STANDING IN A traffic jam in a busy Pakistani city you might get surrounded by beggars. They are quite insistent – they would knock on your window and plead until you give them something. You can turn your head away or say the usual: “Maaf karo” which literally means “forgive me” but which is said in a way that has nothing to do with asking forgiveness. The small coin is most often given just to get rid of them. Is it ṣadaqa?
The imam of the mosque takes his time before Friday prayer to read the name of the most generous beneficiaries to the mosque and makes sure to mention the huge sums they donated. These are people well known in the community, often seen in the front rows during Friday Jumu’ah, and upon hearing their names they straighten their backs in pride, while others nod to them in acknowledgement muttering “Mâshâ’Allah, Mâshâ’Allah…” Is that ṣadaqa?
The lady of the house distributes the meat from the Eid qurbani. She has a list of people that she wants to send the meat parcels to, among them her children’s teacher and her influential neighbour. She hopes to gain their favour so she chooses the best cuts to go in their packets. Is this ṣadaqa?
A widow with three children owes much to her employers and benefactors – the rich family not only employed her as a house-help when she couldn’t find any other job, but they also donate all their unwanted clothes, toys and household items to her. She does feel grateful for that, but it is embarrassing when the lady asks if she still has that sofa that they gave her last year and if her children haven’t stained it yet with their messy hands. Could that be ṣadaqa?
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Charity in Islam has multiple rewards: if done properly and with true intention to please Allah it could protect us against hellfire, strengthen our Iman, ensure prosperity and bring the ultimate reward from our Creator. And we don’t really have to go out of our way to give ṣadaqa – we are only asked to give what we have above our needs, or if we have no material goods or wealth to share, we can donate our efforts. As the Prophet ﷺ taught us:
Every Muslim has to give in ṣadaqa (charity). The people asked, “O Allah’s Messenger! 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 do even that?” He replied, “Then he should help the needy who appeal for help.” Then the people asked, “If he cannot do that?” He replied, “Then he should perform all that is good and keep away from all that is evil and this will be regarded as charitable deeds.” (Bukhâri)
In another ḥadîth we read:
To smile in the company of your brother is charity. To command to do good deeds and to prevent others from doing evil is charity. It is charity to give guidance to a person who is in a place where he could go astray. To remove troublesome things like thorns and bones from the road is charity. To pour water from your jug into the jug of your brother is charity. To guide a person with defective vision is charity for you. (Bukhâri)
And we also read:
O son of Adam, it is better for you if you spend your surplus (wealth), but if you withhold it, it is evil for you. There is (however) no reproach for you (if you withhold means necessary) for [your own] living. Begin (charity) with your dependents; the upper hand is better than the lower hand. (Muslim)
It is easy to earn the reward of the ṣadaqa with small everyday deeds, but it is equally easy to lose the reward of seemingly great generosity if we do not follow the Islamic etiquettes of giving. These are as follows:
- Ṣadaqa must be done with the right intention: seeking the pleasure of Allah and expecting the reward from Him only. It cannot be done to gain praise or recognition from others, as a means to show off (riyâ’) or to boost our ego. We read in the Quran:Those who spend their wealth in the Cause of Allah, and do not follow up their gifts with reminders of their generosity or with injury, their reward is with their Lord. On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah 2:261-262]We should not expect thanks nor ask for the duʿâ’ of the person to whom we give charity. It has been said about ʿAisha, Mother of the Believers, that when she sent out charity, she would also ask the one delivering the charity to listen and memorize the duʿâ’ that they made for her, so that she could make the same duʿâ’ for them, therefore making sure that all her reward for giving charity is with Allah only.
- It is better to keep our charity a secret, and that would certainly help us to avoid making it a show off, but on the other hand we are allowed to disclose it to inspire others to be charitable. The Quran teaches us:If you disclose charity, even so it is well, but if you conceal it, and make them reach those in need, that is best for you: It will remove from you some of your (stains of) evil. And Allah is well acquainted with what you do. [Sûrat al-Baqarah 2:271]
- Charity must always be given from a lawful source as the Prophet ﷺ taught us:If one gives in charity what equals one date-fruit from honestly earned money –and Allah accepts only the honestly earned money– then Allah takes it in His Right (hand). And then, He enlarges its reward for that person (who has given it), as anyone of you brings up his baby horse, so much so that it becomes as big as a mountain. (Bukhâri)Also, avoid giving to others what you would not like being given yourself: your unwanted stuff dumped into the hands of a poorer friend or on the doorstep of a charity shop is not really a ṣadaqa. It’s you who is happy to get rid of it, and they relieve you of your burden so who is the benefactor and who is the beneficiary here?
- Charity begins at home – and you should begin with your dependants as we have been taught by the Messenger of Allah ﷺ:The upper hand is better than the lower hand, (i.e., he who gives charity is better than him who takes it). One should start giving first to his dependents. And the best object of charity is that which is given by a wealthy person (from the money which is left after his expenses.) And whoever abstains from asking others for some financial help, Allah will give him and save him from asking others, Allah will make him self-sufficient. (Bukhâri).Nowadays when various charities are doing a remarkable job competing to grab our attention and attract our donations, it is easy to forget the ones that do not ask and the ones that are close to us. Also, if we donate to a charity organization after seeing their dramatic ad that made us all emotional and tearful, can we still say that we have done ṣadaqa entirely to please Allah and not to relieve ourselves from the burden of guilt and to lift our moods? Charity should be our regular activity, just like prayer, and not an act of a distressed heart.
- Charity should not be followed by reminders of our deed – and we shouldn’t even bother ourselves by remembering or counting our donations or good deeds. We are reminded in the ḥadîth:Spend in charity and do not keep count for then Allah will also keep count in giving you provision. (Bukhâri and Muslim)Regarding the act of charity that is followed by reminders, Allah tells us in the Quran:O you who believe! Cancel not your charity by reminders of your generosity or by injury― like those who spend their substance to be seen of men, but who believe neither in Allah nor in the Last Day. They are in Parable like a hard, barren rock, on which is a little soil; on it falls heavy rain, which leaves it (just) a bare stone. They will be able to do nothing with aught they have earned. And Allah guides not those who reject faith. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah 2:264]
It is sometimes easy to forget that we are in need of giving charity as much as some people are in need of receiving it. And when we forget this, we might become proud or expect thankfulness from the people we give to, forgetting that the best of rewards is the reward of Allah, that we are just His humble servants who have been entrusted with His wealth to distribute justly among the Ummah.
Originally posted 2016-10-14 08:00:32.