We live in a world where wealth is the most important indicator of how much respect a person receives in society. It would be no further than the truth if one were to say that the overwhelming purpose of acquiring an education is gaining wealth. People spend a majority of their lifetime — say 15, 20, 25 years or even more — receiving an education to acquire more and more wealth. But alas, it is plainly obvious that all the wealth a person gains in this lifetime has to be left behind when you die.
Not a single dollar that you earn can save you from death or benefit you in the life after death. Steve Jobs could not find a cure for his pancreatic cancer and the billionaire king of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, could not postpone his death by a few minutes using his unimaginable wealth. So then why do people spend so much time even in their last days or hours of their life on earth worried about protecting their wealth, or worse, making even more of it? More importantly, is there a way for a human being to preserve all the wealth that he or she has earned on this earth and transfer it to the life after death so it could be useful in buying the necessities and luxuries of life there?
The answer to this question is an overwhelming yes for a person of faith, a person who calls himself a Muslim and who believes that his Creator, Allah, has not created him in vain. Allah, the Creator and Giver of all wealth, has provided a simple method for his servants to preserve, increase and transfer their wealth whether it is just a few dollars or billions to the life after death. This simple method is called charity, which takes two forms: obligatory charity called zakat and an optional charity called sadaqa.
Let’s take a look at an investor’s perspective on charity. The single most important thing a person of wealth is concerned about is the preservation of his assets — everyone would like their hard-earned wealth to increase or at least does not want it to decrease due to inflation. So every one of us is looking for some ways to invest our money whether it is in real estate, the stock market or a business so it can multiply. The most lucrative investment is obviously the stock market which at the same time is also the riskiest. For example, take a look at Amazon. The company’s stock that sold for roughly $2 per share in 1997 is now worth about $970 a share, indicating that has multiplied 500 times since. So if you bought Amazon stock for $100 in 1997 it would be worth $50,000 today, a gain of 50,000%. That is an enormous return. Costco, which came to the market in 1982 for 72 cents a share is worth $172 a share after nearly 35 years, a gain of 23,000%. Who would refuse such gigantic returns, especially if the CEOs of Amazon or Costco were to come to you personally and promise that kind of return?
Now let us turn our attention from methods of investment that are offered by human beings to the methods of investment Allah offers to His servants. In the Qur’an, Allah (SWT) offers clear options for investment to preserve hard-earned wealth fully transferable to the life after death.
In Surah Al-Baqara, verse 261 Allah says, “The example of those who spend in the way of Allah is just like a grain that produced seven ears, each ear having a hundred grains and Allah multiplies the reward for who he wills. Allah is All-embracing, All-knowing”.
Allah is offering a return 700 times i.e 70,000%, much higher than what you could have made expected from Amazon or Costco. So if you invest $100 in the path of Allah (donated through zakat or sadaqa) you would have $70,000 in the life hereafter. It goes without saying that the profit that you could have made on Amazon has to be left behind when you depart this earth but the profit that you would make with Allah is 100% transferable to the afterlife. Seventy-thousand percent is just the minimum that Allah offers. Each good deed or charity in Ramadan is multiplied 70 additional times. So if you were to spend the same $100 in the month of Ramadan it would be multiplied an additional 70 times for a total of 49,000 times; i.e., 5 million percent. That is an astronomical return. Who could ever offer such a return on earth? But Allah does not stop there.
In Surat Al-Qadr, Allah further says, “The night of Qadr is better than a 1000 months.” Every act of worship, be it zakat or sadaqa, done in the last 10 days of Ramadan is as though you have done it continuously for 83 years. So now multiply your return by another 1000. That is now a return of 5 billion percent. Is there a better form of investment than zakat or sadaqa?
With Allah not only are there gargantuan returns waiting for you in the hereafter if you invest in charity but there are also serious consequences if you do not the obligatory charity, or zakat. In Suratul Munafiqun Allah warns, “And spend out of what we have given to you before death overtakes one of you and he says, My Lord would you not give me some respite or some more time so that I should pay sadaqa and become one of the righteous.” Notice, he will not ask Allah to send him back so he could perform Salah or Hajj or keep fast, but he will ask his Lord to donate his wealth. This is the unique importance placed upon charity for Muslims.
In Surat Al-Tawba, verse 35 Allah further warns, “In the hereafter, the wealth will be heated in the fire of Jahannam, then their foreheads and their sides and their backs shall be branded with it. The angels will say, ‘this is what you had accumulated for yourselves. So taste of what you have been accumulating.’” On one hand you have seen that Allah encourages the people to spend in the path of Allah with zakat or sadaqa so we could achieve the highest rate of return, but on the other hand, He also warns us about the severe punishment for not spending.
It is Allah’s promise that zakat will never decrease our wealth but will only increase it. Who’s better to promise than the Lord of the worlds who owns everything on earth and the entire universe, and what better month to donate then the blessed month of Ramadan? As we enter the last 10 days, keep in mind that no one knows whether or not this will be his/her last Ramadan, so do not lose the opportunity to help your distressed brothers and sisters in Syria, Palestine, India, Burma, Somalia or wherever they may be and win the pleasure of Allah, protect ourselves and our parents, our spouses and our children from the hellfire.