Now we proceed to Field Seventeen, Mu’amalat.
Mu’amalat refers to the field of human interaction and exchange, where there should be mutual benefit. It can refer to business transactions and social agreements, but Ansari’s understanding of Mu’amalat extends beyond this legal aspect to cover all human and creaturely interaction.
What is the quality of one’s interaction with other beings who share together life on this earth? Are we fair, are we generous, are we charitable?
From the field of Piety the field of Spiritual Transaction is born. Allah Most High says, “And take mutual counsel together, according to what is just and reasonable…65:6
Spiritual transaction has three elements: behaving with fairness, bestowing generously with virtue, and being charitable with grace.
Shaykh Ansari is telling us that fairness, generosity and charity should be the foundation of all our interactions with others. Allah reminds us of this in the exhortation, Establish weight with justice and fall not short in the balance. 55:9
The sense of fairness is actually ingrained in the heart. We hear the word ‘fair’ most often from children when they cry out, “that is not fair!” to stop some transaction in which they feel they are not being properly treated or compensated, in which another child is seemingly getting more benefit than themselves or their parents are not deciding justly.
As parents we most likely have all heard this exclamation.
The more mature conscience, among children and adults, extends this sense of justice, the balance of giving and receiving, toward others as well. So we are intensely concerned that the other is fairly treated.
Allah the Wise and Generous has placed the scale of justice in our conscience as part of our innate guidance. The wellbeing of a family, a society and the world depends on this inner sense of fairness. Fair exchanges help to bind us harmoniously together and to bring about goodness through our relationships. When fairness fails, family and society fall apart.
Animal societies are based on fairness too, even though it might not appear that way to us. Each member is apportioned what is fair according to what helps the family survive. Animal fairness is closer to Allah’s fairness.
Allah’s fairness is not our fairness. Allah gives to each creature exactly what it needs for its wellbeing and spiritual growth. We do not have the wisdom and capacity to do that. But we can give and share according to our best judgment and understanding.
Beyond fairness come generosity and charity. Generosity is also an innate quality of the heart. And again, children are a good example of this. We see babies extending their hand to put food into their parents’ mouths. We see children giving and sharing without thought of ‘there won’t be enough.’ We also see the opposite of course. But the appearance of selfishness does not contradict the innate generosity of the heart.
Ansari recommends that we offer generously with ‘virtue’. This would mean that we do not glorify our self for the generosity that comes through us, but rather that we see it as coming from Allah. We are only the agents, the servants of the Generous One. And to offer with ‘virtue’ would also mean that we do not highlight the act of generosity to the one to whom we are giving. It should flow naturally and remain more invisible than visible. The best is when it is entirely veiled, like Allah’s generosity. But that is not always possible. So just treat it as nothing much.
And insha’allah ‘charity with grace’ means something similar. Charity should be given subtly and invisibly if possible. That makes it graceful. Charity can be nullified if it is boasted about.
Charity is usually given to those who are in difficulty and distress – and the Koran mentions specifically certain people – while ‘generosity’ is the act of giving more than what is required by fairness and charity. Generosity is often related to the hand as this is the limb by which we give and share sustenance. Even Allah’s generosity is mentioned with the image of the hand.
“Nay, both His hands are widely outstretched: He gives and spends as He pleases.” 5:64
On the day of Truth our hands and our limbs and faculties will relate how we employed them. Generosity can also be from the mind and the tongue when we speak or think of someone.
Generosity is a beauty, a grace and a way of being. It stems from trusting in Allah. When one of the mystics was asked about generosity they replied, “How could I not be generous when my Master is boundlessly rich and giving?” Everything we give will be rewarded and returned to us ten to seventy to seven hundred times! Ya Karim!
Fairness is achieved through three things: bashfulness before Allah, fear of consequences, and striving to be the best one can be.
Bestowing generously has three signs: fleeing from miserliness, seeing the value and nobility of magnanimity, and recognizing what is worthwhile.
Charity with grace has three signs: choosing harmony and unanimity over conflict with people, choosing eternal happiness over what is a passing pleasure, and choosing eternal dignity and nobility over the preoccupations of this world.
Ansari concludes this field with the advice, Act with yourself by demanding from yourself, with people by being fair to them, and with Allah by standing sincerely before Him.
Ya Adl, Ya Karim, Ya Wahhab, Ya Jamil, Ya Hu