Charity is the base of every successful socioeconomic model. In many civilizations, giving away money to those in need of it is a very common practice. Several organizations collect funds for onward distribution to needy people, whereas many do it individually.
Besides its social aspect, charity is also a religious activity in many parts of the world. The concept of charity exists in most of the religions. Spending a part of one’s resources for the well-being of poor folks in society is considered an act of kindness and is strongly encouraged in many religions.
But Islam is perhaps the only religion that has made it compulsory for those with wealth beyond a specific limit. Islam has introduced the concept of charity in the shape of Zakat, payable annually by a person at a fixed ratio. Zakat is one of the five basic elements of Islam. But more importantly, charity in Islam does not end with giving Zakat. It is just a little part of a wide range of charities practiced in a Muslim society.
The Concept of Charity in Islam
Islam is a religion of nature. It deals with every aspect of an individual’s life and duties towards society. Religious activities such as offering prayers five times daily and reciting the Quran belong to one’s life. In contrast, acts like helping the less fortunate people are a part of his religious responsibilities towards the community.
The 215th verse of surah Al-Baqarh, the concept of charity in Islam is explained.
Translation: The people ask, “What should we spend?” Tell them, “Whatever you spend, spend for your parents, your relatives, orphans, the needy and the wayfarer; and whatever good you do, Allah has knowledge of it.”
The 271st verse of the same surah explains how to give away charity.
Translation: If you practice charity publicly, it is good; but if you give charity secretly to the needy, it is much better for you, for this will expiate many of your sins. Anyhow, Allah is well aware of whatever you do.
So, the concept is quite evident in Islam. Give away the excessive part of your wealth to the needy, may that be your parent, your relatives, the orphans, or any other less fortunate community person. Quran has also set the right way of helping others: give in privately. Though not compulsory, a preferred and much-liked way is to give it secretly to ensure his self-respect.
Types of Charity in Islam
While one type of charity, in the shape of Zakat has been made compulsory in Islam and is included in the five basic elements of Islam, there are several other ways and concepts of charity, in practice and strongly recommended. Some of them are compulsory, while others are optional. Let’s explore some of them:
Being one of the five pillars of Islam, giving Zakat is compulsory for those who possess more than a pre-determined level of wealth in the shape of gold and money. Zakat is payable at 2.5% of the total possession during a year. Although not binding, most Muslims like to give Zakat during Ramadan. In some Muslim countries, including Pakistan, Zakat is collected by the Government from the Bank accounts on the 1st of Ramadan. However, a major portion of Zakat is given by the people individually.
It is an Arabic word that means a voluntary act of charity. Not a compulsory act, as Zakat is, Sadaqah is purely an optional act of giving away to needy persons only for the sake of pleasing Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى. Hence, there is no specific time for giving away Sadaqah, nor does it have a fixed ratio. It can be given anytime. Sadaqah can be in shape of financial assistance, food or clothing, or anything that may help a person fulfill his need.
Sadaqah’s a unique form, known as Sadaqah Jariya, is a continuous and ongoing charity. Construction of a Road, a School, a well, or any other such thing would benefit the people for many years. This type of charity is highly appreciated in Islam.
Fitrana, also known as Zakat Al-Fitr, is a unique charity type, most popular in Islam. It is yet another obligatory form of charity in Islam, given to the needy at the end of Ramadan but before offering Salat ul Eid. Just like Zakat, it is also payable at a fixed rate.
Scarifying an animal, such as a goat, lamb, cow, or camel, is yet another compulsory form of charity, done on the eve of Eid Ul Adha. The concept is to give away meat to the poor segment of the society. It is a highly appreciated act in Islam.
If a Muslim violates an Islamic obligatory law, he is bound to pay Kaffara, often in charity, such as poor feeding.
Endowment of your property or any other assets for the use of a poor segment of the community is referred to as Waqf. It is one of the best forms of charity. Such properties are often used as hospitals or schools for the less fortunate people.
· Qarz e Hasana
Giving an interest-free loan to anyone in need is known as Qarz-e-Hasana in Islam. It is yet another beautiful form of charity, often done by wealthy persons and sometimes at the organizational level in some countries.
· Donations for Specific Purposes
Another popular form of charity is giving donations to specific causes. It includes donations for education, health, or donations to rehabilitate disaster victims such as floods or earthquakes.
Rewards and Blessings of Charity
The best part of Islam is perhaps the concept of rewards. Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى rewards every good act, whether it is an act of worship such as offering five compulsory prayers a day or any other act for the wellbeing of people such as charity. Here are some of the rewards of Charity:
- You get a place in Paradise – The 73rd verse of surah Az-Zumar narrates that when a person spends in the way of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى, he will be rewarded with a place in paradise.
Translation: And those who eschewed disobeying their Lord shall be driven in companies to Paradise so that when they arrive there its gates will have already been thrown open and its keepers shall say to them: “Peace be upon you; you have done well. So enter. Herein you shall abide.”
This is about the gate of paradise, known as Baab e Sadaqah.
- Your sins are expiated – One of the best rewards of charity is that Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى forgives our sins, as narrated in the 114th verse of Surah Houd.
Translation – And establish the Prayer at the two ends of the day and in the first hours of the night. Indeed, the good deeds drive away the evil deeds. This is a Reminder to those who are mindful of Allah.
Majority of the scholars are of the view that charity is a good deed, hence it will be rewarded in shape of expiation of our sins, in the context of this verse.
- You are protected from Hellfire – The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ once said that giving away charity even in the form of a half date, will save you from the Hellfire, as narrated in Hadith number 1413, Book 24 of Sahi Al-Bukhari.
Translation of a part of Hadith – And so, any (each one) of you should save himself from the fire even by giving half of a date-fruit (in charity). And if you do not find a hall date fruit, then (you can do it through saying) a good pleasant word (to your brethren).
- You are protected from hardships – Another huge reward of charity is that you are surely protected from the hardships, difficulties and calamities. The 245th verse of surah Al-Baqarah narrates:
Translation – Who is there among you who will lend to Allah a good loan that He may return it after multiplying it manifold? Allah alone can decrease and increase (wealth) and to Him you shall all return.
The scholars relate it to the protection from hardships for a person who give Sadaqah.
- You get shelter on the day of Judgment – Prophet Muhammad ﷺ told his companions that the charity given by a person will provide shelter on the day of resurrection, as narrated in the Hadith 6806, Book 86 of Sahi Al-Bukhari.
Translation of the relevant part – “Seven (people) will be shaded by Allah by His Shade on the Day of Resurrection when there will be no shade except His Shade… and (finally), a man who gives in charity so secretly that his left hand does not know what his right hand has given.”
Apart from these rewards in the life hereafter, the person who gives charity also benefits in his life:
- He gets inner satisfaction.
- He gets happiness.
- He gets more social contacts.
- He gets relief from anxiety and stress.
- He gets a good positive reputation in the community.
Charity in the form of Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam. Apart from the Zakat, there are many other ways of giving charity. It is the best of the best acts that is expected from a Muslim. Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى likes this act and gives huge rewards in our life in this world as well as in the life after death. It is part of the socioeconomic framework of a society.
Helping the needy is a bidding force to put together different segments of society. Islam makes the rich responsible for looking after those who might be less fortunate. So, charity is crucial in developing a well-connected social community. The best part of charity, per the teachings of Islam, is that you have to ensure the self-respect of the person you are helping. That’s why it is highly recommended in Islam to give charity secretly.