Feeding the Hungry in the Light of Islam
Food is the basic necessity of life but in many parts of the world, there are many who sleep with empty stomachs. Men, women, and children who do not have access to sufficient food, mostly due to financial constraints, are living a life below poverty line. It is the responsibility of the wealthier half of the world to help those in need and make sure they have access to, at least, the basic necessities.
Islam teaches us to take care of the needy ones, regardless of their religion or race. In a number of Hadith, Allah’s Messenger (P.B.U.H) advised Muslims to feed the hungry:
"Feed the hungry, visit the sick and set free the captives." (Bukhari)
In a Qur’anic verse, Allah Ta’ala tells us about the righteous ones in these words:
“(The righteous are those) who feed the poor, the orphan and the captive for the love of God, saying: 'We feed you for the sake of God Alone; we seek from you neither reward nor thanks.’” (Quran, 76:8-9)
It is considered a duty of every Muslim to help other human beings as well as he can with the means that he has. But he should not do so expecting a return. Charity should be done solely for Allah and we should expect a reward only from him. One should not even expect a word of thanks from those he helped.
Allah Ta’ala wants every believer to feel the pain of those do not have enough to eat. To instill empathy, he has made it compulsory for all Muslims to fast the entire month of Ramadan.
In another Hadith, Prophet (P.B.U.H) said:
“He is not a believer who eats his fill whilst his neighbour beside him goes hungry" (Bukhari)
The above hadith emphasizes the importance of caring for one’s poor neighbours. A point to note here and in all the previous quotations is that the needy person’s religion is not of any importance. Even if a person is Kafir or Mushrik, we, as Muslims, should help him and make sure he does not go to bed on an empty stomach.
Allah wants Muslims to help others so He made some forms of charity obligatory for those who are blessed with riches. It is mandatory for wealthy Muslims to give 2.5% of their savings to indigent ones each year. This step ensures a steady regulation of wealth among all the people. Allah Ta’ala mentions believers in the following words:
"They were enjoined only to worship God, sincere in their faith in Him alone - and of upright religion - and to establish the Salat and the Zakat. Such is the upright religion.” (Qur’an 98:5)
Moreover, Islam asks believers to do charity as a means of repentance and atonement for one’s sins or, as compensation, in case of inability to observe certain religious obligations. For example, if a person breaks an oath, he has to feed ten poor people or if one cannot fast due to any illness, he has to feed indigent people as compensation.