Charity in Islam: importance, benefits and reward

Why is charity important in Islam?

Charity is so important in Islam that it is made compulsory for those relatively rich to give to the poor. The Quran contains many verses on giving so that the poor have their rightful share and there is a fair distribution of wealth amongst society so no one is left destitute.  

The Quran instructs Charity

The Quran instructs people to give charity but also informs about who it should be spent on in a particular order.  These include relatives, the orphans, the destitute, and the wayfarer. 

Zakah: a necessary charity

It also makes compulsory a percentage of certain annual savings to be given to charity as well as encouraging to give more on top voluntarily if you have the means.  It goes on to inform us of the rewards attained by those who spend in Charity.

‘O you who have believed, spend from that which We have provided for you before there comes a Day in which there is no exchange and no friendship and no intercession. And the disbelievers – they are the wrongdoers.’

Quran [2:254]

What is Zakah?

Giving charity is so important in Islam that it has been made compulsory for those who have the minimum set level of wealth.  This is called Zakat.  Zakat is one of the most important fundamentals of Islam and makes up one of its ‘5 Pillars’. 

It is well known that Allah has enjoined Salah (prayer) and payment of Zakat in many places of the Quran, over 80.  In addition, Zakat is mentioned exclusively in many other places.  A Muslim pays Zakat as a token of his gratitude to Allah for granting him worldly gains.

A fraction of the savings (two and half percent) for the good of the poor people is taken out, and in this way, Zakat becomes a mode of expressing gratefulness for the favours bestowed upon a person and the hope of Allah’s mercy and forgiveness as well as reward.

‘….My mercy encompasses all things. So I will decree it (especially) for those who fear Me and give Zakah and those who believe in Our verses.’ 

Quran [7:156]

‘And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a garden as wide as the heavens and earth, prepared for the righteous. Who spend (in the cause of Allah) during ease and hardship and who restrain anger and who pardon the people – and Allah loves the doers of good.’ 

Quran [3:133-134]

How much Zakah needs to be given?

All Muslim adults who are sane and possess the minimum amount of wealth held for a year should pay Zakat.  Those eligible to pay it must donate 2.5% of their accumulated wealth.  Zakat literally means ‘to purify’, so paying a part of your assets to help those in need purifies all of your wealth. 

The minimum amount to pay is worked out by means of its gold and silver equivalents. So at today’s rates, if you have assets held for one year more than the equivalent of 87.48 grams of gold’s value, or 612.36 grams of silvers value, you are liable to pay Zakat.

How much is Zakah?

In brief, you add up the value of your assets from savings, investments and goods; then you deduct the value of all debts or liabilities you have.  Of the amount you arrive at, 2.5% of that is the Zakat amount payable.

The type of items included in the calculation are cash whether in hand or in the bank, shares, pensions, gold and silver, business goods, income from investment property and crops and cattle.  Personal items not used for business purposes are not included in the calculation.

When should Zakah be given and to whom?

Zakat is payable as soon as the minimum amount of wealth (known as nisab) has been held for one lunar year.  This becomes your starting point and Zakat will be due by this anniversary each year.

Who should charity go to?

The Quran informs the most worthy of receiving charity are:

  1. The poor
  2. The destitute
  3. Collectors of Zakat
  4. Those whose hearts are to be reconciled
  5. Those in bondage
  6. Those unable to pay their debt
  7. In the path of Allah
  8. Travelers who cannot afford to return home (wayfarer)

Charity verses in the Quran

‘And establish prayer and give zakāh (Charity), and whatever good you put forward for yourselves – you will find it with Allah. Indeed Allah, of what you do, is Seeing.’ (Surah Al Baqarah 2:110)

[Charity is] for the poor who have been restricted for the cause of Allah, unable to move about in the land. … And whatever you spend of good – indeed, Allah is Knowing of it.’ (Surah Baqarah 2:273)

‘The believing men and believing women are allies of one another. They enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and establish prayer and give zakāh and obey Allah and His Messenger. Those – Allah will have mercy upon them. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.’ (Surah Taubah 9:71)

‘Indeed, the men who practice charity and the women who practice charity and [they who] have loaned Allah a goodly loan – it will be multiplied for them, and they will have a noble reward.’ (Surah Al Hadid 57:18)

‘And spend [in the way of Allah] from what We have provided you before death approaches one of you and he says, “My Lord, if only You would delay me for a brief term so I would give charity and be of the righteous.’ (Surah Al Munafiqun 63:10)

What is voluntary Charity – Sadaqah?

It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah (RA) that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “Allah said: ‘Spend, O son of Adam, and I shall spend on you.’” (Bukhari)

On top of Zakat, the Quran and Hadith of the Prophet (SAW) emphasise the giving of extra charity, known as Sadaqah.  This is a voluntary act of charity which does not only include giving wealth, but also other simple acts of kindness that other people or creatures benefit from, for example, removing an object which is obstructing people’s way, or simply greeting another person with a smile.

Hadith on Charity

The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “To smile in the company of your brother is charity. To command to do good deeds and to prevent others from doing evil is charity. To guide a person in a place where he cannot get astray is charity. To remove troublesome things like thorns and bones from the road is charity. To pour water from your jug into the jug of your brother is charity. To guide a person with defective vision is charity for you.” (Bukhari)

Abu Musa (RA) narrated that the Prophet (SAW) said: “Every Muslim has to give in sadaqah (charity).” The people asked, “O Allah’s Messenger (SAW)! If someone has nothing to give, what will he do?” He said, “He should work with his hands and benefit himself and also give in charity (from what he earns).” The people further asked, “If he cannot do even that?” He replied, “Then he should help the needy who appeal for help.” Then the people asked, “If he cannot do that?” He replied, “Then he should perform all that is good and keep away from all that is evil and this will be regarded as charitable deeds.” (Bukhari)

The Reward of Charity in Islam

The Prophet (SAW) said: ‘Whoever gives clothes to a naked Muslim, Allah will give him a green dress to wear in Jannah (paradise).  And he who gives something to eat to a hungry Muslim, Allah will feed him with the fruits of Jannah, and the one who gives a drink of water to a thirsty Muslim, Allah will give him a drink of sealed wine in Jannah.’

There are so many commandments and instructions and sayings on this subject but only a tiny few have been mentioned here.