Doing The Right Thing

I asked my 4-year old daughter Safiyya to find a toy to give to charity, for a collection happening in our area. Safiyya got busy in her bedroom, rummaging through everything she had.

July 14, 2023

After a while, I went to see what she’d come up with. Her room was in chaos, every drawer turned upside down. And, in her hand, she clutched the precious item she’d chosen to give away: a doll with a short rough hairstyle clearly home-cut – and with only one leg.

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I asked Safiyya why she wanted to give that one away. “Because Rianna has 100 Barbies” she said, “and I only have 10”. It was true her friend Rianna had more dolls than her, albeit rather less true she had 100.  It also wasn’t relevant. Safiyya was simply finding it hard to give away something she valued, and was giving away something she no longer cared for.

In the book Muslims turn to for guidance, the Qur’an, God reminds us: “it is possible that you dislike a thing which is good for you, and that you love a thing which is bad for you.” Research shows that when we tell people to do the right thing, people don’t want to do it. But when we give people information, or ask them a question, it can help them reflect.

So even though my child was young, I shared information. I shared a saying of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him: “When you see a person who has been given more than you in money and beauty, look to those who have been given less.” And I explained there are lots of boys and girls who have much less than her. Boys and girls who don’t have any toys. “Not even one doll?” she asked, visibly shocked at such a possibility.

Safiyya searched her room again to see if there were any other options. She chose as her new contribution a rather fetching figure with all limbs intact, a doll she really loved.

With the right information, she did the right thing.

Safiyya has grown up to be a caring young woman. Who chooses to put others before herself at every opportunity. I’ll never know if the lesson she learnt on charity that day contributed. But as that Qur’anic verse goes on to say: “God knows, and you know not.”