Report of the discussion evening on May 10th 2017

The topic for the second meeting of 2017 , held at the Havering Islamic Cultural Centre on 10 May, was ‘What our faiths say about money and charity.’

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Speaking for Islam Sidra Naaem explained that there was no charity when Muhammad came and that there are 100 mentions of charity in the Qur’an. Two of the five pillars of Islam relate to this, not just the giving of alms to the poor but also Fasting, which makes the rich realise how the poor feel. Fasting takes place from dawn to sunset during the month of Ramadan, the month when it was revealed. Those not able to fast should donate to the needy so that they can fast. 2.5% of a Muslim’s capital should go to the needy so that wealth is redistributed. Zakat is carefully calculated. There are spiritual rewards and things you do for others are your legacy.

Dave Chuck for Christianity said that it was better to be a poor man who walks in integrity than a rich man. Jeremiah 29.11 says that money and wealth are not signs of favour from God. On the other hand poverty can be because of foolish actions. The Gospels record the parable of the rich man and the beggar where the beggar goes to Heaven while the rich man languishes in Hell. Financial wealth should be used for the service of God and shared with the poor. The widow’s mite was praised by Christ because it was more of a sacrifice for her than the money given with such trumpeting by the wealthy. One should give humbly. The Gospels also say that it is harder for a rich man to enter Heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Devotion to money is evil not money itself. The craving for more, leading to the neglect of families, leaving the addict isolated and bitter, causes the forfeiture of the soul. We should heap up treasures in Heaven, not here.

Lakhvir Singh revealed that the Sikhs came from Islam and Hinduism and that a disproportionate amount of charity in India (67%) comes from them. A Sikh should give 10% of his income to charity. There are 59,000 Gurdwharas serving food to the poor in India and at the Golden Temple, which has one of the world’s largest kitchens, 100,000 are fed each day. The Faith started with Guru Nanak who quickly stressed the importance of giving money or work or time to others. It is often easier to give money than time or work so the importance of the giving of the latter two ways should not be underestimated. The 10th Prophet gave water to all, both friend and enemy and stressed that one should not think of those who oppose us as enemies.

For the Baha’i Faith John Lester began with warnings from Baha’u’llah that wealth is a ‘mighty barrier between the seeker and his desire’ and that the ‘poor in your midst are My trust’. We must be cleansed ‘from the defilement of riches’. Moderation, though, was the key – extreme austerity was also discouraged. We must be like fountains, sure that we will be refilled from a hidden source. Donations to the Baha’i Faith were entirely voluntary and could only be accepted from those who belonged to it and who were not in debt. The dependencies of a Baha’i House of Worship included charities such as an orphanage, a hospice and a home for the aged. The law of huququ’llah (the Right of God) prescribed that 19% of one’s net income, once all expenses had been paid, was payable to God but the believer must be happy to pay it otherwise it was not acceptable. This fund was administered by the World Centre of the Faith in Haifa and went to help poorer countries, including those where disasters had occurred. Lastly, all Baha’is were enjoined to make a will.

For Judaism, Rev. Lee Sunderland said that all were wealthy and all were poor. No such thing as charity existed in Judaism. Instead the emphasis was on righteousness and filling a gap by addressing someone-else’s need. This could take the form of giving one’s time, or as simple as a smile – anything to help another person. Even a destitute person receiving only charity could give to charity – the giving of something someone else doesn’t have. Teaching the elderly to use computers was an example. We should stop thinking of rich and poor. The concept of charity is facilitated by us living together in society. The rule about dividing excess is family – then the community – the city – the country – and finally the world.