The alleviation of poverty and suffering lies at the heart of Islam
and therefore charitable giving is greatly encouraged. However the
concept of charity in Islam goes beyond the alleviation of material
poverty. Acts of charity are not restricted to tangible goods and can
also include deeds and interactions between all living creatures. For
example a smile or advice can be considered charity as well as care of
the environment and other living things. Such an approach ensures that
the poor are not excluded from charitable giving and discourages
divisions based on wealth and status. Furthermore feelings of pride
amongst those who give charity are discouraged as well as feelings of
embarrassment or shame amongst those who receive it.
There are three forms of charity in Islam; zakat, waqf and sadaqa. Zakat is the third pillar of Islam and an obligation for all Muslims. All Muslims who possess wealth above a zakat payable amount for one lunar year have to pay zakat, leading some to refer to it as a ‘social purifying tax’. As the aim of zakat is to ensure a greater equality in the distribution of wealth in society zakat payments can only be spent on specific categories which include the poor and needy.
Waqf is a charitable endowment which can be donated for
the benefit of a specific individual or for the benefit of a family or
community. Common examples of waqf include hospitals and schools or land on which to build them. Waqf can also be donated by buying waqf shares which are invested and the profits used for good causes.
Sadaqa is voluntary charity and encompasses any act of giving out of compassion, love or generosity. Sadaqa
is given for the sake of God and those who give it should do so quietly
and ensure that the beneficiary feels no obligation or guilt in