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Sadaqah (charity) is the concept of giving charity voluntarily fi sabillilah فِي سَبِيلِ ٱللَّٰهِ (for the cause of Allah).
Even a smile is Charity
Sadaqah also describes a voluntary charitable act towards another being, whether through generosity, love, compassion or faith. These acts are not necessarily physical or monetary. Simple good deeds such as a smile, or a helping hand, are seen as acts of Sadaqah.
While Zakat is an obligatory charity due from every Muslim on a yearly basis, Sadaqah is an entirely voluntary charity which can be performed at any time of year, and any amount can be given.
Unlike Zakat, which has a number of stipulations regarding the type of assistance it can provide, Sadaqah can be used for any project or programme which is of benefit to people.
A number of sayings of the Prophet (SAW) emphasise the benefits of giving Sadaqah.
“Sadaqah extinguishes sin as water extinguishes fire.” [Tirmidhi]
“The believer’s shade on the Day of Resurrection will be his charity.” [Tirmidhi]
An important concept within Islam is the idea of Sadaqah Jariyah – an ‘ongoing charity’.
The Prophet (SAW) said:
“When a person dies, all their deeds end except three: a continuing charity, beneficial knowledge and a child who prays for them.” [Muslim]
Therefore, many Muslims are eager to give charity which will continue to have benefit to people after their death, and continue to earn them reward.
Any charity which continues to have positive effects on a community in the long-term, beyond immediate relief, can be considered a Sadaqah Jariyah: building homes, schools and hospitals; installing durable water systems; turning an area of land into a farm which continues to give crops for years to come; helping a poor family start a business which continues generating profit for future generations…
Essentially, Sadaqah Jariyah is what today’s international development sector calls ‘sustainable development’, promoted by Islam over 1400 years ago, and encompasses the majority of the sustainable development programmes carried out by both Islamic and other NGOs today.