Can I give Sadaqah to my family?

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The short answer

Yes, you can give sadaqah to your family. Sadaqah’s meaning is voluntary charity. The sadaqah itself does not have to be financial or material. Any beneficial human action may be a charity. (See How Many Types of Sadaqah (voluntary charity) Are There?)

Do relatives have to be poor or in need for a gift to count as sadaqah?

No. Sadaqah has only three requirements:

  1. That it comes from wealth you have lawfully gained or an action you can permissibly do. Note that lawful gain when it comes to sadaqah means you have not obtained it by transgressing any limit Allah and His Messenger, on him be peace, have placed on acquiring that money or possession.

  2. That you give it for use toward rightful ends, meaning good uses that Allah and His Messenger, on him be peace, have commanded, encouraged, or allowed.

  3. That you give it with a pure intention to please the true and only God alone.

Does sadaqah to a relative hold higher spiritual value for its giver?

Yes. Three measures increase sadaqah’s value in your Heavenly Scales:

  1. The closeness of the family relation

  2. The urgency of the recipient’s need

  3. The giver’s own level of need for his or her wealth

Can you explain what giving sadaqah to a close relative includes?

First, those most deserving of your sadaqah are the same as the ones most worthy of your Zakat (which is a divinely mandated wealth-, recipient- and time-specified form of sadaqah). (See What Is the Difference Between Zakat and Sadaqah?)

As a general rule in Islam, the closer one is to you, the more deserving that person is of your goodness and care. So your parents, your siblings, your children, your spouse, and so on — in ever-extending circles outward (all human beings in the end are children of our father Adam) — are most entitled to your sadaqah charity.

First, the Prophet, on him be peace, said:

The best of charity is to your needy relatives.”

The sadaqah halo of human relations and gradation of closeness soon expands to include one’s near neighbors. The Prophet, on him be peace, said:

He is no believer who sleeps full while his neighbor beside him is hungry.” (Tabarani)

Allah himself specified sadaqah’s priority order in the Quran:

They ask you, O Prophet, what ways they should spend charitably. Say to them: Whatever good offering you spend is to be for your parents, and nearest relatives, and orphans, and the indigent, and the needy wayfarers. And whatever good you do, God is, indeed, all-knowing of it (Surat Al-Baqarah, 2:215).

It is meaningful that Allah placed orphans after near kin in this hierarchy of sadaqah-worthiness. (See Sponsoring the Orphan in Islam and our Orphan Sponsorship Program.)

How does sadaqah to close relatives who are the giver’s dependents work?

If Islam holds you responsible for the sustenance and care of anyone, then that essential support and provision from you is an obligation that Allah has burdened you to deliver to them first. So a man is responsible for his parents, wife, and children until grown, and some scholars include grandparents with parents. The mentally incapable or physically disabled in certain circumstances may also remain or become obligatory dependents of closest relations.

Only after you have fulfilled your duty of providing necessary support to your dependents does what you give them beyond this become a sadaqah, in keeping with sadaqah’s three defining limits outlined in the previous question. (See Can Zakat Be Given to Family?)

Explain the value of sadaqah as it applies to urgency of need?

The Quran and the Prophet, on him be peace, specify five general human conditions of emergency need for sadaqah:

  1. Impoverishment: Lack of wealth for sustenance, including insufficient food, clothing, shelter, utility access (water, electricity, heat and cooling) and basic life needs (which in our times and in the societies where many of us live includes transportation, health care coverage, and educational needs.

  2. Bondage: Enslavement (yes, it still exists), being trafficked, captivity, including imprisonment, and addiction (in the opinion of some)

  3. Debt: Financial burden incurred for essential life needs and means of sustenance

  4. Displacement: Being stranded without means, migrancy, exile, homelessness, seeking refuge or asylum, whether caused by natural disaster, oppression, war, civil conflict, or societal imbalance. Orphanhood and widowhood come under this category.

  5. Godly Striving: This includes believers exerting themselves in the service of God to establish His religion, mercy and justice, and working to relieve the effects and root causes of the preceding four categories.

The Quran, the final divine Revelation from God to man, and its Messenger Muhammad, on him be peace, the last of the prophets sent to humanity, in fact, command giving whatever sadaqah charity we can to help those who come under these urgent categories. The purpose of sadaqah for those enduring these life emergencies is not only to enable them to survive but also to bring them into a condition of achieving independent sufficiency in fulfillment of their needs. (See Why Is Sadaqah (Voluntary Charity) Important?)

Allah urges us in many places in the Quran to give sadaqah for those suffering these humanitarian emergencies, acknowledging that it is not an easy choice, except for those who keep mindful of their belief in Him and His coming Judgment of the Last Day:

Yet he has not attempted the steep road. And do you realize what is the steep road? It is the freeing of a human being from bondage, or offering food on a day of starvation to an orphan who is a relative, or to an indigent person who is down in the dust — all the while, being of those who believe — and who exhort one another to [persevere in faith with] patience, and who exhort one another to mercifulness. These are the Companions of the Right (Surat Al-Balad, 90:11-18).

Note how Allah specifies the “orphan who is a relative,” combining these two categories of vulnerability and family, thereby doubling the immense value of a giver’s reward.

How does my own level of wealth affect the spiritual value of my sadaqah?

First, Allah praised those who give sadaqah to others in need despite these givers’ own urgent need for the wealth. They sacrifice it to satisfy especially their fellows in faith who come to them in dire circumstances.

Rather, they give them preference over their own selves — even when they themselves are in pressing need (Surat Al-Hashr, 59:9).

Allah adds the following word of inspiration and warning to us immediately after this statement:

And whoever is safeguarded from the avarice of his own soul — then it is these who are the truly successful (Surat Al-Hashr, 59:9).

Also, the Prophet, on him be peace, said specifically:

A single dirham (coin) surpasses a hundred thousand dirhams. A man asked: ‘How can this be, O Messenger of Allah?’ The Prophet, on him be peace, said: Someone of great wealth spends a hundred thousand dirhams from it in charity, while one with only two dirhams gives one of them in charity” (Nasa’i).

In this way, one who has little may reap a magnificent reward with their sadaqah.

Yet, by no means does Allah leave out the believing wealthy givers of sadaqah from His immeasurable mercy and reward. The Prophet, on him be peace, said:

Allah loves the God-fearing rich who gives [abundantly in charity], yet stays unknown and unhailed” (Muslim).