Prophet Muhammad (SAS) (peace be upon him) said:
‘Whoever strokes the head of an orphan, not stroking it for any other reason except to seek the pleasure of God, will be rewarded for every hair that his hand touches.
He also said:
Whoever treats an orphan girl or boy well, I will be with him on the Day of Resurrection like these,’ and he pointed to his two fingers, the index finger and the middle finger.
Charity, preached by every religion of the world, is a way of bringing justice to society. And justice is the essence of religion, Islam has therefore made charity that is Zakah, obligatory and binding upon all those who embrace the faith; it has been made into an institution in order to give in permanence and regularity.
A society can flourish only when its members do not spend all their wealth to fulfill their own desires but reserve a portion of it for parents, relatives, neighbors, the poor and the debilitated. As the saying goes: Charity begins at home. A true believer is thus always prepared, after meeting the needs of his family, to assist other people in need of his help.
Thus the spirit of kindness and well wishing is the essence of charity. The giver is not to expect any reward from the beneficiary as there awaits for him an abundant reward from God – material, moral and spiritual – what God deems it best to confer on His servant.
Charity should be lawfully earned or acquired by the giver. It should include such things as are of use and value to others.
“Charity is for those in need.” This is general principle which enjoins us to help people in need, be they good or bad, on the right path or not, Muslims or non-Muslims. No one should judge in these matters. The foremost ends in charity should be God’s pleasure and our own spiritual good. The concept of charity in Islam is thus linked with justice. It is not limited to the redressal of grievances. It implies apart from the removal of handicaps, the recognition of the right that every human being has to attain the fullness of life.
There are two forms of charity in Islam – obligatory and voluntary, called Zakah and Sadaqah respectively.
The concept of charity appears in most of the world’s religions. The Islamic tradition has rigid laws associated with it. It is said that those Muslims who do not abide by them are surely noticed by their God, Allah (SWT). Charity in Islam is seen as an amplification of the ideal of community within the religion. When a Muslim person raises funds he is not gathering money for a stranger, rather he is acting on behalf of his own family. Everyone in the Islamic community is seen to reside in the house of Allah, as one people. Thus the definition of charity in Islamic tradition differs somewhat from its interpretation in other contexts.
The Qur’an states: ‘And be steadfast in your prayer and pay charity; whatever good you send forth for your future, you shall find it with Allah, for Allah is well aware of what you do’ (2:110). Charity is central to a Muslim’s life.
The best charity is to satisfy a hungry person, said Prophet Muhammad (SAS). He also said “No wealth (of a servant of Allah) is decreased because of charity.” (Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith No. 2247).
The following five words are the most frequently used words to describe charity in the Noble Qur’an:
1. Infaq fi Sabil Allah (spending in the path of Allah). Infaq Meaning spending benevolently
2. Ihsan Meaning the doing of good or (kindness and consideration
3. Zakah Meaning growth or purification
4. Sadaqah Derived from the root sidq and meaning truth, and comes to signify charitable deed
5. Khayrat Meaning good deeds
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).