Along with the salah prayer and dua (divine supplication), sadaqah (charity) is one of three worldly acts of worship that come closest to being superpowers for the human being, meaning they give their doer abilities, characteristics, or attributes that are supernatural.
If that sounds bizarre, then here are a minimum of seventeen benefits the sincere giver of charity for the sake of God gets, according to reliable scholars who have based their knowledge on what Allah and His Messenger Muhammad, on him be peace, have taught us:
Sadaqah reaches the Hand of God before the hand of its worldly recipient.
Sadaqah protects its giver from coming to a bad death.
Sadaqah guards its giver’s wealth from loss and destruction.
Sadaqah repels calamities from overtaking its giver.
Sadaqah makes the giver’s (and receiver’s) heart happy.
Sadaqah causes people to make dua, to pray God, (another superpower) for its giver.
Sadaqah increases its giver’s resources (divinely allocated provision) in this world.
Sadaqah increases its giver’s lifespan.
Sadaqah wipes away sins from its giver.
Sadaqah hides its giver’s shortcomings.
Sadaqah implants trust in God in the heart of its giver and good thoughts (ḥusn al-ẓann) of God in its giver’s mind.
Sadaqah purifies the soul of its giver.
Sadaqah humiliates Satan in this life (yes, he’s a real being).
Sadaqah protects its giver from punishment in the grave.
Sadaqah eases the hardships of this life and of the Day of Resurrection for its giver.
Sadaqah provides shade to its giver on the Day of Judgement (which is at least fifty thousand years long by our reckoning for disbelievers) when there is no shade from the sweat-drowning heat of the sun brought near but the Shade of God.
Sadaqah makes its giver loved by God and loved by God’s creation.
First, not all sadaqah is voluntary. Zakat is a kind of sadaqah, and it is mandatory annually for wealth that qualifies. Zakat in the Quran is, in fact, often called sadaqah. Here’s more on The Difference Between Zakat and Sadaqah
But Muslims have tended to make this distinction of sadaqah as voluntary charity in our common usage for clarity’s sake, which is just fine.
So sadaqah – though essential for any believer who wants to be forgiven by Allah and admitted by His grace into His Garden of Paradise in the true life to come – is “voluntary” because Allah has made it a proof of belief for His servants. The Prophet, on him be peace, said exactly this:
“Sadaqah is a proof” (Muslim)
This means giving charity for the sake of God testifies to the true faith in the heart of its giver that his lips proclaim.
That is actually the definition of sidq, the root word of sadaqah: truth.
You can read about sadaqah’s importance here.
Allah made the life of this world so that it WILL NOT work without people fulfilling His sadaqah imperative. Sadaqah is the magic tether that keeps a community bound together. Without it, human beings will inevitably be at odds, violating the God-given rights of one another.
If you see a society unraveling, you can bet (a Muslim bet!) that its rich have severed their due ties of charity with its poor. They do this by propagating the belief that it is providence that makes one rich and another needy, and that the idea that these elect rich are responsible to step in where God has allocated provision to all is wrong:
And when it is said to them: Spend in charity out of what God has provided you, those who disbelieve say to those who believe: Shall we feed one whom had God so willed He could have fed? You have fallen into nothing but clear error! (Surat Ya Sin, 36:47)
This opens the way for society’s wealth-elite to raid its modest and poor, ripping their assets from them with one hand while hoarding it as part of their own bulging wealth with the other.
Violation of Allah’s mandated sadaqah ethic guarantees a society and even the world becomes imbalanced, tilted so that the rich remain on the end down toward which all material wealth rolls, where they wait to seize it.
We human beings build our communities (out of the divine institution of family and kinship) person by person. Sadaqah is the moral mortar that holds this social structure together. That is why Heaven-sent Books and prophets that formed the monotheistic peoples all contain commandments that mandate the physical and material care for the poor among us.
This moral order starts with the very first man and prophet, Adam, on him be peace, contrary to the fable of our animalistic beginnings and underlying rapacious natures. No man is a moral creature and always has been. It is the nature upon which we have been created.
God bid all the prophets to teach their peoples (and every community had its prophet) to feed and quench the hunger and thirst of its needful.
We know from the Revelations to Moses (and his successors among the Children of Israel, peace be upon them all) as well as to Jesus, on him be peace, of the same community (and those among that community who became known as his Supporters (Nasara), who we now call Christians) that watering and feeding the thirsting and hungry, housing the homeless, taking in the orphan and widow into families, lodging the wayfarer, and welcoming the migrant – and to do all this beginning with their closest relatives – that these were God-given commandments.
Islam incorporates all this into sadaqah but adds to its charity mandate the economic support and social integration of the captive and the emancipation and enrichment of the bondservant.
Islam also makes refusal to provide this essential sadaqah an act of unbelief. Indeed, even the mere encouraging of others NOT to provide such sadaqah Islam counts as a deed of disbelieving in God, Islam’s most serious offense.
So sadaqah builds community by making each of us responsible for fulfilling the essential needs (not just the food and water needs, but the shelter, health, education, transportation, and all that can be considered necessary life needs in our places and times) for each member of our family, near and far, as well as our neighbors, near and far.
On the plain of sadaqah, our differences of belief, origin, lineage, language, look, and life do not matter.
The Quran includes in Islam’s sadaqah imperative over us all the vulnerable – the orphan, the oppressed, those who ask for help and those in need whom humility keeps from asking, the destitute, the hungry, the wayfaring, the migrant, the refugee, the displaced, the homeless.
Further, Islam brings every animal, plant, piece of earth, and waterway into our personal and communal sadaqah responsibility – and that’s no modern correctness. Check for yourself. That’s Islam in its final sources of Divine Revelation – Allah’s Book, the Quran; and the statements, acts, and approvals of His Last Messenger to humanity, the Prophet Muhammad, on him be peace.
That’s how sadaqah benefits a community, by building it up and making it a complete, balanced, integrated group of people, while preserving all their beautiful ambiguity and differences, locally and globally.
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