Virtues of Charity
Being such a fundamental pillar of Islam, charity has many benefits for a person’s spiritual and ephemeral wellbeing. There are also a number of etiquettes that a believer should keep in mind when engaging in the act of charity. Some of these virtues and etiquettes include:
- Purification from miserliness. One cannot rid oneself of miserliness until one forces the lower self to become accustomed to parting ways with its money and giving in charity becomes a habit. In this way, charity in general and zakātspecifically becomes a means of purifying the believer. The greater ones joy at spending, the greater will be their purification.
- Gratitude for ones blessings. Islam teaches us that true gratitude is to use a blessing for the purpose for which it was created. If God has endowed one of us with wealth then one of the best ways to show gratitude to God is to give of that wealth to those who are less fortunate than us.
- Hastening in giving charity. When one has the intention of giving charity, one shouldn’t delay in doing so. Lethargy and procrastination may set in and one may end up not giving at all.
- Giving charity in secret. This is one of the greatest forms of charity that one can engage in and its benefits are immense. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Giving charity in secret extinguishes the anger of God.” [al-Tabarani] He also informed us that one of the seven types of people who will be under the shade of God on the Day of Judgment is someone who gives in charity without his left hand knowing what his right gave. [al-Bukhari & Muslim]
- Giving charity openly is encouraged in certain circumstances in order to encourage others to give. However one should only engage in this if they are confident that it will not lead to ostentation or embarrass the person who the charity is intended for.
- One should be careful not to spoil ones charity by reminding the benefactor of the good they did for them or by holding out for a favour from them. God says: “You who believe, do not cancel out your charitable deeds with reminders and hurtful words, like someone who spends his wealth only to be seen by people, not believing in God and the Last Day. Such a person is like a rock with earth on it: heavy rain falls and leaves it completely bare. Such people get no rewards for their works: God does not guide the disbelievers.” [Quran: 2:264]
- To believe that the person receiving the charity is doing a greater favour than the one giving the charity. Some of the pious predecessors would remark that the giver may have fed the poor for a while in this world but the receiver carries the giver’s provision for him into the hereafter. Thus one should be conscious of ones need of giving charity for one’s own purification.
- Charity helps to ward off calamities. The Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) said: “Give charity in the early morning, for calamity cannot outrun charity.” [al-Bayhaqi]