds 

1)   Saattvika Charity: It is a charity given as a matter of duty, to a deserving candidate who does nothing in return, at the right place and time, is called a Saattvika charity. (17.20)

2)   Raajasika Charity: It is a charity given unwillingly, or to get something in return, or looking for some fruit, is called Raajasika charity. (17.21)

3)   Taamasika Charity: It is a charity given at a wrong place and time, to unworthy persons, without paying respect or with contempt, is said to be Taamasika charity. (The Bhagavad Geeta: 17.22)

There are multiple ways of making classification of charity in Hinduism. One depends on the item, and another on the size of the donation. However, a third depends on the purpose of daan, and has been mentioned in several Puran:

1)   Jyeshth Daan: it a charity which is given in order to achieve Moksh and it has been considered the most valuable form of charity.

2)   Madhyam Daan: it a charity which is given out of pity or kindness for others or for one’s own kith and kin is considered to be of medium value.

3)   Kanishth Daan:  it a charity which is given to achieve one’s own selfish ends is known as the least valued of all.[1]

Rewards of Charity in Hinduism

According to the teachings of holy men, charity has two types of rewards: reward in the Hereafter (परलोक), this reward is given to a person who gives charity to good men (Brahmin). But when the charity is given to liars, the reward is given only in this world (इहलोक) and there is no fruit for him in the Hereafter.[2]

It is noteworthy that the abovementioned quote refers to the existence of an afterlife in Hinduism that is called (परलोक Parlok) which means the Hereafter similar to the concept of Islam about the Hereafter. But the concept of Parlok is incompatible with the most famous Hindu doctrine of Rebirth which regards this world as the abode of work and reward together and simultaneously, while the reference refers to two sorts of worlds;(परलोक Parlok) and (इहलोक Ehlok) which resembles the categorization of Muslim faith; Ad-Dunya (this world) and Al-Akhirah (the Hereafter). So, the concept of rebirth in Hinduism might be a human addition or distorted concept of the original notion of hereafter.

About reward of charity in Hinduism, Manu says:

“Both he who respectfully bestows a present, and he who respectfully accepts it shall go to a seat of bliss; but, if they act otherwise, to a region of horror.” (Manu, IV. 235.)

It is worth mentioning that in Hindu scriptures, Brahmin caste has been preferred in charity; if charity was given to a Brahmin caste it deserves higher rewards than the charity given to a lower caste. Sanjay Agarwal says in this regard:

“It is generally recognized that most daan is directed towards Brahmins. This is broadly in line with the pauranik directives.”[3]

The Indian religious literature concerning alms and charity is rich. Vedas, Purans, Mahabharat, Bhagavad Geeta and other Hindu scriptures are full of texts that call for charity.  In fact, extending the helping hand to poor and needy is an ethical and moral value that can be realized even through mere human mind. Because Almighty Allah has granted human being the mind which leads to the humanistic and moral values; all human beings may agree upon the goodness of this type of works.

However, it is noted that some Indian religious texts about charity, often allocate the charity to Brahman caste, these books to a very large extent, deal with the necessity of bestowing alms and gifts on Brahmins. In the constitutions of Manu, it is stated that an oblation in the mouth or hand of a Brahmin is far better than offerings to holy fire, it never drops, it never dries and it is never consumed. A gift to one not a Brahmin produces fruit of a middle standard; to one who calls himself a Brahmin, double; to a well-read Brahmin, a hundred thousand fold; to one who has read all the Vedas, infinite.

Manu also says: “Let every man, according to his ability, give wealth to Brahmins, detached from the world and learned in Scripture; such a giver shall attain heaven after this life.”[4]

Moreover, when Shri Ram was born, King Dashrath was overjoyed, and gave various types of things in daan to Brahmins. These included gold, cows, clothes, and jewels.[5]

It is clear that these quotes give Brahmin caste preference in charity, the reward of charity is multiplied many time if the receiver of the charity is a Brahmin. But Islam does not assign charity to a certain class, Islam considers everyone equal in charity, the idea of Islam regarding charity is merely based on humanitarian aspects of poverty and need.

After looking in the system of Zakah and charity in Islam and the similar idea in Hinduism, some notes seemed to me, which can be summarized as follows:

First: the system of Zakah and charity in Islam is an integrated, detailed scheme, the features of every aspect are well-defined; the amount on which Zakah becomes obligatory, the period that has to pass on the possession, the amount of Zakah etc. is clear in Islam while many important aspects in the system of charity in Hinduism are obscure and unclear. That is why Brahmin caste exploited this flexibility for their own interests meanwhile other lower castes were deprived and poor.

Second: The system of Zakah in Islam is plain in its rulings; what is obligatory and what is un-obligatory has been elucidated in detail, although Hinduism is silent about all these important subjects.

In fact, the Zakah system in Islam clarifies that this system is divine and godly which could not be a human product, because man cannot invent such an accurate and precise system. When we know that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was an unlettered person who never learned from a human-being, who never wrote or read a single word though he brought such a wonderful system that could not be constituted by even the learned scholars then it becomes ample evidence on his truth and Prophethood. Indeed, Islam is a true revelation from Allah, the Almighty, Who has created the universe and knows everything.

______________________

[1] Sanjay Agarwal, Daan and Other Giving Traditions in India, Published by Account Aid TM India 55-B, Pocket C, Siddharth Extension,New Delhi,  2010, pp. 24-25.

[2]www.shastragyan.wordpress.com (Last accessed on 1-9-2013).

[3] Sanjay Agarwal, Daan and Other Giving Traditions in India, p. 30.

[4] http://www.oldandsold.com/books/hindu/hindu-11.shtml(Last accessed on 2-9-2013).

[5] Manas Peeyush, Bal Kaand, 1.193 (Sharan, 2001, pp. 48-51).

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2 thoughts on “Charity between Islam and Hinduism

Siddarth Reddy

Great work but a major correction ,Hinduism does prescribe donating to Brahmins but not mainly ,the main thing is Brahmins doesn’t mean Brahmin caste as we all know ,every learned men are called Brahmin in ancient Hinduism ,the Greek scholars who came in contact with hinduism are also called Brahmins ,mainly see the verses I have posted ,it doesn’t say charity is only for the Brahmins.

Book 10, Hymn 117 of the Rig veda as follows:

The Gods have not ordained hunger to be our death: even to the well-fed man comes death in varied shape,
The riches of the liberal never waste away, while he who will not give finds none to comfort him,
The man with food in store who, when the needy comes in miserable case begging for bread to eat,
Hardens his heart against him, when of old finds not one to comfort him.

Bounteous is he who gives unto the beggar who comes to him in want of food, and the feeble,
Success attends him in the shout of battle. He makes a friend of him in future troubles,
No friend is he who to his friend and comrade who comes imploring food, will offer nothing.

Let the rich satisfy the poor implorer, and bend his eye upon a longer pathway,
Riches come now to one, now to another, and like the wheels of cars are ever rolling,
The foolish man wins food with fruitless labour: that food – I speak the truth – shall be his ruin,
He feeds no trusty friend, no man to love him. All guilt is he who eats with no partaker.

— Rigveda, X.117

Chandogya Upanishad, Book III, states that a virtuous life requires: tapas (asceticism), dāna (charity), arjava (straightforwardness), ahimsa (non-injury to all sentinent beings) and satyavacana (truthfulness).[19]

The Adi Parva of the Hindu Epic Mahabharata, in Chapter 91, states that a person must first acquire wealth by honest means, then embark on charity.

KARNA IN MAHABHARATA IS SAID TO BE THE GREATEST DONOR WHO NEVER SAID NO TO ANYONE.

And it wasn’t just myths ,the Persian scholars in ancient time noted the Hindus and their charity work .

Al-Biruni, the Persian historian, who visited and lived in India for 16 years from about 1017, mentions the practice of charity and almsgiving among Hindus as he observed during his stay. He wrote, “It is obligatory with them (Hindus) every day to give alms as much as possible.”[7]

After the taxes, there are different opinions on how to spend their income. Some destine one-ninth of it for alms.[40] Others divide this income (after taxes) into four portions. One fourth is destined for common expenses, the second for liberal works of a noble mind, the third for alms, and the fourth for being kept in reserve.

— Abū Rayḥān al-Bīrūnī, Tarikh Al-Hind, 11th century

Also see the scholars view on actual use of temple donations in ancient times:

Hindu temples served as charitable institutions. Burton Stein[44] states that South Indian temples collected donations (melvarum) from devotees, during the Chola dynasty and Vijayanagara Empire periods in 1st millennium through first half of 2nd millennium AD.[45] These dāna were then used to feed people in distress as well as fund public projects such as irrigation and land reclamation.

    Muhammad

    Thanks, for your comment. We will examine your proofs and evaluate your correction. Still, the charity must be for every needy irrespective of his knowledge, education, prestige, rather, it must be based on the needs, let it be a speechless animal. Thanks again.

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