How to Give Sadaqah for Illness

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Does giving sadaqah help heal the sick?

Yes. Sadaqah — free-will offerings of charity from your pure and purely gained resources, given for the sake of Allah alone to your near ones and the poor and in need, to get Allah’s blessing — can be part of a treatment program of a cure for the sick.

The Prophet, Allah grant him blessings and peace, reportedly instructed us:

Heal your sick with sadaqah” (Abu Dawud and others).

While these reports from several of the Prophet’s Companions, on him be peace and on them the pleasure of Allah, have weaknesses in their chains of narration, together they bolster this prophetic statement’s authenticity. And there is a report from the hadith authority Tirmidhi that assures us of its good authenticity.

In this light, we should recall that Allah commands us in the Quran regarding His Messenger Muhammad, on him be peace:

Thus whatever the Messenger brings you from Allah, then you shall take it. And whatever He has forbidden you, you shall desist from it” (Surat Al-Hashr, 59:7).

So, it is true that sadaqah is a beneficial part of holistic treatment for illness. Indeed, there are few medical practitioners today who have not come to recognize that a patient’s spiritual state is vital to bodily healing and fighting off disease.

(See Why Is Sadaqah Important?

How do I give sadaqah charity to treat illness in me or a loved one?

The quick description of sadaqah in the answer to the first question tells us a lot about how sadaqah for sickness works.

(See How Many Types of Sadaqah Are There?)

First, the rules of sadaqah in Islam apply:

  1. Whatever you give in charity — wealth, helping hand, or a kindness — must be lawful (halal) and wholesome (tayyib) in itself.

  2. It should come from earnings, capacities, or purposes that you have gained, possess, or deploy in a halal way.

  3. You should give it with a pure intention to please Allah as an act of worship and to gain His blessing and reward.

  4. You should give it in an upright manner that preserves the honor of the people you give it to with no mention of it to them afterward, nor so much as a word that will injure their feelings.

  5. It should go to those nearest to you (parents, siblings, relatives, neighbors), or to the poor or those in need of what you are giving.

  6. Your charity, whether act, article, or money, should be for lawful and wholesome ends.

Especially when it comes to giving sadaqah for sickness, the third charity requirement — intention — bears great emphasis because this is the sadaqah rule we are most at risk of compromising.

What should be your intention (niyyah) in sadaqah for sickness?

It is easy but subtle. Simply, stay mindful of why you are engaging in the worship of giving charity: 

You are giving sadaqah purely as an act of worship to please Allah, by which you seek goodness from Him alone and deliverance in the Hereafter.

This must be foremost in your intention.

The very first prophetic statement Bukhari reports in his collection (and the fact that he placed this first in his authoritative compilation of hadith holds great meaning) opens with these crucial words of the Prophet, on him be peace:

Actions are but by intention.”

This does not mean there can be only a singular good outcome in the Hereafter for our sincerely and correctly intended worship. Allah has, in fact, attached a raft of worldly benefits to our individual acts of worship — so much so that our desire to do these deeds of divine obedience grows ardent because of the reward the Prophet, on him be peace, has told us Allah will grant us in this world if we do them.

These transcendent acts by which we seek Allah’s Sublime Face and pleasure, with their copious accompanying worldly blessings, are countless. And that is precisely how Allah intended them to be, to highly motivate us to strive hard in them.

The list is virtually endless, but for example:

  • Seeking communal forgiveness from Allah and repentance brings rains that purify and reset the environmental balances of the earth, and brings about material abundance for people, and an increase in children (Surat Nuh, 71:10-12).

  • Individual righteousness Allah rewards by giving one a good life (Surat Al-Nahl, 16:97).

  • Repeated pilgrimages to Mecca (Hajj and ‘Umrah) removes from one poverty and sins (Ahmad).

  • Giving Zakat grows wealth.

  • Abundant worship, like extended salat-prayers in the night, protects your children after your death.

The point is that your awareness that Allah in His mercy may send down upon you the benefit of healing in your illness (or the illness of your loved one) if you give sadaqah is natural and desirable, provided your exclusive intent in giving charity remains to please Allah.

Your doing so because the Prophet, on him be peace, has told us that sadaqah is a desirable part of our earthly healing processes forms the solid core of that sound intention. 

Moreover, Allah has told us in the Quran that seeking good in this world along with goodness and deliverance in the Hereafter is the state of earthly-spiritual balance He wants from His believers:

Now, among people, there are those who say in supplication: ‘Our Lord! Give to us in this world!’ Yet such a one has no Heavenly share in the Hereafter.

But among them are those who say: ‘Our Lord! Give us good in this world and good in the Hereafter and save us from the torment of the Fire of Hell.’

As to these, there is a Heavenly portion for all the good that they have earned in the world waiting for them Hereafter. And Allah is swift in reckoning” (Surat Al-Baqarah, 2:200-202).

The problem in giving sadaqah for cure (or any act of worship) comes when one’s aims are purely for this world. The esteemed Quran Commentator and jurist Al-Tabari (224 – 310 H / 839-923 CE) from the Caspian cost in what is today norther Iran, said in this regard in his commentary:

One who does a righteous deed seeking worldly gain — whether fasting, praying, or prayer vigil in the night — doing it only for that worldly gain, Allah says: ‘I shall grant him in this world the reward he seeks, yet nullify his deed, and Hereafter he shall be among the losers.’”

This is because a deed done only for this world is no longer worship in truth, even if it appears so in its form or condition. In fact, it becomes a sinful act because its doer has disconnected it from belief in Allah or has done it for the sake of pleasing people instead of Allah.

So make your intention purely to please Allah. Allah will bring about what He wills as best.

Is it true that udhiyah or qurbani must be offered for healing the sick?

No. It is a good deed to offer udhiyah for the sake of distributing its meat in sadaqah for family, neighbors, or the poor and hungry with the intention of pleasing Allah. And it is perfectly fine to seek to draw near to Him by this act, and, in this, to hope for healing in this good deed. But your sadaqah need not be in the form of qurbani. It can be money, clothing, food, labor — any of the many forms of charity in Islam.

But your hope should center on a pure intention to please Allah and to come close to Him with your sadaqah, be it a qurbani or any other charity. 

All sadaqah provides its givers with certain benefits. We know definitively that sadaqah “extinguishes sins like water extinguishes fire” (Ahmad), that it protects from a bad death, that it repels calamities, that it increases lifespan, that it eases the hardships of this life, and that it makes the heart happy. 

(See What Are the Benefits of Sadaqah?)

Each of these virtues of sadaqah point to its capacity to help in healing.

One is scorned for saying it in these most illiberal of liberal times, yet it is also possible that some disease stems from sin. If that is the case at hand, then removal of sin will also help alleviate the cause of illness. That is not to say sickness should be taken as evidence of sinfulness. Yet one of the greatest Companions was asked by his friends when he had fallen severely ill, “What has made you sick?” He replied, “My sins.”

This can be understood in light of Allah’s statement in the Quran:

Not a single affliction strikes you human beings but that it is for what your own hands have earned — and He pardons much” (Surat Al-Shura, 42:30)

When the hands of man ravage and poison the earth, and oppress its weak and vulnerable, we cannot be surprised at the proliferation of disease and all manner of illness.

Can you summarize giving sadaqah to heal the sick?

  1. Make a good intention to give sadaqah for the sake of Allah, alone, and to do so only to see His Sublime Face in the Hereafter, that He might be pleased with you and have mercy on you.

  2. Give a sadaqah that comes from your pure earnings or possessions on behalf of yourself, or your loved one who is sick.

  3. Give this sadaqah in compliance with the Prophet, on him be peace, commending Muslims to do so and with faith that charity is part of a fruitful remedy against illness, such that your intention remains seeking to draw near and please Allah alone.

  4. Ask Allah to remove any sins by way of your charity from you or in the behalf or in the favor of the one who is sick.

Any other sadaqah advice?

The best sadaqah — like all other acts of worship — is done with the purest intention, in fear and hope.

The Companion Abu Hurayrah, Allah be pleased with him, said that a man came to the Prophet, on him be peace, and asked him to identify the kind of sadaqah that gave one the best divine reward:

The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and grant him peace, mentioned sadaqah given in health, in fear of poverty, and aspiring to wealth” (Bukhari).

These few words of the Prophet Muhammad, on him be peace, tell us all there is to know about the perfectly balanced disposition of the charitable believer, not only in the worship of giving sadaqah, but in all our offered devotions to the true and only God.