Call for Charity Transcends Religion
Sunday, June 4, 2006; 5:26 AM
Last year, when my grandmother died, my father told me to read "Surat Yasin," a chapter of the Islamic holy book often referred to as "the heart of the Koran." Following the example of the Prophet Muhammad, Muslims read this chapter at sickbeds and in memory of the dead. So, thousands of miles from where my grandmother was being buried in Mecca, I pulled my Koran off the shelf and recited out loud to myself, intoning with the proper pronunciation, or "tajweed," I had learned in grade school in Saudi Arabia.
Much of the chapter contrasts belief and skepticism. One verse in particular stood out to me and made me cry. It speaks of people who refute the need for charity: "And when it is said to them, 'Spend out of what God has given you,' those who disbelieve say to those who believe, 'Shall we feed him whom, if God please, He could feed?'." To me, the emphasis on giving to those in need, on not taking God's gifts for granted, are principles that lie at the heart of Islam.
But what floored me, what made me cry in the way that people of any faith weep when presented with a clear sign of truth in religious texts or sermons, was knowing that you don't need to be Muslim, or an adherent of any faith at all, to believe in charity and goodness. Or to see that, 1,400 years after the Koran was revealed to Muhammad, the skeptics are still out there.
--Eman Quotah, Rockville