They say that charity begins at home and it’s good to keep this motto in mind if you want to raise your kids to have keen social consciences and grow up to be kind, altruistic adults.
While it isn’t necessary to be a member of a certain faith in order to do your bit for your fellow humankind, it’s interesting to know that charity plays a significant part in many of the major religions. Here we take a look at the role of charity in Islam, Christianity and Hinduism.
Muslims give in a variety of different ways. The most well known is ‘zakat’, which is compulsory almsgiving of a set proportion of one’s wealth. It was once given as part of an official, institutionalised system, akin to the modern tax system. Today, however, it is up to individuals to make this donation in a way they see fit, for example by making payments to charitable causes.
In the Islamic tradition, people also give what is known as ‘sadaqah’. This can be defined as any act of voluntary charity made out of compassion, love or friendship. It can be provided to anyone in any way and has no rules or limits. This type of charity does not have to involve donating money; instead believers can give through voluntary work or by encouraging others to do good deeds.
During the holy month of Ramadan, providing for the needy is particularly important for followers of Islam.
From the parable of the Good Samaritan to the story of the poor widow who gave the only two copper coins she had, the New Testament is filled with Jesus’ teachings about the importance of showing generosity, compassion and love to others. Christians believe that mercy should be shown to friends and strangers alike and in giving to others they are following God’s word.
In the Bible, almsgiving is presented as an obligatory part of Christian life and followers are encouraged to make sacrifices for others out of love rather than recognition or reward. Today charity giving is an important part of the Christian way of life and is often viewed as an act of prayer, particularly during Lent and Christmas.
According to the Bhagavad Gita, giving without expectation of appreciation or reward benefits both the giver and the receiver. On the contrary, it says that giving reluctantly and with the expectation of some advantage is damaging to both parties. It also teaches that if you give a gift at the wrong time and without considering the feelings of recipient, it harms both you and the recipient.
Hindus are encouraged to detach themselves from wealth in order to achieve true peace and are taught that if charitable donation is motivated by selfishness, it loses its spiritual value. For followers of this religion, carrying out acts of charity or ‘dana’ is a duty. One of the most common ways of giving in the Hindu tradition is known as ‘anna dana’, which involves offering food and water to the the hungry and thirsty. Another major form of charity for Hindus is is ‘abhaya dana’, which involves offering protection to people seeking safety.
Whether you’re Muslim, Christian, Hindu or you follow another religion or no religion at all, you can make the world a better place by showing compassion and kindness to those in need.