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Charity in Islam
  1. Charity
  2. Zakah
  3. Sadaqah
By: Wahiduddin Khan


Sadaqah is also a means of moral learning.  Sadaqah (Charity) is an Ibadah (worship). According to Hadith, Sadaqah is prescribed for every person every day the sun rises.

  Hadith is much more explicit. To remove from the road anything, which may cause hurt is called Sadaqah or a charitable deed.  According to another Hadith  "there is a Sadaqah (charity) on every limb with every new sun, and to do justice among people is also a charity". On every limb there is a Sadaqah (charity) every day. If a man allows another to ride his animal, it is a charity; or if he helps him to load his animal, this is also a charity. And so is a good word. Every step, which a man takes in going to pray, is a charity; and to show the way is charity. Sadaqah is a very wide term and is used in the Quran to cover all kinds of charity. 

Examples of other charitable deeds are; "your salutation to people," "your enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong", "refraining from doing evil to any one", of a smile or a glass of water to a thirsty person, or they may even just utter a kindly word and so on. The circle of those toward whom an act of charity may be done is equally wide. To give food to one's wife or one's children is called a charitable deed, while to maintain even one's self is not excluded from the category of charitable deeds.

The Noble Prophet said, "Whatever you feed yourself with is a charity, and whatever you feed your children with is a charity, and whatever you feed your wife with is a charity, and whatever you feed your servant with is a charity." The doing of good to the dumb creation is also called a charity; Planting something from which a person, bird or animal later eats also counts as charity. The Glorious Qur'an also speaks of extending charity not only to all men (including believers and unbelievers) (2:272), but also to the dumb creation (51:19).

The Qur'an lays stress on the believers to care for the needy, the orphans, the destitute and the unfortunate members of the society. 'The believers ... are steadfast in prayers, and in whose wealth there is a right acknowledged, for the poor and the destitute. (Qur'an 70:22-24). There is no limit on Sadaqah. Prophet of Allah (SAS) said,  'your smile for your brother is Sadaqah. Your removal of stones, thorns or bones from the paths of people is Sadaqah. Your guidance of a person who is lost is Sadaqah.' (Related by Bukhari from Ibn Hibban's Sahih).

'A Muslim does not plant, or sow anything from which a person, animal or anything eats but it is considered as Sadaqah from him.' (Prophet of Allah (SAS) related by Bukhari.)

Sadaqah-e-jaria (an everlasting Sadaqah): Leaving a contribution in your will in the form of a Sadaqah to some charitable institution is surely a noble decision and will be deemed as a Sadaqah-e-jaria. Sadaqah in the form of wakf is also Sadaqah-e-jaria, i.e. permanent alms. Helping someone to establish himself in business, giving someone a proper education; helping someone to recover from some disease by monetary assistance; to looking after the orphans and the destitute; giving scholarships to students, all such charitable works, come under Sadaqah-e-jaria  - that is why so many centers of social welfare have continued to function in the Muslim community. The reward for giving voluntary alms in secret is seventy times that of giving it publicly (Al-Baydawi, Anwar al-Tanazil, 2/211). Any gift from a Muslim's estate will live on in the lives of other brothers and sisters less fortunate than the donor and his/her heirs.

The scope of Sadaqah is so vast that even the poor who can have nothing tangible to give can offer Sadaqah.   Good conduct is frequently termed Sadaqah in the Hadith. In this extended sense, acts of loving kindness, even greeting another with a cheerful face, is regarded as Sadaqah. In brief, every good deed is Sadaqah.

Sadaqah should start at home

'When one of you is poor, he starts with himself. If anything is left, he spends it on his dependants. If anything is (still left) then on his relatives, and then, if more is left, he spends it here and there.' (Prophet of Allah (SAS) related from Jabir.)

The very words used to denote charitable deeds are an indication of the broadness of its conception. The Glorious Qur'an not only lays stress on such great deeds of charity as the emancipation of slaves (90:13; 2:177), the feeding of the poor (69:34; 90:11-16; 107:1-3), taking care of orphans (17:34; 76:8; 89:17; 90:15; 93:9, 107:2) and doing good to humanity in general, but gives equal emphasis to smaller acts of generosity.  And in a similar vein, the speaking of a kind word to parents is referred to as Ihsan (doing good) in 17:23, and generally the use of the words is recommended as in itself a charitable deed in 2:83, 4:8 and other places.

The three basic rules involved with donating funds emphasize charity as a religious function. Firstly, a Muslim must always donate in the name of Allah alone. Secondly, all money donated must be from a legitimate source. Money that has been stolen or earned unethically is annulled in the eyes of Allah. Thirdly, all excess wealth is seen as Allah's ownership in Islam. Therefore it is left up to the individual as to how much they are willing to give back to Him, in the form of charity.

The Qur'an affirms: 'Those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness, and establish regular prayers and regular charity, will have their reward with their Lord: On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve' (2:277). Thus charity, on a generic level, plays a major role in Muslim society. One of the key purposes of the religion is grounded in a sense of community, which charity emphasizes.

The Practice of Sadaqah

The Prophet was the most generous of men. He used to give with his own hand. When asked for anything, he never refused. If he had nothing to give, he would borrow from one of his companions and pay him later.

The Prophet's wives were also known for their alms giving. Of them Zainab bint Khuzaimah was the most generous and was called by the Prophet "the longest in arm." She was also known as the "mother of the poor" (umm al-masakin) for her alms giving. Áisha, the youngest wife of the Prophet too was known as the mother of the poor."(Al-Ghazali, Ihya ulum al-din, vol-1/298).

According to the teachings of Islam the giving of Sadaqah serves a number of functions. First and foremost act of Sadaqah is expiation for sins. The believers are asked to give Sadaqah immediately following any transgression (Ihya-e-Ulumuddin, Al-Ghazzali, 1/298). Voluntary alms giving can also compensate for any shortcoming in the past payment of Zakah.   Sadaqah also gives protection against all kinds of evil. Sadaqah wards off affliction in this world, and punishment on Judgment Day. (Ismail Hakki, Tafsir Ruh-alBayan, 1/418). It is therefore recommended to give Sadaqah by night and by day, in secret and in public to seek God's pleasure (Quran, 2:274). The constant giving of a little is said to please God more than the occasional giving of much.

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