What is the Role of an Islamic Charity in the Month of Ramadan?
Islamic charities have played a very important role in the Muslim society, distributing money and food to the poor during Ramadan. It is a time when people are the most generous. It is best to find a charitable organization that can treat the money in a manner that's halal (acceptable, according to Islamic law), opposed to giving it to a Government, which is not authorized to distribute sadakah (charity) and zakat (donations provided through alms giving; zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam.)
Ramadan is a month of charity and a month of reflecting on one's inner child. According to Islamic tradition, Muslims must be very generous during Ramadan and give as if one had unlimited funds. It's said that one should avoid placing money in the left pocket for safekeeping; instead, Muslims believe that they must give with the right hand to please Allah.
Charity cannot be accepted unless it's given for the sole purpose of pleasing Allah. One passage explains this concept: "Abu Zar Ghifari, a companion of the Prophet, reported that the Prophet, while sitting in the shade of the Kabah wall, said, 'They are the losers.' Abu Zar enquired, 'Who are they, O Messenger of God?' The Prophet (peace be upon him*) replied: 'Those who pile up heaps of wealth and (pointing in all directions with his hands) do not spend like this and this.'” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Too often, Muslims who are poor lack the ability to "share the wealth," as they are living in constant fear that there will not be enough food on the table for tomorrow. By Islam's standards, most people are hoarders and although Islam teaches that a Muslim who has enough food for the day is well off, the desire to save and prepare for next month is always there. This characteristic is against every aspect of Islam, as this religion is associated with the belief that all things, including money, health and wealth, come from The Creator.
Who Has the Right to Receive Sadakah?
In Islam, there are eight different people who deserve charity, also known as alms. A Muslim's zakat cannot be given to the mother, as it is an obligation of the family to give money to the mother regularly. Zakat could be given to another relative in need though. Allah has dictated who is entitled to zakat and/or sadakah: "The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to free the captives and the debtors, and for the cause of Allah, and (for) the wayfarers; a duty imposed by Allah. Allah is knower, Wise." (Sura Al-Taubah, verse 60).
Sadakah or Permanent Alms (Sadaqa-e-jaria)
Some of the best sadakah given, is in the supporting of a business to help a family survive or in helping a college student finish and graduate. Upon graduation, the student is able to support the family and provide food and a home for everyone. To support someone with an illness during the time of recovery is also considered a good deed. These are permanent types of sadakah and something that will go on month to month. It is indeed a charitable form of giving, as is offering support to an orphan or a widow.
Islamic charities all over the world can help in distributing the wealth in these permanent instances. Many charities are set up to provide help for orphanages or rape victims who have no place to live. There are organizations that provide food to poor people, and others that establish free schools in poor countries. Although it is preferable to give directly to the poor person, finding a qualified charitable organization is also acceptable.
The Silent Sadakah is Better
In addition to giving to the people in need, the Quran states that it is best to give silently so that the left hand does not know what the right hand has done. The reward of giving in secret is 70 times over giving in public. There are many stories about the companions and about the great sacrifice that was made.
It's said that the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him*) urged the people to bring money for the poor. Umar gave half of his belongings to the poor in sadakah, while Abu Bakr gave more by donating all of his belongings. It's said that no sacrifice was too great when the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him*) asked.
Islamic Charities Helping the Poor
There are many legitimate charitable organizations to help the poor and then there are some that are scam websites. Muslims must always use caution when revealing personal information and donating money. Here is a list of some of the most popular Islamic charities:
● Islamic Relief Worldwide
● Muslim Aid UK
● Muslim Hands
For a complete portfolio of the Islamic charities check out the: Portfolio of Islamic Charities.
Islamic Charities Compared to Local Area Giving
For Muslims, Ramadan is a time to reflect on the many blessings from Allah. It is a time to strive to please Allah by following the Sunnah of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him*) and to be the most generous. Many families will strive to host many family gatherings, hosting dinners and lavish get-togethers with relatives. But in following with Islamic tradition, Ramadan is not a time to treat your Uncle to a leg of lamb; it is a time to give that leg of lamb to someone who has not seen meat or chicken in a year's time.
Ramadan is about helping others by offering one's time, efforts and donations. Whether it is building a home for a Muslim who lost everything in a flood to carrying groceries for a widow who struggles to walk.
Muslims are encouraged to take time each Ramadan to help someone else; to take time to ask Allah for guidance in who deserves sadakah and help; to put a smile on an old woman's face with a new dress or give a bag of chocolates to a neighborhood child. Ramadan is regarded as a time to reflect on death and judgment day and it is time to remember that this life is very short.
* Muslims invoke Allah's blessings on the Prophet Muhammad whenever this name is mentioned.
Khan, Maulana Wahiduddin, "The Concept of Charity in Islam," Alrisala