In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Dispenser of Grace
Assalamu `Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu
I was asked to speak about masjid membership this evening. This is a topic that poses challenges to any institution dependent on voluntary membership.
In my talk this evening I would like to contextualise the motivation for registering as a member of the Claremont Main Road Masjid, by elaborating the Islamic concept of sadaqa, and more specifically that of sadaqa jariya.
I want to start by reminding ourselves what it means to give sadaqa, what we generally understand to mean charity, and consider the benefits and virtues of giving charity.
The Concept of Sadaqa
When we think of sadaqa we most frequently think of it in terms of giving charity to the poor and needy. This usually takes the form of money, food or clothes. These are indeed noble acts of charity. However, in Islam, the concept of sadaqa is not limited to these forms of giving. Islam considers all good deeds as charity:
Abu Musa narrated that the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said, “Every Muslim has to give sadaqah (charity).” The people asked, “O Messenger of Allah, If someone has nothing to give, what will he do?” The Prophet) said, “He should work with his hands and benefit himself and also give in charity (from what he earns).” The people further asked, “If he cannot do even that?” The Prophet replied, “Then he should help the needy who ask for help.” Then the people asked again, “If he cannot do (even) that?” The Prophet replied, “Then he should perform all that is good and beneficial and keep away from all that is sinful and harmful and this will be regarded as charitable deeds.” (Bukhari Vol. 2, Hadith 524)
From this hadith, and many others, we learn that every act of kindness and generosity extended to others, be it in the form of our time, our words, our knowledge, our skills and our guidance, are all regarded as acts of charity. Even a smile to a fellow human being is considered an act of charity. One of the greatest benefits of giving charity is that not only does it benefit us while we are alive, by making us more caring and compassionate human beings, but also benefits us in the hereafter. The Prophet (SAW) is reported to have said:
“The believer's shade on the Day of Resurrection will be his Sadaqa.” (Ahmad)
The Islamic concept of sadaqa is broadened through the notion of sadaqa jariya. The significance and meaning of sadaqa jariya is explained in the following hadith, reported by Abu Hurayra:
The Prophet (SAW) said: ”When a person dies, no good deeds live on after him or her, except for three things: continuing charity (i.e. sadaqa jariyah), knowledge which can benefit others, and virtuous offspring who will pray for him or her.” (Muslim)
The meaning of charity is extended to a ‘continuing charity’ – a sadaqa jariya. By this is meant a sadaqa that continues to benefit others even after our deaths, and for as long as it does so, it brings reward to the donor even if he or she has passed on to the hereafter. Examples of sadaqa jariya are given in another hadith narrated by Abu Hurayra:
“The good deeds that will reach a believer after his death are: knowledge which he learned and then spread; a righteous child whom he leaves behind; a copy of the Quran that he leaves as a legacy; a mosque that he built; a house that he built for wayfarers; a canal that he dug; or charity that he gave during his lifetime when he was in good health. These deeds will reach him after his death.” [Ibn Majah/242]
We learn from these examples that sadaqa jariya are the legacies, the heritages, the bequests, the gifts we leave behind when we die – things from which others will reap perpetual benefits.
We have a wonderful tradition within the muslim community, where people print and distribute yaseen surahs to friends and family in memory of a deceased relative. This is indeed a sadaqa jariya, for as long as people read from these surahs, given as gifts, the reward is accrued to the donor, as well as the deceased for whom supplications are made. So too, contributing to the establishment and maintenance of public institutions like masajid, educational facilities, orphanages, old age homes, libraries and other facilities that will continue to benefit others after our life time, are just a few examples of opportunities for sadaqa jariya.
Motivating Masjid Membership
It is within this context, that I want to encourage us to consider registering as members of the Claremont Main Road Masjid as an act of sadaqa jariya. The motivation is two fold:
Hence my argument that becoming a registered member of this masjid is a sadaqa jariya, because what we will leave behind through our contributions after we have passed on, are a masjid infrastructure and institutional legacy that will benefit generations to come. In addition to it being sadaqa jariya, helping to build and support a masjid has special merit. This is what is narrated in the words of the Prophet (SAW):
“Whoever builds a masjid for the sake of Allah, even if it is like the nest of a sand grouse, Allah will build for him a house in Paradise.” [Narrated by Ahmad, 2157].
In other words, never mind how small the masjid building or community, the reward for contributing to its sustainability will be accrued in this world and the hereafter. We should think of this form of sadaqa as going beyond the annual donations we may make to other noble institutions, or the one off donations we may make when confronted with a beggar or needy person. With this sadaqa jariya we will reap the rewards every time someone prays in the masjid or every time someone teaches or acquires new knowledge in the masjid, or is being inspired by some words of advice to become a better person, Insha-Allah.
Many of us have become accustomed to making monthly payments for insurance policies as an investment into our futures – why not think of a masjid membership subscription as an investment into our futures in the hereafter (al akhira). Let us also not think of membership contributions only in financial terms, but also in terms of other forms of contributions, which each one of us can make to build this institution into one of the leading Islamic centres in the country.
Already, CMRM has an established reputation of critically reflecting on and engaging with issues that affect us as muslim citizens, locally and globally. Many people have been drawn to this masjid over the years because of its strong commitment to the anti-apartheid struggle and its compassionate vision of Islam. This masjid is renowned for its contributions to and participation in inter-faith forums. This masjid has a rich tradition of encouraging youth participation and inviting guest speakers who offer us diverse perspectives on living Islam in the 21st century. CMRM is one of the few masjids that regularly publishes its khutbahs and boasts a website that is regularly updated with khutbahs, project news and events.
In order for the Claremont Main Road Masjid to continue to thrive, it needs to grow its active membership so that there are constantly new voices, new ideas, new energies that can take forward its projects and programmes. With greater human and financial resources and capacity, CMRM can for example, build on and undertake more social upliftment projects that reach out to the poor and needy communities of our city; we can re-invigorate our masjid library by expanding on the resources and publications we produce and make available; we can build on and consolidate our work in interfaith forums; we can design and offer more youth development and leadership programmes.
As active members, we can strive together to build an institutional legacy for future generations, of bearing witness to Islam that upholds the virtues of social justice and compassion that this masjid has always espoused.
Many of us from this jamat have parents or grand-parents or great-grand parents, and other friends and family who were once part of a vibrant Claremont community, broken apart by the destructive group areas act. In fact, we are blessed and fortunate to still have, within our jamaat, people like Boeta Achmat Saban, Boeta Achmat Gamieldien, Boeta Leiman and Boeta Jowa Abrahams who themselves were part of that community.
Let us honour the memories of all those people who were part of the Claremont Muslim community, to whom this masjid was bequeathed, by committing ourselves to contributing to the vision of Islam at CMRM, of which they can be proud.
As each one of us continues to pray regularly in this masjid, and to reap the benefits of the knowledge transmitted through the khutbahs and lectures in the masjid, let us reflect on what more we can do, through our sadaqa, to contribute to the sustainability and vibrancy of this masjid.
I conclude with the following verse from the Qur’an:
Ar-Rum (The· Romans [30:39]
وَمَا آَتَيْتُمْ مِنْ زَكَاةٍ Whatever you give in charity
تُرِيدُونَ وَجْهَ اللَّهِ seeking thereby the Countenance of Allah,
فَأُولَئِكَ هُمُ الْمُضْعِفُونَ will bring you multiple rewards
Shukran, was salamu `alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu