We all know that it feels great to give to charity, even if a few dollars is all you can afford. But in Islam there are two main kinds of charity, zakat and sadaqa. What is the difference between them?
Here is what you need to know:
Zakat is an obligatory alms given from the wealth of Muslims and intended for the Muslim poor and distressed, among others. God has made zakat, a percentage of a Muslim’s wealth after living expenses are covered, payable to those in need so that the weak are not left at the mercy of the strong. In fact, once a Muslim has enough wealth to pay zakat, that money is considered the property of those who deserve to receive it.
However the Giver of all things is very clear in the Quran that nobility can be attained by giving freely of that which you love, in this case wealth and luxury. So God provides divine encouragement to be charitable, making it an avenue of spiritual enlightenment when one gives generously in a variety of ways, not only what is required.
The Quran sometimes uses the word sadaqa interchangeably with zakat. But in its general technical usage, the word sadaqa denotes a voluntary offering of some form of benefit to another.
Thus sadaqa and zakat both benefit the giver as well as the receiver, both spiritually and materially. God reimburses the giver’s wealth and multiplies it, and also elevates the giver in faith (iman). And He causes the poor to be materially enriched, which, in addition to creating stability and prosperity in our communities, in turn raises the receiver’s spirit of gratitude to both God and people.