An encouraging smile as you pass a stranger. An uplifting word to a brother or sister. A brief moment of full attentiveness as a friend discloses their troubles. A period of quality time spent with the family. These may seem like mere strokes in our day, yet when observed in its entirety, these strokes come together to form the vivid painting of our lives. With each act of giving – whether it’s a smile, a word, or a moment of our time – our canvas becomes rich with color.

But how you choose to decorate that canvas is up to you – it’s your art. You might use a defined paintbrush, or you might smear on some color with your fingers. Creating art is not limited to just one way, as each approach ultimately forms a unique and creative piece. Use markers, stencils, crayons, or any other technique you prefer. That’s the beauty of giving as well, that there are endless ways to do it. And yet each generous action ultimately adds to the exquisiteness of our canvas in the eyes of Allah (may He be praised and exalted).

Many times when we think of giving, our minds race to the idea of monetarily giving to the less fortunate. Although as Muslims we are encouraged to give part of our earnings as zakat and sadaqa, charity is much more than that. Allah (glory be to Him)’s mercy is so vast that even if we, especially as students like myself, do not have the means to give from our wealth, our generosity to others is still written as charity when we give the intangible. The Prophet (peace be upon him) states:

“…Enjoining good, forbidding evil, removing thorns, bones and stones from the paths of people, guiding the blind, listening to the deaf and dumb until you understand them, guiding a person to his object of need if you know where it is, hurrying with the strength of your legs to one in sorrow who is appealing for help, and supporting the weak with the strength of your arms. These are all the doors of sadaqa.” [Ahmad]

It doesn’t just stop there, for even a small generous deed is never belittled in the eyes of Allah (glory be to Him). From extending your obedience and love to your parents to offering your hospitality to your guests; there are countless ways of giving. Generosity, in all its aspects, is such an immense part of our deen that Allah (glorified and exalted be He) specifically stresses that in order to gain His bestowments, you must first give from yourself.

“Never will you attain the good [reward] until you spend [in the way of Allah] from that which you love. And whatever you spend – indeed, Allah is Knowing of it.” (3:92)

Sometimes we may consider donating and so we end up searching our houses for worn-out items or scrounge our closets for clothes we’ve grown out of. Although these contributions have their worth, Allah (the Mighty and Sublime) states that the utmost level of iman is to “spend from that which we love.” Yes, it might be easier to give away those things that we don’t necessarily think much of anymore, but how many times have we given away something that is truly dear to us? Have we recently offered someone else one of our most prized possessions? What may be stopping us? This action might be difficult due to the materialistic society in which we live in today. We are taught that if we don’t accumulate materials, we’ll get left behind in the race. Society says “me, me, me” while Islam says “you, you, you.”

”None of you will truly believe until you love for your brother what you love for yourself.” (Al-Bukhari)

When it comes down to it, generosity is one of the most noble traits of a believer as it requires selflessness from them. The act of giving is not only considered an act of worship, but it is much more in that it begins to mold itself as part of who we are. It allows us to grow in our empathy for others and in our love for our brothers and sisters. The act of giving forms bonds and unity. It creates the foundation for this Ummah. So smile and spread the love in every way you choose until your painting thrives with color.

They say beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Will the ultimate Beholder like what He sees?

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One Response to "The Blank Canvas of Generosity"

  1. Arif Kabir says:

    We often think of our deeds on books and on the scale. But to think of it on a canvas beautifully detailed by our good deeds? Very creative piece, masha’Allah.