Charitable giving has always been a basic tenet of Islam; the third of the five pillars of the religion. The Most Gracious and Merciful Allah [swt] says in the Quran, “Believe in Allah and His Messenger, and spend in charity out of the substance whereof He has made you heirs. For those who believe and spend in charity, for them is a great reward.” (57:7)
Prophet Muhammad, the last Messenger of Allah, is quoted in one hadith: “Charity never decreases wealth. Rather, it increases it.” Ten short verses into the beginning of the Quran, charitable giving is mentioned for the first time; it is mentioned constantly throughout the rest of the holy book.
But during the month of Ramadan, charity takes on an even greater importance. Good deeds performed during the holy month are rewarded more than those performed in other months, deed that include charitable giving. According to one hadith, the virtue of charity during Ramadan is seventy times the virtue of charity in other months. That is why a lot of Muslims choose to give their annual zakat during Ramadan, and of course there is the separate zakat al-fitr that all Muslims who can afford to give to make sure needy families enjoy a celebratory Eid feast at the conclusion of Ramadan.
In the final days of this year’s Ramadan, soccer star Mesut Ozil performed an act of charity so grand it made international headlines. Ozil, a 26-year-old midfielder who plays for Arsenal in England’s Premier League and for Germany’s national team, personally paid for 11 children hospitalized in Brazil to receive potentially life-saving surgery.
It was a gesture Ozil first made last summer, when he and the German national team were in Brazil winning the FIFA World Cup championship. In addition to promising to donate his World Cup bonus paycheck to charity, Ozil paid for 23 Brazilian kids to receive needed surgery — equal to the number of players on the German national team. This year, he did the same for 11 children in need — equal to the number of players in a soccer team’s starting lineup — at a hospital in the city of Maranhao.
Beyond the rewards he may receive from the Most High, insha’Allah, and the praise he has received from the rest of us on this planet, Ozil’s act epitomizes the spirit of Ramadan.
Through fasting and denying ourselves the luxury of our typical food and drink intake, through giving charity to those in need, through offering prayer more often than usual and making increased dua, Muslims should be spending a lot of their time during Ramadan thinking of others more than we normally think of ourselves.
Ozil could have paid for 23 Brazilian kids to have surgery last year while he was in that spotlight and in that moment, left Brazil and never thought of that country again, and he’d still be considered a hero. To repeat his act of charity for 11 more Brazilian kids this year, when it was unexpected and out of the spotlight (until the media caught on and the spotlight came to him), Ozil is proving truly mindful of not only his privilege but the plights of others, and genuinely caring for the sick and needy.