All religions of the world encourage their followers to give away something or other in charity for the sake of poor. Unfortunately, this is not taken as seriously as it should have been because of misconceptions attached to the act. The saying that there is never enough for ones needs remains a major obstacle.
Mahatma Gandhi’s thought on the matter is still relevant. He said, “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.” The greed to improve quality of life keeps us occupied and ever unsatisfied.
Unlike other religions, Islam has ordained charity for all of its followers who qualify to do so. It is neither a choice nor a favor from the person doing it. It is one of the five pillars of faith.
Being charitable and taking care of needs of others is a noble trait.
Why charity is more important now than ever before in spite of affluence in societies around the world? The reasons are many, but the most important is uneven distribution of wealth due to unethical practices. When one opens his eyes around, he will find countless starving, hungry, poor and destitute people begging.
The recent unnecessary wars have added a number of refugees to this unfortunate group of poor.
The solution for the world poverty lies in charity. Every now and then one hears about the donation from ultra rich person in charity. This is welcome, but does not cure this malady. Affluent Muslims, as a matter of fact, may not have realized that their wealth could actually strengthen whole communities.
If charity is given correctly, it would result in both happiness of needy and wealthy. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) emphasized this principle time and again.
Forms of Charity
In Islam, there are several different forms of charity, including the two most important: Zakat (obligatory charity) and Sadaqa (voluntary charity). While Zakat is a fixed percentage i.e. 2.5% of total annual savings, Sadaqa goes beyond material things as well.
Both must be given to poor and needy people. Beauty of Sadaqa is that it can be given in many forms. Prophetic traditions reveal that a smile or a wise advice is also an act of charity.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “Your smile for your brother is a charity. Your removal of stones, thorns or bones from the paths of people is a charity. Your guidance of a person who is lost is a charity.” (Bukhari)
Benefits of Charity
What does one get when he gives charity? Happiness is the guaranteed outcome when one makes a fellow being happy. There is no other way to achieve real happiness except through this.
By giving away part of one’s wealth in charity, the individual seeks goodwill of his Creator and guaranteed protection from tragedy and misfortune.
Charity is a humanistic quality which is innate in every soul. One may not exercise it due to lack of awareness.
Pitfalls of Greed
It is commonly observed that the rich hoard on to their wealth as though it is just for their families. If one does not get the habit of sharing with the needy from an early age, it becomes very difficult to practice later in life.
Perpetual Charity, Endless Reward
Charity can yield endless reward for its giver. For example, if a man performs a good deed that keeps on benefiting others, then the doer of the deed will get continuous rewards for that single act till it benefits others, even when the doer passes away. This is called sadaqa jariyah or perpetual charity.
The Prophet was reported to have said: “When a person dies his works end, except for three: ongoing charity, knowledge that is benefited from, and a righteous child who prays for him.” (Muslim, Al-Tirmidhi, others)
It can be inferred from above that donating blood is also an act of perpetual charity as it helps save lives.
A saying goes as: charity begins at home. Let’s start with helping our deserving relatives, dependents and people around us. It is very important to give in to charity as this is the only way of making a harmonious and balanced society where there is no unrest and envy.
For Muslims, Ramzan is the month of charity and Zakat is a responsibility. Let’s give away as much in charity as we can to poor and needy people around us.