In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
Allaah [The Exalted] informed us of some of the qualities of the Abraar [The pious, who fear Allah and avoid evil]:
وَيُطۡعِمُونَ ٱلطَّعَامَ عَلَىٰ حُبِّهِۦ مِسۡكِينً۬ا وَيَتِيمً۬ا وَأَسِيرًا
إِنَّمَا نُطۡعِمُكُمۡ لِوَجۡهِ ٱللَّهِ لَا نُرِيدُ مِنكُمۡ جَزَآءً۬ وَلَا شُكُورًا
إِنَّا نَخَافُ مِن رَّبِّنَا يَوۡمًا عَبُوسً۬ا قَمۡطَرِيرً۬ا
فَوَقَٮٰهُمُ ٱللَّهُ شَرَّ ذَٲلِكَ ٱلۡيَوۡمِ وَلَقَّٮٰهُمۡ نَضۡرَةً۬ وَسُرُورً۬ا
And they give food, inspite of their love for it (or for the love of Him), to Miskin (poor), the orphan, and the captive; (saying): “We feed you seeking Allah’s Countenance only. We wish for no reward, nor thanks from you. Verily, We fear from our Lord a Day, hard and distressful, that will make the faces look horrible (from extreme dislikeness to it).” So Allah saved them from the evil of that Day, and gave them Nadratan (a light of beauty) and joy. [Surah Al-Insaan. Aayaat 9-11]
Indeed, if the real purpose behind philanthropy is to help the poor, then neither should there be any strings attached nor carried out for ulterior motives, such as those whose spending is either to reinforce Kufr and Shirk or a means of expressing power and control. Therefore, the Muslim philanthropists should be far removed from the behaviour of those who spend their wealth in disobedience to Allaah and His Messengers, just as Allaah stated about the advice that was given to Qaaroon:
وَٱبۡتَغِ فِيمَآ ءَاتَٮٰكَ ٱللَّهُ ٱلدَّارَ ٱلۡأَخِرَةَۖ وَلَا تَنسَ نَصِيبَكَ مِنَ ٱلدُّنۡيَاۖ وَأَحۡسِن ڪَمَآ أَحۡسَنَ ٱللَّهُ إِلَيۡكَۖ وَلَا تَبۡغِ ٱلۡفَسَادَ فِى ٱلۡأَرۡضِۖ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ ٱلۡمُفۡسِدِينَ
But seek, with that (wealth) which Allah has bestowed on you, the home of the Hereafter, and forget not your portion of legal enjoyment in this world, and do good as Allah has been good to you, [وَلَا تَبۡغِ ٱلۡفَسَادَ فِى ٱلۡأَرۡضِۖ – and seek not mischief in the land]- Meaning: through pride, disobedience (to Allaah), preoccupying yourself with the blessings (bestowed upon you by Allaah) at the expense of (obedience to Allaah, being thankful etc); [إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ ٱلۡمُفۡسِدِينَ -. Verily, Allah likes not the Mufsidun (those who commit great crimes and sins, oppressors, tyrants, mischief-makers, corrupts). [Ref 1]
Allaah is the One who distributes bounties based on His perfect Wisdom and the Aakhirah should be the goal of the Muslim. Allaah [The Exalted] said:
نَحۡنُ قَسَمۡنَا بَيۡنَہُم مَّعِيشَتَہُمۡ فِى ٱلۡحَيَوٰةِ ٱلدُّنۡيَاۚ وَرَفَعۡنَا بَعۡضَہُمۡ فَوۡقَ بَعۡضٍ۬ دَرَجَـٰتٍ۬ لِّيَتَّخِذَ بَعۡضُہُم بَعۡضً۬ا سُخۡرِيًّ۬اۗ وَرَحۡمَتُ رَبِّكَ خَيۡرٌ۬ مِّمَّا يَجۡمَعُونَ
It is We Who portion out between them their livelihood in this world, and We raised some of them above others in ranks, so that some may employ others in their work. But the Mercy (Paradise) of your Lord (O Muhammad) is better than the (wealth of this world) which they amass.
[Surah Az-Zuhkruf. Aayah 32]
Recall the fact that all bounties are from Allaah and be mindful of this disease – mentioned by Imaam Ibnul Qayyim – that has afflicted some of the so called philanthropists amongst the people of Kufr. Imaam Ibnul Qayyim [rahimahullaah] said:
Allaah brought the servant out of his mother’s womb whilst he knew nothing, not able to do anything and owned nothing; neither able to give nor take; neither able to harm nor benefit. This state of neediness until he reached a more perfect state is something witnessed and tangible for everyone [to see], and it is well known that this is the very essence of the human being and he remains upon that state. He does not move from this state and enters into a state of Lordship – a state in which he becomes absolutely self-sufficient and not need of anyone and anything; rather he does not cease being a slave, a needy one to his Rabb [Allaah the Creator, All-Provider and the Only One Who Controls and Sustains Everything] and His Faatir [Allaah, The Originator and Creator of Everything].
However, after the human being was granted blessings, shown mercy, granted the means to reach a more perfect state, and Allaah -out of His Perfect Kindness and Generosity- granted him apparent blessings [i.e. to recognise the Messengers who were sent with Islamic Monotheism, granted him the lawful pleasures of this world, including health, good looks, etc.] and the hidden blessings [i.e. granted him the innate disposition to recognise his Lord when the Messenger calls him to Eemaan, and granted him knowledge, wisdom, guidance for doing righteous deeds, and also the pleasures and delights of the Hereafter in Paradise, etc.], granted him hearing, sight and a heart, and taught him [i.e. gave him the means to knowledge], granted him ability, subjugated things to him, granted him [the desire and enthusiasm to pursue what is beneficial, and take action], enabled him to receive the service of those of his kind [i.e. gave him authority over other humans], subjugated to him horses and camels, gave him the ability to capture the animals in the sea, drop birds from the sky, subjugate wild animals, dig wells [irrigate water etc], plant trees, dig the earth, learn how to build, acquire the things that are of benefit to him, guard against and protect himself from that which is harmful to him; then the Miskeen [i.e. this absolutely poor, dependent human being] thinks that he has a share of authority and claims – for himself – a kingship [or authority] similar to that of Allaah [Glorified be Allaah and free is Allaah from all imperfections, partners, coequals, similarities etc], and begins to see himself in a manner other than what he was at first, forgets his [prior] state of non-existence, poverty and neediness, until he becomes as if he was not that poor and needy thing. [Ref 2]
Do not be like those who spend millions, but cause harm to servants of Allaah. Allaah [The Exalted] said:
قَوۡلٌ۬ مَّعۡرُوفٌ۬ وَمَغۡفِرَةٌ خَيۡرٌ۬ مِّن صَدَقَةٍ۬ يَتۡبَعُهَآ أَذً۬ىۗ وَٱللَّهُ غَنِىٌّ حَلِيمٌ۬
Kind words and forgiving of faults are better than Sadaqah (charity) followed by injury. And Allah is Rich (Free of all wants) and He is Most-Forbearing. [Surah Al-Baqarah. Aayah 263]
Imaam Ibnul Qayyim [rahimahullaah] stated regarding the above Aayah:
Allaah informed (us) that kind speech- which all hearts recognize and do not reject; and forgiveness, which is to pardon the one who treated you badly-, are better than charity that is followed by harm. Kind speech is good treatment and charity through speech; and forgiveness is good treatment by way of refraining from retaliation and holding someone responsible. These are two types of good treatments.
As for charity followed by harm, it is a good deed that is followed by its nullifier, and there is no doubt that two good deeds are better than a good dead that is nullified. This also includes the forgiveness shown by the person when he encounters some harm and harsh behaviour from the one who he could not fulfil his request; therefore, showing forgiveness to him would be better than giving him charity and then harming him. Speaking kindly to him, refraining [from retaliation] and forgiving him is better for you than giving him charity and then harming him.
Then Allaah [The Most High] ended this Aayah with the mention of two of His Attributes which are suitable for mention in this affair, saying: [وَٱللَّهُ غَنِىٌّ حَلِيمٌ۬- and He is Most-Forbearing].
Indeed, Allaah is not in need of you and nothing [from the benefits of] your charity reaches him, rather all the abundant good in this charity and its benefits returns to you and not to Allaah [Glorified and Exalted be He]. Therefore, how can one flaunt by way of his spending and causes harm whilst Allaah is completely not in need of it and everything else besides it. In addition to this, Allaah is forbearing because He does not hasten punishment against the one who flaunts. Allaah is completely free from need in every way and He is the One described as One with forbearance, the one who overlooks and forgives, alongside the fact that He bestows His vast [limitless] favours and ample [limitless] gifts; then how can one of you harm another person by flaunting and offending, even though what you give is little, and you are weak and poor [in the sight of Allaah]. Then Allaah said:
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ لَا تُبۡطِلُواْ صَدَقَـٰتِكُم بِٱلۡمَنِّ وَٱلۡأَذَىٰ كَٱلَّذِى يُنفِقُ مَالَهُ ۥ رِئَآءَ ٱلنَّاسِ وَلَا يُؤۡمِنُ بِٱللَّهِ وَٱلۡيَوۡمِ ٱلۡأَخِرِۖ فَمَثَلُهُ ۥ كَمَثَلِ صَفۡوَانٍ عَلَيۡهِ تُرَابٌ۬ فَأَصَابَهُ ۥ وَابِلٌ۬ فَتَرَڪَهُ ۥ صَلۡدً۬اۖ لَّا يَقۡدِرُونَ عَلَىٰ شَىۡءٍ۬ مِّمَّا ڪَسَبُواْۗ وَٱللَّهُ لَا يَهۡدِى ٱلۡقَوۡمَ ٱلۡكَـٰفِرِينَ
O you who believe! Do not render in vain your Sadaqah (charity) by reminders of your generosity or by injury, like him who spends his wealth to be seen of men, and he does not believe in Allah, nor in the Last Day. His likeness is the likeness of a smooth rock on which is a little dust; on it falls heavy rain which leaves it bare. They are not able to do anything with what they have earned. And Allah does not guide the disbelieving people. [Al-Baqarah 264].
This [above] Aayah necessitates that flaunting and harm nullifies the reward in charity, and it is also proof that good deeds can be nullified by evil deeds. [Ref 3]
Abdullaah Ibn Mas’ood [radiyallaahu-anhu] reported that the Prophet [sallal laahu alayhi wasallam] said, “The son of Adam will not be dismissed from his Lord on the Day of Resurrection until he is questioned about five issues: his life and how he lived it, his youth and how he used it, his wealth and how he earned it and he spent it, and how he acted on his knowledge.” [Ref 4]
Yahyaa Ibn Mu’aadh [rahimahullaah] said:
“The creation[i.e. mankind and Jinn] have not heard [anything] similar to two calamities [that afflicts] a person in relation to his wealth at the time of death; so it was said, ‘What are they?’ He said, ‘All of it is taken away from him (i.e. he will leave it behind for others) and he will be questioned about all of it (i.e. he will be questioned about it in the Hereafter- how he earned and spent it)’”. [Ref 5]
[Ref 1: Tayseer al-Kareem Ar-Rahmaan Fee Tafseer Kalaam Al-Mannaan’ by Imaam As-Sadi (rahimahullaah). Abridged & slightly paraphrased]
[Ref 2: An Excerpt from Tareequl Hijratayn- By Imaam Ibnul Qayyim (rahimahulaah). Pages 9-10. Slightly paraphrased]
[Ref 3: An Excerpt from ‘Tareequl Hijratayn pages 452-453. Slightly paraphrased]
[Ref 4: Sunan al-Tirmidhī 2416. Declared Saheeh by Imaam Al-Abaanee (rahimahullaah)]
[Ref 5: Mukhtasar Minhaaj Al-Qaasideen page: 208]