Charity is an important part of society and according to Islam, has many benefits, both for the giver and the receiver. Charity in the Quran discusses some of the aspects involved in this discussion and covers the following topics:
- Types of Charity in the Quran
- Charity in the Quran: Charity in the State of Rukuʿ (Bowing)
- Charity in the Quran: Public and Private Charity
- Charity in the Quran: Benefits of Giving Charity
- Charity in the Quran: Etiquettes of Charity
- Summary of Charity in the Quran
Types of Charity in the Quran
Charity in the Quran: Obligatory Charity
One of the most important instances of obligatory charity in Islam which has been mentioned in the Quran numerous times is obligatory zakāt (زکات) which is one of the pillars of faith.
Obligatory zakāt applies to certain wealth when it exceeds a determined limit. The obligatory tax applies to the surplus of those goods; for example, gold, silver, and so forth.
In many verses of the Quran, obligatory zakāt is mentioned after the daily prayers (salat); for example in the following verse:
وَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ ﴿56﴾
Maintain the prayer and give the zakat, and obey the Apostle so that you may receive [Allah’s] mercy. 1
*Note: Zakāt includes both obligatory and recommended alms-giving and does not refer to solely to the obligatory type in the Quranic context.
There are also other types of obligatory charity or sadaqah (صدقة) in Islam; however, although some are mentioned in the Quran, others are not. Obligatory zakāt is only one of such instances.
Charity in the Quran: Purification and Growth
خُذْ مِنْ أَمْوَالِهِمْ صَدَقَةً تُطَهِّرُهُمْ وَتُزَكِّيهِم بِهَا وَصَلِّ عَلَيْهِمْ ۖ إِنَّ صَلَاتَكَ سَكَنٌ لَّهُمْ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ ﴿103﴾
Take charity from their possessions to cleanse them and purify them thereby, and bless them. Indeed your blessing is a comfort to them, and Allah is all-hearing, all-knowing. 2
According to commentators this verse refers to obligatory charity, that is, obligatory zakāt.
The word taṭhīr (تطهیر) means to dispel dirt and impurity to make something clean and pure. Tazkiyah (تزکیه) means to make something grow and more than that, it means to elevate it so that its blessings and goodness become manifest.
Both these terms are addressing the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him and his household) and means: O Muhammad! Take the zakāt from the categories of people’s wealth and make them pure and their wealth blessed.
The categories to which obligatory zakāt apply are:
- Monetary: gold and silver
- Livestock: camels, cow, and sheep
- Grains: wheat, barley, dates, and raisins 3
Charity in the Quran: Recommended Charity
Recommended charity is charity in general and includes all types of charity apart from those that are obligatory.
إِنَّ الْمُسْلِمِينَ وَالْمُسْلِمَاتِ … وَالْمُتَصَدِّقِينَ وَالْمُتَصَدِّقَاتِ … أَعَدَّ اللَّـهُ لَهُم مَّغْفِرَةً وَأَجْرًا عَظِيمًا ﴿35﴾
Indeed the muslim men and the muslim women, … the humble men and the humble women, the charitable men and the charitable women, the men who fast and the women who fast, …—Allah holds in store for them forgiveness and a great reward. 4
The word sadaqa (صدقة) is to spend money in God’s way and only one of its instances refers to obligatory zakāt.
Giving Charity is to Lend to God
إِنَّ الْمُصَّدِّقِينَ وَالْمُصَّدِّقَاتِ وَأَقْرَضُوا اللَّـهَ قَرْضًا حَسَنًا يُضَاعَفُ لَهُمْ وَلَهُمْ أَجْرٌ كَرِيمٌ ﴿18﴾
Indeed the charitable men and women and those who lend Allah a good loan—it shall be multiplied for them, and there will be a noble reward for them. 5
The verse indicates that to give charity is as if one has given a loan to Allah and the reason that God has explained it as such – in this and other verses – is the following:
- To encourage the believers to give charity in His way
- To show that which is given is in His name and for Him
- It is also to indicate that God will soon return it to its owner, multiplied several times. 6
In explanation of another one of the verses: Who is it that will lend Allah a good loan that He may multiply it for him severalfold? Allah tightens and expands [the means of life], and to Him you shall be brought back,
Who is it that will lend Allah a good loan that He may multiply it for him severalfold? Allah tightens and expands [the means of life], and to Him you shall be brought back,
the commentators explain that it means one should not be afraid that by giving charity one’s wealth would decrease as sustenance is in the hands of God and we would see the effects of it in this world and the next. 7
Charity in the Quran: Charity in the State of Rukuʿ (Bowing)
إِنَّمَا وَلِيُّكُمُ اللَّـهُ وَرَسُولُهُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا الَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ الصَّلَاةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُمْ رَاكِعُونَ ﴿55﴾
Your guardian is only Allah, His Apostle, and the faithful who maintain the prayer and give the zakat while bowing down. 8
It has been unanimously reported in narrations that this verse was revealed for Ali ibn Abi Talib (peace be on him) when he was in the mosque, praying and in the state of rukūʿ (رکوع) or bowing and a beggar came to the mosque asking for someone to help him. When no one did so, Ali (peace be on him) extended his hand, indicating that the beggar should take the ring he had on; which he did and this verse was revealed.
Because the word guardian or wali (ولی) has not been repeated in the verse, it indicates that in the same way that God’s guardianship is realized through the guardianship of the Holy Prophet, the guardianship of the Prophet continues with Ali (peace be on him) 9
Regarding why the verse states: and the faithful, in plural if one person was intended, one must note that it is common in the Arabic language to use a plural tense to revere someone and, therefore, requires no justification. 10
Charity in the Quran: Public and Private Charity
إِن تُبْدُوا الصَّدَقَاتِ فَنِعِمَّا هِيَ ۖ وَإِن تُخْفُوهَا وَتُؤْتُوهَا الْفُقَرَاءَ فَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ ۚ وَيُكَفِّرُ عَنكُم مِّن سَيِّئَاتِكُمْ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ ﴿271﴾
If you disclose your charities, that is well, but if you hide them and give them to the poor, that is better for you, and it will atone for some of your misdeeds, and Allah is well aware of what you do. 11
In Secret or Private?
There is no doubt that whether charity is given in secret or openly, each has its own beneficial effects. This is because when a person gives his wealth openly or in secret in God’s way; if it is an obligatory charity, apart from the fact that others would be encouraged to perform it, it would also prevent others from slandering a person as not performing one’s obligatory duty.
And if the charity is a recommended one, then it is a type of practical propagation which encourages others to good actions, supporting the needy and performing socially and publicly beneficial actions.
On the other hand, if the charity is performed in secret there would be lesser chances of pretentiousness and hypocrisy in it and would be more sincere; especially regarding helping the needy as it would better protect their honor. 12
When to Give in Private or Openly
None of these two commands (to give openly or in secret) is general; rather, they are different instances and in instances where the aspect of encouraging others is higher and would not affect sincerity, it is better to perform it openly.
And in instances where there is a possibility of insincerity and showing off or to protect the honor of the receiver, it is better to give it secretly.
According to some narrations it is better to give the obligatory charities openly and the recommended ones secretly. 13
Forgiveness of Sins
One of the benefits of giving charity is the forgiveness of sins. However, the point to note is that it causes the forgiveness of some sins, not all. And, the part of sins it would atone for depends on the amount of charity and intention of the giver. 14
God Knows Everything
The verse ends with a phrase informing us that God has knowledge over what we give in His way; whether it is openly or in secret and what our intentions and purposes for it are.
It is our intentions and sincerity that are important in charity. Similarly, it is not important whether people know about it or not; rather, it is God’s knowledge that is important as He is the one who will reward us for our actions. 15
Charity in the Quran: Benefits of Giving Charity
According to the Quran, giving charity has many benefits; some of which are as follows:
- The giver will have no fear or grief:
Those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah and then do not follow up what they have spent with reproaches and affronts, they shall have their reward near their Lord, and they will have no fear, nor will they grieve. 16
- Increase in wealth:
The parable of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is that of a grain which grows seven ears, in every ear a hundred grains. Allah enhances severalfold whomever He wishes, and Allah is all-bounteous, all-knowing. 17
- Rewards from God 18
- Will Never be bankrupt:
Indeed those who …, and spend secretly and openly out of what We have provided them, expect a commerce that will never go bankrupt. 19
- Repayment by God of what one spends:
Say, ‘Indeed my Lord expands the provision for whomever of His servants that He wishes and tightens it, and He will repay whatever you may spend, and He is the best of providers.’ 20
- Closeness to God and His mercy:
Yet among the Bedouins are [also] those who … regard what they spend as [a means of attaining] nearness to Allah and the blessings of the Apostle. Now, it shall indeed bring them nearness, and Allah will admit them into His mercy… 21
Charity in the Quran: Etiquettes of Charity
According to verses of the Quran, there are certain etiquettes one must adhere to while giving charity.
Some of these are:
- Not affronting the receiver or rubbing in one’s favor on them 22
- To give the good and pure of what we have earned; not the bad 23
- Giving of what one loves 24
- Moderation in giving, that is, being neither wasteful nor tightfisted 25
Summary of Charity in the Quran
Charity in the Quran has many aspects. The Quran discusses the different types of charities; some are obligatory, like obligatory zakāt, a man providing for one’s family, penalties, and so forth. And some are recommended and these are all other types of spending in God’s way.
Another aspect that the Quran discusses is giving charity in secret or openly and both are good; however, in some cases it is better to give openly and in others secretly.
The Quran also indicates some of the benefits of giving charity and also some of the etiquettes we must observe while doing so.
- [24: 56]. Qarai translation
- [9: 103]. Qarai translation
- Tafsīr al-Mīzān. Vol. 9, p. 512
- [33: 35]. Qarai translation
- [57: 18]. Qarai translation
- Tafsīr al-Mīzān. Vol. 2, pp. 431-432 & vol. 11, p. 29
- Qarashi, A. A. Tafsīr Aḥsan al-Ḥadīth. Bethat Publications. Vol. 1, pp. 454 & 455
- [5: 55]. Qarai translation
- Translation of Tafsīr Bayān al-Saʿādah fī Maqāmāt al-ʿIbādah, 1st ed. Vol. 4, pp. 353 & 354
- Tabarsi, F. Tafsīr Jawāmiʿ al-Jāmiʿ, 2nd ed. Translated by a group of translators. Vol. 2, p. 91
- [2: 271]. Qarai translation
- Tafsīr Namūna. Vol. 2, p. 345
- Ibid. pp. 345-346
- Ibid. p. 346
- Ibid. p. 347
- [2: 262]. Qarai translation
- [2: 261]. Qarai translation; also: [57: 7, 11, 18];
- See: [2: 274]
- [35: 29]. Qarai translation
- [34: 39]. Qarai translation
- [9: 99]. Qarai translation
- [2: 264]
- [2: 267]
- [3: 92]
- [25: 67]