Concept of charity

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.

All human beings, according to Islam, have been created by one and the same God, and for this reason they belong to one great brotherhood.

All being descendants of the same progenitor, Adam and Eve, they should naturally be each other's well-wishers. They must willingly come to one another's assistance, like members of the same large family. Islam has, therefore, laid the greatest of emphasis on the support of destitute and disabled members of society. It is a sacred duty of the wealthy to give part of their possessions to fulfill the needs of the deprived sections of the community.

 There are two forms of charity in Islam - obligatory and voluntary, called 'zakat' and 'sadaqa' respectively. Zakat, from the verb zaka, which signifies "to thrive," "to be wholesome," "to be pure" means purification.

 Giving up of a portion of the wealth one may possess in excess of what is needed for sustenance, is to "purify" it and to gain God's blessing to make it grow in goodness.
Zakat not only purifies the property of the contributor but also purifies his heart from selfishness and greed. It also purifies the heart of the recipient from envy and jealousy, from hatred and uneasiness and it fosters instead goodwill and warm wishes for the contributors.

Zakat in spirit is an act of worship while in its external form it is the carrying out of social service.

Its importance is underscored by the fact that the Quran treats it at par with prayer. It goes to the extent of saying that one cannot attain righteousness unless one spends out of one's wealth for the love of God: "By no means shall you attain righteousness, unless you give of that which you love." (3:92)

 So the test of charity lies not in giving away something we have discarded but the things that we value greatly, something that we love. It is unselfishness that God demands. It may be in any form - one's personal efforts, talents, skill, learning, property or possessions.

 Since charity is purely for the sake of God, it has value only if something good and valuable is given. It should be lawfully earned or acquired by the giver. It should include such things as are of use and value to others.

Charity is, in the words of the Prophet, to place a thing in the palm of God. It is therefore obvious that placing worthless things in the palm of God is to dishonour Him.

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