Intercultural aspects / Concepts and Symbols of Philanthropy
|The Qur’an implies a connection between proper manifestation of belief and charitable deeds, by repeatedly praising and recommending charity to believers. Nevertheless, charity is not just recommended in Islam, but expected by every financially stable Muslim. The legal system of Islam makes extraordinary provisions for both voluntary charity (sadaqah) and obligatory charity (zakat). This system highly values giving, beyond the mere measure of the law. Out of the countless forms that the command of beneficence has been practiced, three main Islamic institutions formalize the believers’ total moral obligation to charity on God’s behalf: zakat sadaqah and waqf.|
The word zakat is derived from the Arabic verbal root zaka, meaning ‘to grow, purify, increase, and bless.’ Over time, zakat has come to mean ‘blessing, growth, cleanliness or betterment.’ However, both of these meanings of the word are used in the Qur’an and hadith. In Shari'a, the word zakat, refers to the determined share of wealth prescribed by God. The wealth is to be distributed among those entitled to receive it, such as the needy. It is also used to mean the action of payment of this share, as well as the action of sanctification.
The distinction between compulsory zakat and voluntary sadaqah does not apply systematically in the Qur’an or in the earliest period of Islam. Nevertheless, in Islam’s later history, sadaqah, traditionally meant only voluntary charitable donations given to beggars and the destitute; the word zakat referred to the obligatory alms-tax. Sadaqah is thus an indication of truthfulness in faith and sincere belief in the Day of Judgment.