What is the Islamic definition of Charity?
The Qur'an has used different terms to describe charity. Some of these are:
· Infaq fi sabeel Allah (spending in the way of Allah). Infaq means spending benevolently.
· Ihsaan meaning the doing of good, or kindness and consideration.
· Zakah meaning growth and purification.
· Sadaqah derived from the root sidq meaning truth. It is used to signify charitable acts.
· Khayraat meaning good deeds.
How does Prophet Muhammad (pboh) define Charity?
Prophet Muhammad (pboh) is reported to have said:
Every good act is charity. Your smiling to your brother is charity; an exhortation of your fellowmen to virtuous deeds is equal to alms-giving; your putting a wanderer on the right road is charity; your assisting the blind is charity; your removing stones, and thorns, and any other obstructions from the road is charity; your giving water to the thirsty is charity.
We normally say that Allah provides for everyone; then must a person give charity?
Giving charity serves a number of purposes. Some of these are:
· It is like giving to Allah a goodly loan which He will pay back on the Day of Judgment by multiplying the amount many times. He says in the Holy Qur'an:
Who is he that will loan to Allah a beautiful loan which Allah will double unto his credit and multiply many times? (2:245)
· It is a form of saving for the Hereafter. Prophet Muhammad (pboh) is reported to have said:
When a person dies the angel will ask; what good deeds has he sent before him.
· According to teachings of Islam the giving of charity serves as the expiation of sins. For example if a person should break his fast deliberately in the month of Ramada, he might be required to keep sixty days of fasting, or feed the poor as is prescribed.
· Sometimes when a person commits a transgression, if he gives charity it may compensate for the sin he would have committed.
· Charity also gives protection of some kinds of sins.
· Charity wards off affliction in this world, questioning in the grave, and punishment in the Hereafter. Allah says:
Those who (in charity) spend of their goods by night and by day, in secret and in public, have their reward with their Lord. On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. (2:224)
What are some of the things a person should keep in mind when giving charity?
· The charity must be something beneficial and must have some sort of value to the recipient.
· It must be something that was lawfully earned; as it is not correct to take unlawful wealth, etc. and give it as charity.
· It must be something that can be referred to as the bounty of Allah.
· It should be things that will benefit others, even if it may, at the time be of little value to the giver, e.g. used clothes, etc.
· It must not be from ill gotten gains, e.g. a bandit may rob somebody and give the money as charity.
· Charity should be given solely for the sake of Allah. In the Holy Qur'an Allah says:
Don't the people understand that Allah accepts repentance from His votaries and receives their gifts of charity? (9:104)
I understand that there must not be any condition when charity is given; would you like to comment on this?
· Because charity is given solely for the sake of Allah there must not be any condition attached to it.
· The giver of charity must not expect any kind of reward or benefit from the recipient of it.
· It must not be followed by reference or reminders. Allah says:
Those who spend their substance in the cause of Allah, and do not follow up their gifts with reminders of their generosity. (2:262)
· It should not be the cause of annoyance or embarrassment to the recipient. Allah says:
`Kinds words and covering of faults are better than charity followed by injury. (2:263)
· It must not be done for show.
· It must be given to those in need.
I understand that there are two basic types of charity in Islam. They are called Zakat and Sadaqa. Can you explain something about them?
Zakaat is normally called poor tax, i.e. money is taken out once every year from the wealthy and given to the poor believers; sadaqa is charity; it must given to those in need.
Zakaat purifies ones wealth; sadaqa is just a good act.
Zakaat must be spent in accordance with Divine guidance; sadaqa is optional and can be given at any time.
Zakaat is taken out from certain categories of assets; sadaqa can be anything.
Zakaat is a fundamental principle of Islam; sadaqa is left to the individual's generosity.
Zakaat is meant to better the economic and social life of the believers; sadaqa is meant to better the lives of humanity at large.
Zakaat is a fixed rate; sadaqa is limitless.
You said that Zakaat is given to specific types of believers; who are such persons who are entitled to receive Zakaat?
Those entitled to benefit from Zakaat include the following:
· Men who have been weaned from hostility to Truth, who would probably be persecuted by their former associates, and require assistance until they establish new connections in their new environment.
· Those in bondage, literally and figuratively; captives of war must be released; slaves should be helped to freedom; those in bondage of ignorance or superstition or unfavorable environment should be helped to develop themselves.
· Those who are held in the grips of debt should be helped to economic freedom.
· Those who are struggling and striving in Allah's cause by teaching or fighting or in duties assigned to them by the Islamic State and they are unable to earn their ordinary livelihood.
· Strangers stranded on the way.
· Any believer who might find himself or herself in such a condition that they may need some help, will be entitled to benefit from Zakaat.
Charity should not be given for show; can you elaborate on this principle?
Poverty is a terrible thing; and because it can come upon anyone, we need to treat the less fortunate with dignity. While it is true there are those who feel they have a right to receive Zakaat, there who those who are in need but do not ask, such people must be helped without advertising it. Allah says:
Charity is for those in need, who, in Allah's cause are restricted and cannot move about in the land, seeking (trade or work). The ignorant man thinks that because of their modesty they are free from want; but you shall know them by the expression on their faces. They do not beg openly from everyone. And whatever of good you give, know that Allah is well aware. (2:273)
Secret charity gives no encouragement to begging. It saves the receiver from being verbally abused. It helps the giver to conceal his charity. It saves a person the humiliation of accepting charity in the presence of others. It removes doubt in the minds of others as to the extent of charity a person is receiving. Allah says:
If you disclose (acts of) charity, even so it is well; but if you conceal them, and make them reach those (really) in need, that is best for you. It will remove from you some of your evil. (2:271)
But we see that in the time of Prophet Muhammad (pboh) some of the companions give charity openly, like Abu Bakr gave the Prophet (pboh) all that he had at the time?
Sometimes, it might be better to give charity in public, as long as it is not done for show. It causes a person to show gratefulness. It causes one to become humble. It might be an example others will like to follow.
Who should give charity; is it only the wealthy, or can anyone give something in charity?
Prophet Muhammad (pboh) is reported to have said:
Charity is a necessity for every Muslim. He was asked; what if a person has nothing? He replied; He should work with his own hands for his benefit and then give something out of such earnings in charity. The Companions asked; What if he is not able to work? He replied, He should help poor and needy persons. The Companions further asked; What if he cannot do even that? He said: He should urge others to do good. And if he lacks that also? The Prophet (pboh) said: He should check himself from doing evil. That is also charity.
We see from this Tradition that no one is exempt from giving charity in some form or fashion. Prophet Muhammad (pboh) is reported to have said:
There is no limit to charity; your smile for your brother is charity; your removal of stones, thorns or bones from the path is charity, your guidance of a person who is lost is charity.
In another Tradition he said: To do justice to your brother is charity.
We are told that Prophet Muhammad (pboh) who was the most generous of persons, was especially generous in the Holy Month of Ramadan; is there any reason why this was so?
First of all we must understand that Ramadan is a special month. In this month the Generous Lord multiplies the reward for doing good more than in any other month. Every good deed is rewarded tremendously.
Remember, in the Hereafter, you will only receive what you sent before you.
Another important thing is that during the month of fasting, a lot of people may not have anything to start of break their fast, that is why feeding the fasting person is so important. In the time of the Prophet (pboh), there were so many people in need that he used to give and give all the time.
Is there any kind of charity that a person can give that can earn for him continuous rewards?
One of the best forms of such charities is to promote knowledge. Prophet Muhammad (pboh) has indicated that the best person is the one who learns the Qur'an and teaches it.
Also any kind and generous act that will benefit humanity; as long as they receive benefit, the doer of the act will receive blessing.
Ramadan is the month in which people take out their Zakaat; would you like to comment on this?
Zakaat is paid on taxable assets (from the Zakaat point of view) that remain with a person for a year. Ramadan is a good time to calculate, as it is easy to calculate from Ramadan to Ramadan.
Also, because the blessings are multiplied more and more in Ramadan, if a person should pay his Zakaat during this month, he is assured of more in this world as well as in the next.