By Abdullahi Abubakar Lamido
A person who sponsors and takes good care of a single orphan is assured of a mansion in the choicest quarters of Firdaus at the centre of the Prophet’s Estate, enjoying their eternal life as a neighbour to the Infallible Master (sallalahu alaihi wa sallam). In the Hadith of Bukhari, the Prophet says, “The caretaker of the orphan and I will enter paradise like this, raising (by way of illustration) his forefinger and middle finger jointly, leaving no space in-between.”
A community flooded with orphans and vulnerable children with no access to food, clothing, shelter, education, and medicare; orphans whose neglect aggravate their vulnerability to all sorts of socio-economic dangers; should prioritise taking care of them. If competing in building mosques even where there is less need is to get paradise, why not also invest in this sure way to Heaven?
And, why not consider endowments for fighting hunger also? When a person asked the Prophet, what is the best act in Islam, the Prophet mentioned two actions: “To feed (others) and to greet those whom you know and those whom you do not know” (Bukhari). And the Prophet also counted “feeding others” among the surest ways to paradise, alongside spreading salam, strengthening kinship ties and night prayers. Why not, then also emphasise in our society, making endowments for feeding the needy and the millions of the malnourished and unnourished children as a guaranteed path to paradise?
My honest opinion is that rather than rebuilding or redecorating some mosques, we need to invest more in empowering our imams and their followers. We can all see how the “imamdom” is gradually being saturated with incapable scholars leading ignorant followers in prayers within well-decorated mosques. As if we have forgotten that giving quality education and “beneficial knowledge” to people is itself a sustainable afterlife investment, one that may even often have more multiplier effects and trickle-down effects in terms of fetching rewards perpetually and building the Muslim community progressively.
If one sponsors a young man to become an Islamic scholar and imam, anytime this trained scholar preaches and teaches, the sponsor has a reward commission. And when the students of the imam teach or use the knowledge, the sponsor is assured of a commission. It continues in that way till “the end of history”! So, if the search for reward is what makes us race in building worship places, then so should building qualitative worshipers. We should, in fact, see the creation of generations of qualitative Muslims as a “blue ocean”; a virgin and highly underexplored otherworldly investment opportunity.
Some may remind us that the Prophet’s first thing after hijra was to build a mosque. True. But that was first because there was none. And secondly, this mosque, as a primary symbol of Islam, was built for companions who were well educated in Makkah before migration, plus the Medinan community that was also educated by no other scholar than the great Mus’ab bin ‘Umayr.
In any case, the Prophet built the mosque because it was a priority by all standards; there was a need. And so immediately after that, he also paid attention to other developmental matters, including socio-economic priorities like establishing the Medinan Market (Suq al-Madinah). He also immediately began calling companions to “purchase” homes in Jannah through addressing human needs. That was how Uthman got an edifice in Jannah by purchasing the well of Ruma and dedicating it as waqf. That was how Abu Talha got Paradise by committing a waqf of his garden to benefit the needy and his poor relatives.
In fact, as recorded, most rich companions got their direct entry admission to Jannah through spending on human needs; Uthman bought and did waqf of the Ruma well, Umar dedicated the Thamqh garden for the poor, wayfarers and the rest, and the list goes. Little did we remember that in addition to doing a waqf of his mosque, virtually all the other waqfs of the Prophet were for welfare and socio-economic empowerment.
We need to discuss whether building the Muslims and making them self-sufficient should continue to receive our philanthropic priorities or building mansions in the name of mosques – even where there is less need – which would mostly be populated by undedicated, hungry, dirty and largely ill worshippers. Building worship places is undoubtedly required, guaranteed key to paradise, ceteris paribus. It is, however, one of many means to getting admission to paradise. Why, then, should we not start to amplify other keys to paradise, especially those in some contexts such as ours that may appear weightier on the scale of Muslim priorities?
It is not in the interest of Islam to have dirty looking Muslims attending multimillion naira mosques. Islam wants educated, neat, tranquil, self-sufficient, qualitative Muslims whose worship is knowledge-based. So, when some philanthropists focus on building worship places, others need to invest in other equally rewarding endeavours. Wherever we have no worship place, it is a collective duty upon the community members to initiate one. However, where we already have one, we must prioritise other joint obligations; taking care of the orphans, the poor and widows being one of them. We can do it through building revenue-generating waqfs that can perpetually help the poor and everlasting generate rewards to the donor.
Abdullahi Abubakar Lamido is the Chairman Zakah and Waqf Foundation Gombe, Nigeria. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.