In Arabic, the word ḥadīth (Arabic: حديث) means a “report, account, narrative”. To Muslims, the word Hadīth connotes “report on the words and actions of Prophet Muhammad”.
The Hadith of Gabriel (ḥadīth Jibrīl) in Sunnī Islām, is the single most important Hadīth. It is found in both the Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī and the Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim.
Though not mentioned in the Quran, but summarized in the famous hadith of Gabriel are the Five Pillars of Islam (arkān-al-Islām أركان الإسلام; also arkān ad-dīn أركان الدين “pillars of the religion”) which are the foundation of Muslim life – five basic acts in Islam, considered obligatory by believers. They are:
Shahadah (belief, confession, or declaration of faith – Muslim life)
Salat (obligatory worship in the form of prayer)
Zakat (compulsory alms or charitable giving or concern for the needy)
Sawm Ramadan (self-purification by fasting during the month of Ramadan)
Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime)
The Arabic word Ṣawm (Arabic: صوم; plural: صيام ṣiyām), regulated by Islamic jurisprudence literally means fasting – to abstain from eating and drinking during daylight hours.
The Muslims of Iran, Central Asia, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh use the words roza/rozha/roja/oruç, derived from Persian.
The Muslim communities in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Southern Thailand and Southern Philippines call it puasa, the word derived from Sanskrit, upauasa.
Annually, Muslims, worldwide, observe self-purification by fasting during the month of Ramadan which lasts 29–30 days based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon.
The word Ramadan derived from the Arabic root ramiḍa or ar-ramaḍ, means “scorching heat” or “dryness.” It is “obligatory” for adult Muslims to fast, except those who are ill, diabetic, traveling, pregnant, breastfeeding, or during menstrual bleeding.
The Quran states:
The month of Ramadan is that in which the Quran was revealed, a guidance to men and clear proofs of the guidance and the distinction; therefore whoever of you is present in the month, he shall fast therein, and whoever is sick or upon a journey, then (he shall fast) a (like) number of other days; Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire for you difficulty, and (He desires) that you should complete the number and that you should exalt the greatness of Allah for His having guided you and that you may give thanks. [Quran 2:185]
Bowling Green is a small public park in Lower Manhattan at the foot of Broadway next to the site of the original Dutch fort of New Amsterdam. Built in 1733, originally including a bowling green, it is the oldest public park in New York City surrounded by its original 18th-century fence. At its northern end is the Charging Bull sculpture, which is sometimes called the Wall Street Bull or the Bowling Green Bull.
While my wife and I were in New York, we saw a faithful Muslim in the Bowling Green at 1:23 pm unmindful of the blaring noise surrounding him, perseveringly reciting the Dhuhr (Noon) prayer. We were spellbound by his faith in God and his steadfast adherence to his religious duties.
Even though exiled, John Chrysostom found it possible to correspond with his supporters in Constantinople. He was still able to exert a measure of influence in his cause. His correspondences were discovered. Word came from Constantinople that he was to be removed from Caucasus to an even more remote place at the eastern end of the Black Sea to a so-called castellum, a rectangular fortress with towers at each corner, built by the Romans in the 2nd century AD in Pitiunt, in modern Abkhazia.
Imperial officials forced John Chrysostom to walk in bad weather to his new place of exile. He did not survive the exhausting journey. He died at Comana Pontica on September 14, 407. His last words are said to have been, “δόξα τῷ θεῷ πάντων ἕνεκεν”, meaning “Glory be to God for all things.“
After John Chrysostom’s death, people venerated him as a saint. Three decades later, some of his adherents in Constantinople remained in schism. Saint Proclus, the then Patriarch of Constantinople (434-446), hoping to bring about the reconciliation of these Johannites, preached a homily in the Church of Hagia Sophia, praising his predecessor He said:
“O John, your life was filled with sorrow, but your death was glorious. Your grave is blessed and reward is great, by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ O graced one, having conquered the bounds of time and place! Love has conquered space, unforgetting memory has annihilated the limits, and place does not hinder the miracles of the saint.“
These homilies helped to mobilize public opinion.
The patriarch Patriarch of Constantinople received permission from the Emperor Theodosius II, son of Arcadius and Eudoxia, to return Chrysostom’s relics from Comana to Constantinople. On January 28, 438, the relics were solemnly received by the Archbishop Proclus and the Emperor Theodosius II and enshrined in the Church of the Holy Apostles.
The Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches commemorate John Chrysostom as a “Great Ecumenical Teacher” and honour him as a saint. They count him among the Three Holy Hierarchs, together with Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzus. These three saints, in addition to having their own individual feast days, are commemorated together on January 30, a feast known as the feast known as the honour him as a saint. They count him among the Three Holy Hierarchs, together with Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzus. These three saints, in addition to having their own individual feast days, are commemorated together on January 30, a feast known as the feast known as the honour him as a saint. They count him among the Three Holy Hierarchs, together with Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzus. These three saints, in addition to having their own individual feast days, are commemorated together on January 30, a feast known as the feast known as the Synaxis of the Three Hierarchs.
There are several feast days dedicated to him:
27 January, Translation of the relics of St John Chrysostom from Comana to Constantinople. Some Lutheran and many Anglican provinces commemorate him on this traditional eastern feast.
30 January, Synaxis of the Three Great Hierarchs.
The Churches of the western tradition, including the Roman Catholic Church, some Anglican provinces, and parts of the Lutheran Church commemorate him on 13 September (Western feast day).
14 September, Repose of St John Chrysostom
13 November, St John Chrysostom the Archbishop of Constantinople (Eastern feast day).
The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria also recognizes John Chrysostom as a saint (with feast days on 16 Thout and 17 Hathor).
Here is an excerpt from one of John Chrysostom’s Homilies on confessing one’s sins:
“Are you a sinner? Do not become discouraged, and come to Church to put forward repentance. Have you sinned? Then tell God, ‘I have sinned.’
What manner of toil is this, what prescribed the course of life, what affliction? What manner of difficulty is it to make one statement, ‘I have sinned’?
Perhaps if you do not call yourself a sinner, you do not have the devil as an accuser? Anticipate this and snatch the honor away from him, because it is his purpose to accuse. Therefore, why do you not prevent him, and why do you not tell your sin and wipe it out, since you know that you have such an accuser who cannot remain silent?do you not prevent him, and why do you not tell your sin and wipe it out, since you know that you have such an accuser who cannot remain silent?
Have you sinned? Come to Church. Tell God, ‘I have sinned.’
I do not demand anything else of you than this. Holy Scripture states, ‘Be the first one to tell of your transgressions, so you may be justified.’ Admit the sin to annul it. This requires neither labor nor a circuit of words nor monetary expenditure nor anything else whatsoever such as these.
Say one word, think carefully about the sin and say, ‘I have sinned.’”
On September 27, 397, Nectarius, Bishop of Constantinople, died. There was a general rivalry in the capital for the vacant see.
After some months, to the great disappointment of the rival factions, Emperor Arcadius, at the suggestion of his minister Eutropius, asked the Prefect of Antioch to send John Chrysostom to Constantinople without the knowledge of the people of Antioch, due to fears that the departure of such a popular figure would cause civil unrest.
John Chrysostom was hurried to the capital. On February 26, 398 Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria ordained John Chrysostom as Bishop of Constantinople in the presence of a great assembly of bishops.
The life in Constantinople was more turbulent than what John Chrysostom had at Antioch. As Archbishop of Constantinople, he refused to host lavish social gatherings. This made him popular with the common people, but unpopular with the wealthy citizens. He became unpopular with the clergy for his reforms of the clergy. He told visiting regional preachers to return to the churches they were serving, without any payout.
Here is an excerpt from a homily by St. John Chrysostom on the Gospel of Matthew (Hom. 50, 3-4, PG 58, 508-509). In this homily, he warns against adorning Church buildings at the expense of caring for the suffering members of the Church:
Do you want to honor Christ’s body? Then do not scorn him in his nakedness, nor honor him here in the church with silken garments while neglecting him outside where he is cold and naked. For he who said: This is my body and made it so by his words, also said: “You saw me hungry and did not feed me, and inasmuch as you did not do it for one of these, the least of my brothers, you did not do it for me.” What we do here in the church requires a pure heart, not special garments; what we do outside requires great dedication.
Let us learn, therefore, to be men of wisdom and to honor Christ as he desires. For a person being honoured finds greatest pleasure in the honor he desires, not in the honor we think best. Peter thought he was honoring Christ when he refused to let him wash his feet, but what Peter wanted was not truly an honour, quite the opposite! Give him the honour prescribed in his law by giving your riches to the poor. For God does not want golden vessels but golden hearts.
Now, in saying this I am not forbidding you to make such gifts; I am only demanding that along with such gifts and before them you give alms. He accepts the former, but he is much more pleased with the latter. In the former, only the giver profits; in the latter, the recipient does too.
A gift to the church may be taken as a form of ostentation, but an alms is pure kindness. Of what use is it to weigh down Christ’s table with golden cups, when he himself is dying of hunger? First, fill him when he is hungry; then use the means you have left to adorn his table. Will you have a golden cup made, but not give a cup of water?
What is the use of providing the table with cloths woven of gold thread, and not providing Christ himself with the clothes he needs?
What profit is there in that? Tell me: If you were to see him lacking the necessary food, but were to leave him in that state and merely surround his table with gold would he be grateful to you or rather would he not be angry?
What if you were to see him clad in worn-out rags and stiff from the cold, and were to forget about clothing him and instead were to set up golden columns for him, saying that you were doing it in his honour? Would he not think he was being mocked and greatly insulted?
Apply this also to Christ when he comes along the roads as a pilgrim, looking for shelter. You do not take him in as your guest, but you decorate floors and walls and the capitals of the pillars. You provide silver chains for the lamps, but you cannot bear even to look at him as he lies chained in prison.
Once again, I am not forbidding you to supply these adornments; I am urging you to provide these other things as well, and indeed to provide them first. No one has ever been accused of not providing ornaments, but for those who neglect their neighbour a hell awaits with an inextinguishable fire and torment in the company of the demons. Do not, therefore, adorn the church and ignore your afflicted brother, for he is the most precious temple of all.
In 399, through the intervention of John Chrysostom and the influence of the emperor Theodosius I, Flavian was acknowledged as the sole legitimate bishop of Antioch.
Theophilus, the Patriarch of Alexandria, wanted to bring Constantinople under his jurisdiction. He opposed John’s appointment as Bishop of Constantinople, even though he had ordained him under duress instead of securing the appointment for Isidore, his own candidate. At that time, Theophilus had disciplined four Egyptian monks, known as “the Tall Brothers,” over their support of Origen’s teachings.
Origen (184/185 – 253/254) was a scholar and an early Christian theologian. He was a prolific writer in many branches of theology, including textual criticism, biblical exegesis and hermeneutics, philosophical theology, preaching, and spirituality. Some of his reputed teachings, such as the pre-existence of souls, the final reconciliation of all creatures, including perhaps even the devil (the apokatastasis), and the subordination of the Son of God to God the Father, later became controversial among Christian theologians.
The Tall Brothers fled to Constantinople and were welcomed by John Chrysostom. Theophilus accused John of being too partial to the teaching of Origen.
John Chrysostom made another enemy in Aelia Eudoxia, the Empress consort of the Byzantine Emperor Arcadius. Eudoxia assumed that his denunciations of extravagance in feminine dress were aimed at herself.
In 403 AD, Theophilus Eudoxia, and other of enemies of John Chrysostom held a synod (the Synod of the Oak) to charge John Chrysostom. They used his connection to the four Egyptian monks who espoused the teachings of Origen against him. Eventually, this resulted in the deposition and banishment of John Chrysostom from Constantinople.
The people rioted over the deposition and banishment of John Chrysostom. Also, on the night of his arrest, there was an earthquake. A frightened Aelia Eudoxia considered it as a sign of God’s anger. She beseeched Arcadius to reinstate John Chrysostom as Bishop of Constantinople.
However, peace between John Chrysostom and Eudoxia was short-lived. A silver statue of Eudoxia was erected in the Augustaion, near his cathedral. John Chrysostom denounced the dedication ceremonies. He spoke against her in harsh terms alluding to the events surrounding the death of John the Baptist:
“Again Herodias raves; again she is troubled; she dances again; and again desires to receive John’s head in a charger.“
Once again, John Chrysostom was banished, this time to the Caucasus, a region at the border of Europe and Asia, situated between the Black and the Caspian seas.
John Chrysostom wrote an appeal for help to three churchmen: Innocent I, the Bishop of Rome (Pope); Venerius, the Bishop of Milan; and Chromatius, the Bishop of Aquileia.
Pope Innocent protested against the banishment of John Chrysostom from Constantinople to the Caucasus. With the help of the western emperor Honorius, the Pope attempted to intervene, but the enemies of John Chrysostom thwarted his efforts. In 405, Pope Innocent sent a delegation to intercede on behalf of John. But the delegation never reached Constantinople.
Saint John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, was an important Early Church Father. He is considered the most prominent doctor of the Greek Church and the greatest preacher ever heard in a Christian pulpit. He is known for his preaching and public speaking. The zeal and his clarity of preaching appealed to all, especially the common people. This earned him the Greek surname “kihrys stymo” (χρυσή στόμιο) meaning “golden-mouthed.” He denounced the abuse of authority by both ecclesiastical and political leaders.
John Chrysostom was born in Antioch in 349 AD to Greco-Syrian parents.
In the fourth century, at the time of John Chrysostom’s birth, Antioch was the second city of the eastern part of the Roman Empire. Throughout the fourth century, religious struggles troubled the empire. Pagans, Manichaeans, Gnostics, Arians, Apollinarians, Jews, made their proselytes at Antioch. The Christians were themselves separated by the schism between Bishop Meletius and Bishop Paulinus for the bishopric of Antioch.
John Chrysostom’s father, Secundus, a high-ranking military officer died soon after his birth. His widowed mother Anthusa, only twenty years of age, took the sole charge of her two children John and an elder sister. She raised him in piety. Using her influence in the city, she had him study under a distinguished pagan rhetorician, Libanius, the most tenacious adherent of the declining paganism of Rome. Soon John acquired the skills for a career in rhetoric, as well as a love of the Greek language and literature.
About 367 AD, he met the Bishop Meletius. John captivated by the earnest, mild, and the winning character of the bishop frequented the sermons of Meletius. He studied Holy Scripture and soon began to withdraw from classical and profane studies and devoted himself
to an ascetic and religious life.
According to the Christian historian Sozomen, Libanius was supposed to have said on his deathbed that John Chrysostom would have been his successor “if the Christians had not taken him from us“.
About three years later John Chrysostom received Holy Baptism and was ordained lector. Later, the young cleric, desiring a perfect life entered one of the ascetic societies near Antioch.
About 375 AD, John Chrysostom resolved to live as an anchorite in one of the caves near Antioch. There, he followed extreme asceticism. He spent the next two years, continually standing and fasting in frost and cold, committing the Bible to memory. He scarcely slept at all. As a consequence of these harsh practices, his stomach and kidneys were damaged. He returned to Antioch to regain his health and resumed his office as lector in the church.
John Chrysostom was ordained as a deacon probably in 381 AD by Bishop Meletius of Antioch, president of the Second Ecumenical Council. After the death of Bishop Meletius in Constantinople in the same year, Flavian I of Antioch (ca. 320 – February 404) was ordained as bishop or Patriarch of Antioch. The Bishop of Rome and the Patriarch of Alexandria refused to acknowledge Flavian, and Paulinus, who by the extreme Eustathians had been elected bishop in opposition to Meletius, continued to exercise authority over a portion of the church.
John Chrysostom separated himself from the followers of Bishop Meletius, but he did not join Bishop Paulinus.
On the death of Bishop Paulinus in about 383, Evagrius was chosen as his successor. In 386 AD, John Chrysostom was ordained as a presbyter (a priest) by Evagrius.
Note: Actually, there is a difference of opinion on who ordained John Chrysostom as a presbyter. Some authors claim it was Bishop Flavian I, while others say it was Bishop Evagrius.
For 12 years, from 386 AD to 397 AD, John Chrysostom became popular for the eloquence of his public speaking at the Golden Church, Antioch’s cathedral. People liked his clear expositions of Biblical passages and moral teachings. The themes of his talks were eminently social. He explained the Christian’s conduct in life. His straightforward understanding of the Scriptures were in contrast to the Alexandrian tendency towards allegorical interpretation.
One incident that happened during John Chrysostom’s service in Antioch illustrates best the influence of his sermons.
Emperor Theodosius I, also called Theodosius the Great ruled from 379 to 395 made Christianity the official state religion of the Roman Empire. He was the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and western portions of the Roman Empire. He was a strong defender of the Orthodox Christian faith and honoured as a saint.
When John Chrysostom arrived in Antioch its citizens were on a riotous rampage. They mutilated the statues of the Emperor and his family. The Bishop had to intervene with the Emperor on behalf of the citizens of Antioch.
During the weeks of Lent in 387 AD, John Chrysostom preached 21 sermons in which he entreated the people to see the error of their ways. These sermons had a lasting impression on the citizens of Antioch. This resulted in many pagans converting to Christianity. Due to the conversions, Theodosius’ vengeance on the citizens of Antioch subdued and was not as severe as it might have been.
The most valuable of his works from this period are the Homilies he wrote on various books of the Bible.
He was most concerned with the spiritual and temporal needs of the poor. He spoke out against abuse of wealth and personal property. He particularly emphasized alms and charitable giving:
Do you wish to honour the body of Christ?
Do not ignore him when he is naked. Do not pay him homage in the temple clad in silk, only then to neglect him outside where he is cold and ill-clad.
He who said: “This is my body” is the same who said: “You saw me hungry and you gave me no food”, and “Whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did also to me”…
What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden chalices when your brother is dying of hunger? Start by satisfying his hunger and then with what is left you may adorn the altar as well.
After the death of Evagrius (c. 393), Flavian succeeded in preventing the election of a successor. However, the Eustathians still continued to hold separate meetings.
Easter is a joyful and happy occasion for all Christians. They decorate their churches with flowers and attend church on this day.
In some Christian churches, Easter worship begins at about 11:30 pm on Holy Saturday. At midnight, they ring the bells to tell the world that Christ has risen from the dead.
In some churches of the Roman Catholics and the Church of England, people will hold a vigil. They will gather outside the church around a bonfire.
The church being in darkness, one of the Deacons or Acolytes (servers) will carry a large unlit candle called the Paschal candle marked with a cross and the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet Alpha (Α) and Omega (Ω).
The Celebrant after blessing the fire will turn towards the person carrying the large candle and prepare the Paschal candle by drawing with his finger or incising in the wax with a stylus a Cross while reciting these words:
Christ yesterday and today, (the vertical beam) the beginning and the end, (the transverse beam) Alpha (the Greek letter Α above the vertical beam of the cross) and Omega, (the Greek letter Ω below the vertical beam of the cross)
all time belongs to Him, (the first numeral of the current year in the upper left-hand angle of the Cross) and all ages;(the second number of the current year in the upper right-hand angle of the cross) to Him be glory and power,(the third numeral of the current year in the lower left-hand angle of the Cross) through every age and for ever.(the fourth numeral of the current year in the lower right-hand angle of the Cross) Amen.
Next, one of the Acolytes (servers) gives the grains of incense symbolizing the five wounds Christ received at the crucifixion one by one to the Celebrant who inserts them into the candle, saying:
By his holy(1) and glorious wounds(2) may Christ our Lord guard (3) and keep us.(4) Amen. (5)
The Celebrant lights the Paschal candle saying:
May the light of Christ, rising in glory, banish all darkness from our hearts and minds.
The Paschal candle is then taken through the church, with the deacon lifting it at three different times, singing: “The Light of Christ” (or Lumen Christi) and the congregation sings in reply: “Thanks be to God” (or Deo Gratias).
Everyone lights their candle from the Paschal candle and join the procession. The Paschal candle symbolizes Christ, the Light of the World.
After the procession with the paschal candle, before the beginning of the Liturgy of the Word, follows the glorious Easter song of the Catholic Church: the Exsultet (spelled in pre-1920 editions of the Roman Missal as Exultet) or Easter Proclamation (Latin: Praeconium Paschale).
The Exsultet is a magnificent hymn of praise sung, by a deacon, before the paschal candle during the Easter Vigil in the Roman Rite of Mass. Exsultet is also used in Anglican and various Lutheran churches, as well as other western Christian denominations.
In the absence of a deacon, a priest or by a cantor may sing the Exsultet.
The lyrics of Exsultet are beautiful and has profound symbolism. It describes the dignity and meaning of the mystery of Easter. It tells of man’s sin, of God’s mercy, and of the great love the Redeemer has for humanity. It admonishes the faithful to thank the Trinity for all the graces lavished upon them.
Exsultet (Roman Catholic English text)
Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven, exult, let Angel ministers of God exult, let the trumpet of salvation sound aloud our mighty King’s triumph!
Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her, ablaze with light from her eternal King, let all corners of the earth be glad, knowing an end to gloom and darkness.
Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice, arrayed with the lightning of his glory, let this holy building shake with joy, filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.
(Therefore, dearest friends, standing in the awesome glory of this holy light, invoke with me, I ask you, the mercy of God almighty, that he, who has been pleased to number me, though unworthy, among the Levites, may pour into me his light unshadowed, that I may sing this candle’s perfect praises).
(Deacon: The Lord be with you. People: And with your spirit.) Deacon: Lift up your hearts. People: We lift them up to the Lord. Deacon: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. People: It is right and just.
It is truly right and just, with ardent love of mind and heart and with devoted service of our voice, to acclaim our God invisible, the almighty Father, and Jesus Christ, our Lord, his Son, his Only Begotten.
Who for our sake paid Adam’s debt to the eternal Father, and, pouring out his own dear Blood, wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness.
These, then, are the feasts of Passover, in which is slain the Lamb, the one true Lamb, whose Blood anoints the doorposts of believers.
This is the night, when once you led our forebears, Israel’s children, from slavery in Egypt and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.
This is the night that with a pillar of fire banished the darkness of sin.
This is the night that even now throughout the world, sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices and from the gloom of sin, leading them to grace and joining them to his holy ones.
This is the night when Christ broke the prison bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld.
Our birth would have been no gain, had we not been redeemed. O wonder of your humble care for us! O love, O charity beyond all telling, to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!
O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!
O happy fault that earned for us so great, so glorious a Redeemer!
O truly blessed night, worthy alone to know the time and hour when Christ rose from the underworld!
This is the night of which it is written: The night shall be as bright as day, dazzling is the night for me, and full of gladness.
The sanctifying power of this night dispels wickedness, washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners, drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.
On this, your night of grace, O holy Father, accept this candle, a solemn offering, the work of bees and of your servants’ hands, an evening sacrifice of praise, this gift from your most holy Church.
But now we know the praises of this pillar, a flame divided but undimmed, which glowing fire ignites for God’s honour, a fire into many flames divided, yet never dimmed by sharing of its light, for it is fed by melting wax, drawn out by mother bees to build a torch so precious.
O truly blessed night, when things of heaven are wed to those of earth, and divine to the human.
Therefore, O Lord, we pray you that this candle, hallowed to the honour of your name, may persevere undimmed, to overcome the darkness of this night. Receive it as a pleasing fragrance, and let it mingle with the lights of heaven. May this flame be found still burning by the Morning Star: the one Morning Star who never sets, Christ your Son, who, coming back from death’s domain, has shed his peaceful light on humanity, and lives and reigns for ever and ever.
Instead of using your two hands to pray to your God, gods and goddesses, why not stretch one hand and help the poor?
Lent is a solemn religious observance in the liturgical calendar of many Christian denominations. The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and covers a period of approximately six weeks before Easter Sunday.
For the Christians, prayer, fasting and almsgiving mark Lent. Of these three, almsgiving is the most neglected.
Why is almsgiving better than prayer and fasting?
In a way, almsgiving is a form of prayer and not just philanthropy.
Almsgiving is also a form of fasting. It requires some sacrifice. One has to give up something, even if it hurts. It is not just giving something to someone. It is “giving to God”.
The Book of Tobit, named after its principal character has an engaging story about Jewish piety and morality combined with folklore. The book has enjoyed wide popularity in both Jewish and Christian faiths. The inspired author of the book places a firm emphasis on almsgiving. The following verses 12:8-10 in Tobit is the only place in the Bible where prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are brought together.
Prayer with fasting is good. Almsgiving with righteousness is better than wealth with wickedness. It is better to give alms than to store up gold, for almsgiving saves one from death and purges all sin. Those who give alms will enjoy a full life, but those who commit sin and do evil are their own worst enemies. (Tobit 12:8-10)
Almsgiving is also a form of fasting. It requires some sacrifice. One has to give up something, even if it hurts. It is not just giving something to someone. It involves giving money, food, clothes, and materials or providing capabilities such as education, health facilities, and other amenities.
Almsgiving is a necessary part in all religions. It is “giving to God”.
Almsgiving in Buddhism
In Buddhism, a layperson shows respect to a monk, a nun, a spiritually developed person or to any other sentient being by giving alms. It is not charity. Being humble, giving alms, and showing respect to the monk or nun and the religious society, provides a symbolic binding of the layperson with the spiritual realm.
According to the Buddhists, the more a layperson gives without seeking anything in return the wealthier he or she will become. The act of giving destroys the acquisitive nature that leads to further suffering. Generosity is an act of merit performed by a donor to help the receiver.
The Mahayana Buddhist tradition emphasizes that generosity towards others as one of the perfections (paramita) as found in Lama Tsong Khapa’s ‘The Abbreviated Points of the Graded Path‘:
Total willingness to give is the wish-granting gem for fulfilling the hopes of wandering beings.
It is the sharpest weapon to sever the knot of stinginess.
It leads to Bodhisattva conduct that enhances self-confidence and courage. It is the basis of the universal proclamation of your fame and repute.
Realizing this, the wise rely, in a healthy manner, on the outstanding path of being ever-willing to offer completely their bodies, their possessions, and positive potentials.
The ever-vigilant lama has practiced like that.
If you too would seek liberation, Please cultivate yourself, in the same way.
Almsgiving in Hinduism
In Hinduism, Bhiksha is a devotional offering. It is usually food, presented at a temple to the destitute, a religious Brahmin, a swami, or an ascetic.
In Chapter XXIX of Vasishtha Samhita we find:
Through Alms giving to poor obtains all his desires.
(Even) longevity, (and he is born again as) a student of the Veda, possessed of beauty.
He who abstains from injuring (sentient beings) obtains heaven.
By entering a fire the world of Brahman (is gained).
By (a vow of) silence (he obtains) happiness.
By staying (constantly) in water he becomes a lord of elephants.
He who expends his hoard (in gifts) becomes free from disease.
A giver of water (becomes) rich by (the fulfilment of) all his desires.
A giver of food (will have) beautiful eyes and a good memory.
He who gives a promise to protect (somebody) from all dangers (becomes) wise.
(To bestow gifts) for the use of cows (is equal to) bathing at all sacred places.
By giving a couch and a seat (the giver becomes) master of a harem.
By giving an umbrella (the giver) obtains a house.
He who gives a House to a poor family obtains a town
He who gives a pair of Shoes obtains a vehicle.
Now they quote also (the following verses): Whatever sin a man distressed for livelihood commits, (from that) he is purified by giving land, (be it) even “a bull’s hide”.
He who gives to a Brâhmana guest a vessel filled with water for sipping, will obtain after death complete freedom from thirst and be born again as a drinker of Soma.
If a gift of one thousand oxen fit to draw a carriage (has been bestowed) according to the rule on a perfectly worthy man, that is equal to giving a maiden.
They declare that cows, land, and learning are the three most excellent gifts. For to give learning is (to bestow) the greatest of all gifts, and it surpasses those (other gifts).
A learned man who, free from envy, follows this rule of conduct which procures endless rewards, and which through final liberation frees him from transmigration.
Or who, full of faith, pure, and subduing his senses, remembers or even hears it, will, freed from all sin, be exalted in the highest heaven.
According to the Hindu scriptures, every human owes five important karmic debts called pancha-maha-yajna: to gods, to ancestors, to guests, to mankind, and to nature.
Debt to the gods for their blessings. Repaid by rituals and offerings.
Debt to ancestors and teachers. Repaid by supporting them, having children of one’s own and passing along knowledge.
Debt to guests. Repaid by treating them as if they were gods visiting one’s home.
Debt to Mankind. Repaid by mutual cooperation and helping others by giving money, clothes, shelter and land to poor people, feeding the hungry, and helping orphans and destitute.
Debt to Nature. All humans are indebted to plants, trees, birds, animals and nature. Repaid by offering good will, food, water, or any other help that is appropriate.
So, a human to place himself in correct relations with the gods, ancestors, spirits, men, the cosmos, nature and himself must repay these debts during his or her lifetime.
Almsgiving in Islam
One of the most important principles of Islam is that all things belong to God and, so, human beings hold wealth in trust.
Islam divides the concept of charitable giving into Sadaqah or voluntary giving, and the Zakāt, an obligatory practice governed by a specific set of rules within Islamic jurisprudence.
Sadaqah is possibly a better translation of the Christian notion of ‘alms’.
Zakāt (Arabic: زكاة ,”That which purifies”), the third of the five pillars of Islam, is the mandatory practice of charitable almsgiving. Every mentally stable, free, and financially sound adult Muslim, male or female, has to pay Zakāt to ease the economic hardship of others and end the inequality of financial status. Zakāt consists of giving 2.5% of one’s savings and business revenue and 5-10% of one’s harvest for distribution to the poor or needy, including slaves, debtors, and travelers. As such, Zakāt plays a much larger role in Islamic charity.
Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakah] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah . And Allah is Knowing and Wise.
(The Holy Qur’an 9:60)
Almsgiving in Judaism
In Hebrew, Tzedakah literally means righteousness but is commonly used to signify charity. In Judaism, Tzedakah refers to the religious obligation to do what is right and just. It is considered one of the greatest deeds that a human can do. In practice, most Jews carry out Tzedakah by donating a part of their income to charitable institutions, or to needy people that they may come across.
Traditional Jews practice “ma’aser kesafim,” tithing 10% of their income to support those in need. Jewish farmers leave the corners of their fields for the starving to harvest for food. They do not pick up any grain dropped while harvesting because such food may benefit the starving.
Jews perform special acts of Tzedakah on significant days. At weddings, it is a tradition among couples to offer charity to symbolize the sacred character of marriage. It is traditional at Passover to be welcome hungry strangers, and feed them at the table. During the joyous holiday of Purim, to increase the total happiness, it is obligatory for every Jew to offer food to one other person, and gifts to at least two poor people, in an amount that would equate to a meal each.
Jews are cautioned about how they give out Tzedakah money. They should check the credentials and finances to be sure that their Tzedakah money will be used wisely, efficiently and effectively.
Also, they are admonished:
“Do not rob the poor because they are poor, nor crush the needy at the gate;” (Proverbs 22:22)
Jews are taught that Tzedakah money was never theirs to begin with, rather, it always belongs to God, who merely entrusts them with it so that they may use it properly. Hence, it is their obligation to ensure that it is received by those deserving of it.
Almsgiving in Christianity
Jesus spoke of almsgiving thus:
“[But] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.
When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” (Matthew 6:1-4)
My article “Actions speak louder than words!” has evoked a good response from my readers. One person after reading the article has asked: “So what is your action?”
This is my reply:
Look at this (sinful) woman. She has come to Jesus and found in him her Saviour. She wetted his feet with her tears and then wiped them with her hair. Look at verse Luke 7:50, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
It is our faith that saves us. We either look at this woman and say, “Thank you Lord, I am not like her,” then the question becomes, “Has your faith saved you?”
But if our response is “Lord, have mercy on me,” then the good news is mercy is freely given.
Jesus is here and He will always be wherever we are or who or whatever we choose to be. This woman knew Jesus was there to forgive her and she loved Him for that. In the same way, I know Jesus is forever here to forgive me, no matter who I am or what I have done. I know he will forgive me.
Most of us do not get over our afflictions and then go to Jesus, rather we approach Him and He removes them, and He also gives us something else to live for.
My action in life has always been “do more than what I am paid for,” like the woman wiping the feet of Jesus with her tears, wiping it with her hair, and anointing it with perfumed ointment.
There is nothing in this world we could ever do to make up for the sacrifice Jesus made for us. Yet, most of us are not called to do anything. So, most of us forget that it is easy after being Christians for a while to become a Pharisee and point a “holier than thou” finger at others.
In the gospel of Luke, the story of the pardoning of a sinful woman (Luke 7:36-50) illustrates the axiom that “actions speak louder than words.”
A Pharisee named Simon invited Jesus to dine with him. On entering the house of the Pharisee, Jesus reclined at the table, the normal posture of guests at a banquet.
On learning that Jesus had come to the house of the Pharisee, a woman of that town who lived a sinful life, came there with an alabaster jar of perfumed ointment.
Weeping, she fell down at the feet of Jesus and wet them with her tears. Then, she wiped his feet with her hair, kissed them and anointed them with the perfumed ointment.
When the Pharisee saw this, he said to himself, “If this man was a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what sort of woman she is – that she is a sinner.”
Jesus understood his thoughts and said, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” Simon said.
“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other owed fifty.”
At that time, one denarius was the normal daily wage of a laborer.
“Neither of them had the money to repay his loan, so the moneylender forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one whose larger debt was forgiven.”
Jesus said, “You have judged rightly.”
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water to wash my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. As my host, you did not greet me with a kiss, but this woman, from the time she entered this house, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not place oil on my head, but she anointed my feet with perfumed ointment.”
According to the Christian canonical gospels, Jesus Christ fasted for 40 days in the desert, where he encountered the temptations by Satan. So, the solemn religious observance of Lent originated as a mirroring this event. Hence, Christians fast 40 days as preparation for the Easter Sunday, the day of the resurrection of Christ. In Latin, Lent is referred to by the term Quadragesima (meaning “fortieth”), in reference to the fortieth day before Easter.
Today is Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting. In Western Christianity, it marks the start of the 40-day period of fasting, the first day in the season of Lent.
Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of blessing the ashes made from palm branches that were blessed on Palm Sunday of the previous year, and placing them ceremonially on the heads of the participants. The Ash is either sprinkled over their heads or more often a visible cross is marked on their foreheads to the accompaniment of the words “
Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of blessing the ashes made from palm branches that were blessed on Palm Sunday of the previous year, and placing them ceremonially on the heads of the participants. The Ash is either sprinkled over their heads or more often a visible cross is marked on their foreheads to the accompaniment of the words “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” based on Genesis 3:19
By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
In Western Christianity, during Lent, every Sunday is regarded as a feast day to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ on a Sunday, and so fasting is considered inappropriate on that day. And so, Christians fast from Monday to Saturday (6 days) for 6 weeks and from Wednesday to Saturday (4 days) in the preceding week, thus making up the number of 40 days.
Many Western Christians, including Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Anglicans, and Presbyterians observe Ash Wednesday. However, not all Catholics observe Ash Wednesday. Eastern Catholic Churches, do not count Holy Week as part of Lent, and they begin the penitential season on Monday before Ash Wednesday called the Clean Monday. Catholics following the Ambrosian Rite begin it on the First Sunday in Lent.
Throughout the Latin Church, the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and in the Maronite Catholic Church, the Ashes are blessed and ceremonially distributed at the start of Lent. In the Catholic Ambrosian Rite, this is done at the end of Sunday Mass or on the following day.
Here is today’s reading in the Church for Ash Wednesday. It is the continuation of the sermon on the mount. Jesus warns against doing good in order to be seen and gives three examples. In each, the conduct of the hypocrites is contrasted with that demanded of the disciples.
Teaching about Alms-giving
[But] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.
When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
– (Mathew 6: 1-4)
Teaching about Prayer
When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.
Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
“This is how you are to pray:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread;
and forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors;
and do not subject us to the final test,
but deliver us from the evil one.
If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.
– Matthew 6:5–15
Teaching about Fasting
When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.
EeVeRa, is short for Erode Venkata Ramasamy (September 17, 1879 – December 24, 1973). He was a social activist, politician and businessman in Tamilnadu, India.
An array of regional political parties under the canopy “Dravidian” dominate the current political arena in Tamilnadu. These parties trace their origins and ideologies to the Dravidian movement launched by EeVeRa.
The Indian population is still classified as Aryans or Dravidians based on language families, but genetic research does not confirm this. According to this classification the North Indian languages are Aryan, and the South Indian languages are Dravidian.
The term ‘Aryan’ as a race was first propounded by Friedrich Max Müller. He was a German-born philologist and Orientalist, connected with the East India Company. He lived and studied in Britain for most of his life. In 1853, he conjectured that a group of people called Aryans had invaded India in 1500 BC. The British colonialists of the period and Thomas Macaulay, a member of the Supreme Council of India, supported Max Mülle’s hypothesis. Macaulay asserted that there was a need to develop a breed of Indians “who would be Indian by blood and colour, but Western by morals and intellect”.
During the British rule, the former Indian state of Madras Presidency consisted of almost all regions of today’s Tamilnadu and parts of Andhra Pradesh. At that time, the British, and the Indians schooled in the British system, opined that the Dravidian languages were inferior to the Aryan languages. Sanskrit, a classical language of the Aryan group, was considered sacred.
In the early 20th century, the Brahmins occupied the highest strata in the Indian caste system. They dominated the political scene in South India. Though only 3% of the population in Madras Presidency, they held 60 to 79% of the positions in major government departments.
At that time, many non-Brahmin leaders in the south asserted that Brahmins were Aryans as defined by Max Müller and hence non-natives. They claimed the Brahmins had occupied positions in the government that rightly belonged to the people indigenous to the region. This claim compounded with an antipathy towards Sanskrit spurred on the animosity against the Brahmins. This hostility directed at the Brahmins gave rise to Dravidian politics in Madras Presidency.
The Justice Party
In 1917, Sir Pitti Theagaraya Chetty, Dr. T. M. Nair, O. Thanikachalam Chettiar, and Dr. C. Natesa Mudaliar founded the Justice Party to represent the non-Brahmins in the Madras Presidency. It soon became the main political alternative to the Indian National Congress (INC) in the Madras Presidency.
In 1920, the Justice Party won the first direct elections in the Madras presidency and formed the government. During the next 17 years, it formed four out of the five governments and was in power for 13 years. In the 1937 election, it lost to the Congress and never recovered afterwards.
The Justice Party, by its many controversial activities, seemed isolated in Indian politics.
Its anti-Brahmin attitude shaped many of its ideas and policies.
It opposed the appointment of Brahmins in the civil service.
It was against the participation of Brahmins in politics.
It campaigned against the non-cooperation movement in the presidency.
It was at odds with M. K. Gandhi, primarily due to his praise for Brahminism.
Its mistrust of the Brahmin-dominated INC, led the Justice Party to adopt a hostile stand towards the Indian independence movement.
Though the Justice Party pledged to represent all non-Brahmins, it eventually lost the support of Muslims and Untouchables. They accused the Justice Party of serving the interests of only a few castes such as the Vellalars, Mudaliars, Pillais, Balija Naidus, Beri Chettis, Kapus and Kammas.
The Self-Respect Movement
E.V. Ramasamy was born in Erode, Madras Presidency to a wealthy family of Balijas. The Balija is a social group that spread across the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala.
At a young age, EeVeRa witnessed many incidents of racial, caste and gender discrimination. He married his first wife, Nagammai when he was 19.
EeVeRa was a member of the Indian National Congress (INC) party. In 1925, he broke away from INC and formed the Self Respect Movement or the Dravidian Movement. The Self-Respect Movement claimed to promote interests similar to the Justice Party. In addition EeVeRa proposed the creation of an independent state called Dravida Nadu, comprising the four states of South India: Andhra, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamilnadu.
Nagammai, died in 1933.
In 1938, the Justice Party came under the leadership of E. V. Ramaswamy and his Self-Respect Movement.
In 1944, EeVeRa withdrew the Justice Party from electoral politics. He changed the name of the party to Dravidar Kazhagam, a social organization.
Dravidar Kazhagam originally strived for social equality by eradicating the ills of the existing caste system including untouchability. Later on, Dravidar Kazhagam wanted to end the domination of North India on the politics and economy of the Madras Presidency. And, on a grander scale Dravidar Kazhagam wanted to create a “Dravida Nadu” (Dravidian nation) and do away with the Madras Presidency.
Thus, the roots of Dravidar Kazhagam lie with the Justice party and the Self-Respect Movement.
Dravidar Kazhagam originally strived for social equality, and later wanted to end the domination of North India on the politics and economy of the Madras Presidency.
The Dravidian politics of Dravidar Kazhagam found support only in Tamilnadu.
EeVeRa married for a second time in July 1948. His second wife, Maniammai, continued Periyar’s social work after his death in 1973.
I came across a snippet in Tamil on Facebook, alleged to Periyar. It impressed me, and I rewrote it in English. It is not a direct translation.
One Who Uses God as a Weapon Is a Terrorist!
There are no gods! Gods do not exist! The person who preaches gods is a Philistine. One who believes in gods is a simpleton. One who spreads the idea of gods is a charlatan.
1. How did gods come into existence?
2. How did gods get an image?
3. And what need is there for a god to have a human form?
4. How did so many gods come to exist?
5. How did these gods get wives, children, and lovers?
6. After that, how did the wives, children and lovers become gods?
7. How did these gods get houses, jewellery, clothing, food, etc.?
8. Why did these gods wage war against humans and other creatures, and why kill them?
9. How did these gods get a rank on a scale of importance?
10. Aside from these, how did wells, pools, ponds, rivers etc., become gods?
11. How did these wells, ponds, pools, rivers get a varying range of godlike powers?
12. How much time, money, and effort do humans spend on these entities they call gods?
13. Just compare yourself with the once naked Aryans that ate vegetables and creatures in the raw, and cohabited with their own mothers, daughters, and sisters regardless of how they were related. See how they have attained intellectual progress now! What is your state today?
13. Compare yourself with the once naked Aryans who ate vegetables and creatures, raw, and cohabited with their mothers, daughters, and sisters regardless of relationship. See how great their intellectual progress is; and, what is your status now?