Charity, known as Sadaqah or Zakat in Islam, holds a significant and integral role in the life of a practicing Muslim. Rooted in the teachings of the Quran and the traditions of Prophet Muhammad, the concept of charity in Islam transcends mere philanthropy; it is a fundamental pillar of the faith, embodying compassion, empathy, and social responsibility.
There are two forms of charity in Islam — obligatory and voluntary, called ‘zakat’ and ‘sadaqa’ respectively. Giving up a portion of the wealth one may possess more than what is needed for sustenance, is to “purify” or legalize it so that the remainder may lawfully be used by the almsgiver.
Zakat: Obligatory Almsgiving:
The term Zakat, which means "purification" or "growth," refers to the mandatory almsgiving that Muslims are required to contribute annually. Zakat is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and is considered an obligation for those who possess wealth beyond a certain threshold, ensuring the equitable distribution of resources within the Muslim community. It serves as a means of purifying one's wealth and soul, fostering a sense of social justice and communal welfare. Deducting zakat from one’s earnings is a material acknowledgment of the fact that the actual giver is God. Since the giver is God, the recipient is duty-bound to spend it in His cause.
The law of zakat is to take from those who have wealth and give it away to those who do not. This rotation of wealth is a way to balance social inequality.
The Quran emphasizes the importance of Zakat in numerous verses, emphasizing its role in establishing social equilibrium. One such verse in Surah Al-Baqarah (2:267) states, "O you who have believed, spend from the good things which you have earned and from that which We have produced for you from the earth. And do not aim toward the defective therefrom, spending from that while you would not take it [yourself] except with closed eyes. And know that Allah is Free of need and Praiseworthy."
Sadaqah: Voluntary Acts of Charity:
In addition to Zakat, Islam encourages Muslims to engage in voluntary acts of charity known as Sadaqah. Sadaqah encompasses a broader range of charitable deeds and is not limited to financial contributions. It includes any act of kindness or assistance, such as helping the needy, visiting the sick, or simply spreading a kind word.
Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said, "The believer's shade on the Day of Resurrection will be his charity" (Al-Tirmidhi). This highlights the profound significance of acts of charity in Islam, suggesting that they not only benefit the recipient but also serve as a source of protection and reward for the giver in the afterlife.
The concept of charity in Islam extends beyond the financial aspect, emphasizing comprehensive welfare. Muslims are encouraged to contribute to the betterment of society through various means, including education, healthcare, and social services. The overarching goal is to create a community where everyone has access to necessities, and the well-being of everyone is a collective concern.
In times of crisis or natural disasters, Islam emphasizes the importance of immediate and generous assistance to those affected. The concept of charity, therefore, becomes a dynamic force, responding to the evolving needs of society and addressing challenges with resilience and compassion.
The concept of charity in Islam is deeply rooted in the principles of compassion, justice, and communal responsibility. Zakat and Sadaqah not only serve as a means of uplifting the less fortunate but also purify the hearts and souls of those who give. By incorporating charity into their daily lives, Muslims aim to create a just and compassionate society, fulfilling their religious duty while contributing to the well-being of humanity at large. In essence, the concept of charity in Islam is a guiding light that illuminates the path of generosity, empathy, and social justice.