According to Islam, charity enriches not only spiritually but also materially. The history of Tai Ji Men continuously show charity in action.
by Davide S. Amore*
*A paper presented at the webinar “Tai Ji Men: A Message of Charity, Conscience, and Human Rights,” co-organized by CESNUR and Human Rights Without Frontiers on September 4, 2023, on the eve of the United Nations International Day of Charity.
Charity, known as “ṣadaqah” or “zakāh” in Islam, holds a profound and integral role within the faith. The concept of charity does not designate merely an act of giving, but rather a spiritual obligation deeply rooted in the teachings of Islam. It reflects the principles of compassion, social responsibility, and solidarity with the less fortunate, thereby fostering a sense of community and empathy among believers.
Zakāh, one of the Five Pillars of Islam, is a mandatory form of charity that requires Muslims to give a portion of their wealth to those in need. It is both a financial obligation and a means of purifying one’s wealth and soul. Zakāh is calculated based on a certain percentage of one’s accumulated wealth, and it is distributed to specific categories of recipients outlined in Islamic jurisprudence, including the poor, the needy, debtors, and travellers, among others. By fulfilling this duty, Muslims acknowledge the transient nature of worldly possessions and affirm their commitment to uplifting the marginalized members of society.
Ṣadaqah, on the other hand, is a voluntary act of charity that can take various forms, such as donating money, offering one’s skills, or aiding those in need in different ways. Sadaqah is not limited by rules or calculations and is considered a means of seeking blessings and personal growth. It embodies the spirit of selflessness, kindness, and generosity, reflecting the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, who said, as reported in “Sunan Abi Dawud” 43, 175:
حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ كَثِيرٍ، أَخْبَرَنَا سُفْيَانُ، عَنْ أَبِي مَالِكٍ الأَشْجَعِيِّ، عَنْ رِبْعِيِّ بْنِ حِرَاشٍ، عَنْ حُذَيْفَةَ، قَالَ نَبِيُّكُمصلى الله عليه وسلم “ كُلُّ مَعْرُوفٍ صَدَقَةٌ ”.
[Ḥudhayfah said: “Your prophet (may peace be upon him) said: ‘Every good act is a ṣadaqah (almsgiving).’”]
The concept of charity in Islam extends beyond financial contributions. It encompasses the notion of giving with a pure heart, free from any desire for recognition or reward. The act of charity should be performed discreetly, protecting the dignity of the recipients, and allowing givers to cultivate humility. This principle aligns with the Quranic verse (3, 92) that states:
﴿لَن تَنَالُوا۟ ٱلْبِرَّ حَتَّىٰ تُنفِقُوا۟ مِمَّا تُحِبُّونَ ۚ وَمَا تُنفِقُوا۟ مِن شَىْءٍۢ فَإِنَّ ٱللَّهَ بِهِۦ عَلِيمٌۭ﴾
[You shall never attain active goodness unless you spend from what you love. Whatsoever you spend, Allah is fully aware of it.]
Islam emphasizes the interconnectedness of humanity, highlighting the responsibility believers have towards their fellow human beings. By practicing charity, Muslims recognize that their wealth is a blessing from God and that sharing it with others is a way of expressing gratitude and acknowledging the common humanity that binds us all. The act of giving is not seen as a burden, but rather as an opportunity to participate in the collective effort of alleviating suffering and promoting social justice.
Furthermore, charity in Islam goes beyond providing immediate relief. It also encourages the establishment of sustainable systems that uplift communities in the long run. This can include initiatives for education, healthcare, and infrastructure development, all of which contribute to the holistic well-being of society.
All the above clearly resonates in the historical path of Tai Ji Men and in the personal story of its Shifu (Grand Master), Dr. Hong Tao-Tze. They have always responded to the tribulations and adversities that gradually struck them through charity, love, and justice towards their neighbours. All this has led them from being a local reality to becoming international players in historical events affecting humankind.
In other words, by showing charity, love, and justice they have enriched themselves and have enriched us too with their example. They built enduring and living testimonies of their charity and love, so much so that new Tai Ji Men Qigong Academies will soon be inaugurated in the United States and Tai Ji Men continues to gain international recognition, despite the persecution it has been subjected to in Taiwan.
In conclusion, the concept of charity in Islam transcends mere financial transactions. It encompasses a deep spiritual dimension that emphasizes compassion, selflessness, and community-building. The practices of zakāh and ṣadaqah reflect the fundamental values of Islam and serve to create a just and caring society. Through acts of charity, Muslims demonstrate their devotion to God and their commitment to fostering a world characterized by empathy and shared responsibility. These are all values Muslim share with Tai Ji Men Shifu and dizi, who operate every day to build a world based on conscience, love, and peace, thus demonstrating how charity may work in practice.