Charity is amongst the most virtuous deeds in Islam. Some forms of charity are obligatory, others optional, yet, all forms of charity are highly meritorious. However, even when giving in charity, moderation has been prescribed so that the one who gives in charity may not harm himself in the process, nor does he cause harm to his dependents and inheritors after death. The following Hadeeth explains this matter perfectly.

Narrated Sa’d bin Abi Waqqas (radhi allahu anhu), ‘I was stricken by an ailment that led me to the verge of death. The Prophet (s.a.w.s) came to pay me a visit. I said, ‘O Allah’s Messenger! I have much property and no heir except my single daughter. Shall I give two-thirds of my property in charity?’ He said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Half of it?’ He said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘One-third of it?’ He said, ‘You may do so though, one-third is also too much, for, it is better for you to leave your off-spring wealthy than to leave them poor, asking others for help. And whatever you spend (for Allah’s sake) you will be rewarded for it, even for a morsel of food which you may put in the mouth of your wife.’?’ [Saheeh al-Bukharee, vol.8, no. 725]

Monastic religions often teach their followers, that the only way to God or the only way to inner enlightenment, is that one does away with all his worldly possessions leading a life of hermits and ultimately depending on begging and the charity of others for sustenance. Islam, on the other hand, teaches its followers to ?

(a) Earn an honest bread (1)*
(b) Spend on oneself and on the family
(c) Spend in charity and we have seen earlier the broad definition of charity in Islam
(d) To be the upper hand rather than the lower (2)
(e) The extreme undesirability of begging without a need (3)

1. Anas (radhi allahu anhu) said that when a man of the Ansar came to Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu ‘aliahi wa-sallam) and begged from him, he asked him whether he had nothing in his house. When he said that he had a piece of cloth, which he used for wearing as well as for spreading on the ground, and a wooden bowl from which he drank water, he told him to bring them to him, and when he did so he took them in his hand and asked, ‘Who will buy these?’ When a man offered a dirham he asked twice or thrice. ‘Who will offer more than a dirham?’ and he gave them to a man who offered two dirhams. He then took the two dirhams and giving them to the Ansari he said, ‘Buy food with one of them and hand it to your family, and buy an axe with the other and bring it to me.’ When he bought it, Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu ‘aliahi wa-sallam) fixed a handle on it with his own hands and said, ‘Go gather firewood and sell it, and don’t let me see you for a fortnight.’ The man went away and gathered firewood and sold it. When he had earned ten dirhams, he came to him (r) and bought a garment with some of them (i.e. dirhams) and food with the others. Then Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu ‘aliahi wa-sallam) said, ‘This is better for you than that begging should come as a spot on your face on the Day of Resurrection. Begging is right for only three people; one who is in grinding poverty, one who is seriously in debt, or one who is responsible for blood-wit that he finds difficult to pay.’ [Abu Dawood]

2. Ibn Umar (radhi allahu anhu) reported, ‘While the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘aliahi wa-sallam) was on his pulpit (in the mosque) delivering a Khutbah (religious talk) about Sadaqah (charity) and begging, he said, ‘the upper hand is better than the lower hand, the upper hand is the one which gives and the lower hand is the begging one.” [Saheeh al-Bukharee and Saheeh Muslim]

Thauban (radhi allahu anhu) reported, ‘The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘aliahi wa-sallam) said, ‘He who guarantees me that he will not beg anything from anyone, I will guarantee him (to enter) Jannah.” I said, ‘I give you the guarantee.’ Then Thauban (radhi allahu anhu) never begged anything from anyone. [Abu Dawood]

3. Abdullah bin Umar (radhi allahu anhu) reported that Allah’s Messenger(s.a.w.s) said, ‘When a man is always begging from people, the result will be that he will come on the Day of Resurrection with no flesh on his face.’ [Saheeh al-Bukharee and Saheeh Muslim]