[2:19] وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ مَاذَا يُنفِقُونَ قُلِ الْعَفْوَ
And they ask you as to what they should spend [in God's cause]. Say: “Whatever you can spare.”
Allama Iqbal explains the global context of this verse:
The meaning hidden in the words قُلِ الْعَفْوَ
Its reality might get revealed in this age!
Believers are those who act on the above divine command. [23:4] وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ لِلزَّكَاةِ فَاعِلُونَ - They follow a program which ensures that the means of development are continuously available for humankind. Thus, they achieve true success: [23:1] قَدْ أَفْلَحَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ - Truly, to a happy state shall attain the believers. These people accept the truthfulness of divine commands and the implementation of which they make the ultimate aim and mission of their lives.
A society built on the foundation of قُلِ الْعَفْوَ benefits all:
أَنزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَسَالَتْ أَوْدِيَةٌ بِقَدَرِهَا فَاحْتَمَلَ السَّيْلُ زَبَدًا رَّابِيًا ۚ وَمِمَّا يُوقِدُونَ عَلَيْهِ فِي النَّارِ ابْتِغَاءَ حِلْيَةٍ أَوْ مَتَاعٍ زَبَدٌ مِّثْلُهُ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللَّـهُ الْحَقَّ وَالْبَاطِلَ ۚ فَأَمَّا الزَّبَدُ فَيَذْهَبُ جُفَاءً ۖ وَأَمَّا مَا يَنفَعُ النَّاسَ فَيَمْكُثُ فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللَّـهُ الْأَمْثَالَ
He sends down water from the sky, and [once-dry] river-beds are running high according to their measure, the stream carries scum on its surface; and, likewise, from that [metal] which they smelt in the fire in order to make ornaments or utensils, [there rises] scum. In this way does God set forth the parable of truth and falsehood: for, as far as the scum is concerned, it passes away as [does all] dross; but that which is of benefit to humanity abides on earth. In this way does God set forth the parables.
The system in which everyone works for the benefit of entire humankind will be stable and stay forever. It stays because of its own intrinsic strength and power.
On the contrary, that system in which everyone works for one’s own individual benefit does not have stability and the ability to stay—no matter how much tinkering or patch-up job is done to save it.
قُلْ هَلْ نُنَبِّئُكُم بِالْأَخْسَرِينَ أَعْمَالًا ; الَّذِينَ ضَلَّ سَعْيُهُمْ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَهُمْ يَحْسَبُونَ أَنَّهُمْ يُحْسِنُونَ صُنْعًا ; أُولَـٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِآيَاتِ رَبِّهِمْ وَلِقَائِهِ فَحَبِطَتْ أَعْمَالُهُمْ فَلَا نُقِيمُ لَهُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَزْنًا
Ask them: “Should Allah tell you about those who act in such a manner that all their actions go waste. They are those who waste their efforts in the pursuit of only the life of the present in the mistaken belief that what they do is absolutely right. These are the people who reject Allh’s law of accountability of their Sustainer and do not believe that they have to face it one day. All their efforts shall go waste so much so that no weight shall be attached to it on the Day of Reckoning. Hell shall be their recompense because they refuse to believe in Allah’s commands and treated Allah’s messengers with scorn.”
As Joad has said: a society whose members aim at wealth, power, fame and social position is a society whose values are inconsistent with stability and contentment, since where men value as ends in themselves goods which are limited and dividing, the possessors will be few and the deprived many, with the result that many will be restless and disappointed. [C. E. M. Joad, Decadence, p.328]
The Quran further explains:
[87:16-17] بَلْ تُؤْثِرُونَ الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا ; وَالْآخِرَةُ خَيْرٌ وَأَبْقَىٰ
You give preference to the worldly gains of this physical life, although future gains would be better and everlasting. In other words, when you have to choose between materialistic way of life and a way life based on the universal development of all humankind, then the proper behavior would be the preservation of the latter. Material needs should be sacrificed for a higher purpose of life. This will nourish and develop the human soul; and future life in the Hereafter would be successful.
Thus, according to the Quran, an ideology based on the welfare of the individual is shortsighted and doomed to perish, while the one based on the welfare of the entire humankind is just and will stay forever.
The Quran does not advocate this ideology based on emotion or blind faith. The Quran provides objective proof for every claim it makes. So, why is an ideology based on the welfare of an individual or a family, or a race, or a nation wrong while the one based on universal welfare right? This is so because of the conflict between truth and falsehood, the negative forces pass away like scum but that which is beneficial for the humanity endures. This is how Allah explains His laws by means of analogies (13:39. 21:18, 42:24).
If human beings lived only at the animal level, then it would have been acceptable to look for one’s own self-interest. Eating, drinking, and the pursuit of happiness from material things in life would have been their goal. However, life at the human level is different from the animal level. Animals do not have a sense of tomorrow or future. This distinguishes human beings from everything else in the universe. The human body in this world, which is a vehicle for the “soul,” is left behind while the soul journeys on to another dimension, which the Quran calls Ha-yaatul Aakhira.
The Quran is very clear on this point.
إِنَّ اللَّـهَ يُدْخِلُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ ۖ وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا يَتَمَتَّعُونَ وَيَأْكُلُونَ كَمَا تَأْكُلُ الْأَنْعَامُ وَالنَّارُ مَثْوًى لَّهُمْ
The essential aspect of Allah's association, help and support is that as a result of their Iman and righteous deeds, He will bestow on them a blissful heavenly life the freshness of which will never fade. However for people who deny truth and think that life means only physical existence in this world, there is no difference between their lives and that of animals. Like the animals they eat, drink and enjoy life (and then die). The result of this concept of life is nothing but death and destruction (of human dignity).