Ramadan in UAE: Why Islam has made charity obligatory and binding on all

Charity, preached by every religion, is a way of bringing justice to society

FILE IMAGE: A Saudi man arranges sacks of rice at a collection centre for Zakat in Riyadh November 1, 2005.

FILE IMAGE: A Saudi man arranges sacks of rice at a collection centre for Zakat in Riyadh November 1, 2005.

Reuters/Sultan al Fahed

And justice is the essence of religion. Islam has therefore made charity that is Zakat, obligatory and binding upon all those who embrace the faith; it has been made into an institution in order to give it permanence and regularity.

A society can flourish only when its members do not spend all their wealth to fulfil their own desires but reserve a portion of it for parents, relatives, neighbours, the poor and the debilitated. As the saying goes: Charity begins at home. A true believer is thus always prepared, after meeting the needs of his family, to assist other people in need of his help.

The spirit of kindness is the essence of charity. The giver is not to expect any reward from the beneficiary as there awaits for him an abundant reward from God — material, moral and spiritual.

Charity should be lawfully earned or acquired by the giver. It should include such things as are of use and value to others.

“Charity is for those in need.” This is a general principle which enjoins us to help people in need, be they good or bad, on the right path or not, Muslims or non-Muslims. The foremost ends in charity should be God’s pleasure and our own spiritual good. The concept of charity in Islam is thus linked with justice. It is not limited to the redressal of grievances. It implies, apart from the removal of handicaps, the recognition of the right that every human being has to attain the fullness of life.

There are two forms of charity in Islam — obligatory and voluntary, called Zakat and Sadaqah respectively. The concept of charity appears in most of the world’s religions. The Islamic tradition has rigid laws associated with it. Thus the definition of charity in Islamic tradition differs somewhat from its interpretation in other contexts.

The Holy Quran states: ‘And be steadfast in your prayer and pay charity; whatever good you send forth for your future, you shall find it with Allah, for Allah is well aware of what you do’ (2:110). Charity is central to a Muslim’s life.

The best charity is to satisfy a hungry person, said Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He also said “No wealth (of a servant of Allah) is decreased because of charity.” (Al Tirmidhi, Hadith No. 2247).

Islam has established this institution to make concern for the poor a permanent and compulsory duty. This means an annual contribution of two-and-a-half per cent of one’s income to public welfare.

Zakat in spirit is an act of worship while in its external form it is the carrying out of social service. It is thus not just the payment of a tax as it is generally understood. but is rather an act of religious significance.

Sadaqah is also a means of moral learning. Sadaqah (Charity) is an Ibadah (worship). According to Hadith, Sadaqah is prescribed for every person every day the sun rises. Hadith is much more explicit. To remove from the road anything, which may cause hurt is called Sadaqah or a charitable deed.

The Holy Quran lays stress on the believers to care for the needy, the orphans, the destitute and the unfortunate members of the society. ‘The believers .. are steadfast in prayers, and in whose wealth there is a right acknowledged, for the poor and the destitute. (Quran 70:22-24). There is no limit on Sadaqah.

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