Commentary on the Quran (Chapter 2:261)
By: Mohammad Sobhanie
Charity the Source of Human Growth
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
مَّثَلُ الَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ أَمْوَالَهُمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ كَمَثَلِ حَبَّةٍ أَنبَتَتْ سَبْعَ سَنَابِلَ فِي كُلِّ سُنبُلَةٍ مِّائَةُ حَبَّةٍ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ يُضَاعِفُ لِمَن يَشَاءُ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ ﴿٢٦١﴾
2:261 The parable of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah (SWT) is like a grain which grows seven ears; in each ear is a hundred grains. And Allah (SWT) multiplies [Gods Reward] for whom God wills. And Allah (SWT) is All-Encompassing and All-Knowing.
Commentary 261: The verse states: “The parable of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah (SWT) is like a grain which grows seven ears” (مَّثَلُ الَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ أَمْوَالَهُمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ كَمَثَلِ حَبَّةٍ أَنبَتَتْ سَبْعَ سَنَابِلَ) “In each ear is a hundred grains.” (فِي كُلِّ سُنبُلَةٍ مِّائَةُ حَبَّةٍ) Their reward could even be greater, since “Allah (SWT) multiplies (God’s Reward) for whom God Wills .” (وَاللَّـهُ يُضَاعِفُ لِمَن يَشَاءُ). Indeed, “Allah (SWT) is vast in mercy and All-knowing.” (وَاللَّـهُ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ)
‘‘The way of Allah (SWT)’’ (فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ) means an action that is done for the sake of God for the benefit of the people. It is pertinent to emphasize the verse likens generous people to a grain that germinates and spreads roots in the ground. The stem from this root then protrudes from the earth and eventually turns into a plant that produces 700 grains. This implies that giving charity is a source of human spiritual growth. Some commentators likened the wealth given away in charity to a grain which multiples to 700 seeds. They interpreted the verse as the following:
مَّثَلُ الَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ أَمْوَالَهُمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ كَمَثَلِ )مَنْ زَرَعَ( حَبَّةٍ أَنبَتَتْ سَبْعَ سَنَابِلَ
The parable of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah (SWT) is like a farmer who sows a grain which grows seven ears. This implies that giving charity brings immense rewards for the benefactor.
General Discussion: Islam identifies two duties that ought to be observed by mankind, which is “the right of the people” (حق الناس) and “the right of Allah (SWT)” (حق الله).
The duties of rich people are to spend on the public’s welfare, especially the poor and needy, and avoid waste. The Quran calls the wasteful people “Al-Mubaththireena” (الْمُبَذِّرِينَ)’ or the Shaytan’s brother.
One of the objectives of charity is to improve the living standard of poor people, or those who cannot meet their expenses without aid. Hence, Islam outlines various types of spending in charity. Some are mandatory and others are recommended. Zakat, Khums (the 1/5th tax), penalties to expiate certain illegalities, various types of redemption are mandatory spending. Endowments, general donation, gifts, etc., are recommended ones.
On the other hand, Islam has strictly forbidden the rich people from living a glamorous life and showing off their wealth. It allows them to live in a reasonable and honorable manner. Still, it forbids extravagance and the squandering of wealth in a lavish manner that is above the average person’s reach.
Observing these two duties brings love and compassion within a community, closes social rifts, closes the wealth disparities between the rich and poor, eradicates crime, and brings social justice to society. The roots of all social issues can be traced back to poverty, such as drug addiction, alcoholism, gang involvement, etc. If a low-income family that is not to blame for its poverty can educate its children, the next generation will also decrease their likelihood of being poor. Poverty can be a vicious cycle; once a generation falls into it, the subsequent generation faces much more difficulty freeing themselves from it.
After all, we are all brethren in humanity, and all universal wealth ultimately belongs to Allah (SWT). God bestows some more than others and put us as custodians of God’s wealth. Then, God asks us to give to charity for our benefits. What is the reason not to heed God’s command?
 Al-Mizan, Vol. 2, P. 591
 Al-Mizan, Vol. 2, P.587
 Al-Isra, 17:27