The spirit of volunteering


Sheikh Ibrahim Djema

To be an upright and productive Muslim, there is more we must do than listening to lectures, attending seminars, and going to the masjid. A Muslim must have a positive impact on his/her community.

Volunteerism is not a new concept in Islam.

We can start our discussion by examining the word ‘volunteering’ as used in the Holy Qur’an, referring to the voluntary or supererogatory acts of worship.

“And whoever volunteers good [i.e. excess] – it is better for him” (Holy Qur’an 2:184)

“And whoever volunteers good – then indeed, Allah is Appreciative and Knowing.” (Holy Qur’an 2: 158)

Every Muslim will be rewarded for fulfilling their obligatory acts of worship, such as fasting Ramadan. In fact, it is forbidden to abandon the obligatory acts of worship; fasting Ramadan, praying 5 times a day, and paying the zakat. However, when Muslims take an extra step to perform voluntary fasts, such as fasting every Monday and Thursday or fasting the first 10 days of Dhul-Hijjah, their rewards are bountifully multiplied. Allah loves to see His faithful servants performing voluntary acts of worship.

In an authentic Hadith, Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “Allah says: ‘My slave does not draw closer to Me by anything more beloved to Me than that which I have made obligatory upon him, and My slave continues to draw closer to Me by doing nawafil (supererogatory or voluntary) deeds until I love him, and if I love him I will be his hearing with which he hears, his vision with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes and his foot with which he walks. If he were to ask of Me, I would surely give to him; if he were to seek refuge with Me, I would surely grant him refuge.’” (Al-Bukhari)

Allah loves to see the believers doing more and above what is commanded upon them. That includes volunteering your time, money, skills, and efforts to serve your community.

Allah says in the Holy Qur’an, “So race to [all that is] good.” (Holy Qur’an 2:148)

Try to be the best, and to be the first one to do good and to help others. Be proactive.

Allah says in the following verse, “O you who have believed, bow and prostrate and worship your Lord and do good – that you may succeed.” (Holy Qur’an 22:77)

Islam teaches us to spread goodness.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “The most beloved people to Allah are those who are most beneficial to the people.” (Al-Mu`jam Al-Awsat)

This is a wide gate open to us to earn immense rewards from Allah. Muslims before us in history understood the value of giving, of serving others, and expending themselves and their wealth for the benefit of their communities.

It was a common practice of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to rally the Muslims in Madinah to work together to support a noble cause, to help the poor, and to donate generously. The Prophet (peace be upon him) asked the wealthy Muslims to give to the people of As-Suffah, the poorest of Al-Madinah. Upon his initial arrival in Madinah after his migration, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) asked the Muslims for donations to build the masjid.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) constantly inspired his companions to develop a spirit of giving and helping.

He (peace be upon him) said, “The most beloved deed to Allah is to make a Muslim happy, or to remove one of his troubles, or to forgive his debt, or to feed his hunger. That I walk with a brother regarding a need is more beloved to me than that I seclude myself in this mosque in Al-Madinah for a month. Whoever walks with his brother regarding a need until he secures it for him, then Allah the Exalted will make his footing firm across the bridge on the day when the footings are shaken.” (Al-Mu`jam Al-Awsat)

There are many brothers and sisters who need the help and support of the Muslim community. Some people living in our community have no family or alternate support network, and they need us to be by their side.

Another act of goodness that many of us may be unaware of is to help make peace between people, to reconcile between quarreling people in the community, or to help family members resolve their disputes, or bring reconciliation and forgiveness between a husband and wife.

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) asked his companions, “Shall I not tell you something that is better than the status of (voluntary) fasting, prayer, and charity?” They said, “Yes.” He (peace be upon him) said, “Reconciling in a case of discord.” (At-Tirmidhi)

An integral part of your faith is to have good, harmonious relationships with your brothers and sisters in Islam.

“The believers are but brothers, so make settlement between your brothers. And fear Allah that you may receive mercy.” (Holy Qur’an 49:10)

I would like to conclude with a story. Many of us know this story but how many of us implement the lessons learned from this story?

It is the story of Umm Mihjan, a , poor, black-skinned woman who had no place to stay, so she lived in the Masjid of Al-Madinah and she used to clean the masjid and look after its upkeep.

Aby Hurayrah reported, “A black woman used to clean the mosque. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) missed her and asked about her. He was told that she had died. He (peace be upon him) said, “Why did you not inform me?’” (It seemed as if) they (Companions) considered the matter insignificant. Then he (peace be upon him) said, “Show me her grave.’” When it was shown to him, he offered Janazah (funeral) prayer over it and said, “These graves cover those in them with darkness, and Allah illumines them for the inmates as a result of my supplication for them.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

As Muslims, we should look out for one another. We need to be active and we need to serve our communities.

Imam As-Suyuti commented that when you do something for the sake of Allah, you will receive the rewards and taste its pleasantness not only in the Hereafter, but also in this life. This black woman who served her community by cleaning the masjid was honored by the Prophet of mercy; he visited her grave to pray for Allah’s mercy and forgiveness for her.

Allah says in the Qur’an, “Is the reward for good [anything] but good?” (Holy Qur’an 55:60)

When you sow the seeds of goodness, you will reap goodness.