IT IS A gift from Allah, our Lord and Creator, and a basic human innate nature to care for the weak, those in need, and the poor. And it is for this reason, all messages revealed by Allah have emphasized this nature and given it a central role in their teachings. But the emphasis the religion of Islam places on Ṣadaqah surpasses those espoused by all others.
Connecting it to almost all aspects of life, Islam asserts the significance of giving, charity and zakah in so many ways, it is hard for Muslims to see themselves true believers without actually practicing these. Giving, charity and zakah, which Islam calls Ṣadaqah, expiate sins, cleanse from negative deeds, elevate one’s status with God, build and bring about unity of communities, eliminate poverty, unify humans, spread peace, establish justice, create compassion and mercy and give hope to all people of every time, anywhere that these forms of Ṣadaqah are given chance to come to pass.
Let us consider for a moment just one aspect of the Muslim’s duty regarding Ṣadaqah as highlighted in the ḥadîth of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ,
Ṣadaqah is obligatory every day on every joint of a human being. (Bukhâri and Muslim)
If humans were to adhere to this simple instruction, how much poverty could be eliminated? How happier would be the world we live in?
What is Ṣadaqah?
Ṣadaqah is an Islamic term that means charity or charitable act. It comes from the root word ṣadq or ṣidq which means “to speak the truth, to be sincere.” This is related to the idea that only those who are sincere in faith will easily give of what they possess and also that being true to one’s religion obligates one to perform charity. Although giving of money to the poor and needy comes to mind when discussing Ṣadaqah, the meaning goes far beyond that to cover its comprehensive intent. Ṣadaqah (charity) is any good deed that benefits someone and for which a Muslim will receive due reward from Allah. It requires sincerity of intention, altruistic motives, and seeking Allah’s pleasure (for His sake alone). Giving money can be easy at times, but it is the true and sincere effort to assist others in various ways, while requiring sacrifice, that represents the genuine nature of Ṣadaqah.
The Prophet ﷺ said,
Whoever relieves a Muslim of some distress in this world, Allah will relieve him of some distress on the Day of Resurrection. Whoever is easy-going with a debtor who is facing hardship, Allah will make it easy for him in this world and in the Hereafter. And whoever conceals a Muslim’s faults Allah will conceal his faults in this world and the Hereafter. And Allah will help His servant so long as His servant helps his brother. (Muslim)
The Prophet ﷺ said,
Every Muslim has to give in charity.” The people asked, “O Allah’s Prophet! If someone has nothing to give, what will he do?” He said, “He should work with his hands and benefit himself and also give in charity (from what he earns).” The people further asked, “If he cannot find even that?” He replied, “He should help the needy who appeal for help.” Then the people asked, “If he cannot do that?” He replied, “Then he should perform good deeds and keep away from evil deeds, this will be regarded as charitable deeds. (Bukhâri)
Recommended Nature of Ṣadaqah
Ṣadaqah is an essential element of the religion of Islam that is heavily emphasized. The Prophet said,
Every small bone of everyone has upon it a [desired] charity for every day upon which the sun rises… (Bukhâri and Muslim)
Allah’s Messenger ﷺ also said,
Give (in Ṣadaqah) and do not give reluctantly lest Allah should give you in a limited amount; and do not withhold your money lest Allah should withhold it from you. (Bukhari)
Although the wording in these aḥadîth may seem to point to the obligatory nature of Ṣadaqah, most commentators understand this to mean “strong recommendation.” Some scholars interpret the charity to refer to acts of gratitude. In that case, some of these would be obligatory and some would be recommended. The obligatory aspect of gratitude toward Allah, for His bounties would entail performing the mandatory duties and refraining from the prohibited deeds. The recommended aspect of gratitude would go beyond this and include performance of voluntary, recommended deeds (such as those highlighted in the aḥadîth) and avoidance of disliked actions. In either case, the Ṣadaqah that we are discussing would fall into the category of voluntary and strongly recommended deeds.
Hasten in Giving Ṣadaqah
The Prophet, in several aḥadîth, encouraged the people to hasten in giving charity as that would benefit them the most. It should not be delayed until a time when the person is no longer able to donate or until he or she no longer finds an eligible recipient. A man asked the Prophet,
O Messenger of Allah! What kind of charity is the best?” He replied. “To give in charity when you are healthy and greedy, hoping to be wealthy and afraid of becoming poor. Don’t delay giving in charity till the time when you are on the deathbed when you say, ‘Give so much to so-and-so and so much to so-and so,’ and at that time the property is not yours but it belongs to so-and-so (i.e., your inheritors). (Bukhâri and Muslim)
This means that giving of charity should not be postponed until the time of death or after death. In these times, many people leave their wealth and belongings in a written will to be distributed after death, but this is something that is discouraged in Islam. Giving should be carried out when the person is strong and able and in a state of desiring wealth. One of the purposes of Ṣadaqah is to purify the soul of the yearning for material possessions and this cannot be realized after death.
The Prophet provided the finest example of this principle. ʿUqbah ibn Al-Hârith narrated,
Once the Prophet offered the ʿAsr ṣalaḥ and then hurriedly went to his house and returned immediately. I (or somebody else) asked him (as to what was the matter) and he said, ‘I left at home a piece of gold which was from the charity and I disliked to let it remain a night in my house, so I had it distributed.’ (Bukhâri)
The Prophet did not want to keep the gold in his house for even one night. Oftentimes, we see the opposite in the world today, with people finding it difficult to part with even the smallest piece of gold or jewelry.
There will also come a time when it will be difficult to find someone who is eligible to receive charity (primarily in monetary form). A person should not delay in giving as this may occur in their lifetime. The Prophet said,
(O people!) Give in charity (for Allah’s cause) because a time will come when a person will carry his object of charity from place to place (and he will not find any person to take it) and any person whom he shall request to take it will reply, ‘If you had brought it yesterday, I would have taken it, but today I am not in need of it.’ (Bukhâri)
The Prophet ﷺ said,
O people, you should do whatever good deeds you can, for Allah does not stop giving reward until you stop doing good deeds. And the most beloved of deeds to Allah is that in which a person persists, even if it is only a little. If the family of Muhammad started to do something, they would persist in it. (Bukhâri and Muslim)
It is not enough to sporadically carry out acts of goodness, but a Muslim should be persistent in Ṣadaqah, even it is with only something small. This is something that the Prophet encouraged, for it provides ongoing benefit to the individual and society. Ṣadaqah Zakah can only be given to Muslims, while other forms of Ṣadaqah may be given to both Muslims and non-Muslims alike as long as the non-Muslims are not in a state of war against the Muslims. Allah says,
Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion nor drove you out of your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who deal with equity. [Surat Al-Mumtahanah,60:8]
It is allowed to give Ṣadaqah to non-Muslim family members as well — in order to maintain and strengthen the ties of kinship. Asmâ’, the daughter of Abu Bakr said,
My mother came to me when she was still a polytheist. I consulted the Messenger of Allah saying, ‘O Messenger of Allah, my mother has come to me and she is asking for help. Should I uphold the ties of kinship with her?’ He said, ‘Yes, uphold the ties of kinship with her.’ (Bukhâri)
It is preferable, however, to give Ṣadaqah to the poor and needy Muslims since this may help them obey Allah and assist them in both the worldly and spiritual affairs. It also strengthens the bonds of brotherhood among Muslims, especially when the poor among the Muslims far outnumber the rich (as is the case today). If it is known that the Muslim will use it for sinful purposes or to harm another Muslim, then it is not allowed to give it to that person.
…To be continued, inshâ’Allah