The Charitible Prophet: Charity In Hadith
Being charitable and providing for the needy is a major aspect of Islam and characteristic of the Muslim. Charity is one of the major foundations of Islam. If it is weak, then the foundation of the faith and the Muslim community is weak. This will eventually come to touch each of our lives, one way or another.
In spite of this, there are still an unfathomable amount of starving, poor, hungry and destitute Muslims and non-Muslims in the world. At the same time, there is a high number of rich Muslims in the world who are wasting their wealth on luxuries, and even forbidden items. Remembering to give charity correctly is crucial to both the well-beings of the needy as well as our own ultimate happiness.
The importance of charity is heavily emphasized in the teachings of the Prophet:
The Many Forms of Charity
There are several different categories of charity in Islam, the two main ones being Zakat (obligatory charity) and Sadaqah (voluntary charity). Zakat is a specific, standardized charity that must be given to the poor and those in need. Sadaqah can be given to anyone, and in many different forms, including: a smile to another, advice to a friend, helping build a home or Masjid, etc. The Prophet 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)
Another Hadith illustrates the importance of every part of a person’s body performing a charity:
"A charity is due for every joint in each person on every day the sun comes up: to act justly between two people is a charity; to help a man with his mount, lifting him onto it or hoisting up his belongings onto it, is a charity; a good word is a charity; and removing a harmful thing from the road is a charity." (Al-Bukhari, Muslim)
Shade on the Day of Judgment
The Prophet said: “The believer’s shade on the Day of Resurrection will be his charity.” (Al-Tirmidhi)
On the day when all other shade will be gone, Allah will provide His shade for those who give charity and care for the poor. The Muslim’s sacrifice in this life will be their protection on the Day of Judgment.
A Protection From Calamity
By sacrificing part of one’s wealth and giving it in charity, the individual is guaranteeing protection for themselves from tragedy and misfortune. The Prophet said:
"Give charity without delay, for it stands in the way of calamity." (Al-Tirmidhi)
Better to Give Than To Take
It is considered better for someone to give charity than for someone to take it. One should be wary of repeatedly soliciting and taking from Sadaqah (voluntary charity) and Zakat (obligatory charity) funds. Those who refrain from taking these funds (so that more will be left for the other needy) will be provided for by Allah and be made self-reliant by Him. The
“The upper hand is better than the lower hand (he who gives is better than him who takes). One should start giving first to his dependents. And the best object of charity is that which is given by a wealthy person (from the money left after his expenses). And whoever abstains from asking others for some financial help, Allah will give him and save him from asking others, Allah will make him self-sufficient.” (Al-Bukhari)
Relieving the person in debt is a Charity
The Prophet said: "If anyone would like Allah to save him from the hardships of the Day of Resurrection, he should give more time to his debtor who is short of money, or remit his debt altogether." (Muslim)
If someone owes you money, it is considered charity if you show mercy, give the debtor more time to pay back his loan, or even cancel out the person’s debt. Like previously stated, charity is a person’s shade on the Day of Judgment; here, canceling a person’s debt will also serve as a protection.
Helping Family in Need
In this next teaching of the Prophet, we learn that a person’s family has a right to receiving charitable assistance (if they are in need of it) from that person.
The Prophet said: "To give something to a poor man brings one reward, while giving the same to a needy relation brings two: one for charity and the other for respecting the family ties." (Al-Tirmidhi)
Be careful of greed. The longer one holds onto their money and fails to share any and give to charity, the harder it may be later on for them to part with their hoarded wealth. Hiding away one’s wealth and depriving the needy of even a small kindness will not only come back to haunt the greedy, but their misfortune will be multiplied and they will be lead down a misguided path. The Prophet said:
“Avoid doing injustice to others, for on the Day of Judgment, it will turn into manifold darkness, and safeguard yourself against miserliness, for it ruined those who were before you. It incited them to murder and treating the unlawful as lawful.” (Muslim)
Charity That Keeps On Giving
If a person performs a deed that continues to benefit others in a good way, the performer of the deed will continue to collect the rewards for his or her single act for as long as it benefits others (even after the person passes away). The Prophet 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)
The degree of the reward is dependent on the degree and significance of the benefit of the charitable act, and to what degree the charity was given for the sake of Allah.
Charity serves as a way to bring justice, balance and kindness to every society and community. It is our hope that the Muslim community fulfills their charitable duty correctly and does their part to eliminating poverty in our neighborhoods.