Almsgiving
(ṣadaqa)

Aasim Ali Rashid

The Qurʾānic term Ṣadaqa can refer either to alms or the act of almsgiving: the voluntary expenditure of one’s valued possessions. Understood ethically, ṣadaqa plays an important role in the cultivation of the virtues of abstinence, gratitude, generosity, and overcoming avarice and greed. It is a manifestation of the belief, at the level of īmān (faith), that what is given away for the sake of Allah earns an abiding, and greater, reward in the hereafter (Q 73:20; al-Haytamī, al-Ināfa fī-l-ṣadaqa wal-ḍiyāfa p. 27-61). The term ṣadaqa in certain contexts may also refer to a broader spectrum of noble actions and behaviors (see Reward and Punishment).

Meaning and Usage

Idiomatically, the noun ṣadaqa (pl. ṣadaqāt) means “that which is given for the sake of Allah” (Ibn Sīda, Muḥkam, sub ṣ-d-q). It stems from the root ṣ-d-q, which denotes being true in strength and virtue, evenness and straightness (ṣalb, mustawī), and also means “complete” or “perfect” (kāmil) (al-Ṣāghānī, al-ʿUbāb; Fayrūzābādī, Qāmūs). According to Ibn Barrī al-Miṣrī (499-582/1106-1186), Ibn Durustawayh (258-347/872-958) glossed it as “combining those qualities that are commendable,” stating that it could describe a human object or a non-human one such as a spear (al-Tanbīh wal-īḍāḥ). The phrase ṣadaqa al-ṣubḥ (“the morning is true”) refers to the morning shining true and bright. Because the root implies correctness, perfection, and clarity, the word ṣidq denotes truthfulness, primarily in speech, regardless of tense and whether it is presented in an informative, interrogative, or implicative mode. It is thus the antonym of falsehood and untruth (kidhb). It also denotes harmony of the inner self (bāṭin) with outer actions (ẓāhir) as well as a concordance of attestations with deeds, as in Among the believers are men who are true (rijālun ṣadaqū) to the covenant they made with Allah (Q 33:23), and the usage ṣadaqūhum al-qitāl (“they battled against them earnestly”) that is, not from false bravado. Ṣidq also implies sincerity and integrity, as in the usage ṣadaqahu al-naṣīḥa wal-ikhāʾ (“he truly/sincerely rendered to him good advice and brotherly affection”) (Zabīdī, Tāj and Rāghib, Mufradāt). When its second radical is vocalized with the short vowel u (ṣaduqa), it means “dowry”, as in its Qurʾānic usage And give women their dowries (ṣaduqātihinna) cheerfully (Q 4:4). This derivation implies the gravity of this obligation and its inseparability from the marriage contract (Nawawī, Tahdhīb).

 As mentioned above, ṣadaqa is often used to refer to alms, meaning the act of spending wealth or giving something material for the sake of gaining reward (thawāb, mathūba). In juridical terms this spending may be classified as obligatory (wājib), as in zakāt, or supererogatory (nafl), as is explained below. Used in this sense, ṣadaqa does not apply to deeds performed or wealth spent for the purpose of honoring someone (e.g., entertaining a guest or offering a gift) (al-Tahānawī, Kashshāf 3:64 and al-Nawawī, al-Majmūʾ 1:1391).

The nominal form of the word ṣadaqa, along with its plural ṣadaqāt and active participle mutaṣaddiq/muṣṣaddiq, is used fifteen times in the Qurʾān. The verbal form (taṣaddaqa, iṣṣaddaqa) is used five times. While frequently denoting alms in Qurʾānic diction, the word has also been used to indicate other meanings such as acts of sympathy and expiation (kaffāra). Contextual examples of its various Qurʾānic usages follow below.


Alms—Compulsory and Supererogatory

The [prescribed] alms (ṣadaqāt) are only for the poor, the needy, those employed to collect them, those whose hearts are to be won over, in the cause of slaves and those encumbered with debt, in the way of Allah, and to wayfarers (Q 9:60); Take from their wealth [obligatory] alms (ṣadaqatan) through which you cleanse and purify them, and pray for them (Q 9:103).

Ṣadaqa in both of these verses refers to zakāt, the obligatory alms. Al-Rāghib al-Aṣfahānī (d. ca.502/1108) explains that one giving zakāt should intend to attain the quality of ṣidq through fulfilling this obligation, as opposed to having ostentatious motives or expressing favors upon those to whom one has given (Mufradāt). Al-Qurṭubī (600-671/1204-1273) states that whenever the word ṣadaqa is used non-specifically (matā uṭliqat) in the Qurʾān it refers to compulsory alms (Tafsīr, sub Q 9:60). Al-Māwardī (364-450/974-1058) suggests an even broader usage, declaring that “zakāt is ṣadaqa, and ṣadaqa is zakāt. The terms differ, but the meaning is the same” (al-Aḥkām al-sulṭāniyya, al-bāb al-ḥādī ʿashar fī wilāyat al-ṣadaqāt). The term ṣadaqa has both obligatory and supererogatory meanings in the Qurʾān, as established in Makkan and Madinan suras. Hadith texts and post-Prophetic narrations of the Companions also demonstrate consistency in this regard (Bukhārī, Zakāt). Later usage by jurists limited zakāt to compulsory alms and ṣadaqa to supererogatory alms, and this distinction was also adopted by the great hadith masters, as is evident from the chapter titles of their compilations. Imam Mālik (93-179/712-795), author of one of the first texts combining hadiths and juridical rulings, adopted this distinction in the chapter headings of his Muwaṭṭaʾ, with one exception (bāb ṣadaqat al-baqar). Eventually this distinction became predominant, especially in legal texts, so that the word ṣadaqa became almost exclusively reserved for non-obligatory alms (al-Shirbīnī, Mughnī al-muḥtāj 3:120; al-Baʿlī, al-Muṭliʿ ʿalā abwāb al-Muqniʿ p. 291).

And among them are those who criticize you regarding the [distribution of] ṣadaqāt (Q 9:58).

This verse is part of a series of statements describing traits of hypocrites (see Hypocrisy and Hypocrites) in the time of the Prophet, peace be upon him. The latter portion of the same verse shows that the true source of their criticism was none other than their own greed for personal gain: ...if they are given from it they are satisfied, and if they are not given from it they become disgruntled. Qatāda b. Diʿāma (d. 117/735), the famous tābiʿī (Successor) exegete, states that this verse alludes to a Bedouin who, shortly after migrating to Madina from the desert, criticized the Prophet’s distribution of alms, claiming he had not done it in the fair manner ordained by Allah. The Prophet returned: “Who, then, will be fair to you after me?” He then warned all Muslims against him and his like, and described the grave outcome facing such people. Ibn Kathīr (700-774/1300-1373) reinforces Qatāda’s opinion, citing a similar hadith from the compilations of Bukhārī and Muslim (Tafsīr).

[Among the hypocrites are] those who taunt the believers who give alms willingly and those who have nothing [to give] but their hard earnings; thus they mock at such people. Allah mocks at them, and for them there is a painful punishment (Q 9:79).

The Prophet, upon him peace and blessings, once encouraged his followers to give alms. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. ʿAwf (44bh-32/580-652) and ʿĀṣim b. ʿAdī (d. 45/665) responded to his call by presenting large amounts of wealth, while poorer Companions such as Abū ʿAqīl al-Anṣārī (d. 12/632) brought one ṣāʿ of dates (equivalent to 3.3 kg according to the Ḥanafī school, and 2.17 kg according to the other three schools) to distribute. The hypocrites taunted both groups, saying that the wealthy ones were merely showing off their generosity, while Allah was not in need of the meagre ṣāʿ of Abū ʿAqīl (Bayḍāwī, Tafsīr).

When you confer with the Prophet in private, offer some alms before [you do so] (Q 58:12).

The believers were initially instructed to give alms before going to speak privately to the Prophet (see Confidences). Ibn Kathīr, following the interpretation of exegetes before him, understood that the purpose of this injunction was to purify them of any mistakes or sins and make them worthy of this great honor. Those without the means to make such an offering were exempt from it. Soon afterward, another verse was revealed, abrogating this one (see Abrogation): Do you fear that you [will always have to] precede your conference by giving alms? If you have not done so–and Allah has forgiven you–then establish prayer (ṣalāt), pay zakāt, and obey Allah and His Messenger (Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr, sub Q 58:13).

So that I may give alms and be among the righteous (Q 63:10).

The believers were reminded not to let their wealth or children make them negligent of the remembrance of Allah, and to keep spending in His cause. The Successor Ḍaḥḥāk b. Muzāḥim (d. 102/720) states that the command in the preceding injunction to spend from what We have provided you refers to zakāt, while other exegetes opine that it refers to voluntary alms. In either case, the verse warns that failure to spend will result in great regret at the time of death, when, realizing one’s dearth of good deeds to present in the hereafter, one will beg for a brief respite in order to spend (fa-aṣṣaddaqa) as enjoined—and thereby be included amongst the righteous (Māwardī, Nukat).

Verily the alms-giving men and the alms-giving women who have advanced a goodly loan to Allah, for them it will be multiplied, and for them is a noble reward (Q 57:18).

While mentioning the reward of those men and women who give in ṣadaqa, the verse also alludes to a basic condition for Divine acceptance of one’s offering: the wealth must be given exclusively for the sake of Allah without expecting anything from anyone else. This is what is meant by advancing a goodly loan to Allah, according to Ibn Kathīr (Tafsīr). It is precisely this aspect of ṣadaqa that distinguishes it from charity given with the motive of attaining some form of worldly gain, whether in the form of praise and recognition or of pecuniary benefit. Thus the first term (al-muṣṣaddiqīn wal-muṣṣaddiqāt) refers to those who frequently give alms, while the “loan” refers to the earnestness with which the ṣadaqa is given. Further discussion of sincerity in ṣadaqa will follow below. In the variant reading (qirāʾa) (see Canonical Readings) of Ibn Kathīr (45-120/665-730)—that is, the great imam to whom one of the seven famous qirāʾāt is attributed, not the celebrated exegete mentioned above—and that of Abū Bakr (better known as Shuʿba) (d. 194/809) from ʿĀsim (d. 128/745), the word is read with a single letter ṣād (al-muṣaddiqīn wal-muṣaddiqāt), thus meaning the believing men and believing women. According to this reading the word refers to such believers in general and is not restricted to those who give in charity, and the mention of advancing a loan unto Allah refers to the actual act of ṣadaqa (Nasafī, Tafsīr; Abū Hayyān, Baḥr). The active participle (ism fāʿil) al-mutaṣaddiq in this reading of the verse has undergone morphological change, in that the tāʾ has been replaced with a ṣād and then the two ṣāds have been elided, hence al-muṣaddiq. In Sūrat al-Aḥzāb (Q 33:35), the ism fāʾil occurs in its original form (wal-mutaṣaddiqīn wal-mutaṣaddiqāt). The meaning of the word remains the same.


Expiation

And whoever of you is ill or has an ailment of the head must pay offer a ransom of fasting or alms (ṣadaqāt) or sacrifice (Q 2:196).

A pilgrim in the state of sanctity (iḥrām) is not permitted to shave his head until he completes the rites of Ḥajj or ʿUmra (see Ḥajj). However, given a valid reason such as sickness or lice, it becomes permissible to shave the head, while offering an obligatory expiation (kaffāra) of fasting for three days, or giving alms, or slaughtering an animal. The alms prescribed here involve giving six needy people the equivalent of one ṣāʿ of wheat each (see Weights and Measures) (al-Ṣābūnī, Tafsīr āyāt al-aḥkām).


Act of Sympathy

Give us the full measure, and be charitable with us (taṣaddaq ʿalaynā) (Q 12:88).

The brothers of Prophet Yūsuf—peace upon him—besought him to give them some rations in exchange for the insignificant and cheap goods they had presented him with, and to be generous (taṣaddaq). Saʿīd b. Jubayr (45-95/665-713), al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī (21-110/642-728), and al-Suddī (d. 127/744) state that taṣaddaq here means giving them rations of average quality (mā bayn al-jiyād wal-radīʾa)—that is, better than what they were paying for. Sufyān b. ʿUyayna (107-198/725-813) states that it means giving them more than what they were paying for. Ibn Jurayj (80-150/699-767) says that it means to graciously return their brother to them, while others relate that it refers to forgiving them (Māwardī, Nukat). The interpretations given by all these exegetes are consistent with the theme of sympathy and mercy.

And if you pardon (wa-an taṣaddaqū) it is better for you (Q 2:280).

The believers were given a stern warning against giving usurious loans (see Usury). If they had, prior to accepting Islam, lent money and already collected interest on it, they were permitted to retain what they had hitherto collected; but thenceforth they were only entitled to claim the principal sum from debtors. If the borrower was unable to repay the loan in full within the specified time, creditors were encouraged to give them an interest-free extension until they were able to do so. Forgiving the debt completely (wa-an taṣaddaqū), however, was deemed to be the most virtuous act in such circumstances (Māwardī, Nukat), though al-Bayḍāwī (d. 685/1286) contends that this phrase may mean only granting respite. Ibn Kathīr quotes a hadith from the Musnad of Aḥmad with a sound chain of narrators (meeting the criterion of Muslim) that supports this opinion. In it, Burayda al-Aslamī (d. 63/683)—Allah be well-pleased with him—states that he heard the Prophet, peace be upon him, say: “Whoever grants a bankrupt person respite will get [the reward of] ṣadaqa for each day that he does so (lahu bi-kulli yawmin mithluhu ṣadaqa).” Burayda adds: “Then I heard him (i.e., the Prophet) say: ‘Whoever gives a bankrupt person respite will get [the reward of] ṣadaqa equal to double the number of days he grants respite for (lahu bi-kulli yawmin mithlāhu ṣadaqa).’” When asked for clarification, he said, peace upon him: “He gets the reward of ṣadaqa for each single day before the loan is due. After the loan is due, if he grants the borrower respite, he gets [the reward for] double the number of days” (Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr; Aḥmad, ḥadīth Burayda al-Aslamī, §23046).

Unless they pardon (illā an-yaṣṣaddaqū) (Q 4:92).

In cases where manslaughter is the result of genuine error on the part of a Muslim, classical jurisprudence holds that he must emancipate a Muslim slave in atonement, as well as paying blood money to the family of the deceased. The family may, at their discretion, choose to pardon the guilty person and forgo their right to that money. In such cases that person will also be legally absolved from payment. The act of pardoning and forgoing is referred to as ṣadaqa (illā an-yaṣṣaddaqū) owing to its charitable and sympathetic nature (al-Ṣābūnī, Tafsīr āyāt al-aḥkām).

Whoever forgoes his right (taṣaddaqa bih) then it will be atonement for him (Q 5:45).

The powerful Jewish tribe of Banū Naḍīr imposed unilateral conditions on their counterparts, the weaker Banū Qurayẓa, with respect to intertribal felonies resulting in physical harm or death. This verse affirmed the injunctions originally revealed in the Torah: We prescribed for them therein (i.e., in the Torah; cf. Exodus 21:22–25; Leviticus 24:19–21; Deuteronomy 19:16–21): a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose…if someone forgoes this (fa-man taṣaddaqa bih), it will be an expiation [of sins] for him (Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr). In this verse the term ṣadaqa refers to waiving one’s right to physical retribution, resulting in one’s own sins being expiated and atoned for. A similar reference is found in a hadith which al-Tirmidhī (209-279/825-892) narrates on the authority of Abū Al-Dardāʾ (d. 32/652)—Allah be well pleased with him—in which the Prophet, peace and blessings upon him, said: “Whoever has a wound inflicted on any part of his body, and then forgoes his right to retaliate (fa-yataṣaddaqu bih), Allah Almighty will raise him by one level and erase a sin” (Tirmidhī, Diyāt, mā jāʾa fī-l-ʿafw; Ibn Mājah, Diyāt, al-ʿafw fī-l-qiṣāṣ).


Conditions for Divine Acceptance of Alms

Have they not come to know that Allah accepts repentance from His slaves, and takes alms, and that Allah is the Oft-Relenting, Merciful?

Q 9:104

Allah, glorified is He, gives His servants glad tidings of the acceptance of their ṣadaqāt, which results in incalculable rewards in this world and the next (see Q 57:18 above). Various Qurʾān and hadith texts delineate the conditions for this acceptance.

A graceful word and forgiveness is better than almsgiving followed by injury. And Allah is Absolute, Clement. O you who believe, do not invalidate your almsgiving by reminding [those to whom you give of your favors] or by [causing them] hurt, like one who spends his wealth as an exhibit for [other] people and does not believe in Allah and the Last Day. He is like a smooth stone upon which there is some dust; then a rain showers upon it [thus washing it all away], leaving it completely bare…

Q 2:263-264

Ibn al-Qayyim (691-751/1292-1350) comments that the smooth, slippery stone in this parable represents a heart inclined towards hurting, reminding people of one’s past favors, and ostentatiousness. The dust lying atop the rock represents an insincere act of charity. The rigid composition of the rock prevents it from yielding any vegetation from within, and its slippery surface does not allow anything to cling to it. Thus, even a heavy downpour of rain (representing Divine command and decree) is of no benefit to the dust, or the stone beneath. Instead, the water merely washes away the dust, exposing the barren stone beneath it. Likewise the barrenness of an ostentatious person’s heart renders it unable to yield any truly beneficial deeds, and the deeds it does produce have no stability. They are washed away in this world and are of no use in the hereafter(al-Amthāl fī-l-Qurʾān p. 257-258).

The wealth spent in alms must also have been obtained from legitimate sources. Al-Bukhārī and Muslim narrate on the authority of Abū Hurayra—Allah be well pleased with him—that the Prophet of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah upon him, said: “Anyone who offers ṣadaqa from pure (ḥalāl) wealth (min ṭayyib)and Allah only accepts what is pure—then the Most Merciful (al-Raḥmān) takes it in His right hand (yamīn), even if it be as limited as a date; then it continues to grow in the palm (kaff) of the Most Merciful (al-Raḥmān) until it becomes more voluminous than a mountain. The ṣadaqa is grown and raised just like one of you nurtures his foal or calf” (this is the version narrated in Muslim, Zakāt, qabūl al-ṣadaqa min al-kasb al-ṭayyib; cf. Bukhārī, Zakāt, al-ṣadaqa min kasb ṭayyib).


Secret and Public Almsgiving

If you disclose your almsgiving, it is well; but if you conceal them and give them to the needy it is better for you, and it will atone for a portion of your sins.

Q 2:271

This verse establishes the preference of giving alms secretly, a principle mentioned in many hadiths. In a famous hadith enumerating seven types of people who will be given a special place under the shade of the Throne of Allah Almighty, there is mention of a person who gives his charity in such secrecy that his left hand knows nothing of what his right spends (Bukhārī, Adhān, man jalasa fī-l-masjid yantaẓir al-ṣalā wa faḍl al-masājid).

Al-Tirmidhī narrates on the authority of Abū Dharr al-Ghifārī (d. 32/652)—Allah be well pleased with him—that the Prophet of Allah—peace and blessings upon him—stated: “Allah loves three kinds of people, and dislikes three kinds. Among those whom Allah loves is one who was with a group of people approached by a man asking them to give him something for the sake of Allah, without having any bond of kinship with them. They did not give him anything; then one of them stayed back behind the group and secretly gave him some ṣadaqa in such a manner that only Allah and the one given to know of this act…” (Ṣifat al-janna, mā jāʾ fī kalām al-ḥūr al-ʿīn; hadith classed ḥasan ṣaḥīḥ).

However, giving alms openly is also mentioned in numerous hadiths. When impoverished people from the clan of Muḍar came to the Prophet—peace and blessings of Allah upon him—he encouraged his Companions to donate and they responded by generously contributing various donations. The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah upon him, was pleased by this gesture and declared that “whoever sets a good example, gets his own reward as well as all the reward of those who follow his example, without that diminishing their rewards in the least” (Muslim, Zakāt, al-hathth ʿalā al-ṣadaqa).

The hadiths in which concealing ṣadaqa is praised apply mainly to two contexts. Firstly, concealment is encouraged in situations where there is a threat of one’s intention becoming attenuated by improper motives, such as for worldly fame or recognition, something that according to numerous hadiths bears severe consequences in the Afterliāāfe (see Hereafter). A well-known hadith in Muslim includes such persons among the first three types of people who will be thrown into Hellfire:

A person who was granted abundant wealth of various kinds in the worldly life will be summoned on the Day of Judgment and reminded of the Divine favors bestowed upon him, which he will acknowledge. Almighty Allah will then ask him: “What did you do with that wealth?” He will reply: “I left no way in which You like wealth to be spent without spending in it for Your sake.” Allah—exalted is His name—will refute this statement, saying: “You lie; you merely acted so that it would be said: He is very generous. And thus it has been said.” The Divine judgment will be issued, and he will be dragged on his face and tossed into the Fire.

Muslim, Jihād, man qātala lil-riyāʾ wal-sumʿa

Secondly, such hadiths apply to non-obligatory alms. Al-ʿAynī (855-762/1451-1361) in his commentary on Ṣaḥīh al-Bukhārī narrates on the authority of Ibn ʿAbbās—Allah be well pleased with him—that giving supererogatory ṣadaqa discreetly is seventy times better than giving it openly, whereas giving obligatory ṣadaqa openly is twenty-five times better than giving it secretly (ʿUmdat al-Qārīʾ, Zakāt, ṣadaqat al-sirr). Thus al-Nawawī (631-676/1234-1278) concedes in his commentary on Muslim that it is meritorious to give supererogatory ṣadaqa secretly, while it is better to give obligatory alms openly, similar to the case of obligatory and supererogatory prayers (Sharḥ Muslim, Zakāt, faḍl ikhfāʾ al-ṣadaqa).

The hadiths in which open ṣadaqa is mentioned or encouraged thus apply to cases in which the donor feels sure that his intention will remain untainted, as well as to situations where giving openly serves to encourage others to give, such as fulfilling the obligation of zakāt


Virtues and Benefits of Almsgiving

Qurʾān and hadith texts encourage the believers to partake in acts of ṣadaqa by mentioning their numerous rewards and virtues. These virtues are in the dozens, some of which are briefly outlined below.

Ṣadaqāt, whether obligatory or voluntary, are a means of increasing and purifying wealth: Allah eradicates usury and increases charities (Q 2:276); Take from their wealth obligatory alms (ṣadaqatan) through which you cleanse and purify them (Q 9:103). This theme is also established in Q 30:39: and whatever zakāt you give, seeking Allah’s pleasure with it, [it is multiplied by Allah, and] it is such people who multiply [their true wealth]. The Prophet—peace and blessings of Allah upon him—swore by Allah that ṣadaqa does not decrease one’s wealth (Muslim, Birr, istiḥbāb al-ʿafw). Allah Most High takes upon Himself the responsibility of increasing the reward as well as the wealth of one who practises ṣadaqa. This increase in wealth can be through any number of means. In Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim there is mention of a wayfarer travelling in a barren land who heard a voice from the sky commanding clouds to shower rain upon a specific person’s garden. The man followed the clouds and witnessed the water from the clouds flowing exclusively to a single garden, where a man was busy steering the water to his crops. The gardener’s name proved to be the one mentioned by the voice. After persistent questioning about the reason for this Divine provision, the gardener disclosed that he had made a habit of spending one third of the profit from his garden as ṣadaqa (Muslim, Zuhd, al-ṣadaqa fī-l-masākīn).

Hadith texts also teach that ṣadaqāt are effective in averting adversities and afflictions. According to a narration of Razīn (d. 535/1140) on the authority of ʿAlī, Allah be well-pleased with him, the Prophet, peace and blessings upon him, said: “Make haste to give ṣadaqa, for calamity cannot overtake it” (al-Jazarī, Jāmiʿ al-uṣūl, Ṣadaqa, al-hathth ʿalayhā).

Giving ṣadaqa when one is sick, or on behalf of the ill, brings a quick recovery, as mentioned in a narration provided by al-Bayhaqī on the authority of Abdullah b. Masʿūd, as well as in a mursal narration from al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī: “Heal your sick with ṣadaqa” (Sunan, Janāʿiz, waḍʿ al-yad ʿalā al-marīḍ).

A narration in al-Bayhaqī’s Shuʿab al-īmān mentions that ṣadaqa also averts Divine wrath and a bad death (al-taḥrīḍ ʿalā ṣadaqat al-taṭawwuʿ).

Most major compilations of hadith have chapters devoted exclusively to this subject. Imam al-Ghazālī (450-505/1058-1111) dedicated a section of his celebrated Iḥyāʾ to the virtues and etiquettes of giving alms. Ibn Ḥajar al-Haytamī (909-974/1504-1567) in his Ināfa fī-l-ṣadaqa wal-ḍiyāfa mentions almost one hundred hadiths concerning the virtues of generosity and alms. The voluminous and widely-read Faḍāʾil al-ṣadaqāt by the modern hadith master Muḥammad Zakariyyā al-Kāndahalawī (1315-1402/1898-1982) covers many important aspects of zakāt, ṣadaqāt, and related themes of zuhd (see Abstinence), generosity, and devotion to the afterlife. This work draws upon a vast range of Qurʾānic verses and hadiths as well as anecdotes from the lives of the pious. The merits and benefits of alms mentioned in these texts are in the dozens; certain of which are cited below.


Perpetual Works of Ṣadaqa and Waqf Endowments

Perpetual or ongoing ṣadaqa (al-ṣadaqat al-jāriya) refers to virtuous acts that have lasting benefits. The doer continues to receive reward for such acts as long as its consequent benefits last. A hadith states: “When the son of Ādam dies his good deeds discontinue, with the exception of three: perpetual ṣadaqa, knowledge that is benefited from, or a pious child who prays for him” (Muslim, Waṣiyya, mā yalḥaq al-insān min al-thawāb). Thus, one who plants a fruitful plant will get the reward of giving ṣadaqa as long as humans or animals eat from its fruit, until the Day of Judgment (Muslim, Waṣiyya, mā yalḥaq al-insān min al-thawāb). The same applies to one who disseminates knowledge, gifts a copy of the Qurʾān, digs a well, or participates in any such deed of continual benefit (Muslim, Waṣiyya, mā yalḥaq al-insān min al-thawāb).

 

Hadith texts encouraging this type of charity provide the discursive basis for the social establishment of endowments (waqf, pl. awqāf) in which resources such as properties, wealth, or goods are allocated ‘in perpetuity’ to virtuous purposes. The principal resource or fund may be kept intact while the gains of the wealth are used for the designated cause. A famous hadith states that ʿUmar—Allah be pleased with him—procured a parcel of land at Khaybar, the finest property he had ever owned. He approached the Prophet—peace and blessings upon him—and sought his opinion as to how this land should be used. The Prophet—peace and blessings upon him—suggested he secure the garden itself, while donating the profits gained from it to worthy causes (in shiʾta ḥabasta aṣlahā wa taṣaddaqta bi-hā). ʿUmar, opting for this choice, stipulated that the garden itself could not be sold, gifted, or become personal property through inheritance (see Inheritance and Patrimony). The profits from the land were to be spent toward aiding the poor and needy relatives, emancipating slaves, the Path of Allah  (sabīl Allāh) , and providing hospitality for travellers and visitors. The person devoted exclusively to overseeing and administering the affairs of this waqf was allowed to use it for his needs to a pre-established limit (bil-maʿrūf), and could spend on friends as well, provided that he did not amass wealth from it (Bukhārī, Shurūṭ, al-shurūṭ fī-l-waqf). This type of practice in the early Islamic era was followed by the formation of a broad range of waqf institutions and funds by Muslims. Endowments were created for the construction and maintenance of mosques and educational institutes as well as various types of charitable, humanitarian, environmental (see Caliph, section on ḥimā), and philanthropic causes. Ibn Khaldūn (732-808/1332-1406) attributed much of the vast and successful proliferation of the Islamic sciences, as well as the stability and productivity of educational institutes in cities such as Cairo, Baghdad, Basra, Kufa, Cordoba, and Kairouan in northeast Tunisia, to well-founded and structured waqf endowments (Tārīkh 1:548-549, 551).


Ṣadaqa in the Generic Sense

Numerous hadiths broaden the usage of the term such that all acts of virtue can be understood generically as ṣadaqa. The logic behind this gesture holds that the Divine wisdom and mercy of Allah—glorified is He—would not permit the financially disadvantaged to be deprived of the reward of spending wealth in worthy causes. Thus the expenditure of energy and time to engage in virtuous deeds that directly benefit the doer or others has also been given great value and merit, and is comparable to—and no less than—the contribution of financial resources. Carrying another’s burden, removing a harmful object from a path, assisting an unskilled person in completing a task, remembering Allah by praising and glorifying Him, commanding the good and forbidding evil , taking steps to the mosque, and even fulfilling one’s basic needs in a ḥalāl manner, keeping others safe from one’s vices, and greeting people cheerfully are all examples of acts of ṣadaqa, as we are informed in various sound hadiths (Nawawī, Riyāḍ al-ṣāliḥīn, fī bayān kathrat ṭuruq al-khayr).


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See also

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