"It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards East or West; but it is righteousness to believe in Allah and the Last Day and the Angels and the Book and the Messengers; to spend of your substance out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask; and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayers and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts which you made; and to be firm and patient in pain (or suffering) and adversity and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the God fearing"(Quran 2: 177).
The above verse is the concept of social work in Islam. It is however more than a philosophical concept but a practical draft that outlines the why, whom, and who of service delivery.
we believe form of worship incomplete without helping deeds
· Whom — categories of people and groups and issues related to be met
· Who — characteristics of workers
Analysis of the Quranic concept of social work
The question of why we should establish formal social services in our communities is explained in this verse.
Allah is advising us that our worship is incomplete without helping deeds. So after having believed in Allah, the angels, the Prophets, the Books and the Last Day we must translate our Iman (faith) our beliefs into actions of service to humankind.
In fact it is incumbent on believers to fulfill this duty of service to those who need their help. Each and every Muslim is to contribute to the welfare of society. Therefore by establishing social services within Muslim communities, every Muslim can indirectly participate through financial and moral support. When professionals administer social services with the support of the community at large. It would help all of us to fulfill our social responsibility as believers.
- Duty — as a believer;
- True righteousness;
- Love of Allah
One Hadith states that Abu Hurairah related: The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: "Whosoever removes a worldly grief from a believer, Allah will remove from him one of the grieves on the Day of Judgment. Whosoever alleviates [the] lot of a destitute 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."
The question of who is best qualified to carry out the duty of serving the community in the area of social services, is again outlined in this verse as one who believes in the Unity of Allah, the Last Day, the Angels, Books and Messengers of Allah. In other words, the verse emphasizes the significance of Iman and Mufassil as the defining characteristic of a Muslim — one who having believed totally completely and with understanding is then compelled by his belief to act upon them through service to humanity thus completing their faith.
- Believer in Unity of Allah
- The Last Day
Hadith: Humility and Courtesy are acts of piety. Modesty and chastity repasts of faith. Verily those who are patient in adversity and forgive wrongs are the doers of excellence. The best of alms is that which the right hand giveth and the left hand knoweth not.
The above verse also outlines broad categories that would include those towards whom these services should be directed. Let's briefly look at the categories.
Spend of your substance for:
- Kin: This would be anyone related either by blood or marriage. This would be more of an individual responsibility. If however a person was unable to adequately meet the needs of his kin he could on their behalf seek help from the community-based social services.
- Orphans: Technically this would apply to children whose fathers have died. In an Islamic society the orphans then become the responsibility of the state. New Muslims who lose their families because of conversion must also be included in this category. Orphans could also apply to children of dysfunctional families that are taken away be CFS. For all facts and purposes they are orphans. The spirit of Islamic charity would therefore dictate that we provide for these orphans by providing foster care, housing and material and spiritual needs consistently, professionally and compassionately.
- Needy: This is a broad term and should be interpreted to mean any need. Therefore a family needing counseling to resolve a conflict or a couple in a marital crisis or an abused spouse should be included in the category as well as those who are in need of financial assistance. The situation could be of a temporary nature or long term. The Muslim community should be equipped with services that can address the needs of these people.
- Wayfarer: the term usually used for a traveler or a transient, could also apply in present day to foreign students or workers who come to our communities on a temporary basis. Islamic social services should be prepared to serve this particular segment of our community.
- Those Who Ask: Anyone who asks for help and is a genuine case must be helped. We should not hold it against them. Therefore a formal mechanism must be in place in our communities where people can confidently apply for help.
- Ransom of Slaves: Many could say that Islam eradicated slavery therefore this is a moot point. However if we were to look around us many of our Muslim brothers and sisters could qualify to apply for this category to be freed — e.g. — the landing fee that the Canadian government has put in place is putting extreme pressure on families that cannot reunite because they cannot afford to pay it.
I believe to help them would amount to paying ransom for slaves. The spirit is to free a human from bondage and oppression and exploitation. Therefore the ransom of slaves would in my humble opinion apply to all these categories.
When we are asked how are we to achieve these objectives of Islamic social services the Quran once again gives us assistance by laying out the principle on which we not only base our social services but through which we achieve our goals. In short, these principles define a Muslim social worker and also empower and enable them to better serve their clients.
- Steadfast in prayer: The one best equipped to help others is one who is steadfast in prayer. "Thee alone we worship, Thee alone we ask for help". In a Muslim community persons nominated for social work must posses this fundamental trait of a Muslim. If they are to be effective and productive it is also a reminder to those of us working in the field that we must be steadfast in prayer.
- Regular Charity: This of course fosters a personality that is giving and develops a character that is empathetic to the needs of others. Communities where members give regular charity of all kinds both compulsory and voluntary benefit each other and feel responsible for each other.
- Fulfill Contract: Muslims working in the field of social services must be trustworthy, honest, and conscientious of their duty to their clients. Services delivered cannot be haphazard or half-hearted. When we make a pledge we honor it when we make a promise we keep it and when we set ourselves up as helpers we fulfill that task to the best of our ability.
- Patience in pain, suffering, adversity and panic: These are characteristics that are essential for Muslim social workers, counselors, Imams, and leaders. When people depend on us for support and rely on our counsel we cannot be hasty, impatient, or panic at first sign of difficulty. The task for Muslim workers in the area of social services is soul wrenching and requires a personality that is blessed with Taqwa (God consciousness) and Sabr (patience). However, the levels of Taqwa (God consciousness) may vary but it is an evolutionary process in which one can develop the personality of a Mutaqi (one who has God consciousness).
- Truth: As the Prophet Muhammad stated: " A Muslim can not be a liar". Truth and honesty is the cornerstone of any public service. Lies stand in the way of trust without which a Muslim social worker or counselor is not viable. We must be honest in our dealings with our client and not use any underhanded ways. Truth is also a virtue that is admired universally and inspires respect, trust, and reliability.
- God Fearing: One, who fears Allah and is always conscious of her duty to her Creator, will never harm or put in harms way those who are under their care. Sense of accountability and responsibility to Allah must be the core trait of a Muslim community worker. This keeps in check our egos and focuses on the objective that our service must gain the pleasure of Allah not the pleasure of making a name for us.
Sayings of Prophet Muhammad:
· What actions are most excellent? To gladden the heart of a human being, to feed the hungry, to help the afflicted, to lighten the sorrow of the sorrowful, and to remove the wrongs of the injured.
· He who tries to remove the want of his brother, whether he be successful or not, God will forgive his sins.
Photo Attribution - Crystalina - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Quran_cover.jpg