He grew up witnessing an indulgent society where the vulnerable suffered, a culture still with us fourteen centuries later when half the global population live in poverty.
Muhammad sought to restore the balance in society, to bring justice to the poor and needy, and dubbed charity a ‘proof of faith’. In his own house he scarcely had food to eat – whatever he received he would give away to those who needed it more. Alongside monetary donations, he expanded the meaning of charity to encompass every kind act: to protect others from harm, to listen to grievances, even to remove litter from the street.
Muhammad’s absolute commitment to charity gave rise to some of the most generous acts in history. Throughout Muslim cities and towns, including Damascus, Cairo and Baghdad, hundreds of institutions offered housing for the homeless, provisions for widows and orphans, care for the disabled. Soup kitchens were set up throughout the Ottoman Empire to feed hundreds of people each day. One 500 year old food centre still serves vegetables in the old city of Jerusalem today.
His legacy continues now as Muslims across the world set up and form part of aid agencies, support groups, counselling services, and a multitude of charities. With his instruction to be charitable “every single day the sun rises” Muslims join with people everywhere to be of benefit to our fellow humans.