Charity In A Harsh Economy - Five Suggestions For Giving Charity

By: Meha Ahmad

Jul 15, 2010

These days, sharing a part of your wealth may seem like a bigger sacrifice than it used to, especially for those with little to give. Many Muslims put their "charitable duties" on the backburner as they continue to try coming to grips with mass layoffs, a thin job market, and an almost-beyond-repair economy. But even all of that does not justify turning your back on your obligation to care for others.

There’s Always a Way To Give Back

The Prophet Mohammad taught his followers about the importance of charity, no matter their own financial situation. He said:

"Every Muslim has to give in charity." The people then asked: "(But what) if someone has nothing to give, what should he do?" The Prophet replied: "He should work with his hands and benefit himself and also give in charity (from what he earns)." The people further asked: "If he cannot find even that?" He replied: "He should help the needy who appeal for help." Then the people asked: "If he cannot do (even) that?" The Prophet said finally: "Then he should perform (and enjoin) good deeds." He was asked: "What if he cannot do that?" He said: "He should then keep away from evil deeds, and that will be regarded as charitable deeds." (Bukhari, Muslim)

Sure, you can donate to nonprofit organizations, legitimate charities and causes. Money is the most common and quickest form of charity. But of course, if you’re in financial straits, there are other ways to give charity. The beauty of Islam is that our obligation to be charitable is not strictly limited to monetary donations.

5 Suggestions For Giving Charity:

  • Donate your time. Volunteering your time at soup kitchens or non-for-profits is a great form of Zakat. Take a few hours out of your week and go to charitable organization, which always welcomes volunteers (just schedule in advance). Or try to volunteer your fundraising/publicity/planning services at your local Masjid’s events.
  • Donate Food. Maybe you’ve got non-perishables in the pantry or cupboards. There’s always a food drive or an organization looking to help the hungry. So get some of your friends and family members to gather extra food items to donate. Remember, people are hungry!
  • Donate Clothes. Just like the food drives, there’s almost always a clothing drive. The Salvation Army and Goodwill also accept clothes and distribute them to the homeless. Try not to give away just your completely tattered and over-used clothes. Don’t be afraid to give up your newer or modestly used items. Give generously and for the sake of God.
  • Encourage others to do good. The Prophet said to enjoin good deeds; encourage friends, family members and neighbors to join you at the soup kitchen or food pantry. Remind them of their duty in Islam, and the immeasurable rewards that are promised for those generous souls who share their wealth, time, or energy with those who need it.
  • Smile. Whether or not you have anything else to give, remember that the Prophet (PBUH) said, “Your smile for your brother is charity.” The Companions of the Prophet often said they hardly ever saw the Prophet without a smile.

These are just a few of the steps you can take toward giving charity. In fact, doing good, forbidding evil, removing harmful substances from the road, listening to the deaf, leading the blind and supporting the feeble with the strength of your arms are also other forms of charity prescribed to the Ummah, according to the Prophet’s teachings.

Even if you don’t have money to give, there are additional ways to treat the poor other than ignoring them flat out. Remember that giving charity, in any form that best fits the giver’s current situation, is an obligation on every Muslim.

Zakat Foundation of America, a Muslim charity that collects zakat, sadaqa / donations to provide humanitarian, emergency relief and sustainable development programs to empower lives throughout the world. We offer top Zakat resources including The Zakat Handbook: A Practical Guide for Muslims in the West, Zakat kit, ask an Imam feature, and you can calculate and pay zakat through our easy, online calculator.

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