Editorial note: All this month we are focusing on the stories of Muslim women working in charity, whether as the head of some charitable organization, doing volunteer work or anything in between. We want to explore what drives these women to give of themselves to others, how they balance that in their lives and what advice they have to encourage others to take up work to help those in need.
By Zaiba Hasan
I always joke that I need my job to fund my charity habit, and I am only partially kidding (ask the hubby). The reality is that I am well aware that I am living a life of abundance. Coming from a more modest background, I recognized early on the importance of teaching my children about life outside of their comfortable bubble. As a young mother, baby strapped to my chest in a Baby Bjorn
, I would serve food at homeless shelters, assemble hygiene kits while my toddlers played in boxes, and shop for the local pantry.
I wanted to create an atmosphere that showed how little things mattered when coming from a place of service to the greater community. We are blessed in our faith to have the charity concepts of sadaqa and zakat BUILT into our foundational tenets making teaching these lessons to our children that much easier.
Sadaqa, in case anyone is wondering, is the Islamic concept of giving, stemming from the root word sidq, meaning “truthfulness.” According to Zakat.org, it means
“giving away your wealth and material good to the needy for the sake of God.
“In current times, sadaqa has come to mean charity that is voluntarily given. While zakat is [is obligatory upon financially-abled, adult Muslims and] is supposed to be given within a certain time frame and for a certain amount, sadaqa is not given in any time frame or has any limits.” The article goes on to say that zakat deals with specific types of wealth while sadaqa can also be acts of service or encouraging words.
Charity can be incorporated easily into your everyday life and is so crucial to impart to our children. Here are some simple ways our family applies a charitable component to our routine.
Our family uses an allowance management system called Green Light
. It is a debit card that the parent controls and isn’t attached to a bank account. It has an option to set a percentage of your child’s weekly allowance for charity and guess what ours is set for? You guessed it – 2.5 percent. At the end of the year, each child has an option to choose a charitable organization to donate to. This system helps create a sense of fiscal responsibility, awareness and a desire to help others.
Image source: Pinterest and Getty images
Seek out volunteer opportunities: Granted, with COVID this was a little more difficult for families to find. However, with the COVID vaccine rolling out for the 5-12 set, the light is shining brightly at the end of the tunnel. Talk to your children about what their passions are and then help them find opportunities within that realm for volunteering.
If you are like us – with every single kid wanting to volunteer at a different charity – we take turns monthly about how we will spend our family’s volunteering time. The unintended bonus of this activity is mandatory, aka “forced” family time, which has given us a lifetime of memories to draw on.
Pay it forward: We have all read about that person in a drive-through line that paid for the person behind them. Pick a day where your family, during one of your post-sports drive-through pick-up lines, pays for the person behind you. You’ll be surprised how that simple gesture of paying it forward benefits not only the person’s dinner you paid for.
Being kind: The Prophet Muhammad (saw) said that even a smile can be an act of charity. Being kind is the easiest way of providing charity to all of those around you. You never know how a genuine compliment or a simple gesture can make a difference in someone’s perception of the day. One small act of kindness, one kind word, one smile can be the butterfly effect needed to help make the world a better place.
Engaging in sadaqa is not something that we should teach our children in Ramadan, but rather year-round. As we work to instill the habits of salah (prayer), fasting, and whatever things we want our children to learn and incorporate into their habitual routines, let’s do our best to model the benefits of giving back to others. Giving back for the sake of Allah (S) – whether monetarily or the time you give or the kindness you spread, whatever you choose to do with your kids – is an amazing gift to give your child.
Until next time,
Zaiba Hasan is part of the dynamic duo behind the award-winning podcast, Mommying While Muslim. She is a spiritual parent coach at Emerge Parenting Solutions (launching January 2022), interfaith mediator and sports mama extraordinaire. Look for her on the baseball fields and basketball courts in the DMV (Washington, D.C.-Maryland-Virginia) area cheering from the sidelines.
How do you teach your children about volunteering, charity work and giving back? Share with us in the comments below!