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Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

Charity, in the sense of giving away one's wealth, is of two kinds: voluntary and obligatory. Voluntary charity is mentioned in the Koran as itfaq (spending benevolently), ihsan (the doing of good) and sadaqa (derived from sidq, meaning truth, and comes to signify a charitable deed). The very words used to denote charitable deeds are an indication of the broadness of its conception. The Koran not only lays stress on such great deeds of charity as the emancipation of slaves (90:13, 2:177), the feeding of the poor (69:34, 90:11-16, 107:1-3), taking care of orphans (17:34, 76:8, 89:17, 90:15, 93:9, 107:2) and doing good to humanity in general, but it gives equal emphasis to smaller acts of benevolence. It is for this reason that the withholding of ma'un (107:7), which specially indicates small act of charity is stated to be against the spirit of prayer. And in similar strain, the speaking of a kind word to parents is referred to as ihsan in 17:23, and generally the use of kind words is recommended as in itself a charitable deed in 2:83, 4 and other places.

Hadith is much more explicit. To remove from the road anything which may cause hurt is called sadaqa or charitable deed (Bukhari, 46;24). According to another hadith, "there is a sadaqa (charity) on every limb with every new sun, and to do justice among people is also a charity" (Ibid. 5:11). Another hadith gives yet more detail: "On every limb there is a sadaqa (charity) every day; a man helps another to ride his animal, it is a charity; or he helps him to load his animal, there is also a charity; and so is a good word; and every step, which a man takes in going to pray; is a charity; and to show the way is a charity" (Ibid. 56:72, 128).

Examples of other charitable deeds are, "your salutation to people," "your enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong" (Masnad, 2:329), "refraining from doing evil to any one" (Ibid. 4:395), "whoever tills a field and birds and beasts eat of it, it is a charity" (Ibid. 4:55). The Koran also speaks of extending charity not only to all men including believers and unbelievers (2:272), but also to the dumb creation (51:19).

The reward of charity is first spoken of : "The parable of those who spend their wealth in the way of God is as the parable of grain growing seven ears with a hundred grains in every ear; and God multiplies it for whom He pleases" (2:261).

A charitable deed must be done as a duty which man owes to man, so that it conveys no idea of superiority of the giver or the inferiority of the receiver: “As for those who spent their wealth in the way of God, then do not follow up what they have spent with reproach or injury, they shall have their reward from their Lord….Kind speech and forgiveness is better than charity followed by injury…..O’you who believe! do not make your charity worthless by reproach or injury” (262-264).

Love of God should be the principal motive in all charitable deeds, so that the very doing of them fosters the feeling that all mankind is but a single family: “And they give food out of love for Him to the poor and the orphan and captive” (76:8), “And give away wealth out of love for Him to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and the beggars and for the emancipation of captives” (2:177), “And parable of those who spend their wealth to seek the pleasure of God and for the certainty of their souls, is as the parable of a garden on an elevated ground” (2:265).

Only good things and well-earned wealth should be given in charity: “O’you believe! give in charity of the good things that you earn and of what We have brought forth for you out of the earth, and do not aim at giving what is bad, in charity” (2:267).

Charitable deeds may be done openly or secretly: “If you give alms openly, it is well, and if you hide it and give it to the poor, it is better for you” (2:271).

Those who do not beg should be the first to receive charity: “For the poor who are confined in the way of God, they cannot go about in the land; the ignorant man thinks them to be rich on account of their abstaining from begging” (2:272)

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