OF the five basic tenets of Islam, giving away a part of one’s material wealth is an essential one. In normal parlance, this is zakat, that is usually calculated as 2.5 per cent of one’s wealth in cash and other marketable items.
People one can give this to are those who deserve it in terms of having low income and needing to pay for certain situations in life. Some believe that zakatcan be given to non-Muslims as well and not so well-off family members.
Very often, zakat is considered equal to sadaqah, but both have different objectives. The former is compulsory for those who possess a certain amount of wealth and is a tax payable either to the state or directly to those in need. When to the state, it can be used for poverty alleviation programmes. Many scholars believe that if the state charges income tax in a country, zakat can be deducted from it and only the balance can be levied. Others want both taxes to be chargeable.
Sadaqah, on the other hand, is entirely up to the individual who would give it to people and institutions in need as and when she wishes and as much as she wants. Both the tax and the donation are meant to address issues of financial inequity, can take the form of donations or charity and both are a means to purify one’s material wealth. At times, people sacrifice animals as sadaqah, and give away the meat to those in need of nutrition. Giving is indeed a desirable characteristic of Muslims and should be inculcated even when one is poor oneself.
It is up to each person to develop the soul.
What is important is the intention, or niyyat, behind the giving. If your giving is to show to the receiver or to the world how much you give, your giving actually makes your wealth dirty and defiled.
Meanwhile, the Prophet (PBUH) is believed to have said: “Give with one hand such that the other hand is unaware of your action.” Further, give without expecting any recognition or reward for the giving. Don’t even expect thanks. This would also undo your action. Giving must be for its own sake, with the purest of intentions.
And so one’s possessions can be thus purified and suitable to be presented to the Almighty on the Day of Judgement, to some extent. But what of the greatest wealth that one possesses: one’s soul, the purification of which is the purpose of the life of a human being, as well as of all the worship that one is required to perform in the world. The soul has been blown into the being and then it is up to the human being to develop it, to further purify it and to make it as suitable as possible to be answerable to God. One of the ways to do so is to give sadaqah for it.
Sadaqah for the soul can be given in the form of giving love, one’s time and attention and our mercy to those who one would not naturally give to. These people would be one’s staff and juniors at home and at work; co-travellers; people you might meet in shops; service providers; workers on the roads; even people who are your so-called enemies or, those one would not generally like; and others who are not family members. This is the ‘husn-i-ikhlaq’, or morality that the Prophet was sent to the world to perfect.
This means that one would never use words of abuse for anyone, regardless of however much one is frustrated and one would never resort to physical aggression, regardless of the extent of anger. Instead, one would retain one’s calm and composure and would respond only to the point that needs to be addressed without sarcasm. Returning hate with love and attention would gain you friends, instead of enemies. And this is the sadaqah of the soul that would be of use to you in front of God. Also, considering the widespread conflicts in society, such an approach can help in conflict resolution.
Sadaqah of the soul is much more difficult to give and it is not always evident that one possesses it, unlike zakat, for which one evidently owns wealth. One must dig deep into one’s soul to bring it out and give it to another’s hand, but with time, one finds that its availability becomes clear and it increases.
Sit with a security guard or a cleaner and listen to their life stories; spend time with a sanitary worker or labourer; smile and be the first to greet the chota at your car maintenance shop. In short, try and empathise with the neglected and the downtrodden of society. And as you give this sadaqah of your soul, you will find that it increases in amount the more you spend it.
We are custodians of the material resources of this world, but we also possess a soul that needs to be purified by giving of its beauty and compassion. Moreover, both zakat and sadaqah must be given during the rest of the year as well as during the holy month of Ramazan.
The writer is an individual contributor with an interest in religion.
Published in Dawn, May 13th, 2022