Social contribution is a broad concept. As many find material self-benefit in dedicating themselves to an impactful cause, others may overlook the beauty of even the smallest social contributions- contributions done out of sincere selflessness and religious piety. When we take a look at Islam’s early history in the Arabian peninsula, the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) establishes a profound basis by which righteous actions and attitudes can help each and every individual. Centuries of Hadith scholarship and jurisprudence serve as testament to the veracity of the sunnah and what constitutes Islamic practice.
Deeds and attitudes emphasized in the Hadith involve:
An emphasis on cleanliness and purification [Muslim]
Being mindful of Allah and placing one’s trust in Him [Tirmidhi]
Maintaining steadfastness in one’s Islam (religion) and Imaan (faith) [Muslim]
Maintaining self control [Al-Bukhari]
Performing deeds with a level of proficiency and perfection [Muslim]
Turning away from feelings of envy, contempt, oppression, and hatred [Muslim]
Among several other topics
On the individual level, Muslims are often prompted to engage in these righteous deeds for the purpose of attaining closeness to Allah and acquiring happiness in life after death. While the importance of the afterlife is rightfully emphasized, initiating a profound impact on one’s surrounding society is yet another concept whose importance cannot be overstated. The literature on this subject and its relation to sadaqah is so vastly comprehensive in its commentaries that one could go all day and night reading and reflecting on the many applications of Islamic social contribution. Seeing that we as Muslims are offered a guiding principle (the Sunnah) to model ourselves after, it is a no-brainer that examining societal contribution as a key point of practicing our religion is highly valuable. Consequently, learning about these contributions by referring to scholarly sources and notable literature is also of utmost importance.
One piece of literature, known as Imam An-Nawawi’s Collection of 40 Hadith, offers a comprehensive compilation of 40 key ahadith that collectively cover several of Islam’s core principles. Imam An-Nawawi himself was a highly esteemed 13th century scholar and jurist most noted for his work on providing commentary and compiling hadith literature. The aforementioned Collection of 40 Hadith is a compilation that is well-appreciated by Islamic scholars and students of knowledge alike, as it offers valuable lessons that we can all benefit from. A notable chunk of the prophetic tradition highlights how Muslims should commit to sadaqah and good deeds. With this, it becomes evident that even the smallest of social contributions can be virtuous.
The following is a Hadith that I wish to briefly highlight:
An-Nawawi: Hadith 26
“Every joint of a person must perform a charity each day that the sun rises: to judge justly between two people is a charity. To help a man with his mount, lifting him onto it or hoisting up his belongings onto it, is a charity. And the good word is a charity. And every step that you take towards the prayer is a charity, and removing a harmful object from the road is a charity.” [Al-Bukhari][Muslim]
Hadith Commentary and Reflections
Similarly to Hadith 25 of Imam An-Nawawi, the context of this narration involves the less wealthy companions among the Muhajiroon, who at the time noticed that the wealthy were more capable of offering charity through financial means. Even when not granted the blessings of bountiful material wealth, the righteous companions demonstrably possessed the will and desire to commit to a number of other charitable deeds. While one’s devotion to the religion is largely dependent on sincerity and intention, the physical manifestation of deeds and their impact should also be given considerable spotlight. Deeds like offering help to those in need and judging justly between two people are highlighted in this hadith as charitable forms of sadaqah. We can also observe that tending to public property by picking up obstructive objects, hoisting up the belongings of a traveler, and putting in a good word for others are just a few more of the many virtuous deeds highlighted in the prophetic tradition.
The ability of a Muslim to repeat these seemingly minor acts is something we should all be thankful for, as gratitude is one of the many virtues tied to the concept of sadaqah. Al-Shaikh Al-Bitar, a commentator on the 40 Hadith, notes that the “joints” (or small bones) mentioned in this hadith serve as great blessings by which Muslims are enabled to perform charitable acts. Ibn Rajab and other scholars expand on this, linking the Prophet’s words to the concepts of gratitude and contemplation. Simply observing how intricately and delicately our bones are linked together will enable one to see the human body as one of the many signs of Allah’s infinite wisdom and bounty. Even our thumbs are recognized to be a primary factor that enables us as humans to grasp things, utilize tools, and build entire civilizations with the permission of Allah. It is easy to take for granted such delicate aspects of our biological condition, but it is undeniable that we should express gratitude to The Almighty for enabling us to perform such deeds.
Social Contribution in Practice
Through this hadith’s contextual background, we are able to peer into the lives of the companions who were eager to exemplify righteousness in the society around them. We as Muslims should be keen to perform not only the giving of financial alms, but all forms of social contribution in order to develop our Ummah and please The Almighty. By expressing good character, work ethic, and morality through charitable deeds, we allow ourselves to become positive role models for others.
Next time your fellow neighbor requests something, take this as an opportunity to better yourself by performing an act of charity. In some instances, you might find some trash or lost items lying around at your local masjid or community center. Take the initiative to act as a frequent volunteer to help those around you. It is our responsibility as followers of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) to tend to these social responsibilities and recognize the impact we can make in shaping better communities.
It is evident that following the prophetic example enables us as Muslims to both contribute to and reap the benefits of a harmonious society. Whether it be at our workplaces, schools, community centers, or masajid, recognizing social contribution as sadaqah will go a long way for us as followers of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ). While we all have our shortcomings, performing these charitable deeds to attain closeness to Allah offers a beautiful way for us to benefit as individuals and as a community.
Surah At-Tawbah, Ayah 99
“However, among the nomadic Arabs are those who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and consider what they donate as a means of coming closer to Allah and ˹receiving˺ the prayers of the Messenger. It will certainly bring them closer. Allah will admit them into His mercy. Surely Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [9:99]
May Allah make us among those who perform charity and attain closeness to Him.
Badi, Jamal Ahmed. Commentary on the Forty Hadith of Imam Al-Nawawi-Timeless Prophetic Gems of Guidance and Wisdom. Lulu. com, 2016.
Zarabozo, M. J. "Commentary on the Forty Hadith of Al-Nawawi, introduction by Jaafar Sheik Idris." Al-Baheer Company for Publications and Translations, Boulder, USA (1999): 45.