Charity in Islam

“The believer’s shade on the Day of Resurrection will be his charity.” - hadith of the Prophet, peace be upon him

Reading the Qur’an – Islam’s holy book, the Word of Allah – one cannot help being struck by the number of times charity is mentioned. Feeding the poor and needy, supporting orphans, relatives and travellers, spending in the way of Allah...all of these references emphasise the importance of charity for all Muslims.

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It is absolutely central to the Muslim identity to feel care and compassion for one’s fellow human beings. Several ahadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him) refer to this deep affection and brotherhood: “you will not believe until you love for your brother what you love for yourself”; “the believers are like one body in their mutual love and affection: if one limb is injured, the rest responds with sleeplessness and fever”. If a Muslim feels the pain of his or her fellow human being, and wishes the same comfort and good life for others which he wishes for himself – it is a natural reaction to give in charity, to ease this suffering.

As well as the indisputable benefits for those receiving charity, Islam also highlights the spiritual need of those with wealth to give some of it away selflessly. It helps Muslims to remember that they are humble before Allah, and that every blessing they have in this life comes from Him – therefore they must not hoard it, but recognise that He wishes for us to be compassionate and share our provisions with our brothers and sisters in humanity. Indeed, the Qur’an warns against any feelings of pride, or reminding others of the charity one has given: “you who believe, do not cancel out your charitable deeds with reminders and hurtful words” (2:262). It also reminds us that there is a “recognised right, for the needy and deprived” over our wealth (70:24-5), so by giving, a Muslim is fulfilling a duty to those in need, preventing him or her from becoming proud of their own generosity.

In the Qur’an, Allah describes those who prevent the supporting of orphans and the feeding of the poor as “those who reject the faith” (107:1-3), while emphasising that charity should be given in “prosperity or adversity” (3:134), without fear for one’s wealth, and having faith that a sincere act of giving can only bring abundant reward to the giver: “those who spend their wealth in Allah’s cause are like grains of corn which produce seven ears, each bearing a hundred grains” (2:261). Indeed, one of the five central pillars of Islam is zakat, or almsgiving – the obligatory tax due on an adult Muslim’s wealth every year, dedicated to supporting the poor and needy – making charity an undeniable cornerstone of the faith.