Islam, like all religions, began with acts of kindness, compassion, and empathy. Feelings for others, helping those in need, donating, and paying charity are all part of the religion.
Mandatory Charity In Islam
The problem of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer is a perfect example of why charity is considered a huge part of Islam.
To address the unequal distribution of wealth in the society, Islam has ordained a perfect, mandatory zakat system.
Paying only 2.5% of your annual savings ensures the distribution of your wealth throughout society. It is a beautiful concept because not only does it help put bread in the house of the underprivileged, but it also strengthens brotherhood and your relationship with God.
What’s even more fascinating is that 2.5% of every Muslim’s annual income is enough to provide for those living below the poverty line. Having a fixed percentage allows everyone to contribute without going broke.
Giving zakat and donating money benefits the receiver and the giver. It strengthens the giver’s relationship with God, removes greed for wealth from their heart, and purifies it.
Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, established the importance of zakat when he said,
“Whoever relieves a believer’s distress of the distressful aspects of this world, Allah will rescue him from a difficulty of the difficulties of the Hereafter. Whoever alleviates [the situation of] one in dire straits who cannot repay his debt, Allah will alleviate his lot in both this world and in the Hereafter. Whoever conceals [the faults of] a Muslim, Allah will conceal [his faults] in this life and the Hereafter”.
(Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, 2699)
Voluntary Charity in Islam
While zakat is mandatory and a minimum is obligatory for all those who can afford to pay, there is no minimum or maximum limit for the voluntary acts of charity or sadaqa.
No matter how small the donation is, the rewards are huge.
The Holy Prophet (S.A.W) said:
“Protect yourself from hell-fire even by giving a piece of date as charity.”
(Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 1417)
In another hadith, Prophet of Allah (S.A.W) said:
“Allah said (to man), ‘Spend (in charity), for then I will compensate you (generously).”
(Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 7495, 7496)
In Surah Al Munafiqun, Chapter 63 of the Quran, verse number 10 says:
“And donate from what We have provided for you before death comes to one of you, and you cry, “My Lord! If only you delayed me for a short while, I would give in charity and be one of the righteous.”
Allah has promised rewards in this world and the hereafter for assisting in times of need. The Prophet considered the whole Ummah one and united it, saying:
“The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body.”
(Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 6011)
“When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.”
(Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2586c)
This hadith reflects on the importance of providing help. It is important that you feel the pain of the brother in need as if you are in pain yourself. Only when you thoroughly understand the pain and anguish someone is going through can you help them be in a better place, mentally and physically.
Small Acts of Kindness
In Islam, charity does not always have to be in a material form. Individuals who struggle financially and have trouble making ends meet can help others in multiple different ways. The little things in life could make a difference, from feeding a stray animal to helping with local clean-ups.
The Messenger of Allah (S.A.W) said:
“You putting some of the water from your bucket in your brother’s bucket is sadaqah. You removing stones, thorns, and bones from people’s paths is sadaqah. You guiding a man in a place where there are no guides is sadaqah.”
(Jami` at-Tirmidhi 1956)
Even the most minor form of help is considered charity in the eyes of Allah. We know the story of a prostitute who was awarded Jannah because she fed a thirsty stray dog and needed water.
Even the smallest of deeds can amount to big rewards.
Every good deed matters, whether providing academic assistance to a struggling student or offering a ride to someone stranded on the road.
The only condition is that you must do every good deed with a pure intention.
A Leaf From The Life of The Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W)
With his immaculate words and his kind actions, the Prophet, peace be upon him, changed the hearts and attitudes of the people around him. Even though he faced persecution and opposition from Arab society throughout his life, he only responded to hostility with kindness.
The story about the woman throwing garbage at the Prophet (S.A.W) every time he crossed her street speaks volumes. He did not curse her but instead asked about her whereabouts and helped her when he found out she was sick. The lady was so humbled and impressed with the kindness she received from the Prophet that she embraced Islam.
Be There For People – Openly or Privately
It is important to remember that many people shy away from asking for help. Some reasons for not openly asking for help include fear of rejection and going from being a well-to-do person to having to ask for help. They may face financial issues or need emotional support in bad times.
It is part of kindness and humanity to offer help if you see someone struggling. Ask people if they need you to assist them in any way. You can also always help anonymously while keeping your deed private.
There is a beautiful story of Abu Bakar (R.A), who helped a blind lady with her everyday household chores. The lady never found out who he was, and he managed to help her while maintaining his anonymity.
How Charity Benefits the Giver
While helping may benefit the receiver, psychology also proves that it benefits the giver. You form a stronger connection with your Creator, it helps reflect our gratitude towards Allah, and, believe it or not, it has some surprising health benefits, too. It also erases our sins and protects us from evil eyes.
Helping others helps you feel better too. It feels good to know that God has blessed you with the ability to give rather than having to ask and that you have the financial means to do so through His grace.
We must reflect on this and teach our kids the same at a very early age so that they learn kindness and empathy from the very beginning. Teaching them young creates adults who are compassionate, humble, and always willing to lend a hand to the unprivileged sector of society.