Why Is Charity So Important in Islam?

Although all social systems try to conceal poverty from their society, poverty has always been an important challenge in different societies. Poor people have always existed in the world throughout history.


Some people may not like to give charity to others. Since they think that giving charity to the poor will make them more useless and will make the view of the society unpleasant. At the time of the prophet (PBUH), the same way of thinking existed. Concerning that, this verse of the holy Quran was revealed: “When they are told, ‘Spend out of what Allah has provided you,’ the faithless say to the faithful, ‘Shall we feed [someone] whom Allah would feed if He wished? You are only in manifest error.” (36: 47)


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How Does The Quran Mention Charity in Islam?


Quran uses different words while it encourages people to give charity. Mostly used words are as follows: Infaq, Zakat, Sadaqa.



Infaq is the general word that is used for granting something to others. This is not necessarily money. Infaq includes any kind of help that we provide for those who do not have it. For example, teaching something to someone who does not have the knowledge. Or even spreading positive feelings in different gatherings that make others feel better is a kind of charity [1]. But sadaqa refers to those kinds of donations that are material (not spiritual).




In the Quran, it is repeatedly recommended that believers should give charity to ascend the steps of spirituality; “You will never attain piety until you spend out of what you hold dear, and whatever you may spend on anything, Allah indeed knows it.” (3: 92)



Giving Alms-tax (zakat) and Infaq are always followed by the order to pray the obligatory prayers. This shows the importance of this social act; “And establish prayer and give zakah, and whatever good you put forward for yourselves – you will find it with Allah. Indeed, Allah of what you do is Seeing.” (Quran 2:110)



It is so important that Allah says in the Quran “Spend in the way of Allah and do not cast yourselves with your own hands into destruction” (2: 195). The destruction that is mentioned here can be the social consequences of the capitalist system.

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Different Types of Charity in Islam


There are two major types of charity in Islam. These are obligatory charity and voluntary charity.


Voluntary Charities

As its name shows voluntary charity is any kind of charity or almsgiving that are not obligatory for people, but they intend to pay it out to help the needy. Those who give voluntary charity are not necessarily wealthy people. But they share whatever they have, even if not that worthy, with those who may need them too.



Obligatory Charities

Obligatory charities are known as Alms-tax (Zakat), khums and Kaffarah. They are not compulsory for all Muslims unless they meet the necessary criteria to pay them.


1. Zakat


“A person will be obliged to pay Zakat if he is grown-up, of sound mind and in possession of something… The amount of money that should be paid depends on the kind of the material through which Zakat has become obligatory; these are two kinds of metal- gold, and silver-, four grains- barley, wheat, date, and raisin- as well as three kinds of animal - cow, sheep, and camel.” 


2. Khums


“Khums becomes obligatory in seven cases, but the one which is inscribed to income is considered as the most salient kind. In this case, one has to pay one-fifth of what has remained from his income after subtracting his own expenses on the exact date that he has paid Khums in the previous year.” 


3. Kaffarah or Fidya


Kaffarah or Fidya is the penalty imposed by Islamic law for those who commit a sin or make a mistake and wish to make it up. Kaffarah is used in the following cases:


  •  If someone breaks his/her obligatory fast (Sawm)
  •  If someone breaks an oath
  •  If someone makes some specific mistakes in his/her pilgrimage (Hajj)
  •  If someone kills a person

Allah orders Muslims to pay their penalty for their mistakes by donating to the needy. This shows the importance and the value of helping the poor.


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Some Benefits of Giving Charity in Islam


Giving charity ‘saves the society from destruction’ (2: 195) and causes the ‘enhancement in one’s wealth’ (2: 261). Those who give charity in the way of God ‘will have no fear, nor will they grieve.’(2: 274)


Some people pay charity as a means of ‘nearness to Allah and the blessing of the prophet,’ and Allah assures them that “it shall indeed bring them nearness, and Allah will admit them into His mercy.” (9:99)


And Allah (SWT) emphasizes that “And neither do they incur any expense, big or small, nor do they cross any valley, but it is written to their account, so that Allah may reward them by the best of what they used to do.” (9: 121)


Why Does Islam Promote Charity?


Allah (SWT) mentions in the Quran, that the reason for which He made some people wealthy and some poor, is to test His servants; “It is He who has made you successors on the earth, and raised some of you in rank above others so that He may test you in respect to what He has given you.” (6: 165) He would test His servants to see if the rich would help the poor and try to erase poverty from the society. This wealth does not necessarily refer to material properties, but it also includes social or political position.



The reason for which Muslims should give different types of charity is mentioned in the Quran; “… so that they do not circulate among the rich among you.” (59: 7). In other words, God orders you to give charity so that unlike capitalist systems, the wealth of the society does not become the property of some particular people.


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The One Who Grants Can Take It Back

Allah mentions in different verses of the Holy Quran that whatever we have is from Him, and He can take it back anytime. Quran describes the story of two men “for each of whom We had made two gardens of vines, and We had surrounded them with date palms and placed crops between them.” One of them becomes proud of what he has and says to his companion “I have more wealth than you and am stronger with respect to numbers… I do not think that this will ever perish”.



As a result of his pride and arrogance “ruin closed in on his produce, and he began to wring his hands for what he had spent on it, as it lay fallen on its trellises. He was saying, ‘I wish I had not ascribed any partner to my Lord.” (18: 32-43)



[1] Tafseer-e nemoone, Hadid, 7