Charity: Its Realm and Importance (2)

Specific Types of adaqah

Zakah is a specific form of adaqah that is compulsory for every Muslim who has wealth beyond his or her needs. The requirement is that 2.5% of wealth beyond necessities should be given each year. The focus of zakah is on material wealth and its purification, while adaqah is a more comprehensive term applied to any good deed. The goal of both is to achieve a spiritual, moral, and just climate in which all individuals can live in peace and contentment. While zakah deals primarily with the economic aspect, adaqah encompasses the economic, the social, and the moral. Zakah is also an obligatory action, while adaqah is recommended.

Feeding the Poor and Needy

Feeding the poor and needy is one of the obvious forms of adaqah. Allah says,

And what can make you know what is (breaking through) the difficult pass? It is the freeing of a slave; or feeding –on a day of severe hunger– an orphan of near relationship, or a needy person in misery; and then being among those who believed and advised one another to patience and advised one another to compassion. Those are the companions of the right. [Sûrat Al-Sharḥ, 90:12-18]

He also says to those who ignore their duties to their Lord and then feel that He is not being generous with them:

No! But you do not honor the orphan; and you do not encourage one another to feed the poor; And you consume inheritance, devouring (it) altogether; And you love wealth with immense love. [Sûrat Al-Fajr, 89:17-20]


Every soul, for what it has earned, will be retained; except the companions of the right, (who will be) in gardens, questioning each other about the criminals, (and asking them), ‘What put you into hell-fire?’ They will say, ‘We were not of those who prayed, nor did we use to feed the poor. And we used to enter into vain discourse with those who engaged (in it), and we used to deny the Day of Recompense.’ [Sûrat Al-Muddaththir, 74:38-46]

When we understand the hunger and suffering that millions of people experience due just to the lack of food and potable water, it is truly astounding. It is even more astonishing to learn that the planet contains a sufficient supply of food to feed every human being and that the real problems are distribution and politics. In some countries perfectly good food is dumped in order to raise prices. Governments withhold food and encourage poverty as a form of control of its own people. Sanctions are used as a form of punishment against whole countries, with the weakest members of the society suffering the most. At the root of this is the love of wealth and power. As Allah says,

And you love wealth with immense love. [Sûrat Al-Fajr, 89:20]

Muslims, on the other hand, are encouraged to give monetary charity beyond the obligatory zakah, when they know that others are in need. They should share their food and belongings with those who have less than them since this eases the pain of others and strengthens the bonds of brotherhood. A Muslim would not sleep well at night knowing that his neighbor went to bed on an empty stomach. This purifies the wealth and soul of the believer even more.

Caring for the Orphan

In addition to the Quranic verses mentioned above, there are several aadîth related to orphans. The Prophet œ was an orphan himself and he encouraged Muslims to take care of these children. He said,

I and the one who sponsors an orphan will be in Paradise like these two— and he gestured with his forefinger and middle finger, holding them apart. (Bukhâri)

He œ also said,

This money is fresh and sweet. Blessed is the wealth of the Muslim, from which he gives to the poor, the orphan and the wayfarer.  (Bukhâri and Muslim)

Sponsorship of an orphan may mean spending wealth, but it particularly means looking after him, guiding him with regard to religious and worldly affairs, educating him, and treating him kindly until he reaches adulthood. Basically, a sponsor takes on the role of the parents who would have completed these responsibilities if they had lived long enough. The religious and educational affairs of the orphan are even more important than material needs since this will guide them towards good morals and manners.

Freeing Slaves

Allah says,

And what can make you know what is the steep uphill path? It is the freeing of a slave; or feeding –on a day of severe hunger– an orphan of near relationship; or a needy person in misery. [Sûrat Al-Sharḥ, 90:12-18]

He also says,

Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but (true) righteousness is (in) one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the Angels, the Book, and the Prophets –and who gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask, and for freeing slaves… [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:177]

When Islam was revealed to Prophet Muhammad œ, slavery was a common social phenomenon. Slavery was deeply rooted in every society to the extent that it was impossible to imagine a civilized society without slaves. In spite of this social fact, Islam was the first religion to recognize the rights of the slave. Slavery itself is not considered a social illness, but the way some people have dealt with their slaves is considered an illness.

So Islam came to denounce such cruelty and injustice and came to protect the rights of the slaves that needed to be addressed. Since slavery was deeply rooted in society, Islam did not abolish it at once. Rather, Islam dealt with slavery as it did with other social illnesses. Islam followed the same methodology of gradual elimination in dealing with this social disease as it did with other social defects: Islam established rules, which led to the eventual freedom of slaves. It declared the act of freeing slaves as a good deed, one which is tremendously rewarded by Allah. Therefore, Muslims were encouraged to participate in freeing slaves.

The freedom of slaves was also encoded into the legal system of Islam by requiring it as part of the penance for sins and as the punishment for criminal acts. Islam listed freeing slaves as one of the eight elements for which zakah (state collected alms money) could be used.

There are several verses in the Quran that outline the legal code for the freeing of slaves. Allah says,

…And whoever kills a believer by mistake – then the freeing of a believing slave and a compensation payment presented to his family… [Sûrat Al-Nisâ’, 4:92]

He also says,

And those who pronounce zihar from their wives and then (wish to) go back on what they said, then (there must be) the freeing of a slave before they touch one another… [Sûrat Al-Mujâdilah, 58:3]

The Prophet œ stated the importance of treating slaves well and of the rewards for educating them and freeing them. He said,

Your servants and your slaves are your brothers. Anyone who has slaves should give them from what he eats and wears. He should not charge them with work beyond their capabilities. If you must set them to hard work, in any case, I advise you to help them. (Bukhâri)

He œ also said,

If any of you have a slave girl, whom he gives good education and excellent training, and then he emancipates her and marries her, he shall have a two-fold reward. (Bukhâri)

Waqf (Endowment) — Ongoing Charity

A Waqf (pl: awqâf) is a permanent, irreversible transfer of one’s wealth or property for the sake of Allah and to gain His pleasure. The asset becomes the property of Allah forever and can never be returned back. In essence, it means the holding of specific property or wealth, preserving it for certain benefits, and prohibiting any use outside of its specific purpose. The establishment of a waqf is considered to be an act of worship and a form of adaqah, and as such it is highly recommended in Islam (mustaḥabb). All that we own actually belongs to Allah and He confers it upon his servants whom he chooses.

It is narrated in Bukhâri and Muslim:

¢Umar said, “O Messenger of Allah, I have got wealth from Khaybar and I have nothing that is more precious to me than that. What do you command me to do with it?” He said, “If you wish, you can put it aside and give in charity from it (from what it produces), but the original property should not be sold, given away or inherited).” So ¢Umar gave it in charity to the poor and to relatives, used it to set slaves free, gave it for the sake of Allah, helped wayfarers and honored his guests. The Prophet said, “When the son of Adam dies, all his good deeds come to an end except three: ongoing charity, knowledge from which others may benefit after his death, and a righteous off spring who will pray for him.”

Types of Awqâf

There are basically three types of awqâf: religious waqf, philanthropic waqf, and family waqf.

  • The religious waqf basically pertains to mosques and any real estate or properties designated for providing revenues for the maintenance and operations of the mosques. This form of waqf contributes to the social welfare of the community since it fulfills the religious needs of the people.The Prophet œ said,

    Whoever builds a mosque for the sake of Allah, even if it is like the nest of a sand grouse, Allah will build for him a house in Paradise. (Aḥmed)

  • A philanthropic waqf has the goal of assisting the poor and needy of a society and the various activities that are of benefit to the people. This includes libraries, scientific research, education, health services, hospitals, care of the environment, parks, roads, bridges, public utilities, etc.
  • The family or posterity waqf refers to the case where a condition is put by the benefactor that the revenues or fruits of the waqf must first be given to their own children or descendants. Only the extra or surplus would be given to the poor, orphans, and so on. The family waqf is considered charitable since it provides income to persons without charge and helps to improve the welfare of the future generations.

…To be continued, inshâ’Allah


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