In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
Abu Umama reported that Allah’s Messenger [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] said, “O son of Adam! It is better for you if you spend your surplus (wealth), but if you withhold it, it is evil for you. There is (however) no reproach for you (if you withhold means necessary) for a living. And begin (charity) with your dependents; and the upper hand is better than the lower hand”. [Saheeh Muslim 1036]
If surplus wealth is spent on oneself and family (or dependents), then that would be better due to the reward it carries; but if withheld, then that would be evil for you because you are deserving of punish if you withhold from an obligation. And if you withhold from a recommendation, then indeed your reward will be reduced and you have missed something that would have brought you benefit in the afterlife. And there is no reproach one a person who keeps means of livehood due to a need. (1) The upper hand – the one who spends on others, is better than the lower hand, the one who asks. (2)
Three Types of People and Their Relationship to Wealth
Narrated Abu Kabshah Al-An’maariy (radiyallaahu-anhu) that Prophet (sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam) said: “I swear by Allah regarding three (affairs) which I am going to tell, so remember them. The wealth of a man does not decrease due to (giving) charity; a slave does not exercise patience when oppressed, except that Allah increases his honour; a slave does not open the door of begging, except that Allaah opens for him the door of poverty (or he stated a statement similar to it).” I am going to tell you (something), so remember it: The worldly life is for four types of people. A slave whom Allaah has given wealth and knowledge, so he fears his Lord by way of it. He preserves the ties of kinship and acknowledges Allaah’s Rights regarding it. This (type of person) is on the most virtuous position. A slave whom Allaah has given knowledge but not wealth. He is truthful in his intention and says: `If I had wealth, I would have done the deed of such and such (person).’’ So because of this intention of his, his reward is the same (i.e. the righteous one who has been given wealth and knowledge). A slave whom Allaah has given wealth but not knowledge. He wastes his wealth out of ignorance. He neither fears Allaah nor does he keep the ties of kinship, nor does he acknowledge Allaah’s rights. This (type of person) is at the evilest position. A slave whom Allaah has neither given wealth nor knowledge and he says: `If I had wealth, I would have done the deed of such and such (person).’’ So by way of his intention, they are similar (i.e. similar to the evil person who wastes his wealth). (3)
Al-Allaamah Ubaid Bin Abdillaah Al-Jaabiree [may Allaah preserve him] stated: The first is a wealthy person who is thankful (to Allaah); so Allaah will raise him to the most virtuous position due to his deed. The second is a poor person who exercises patience. He is truthful in his intention with regards to spending from that which Allaah has bestowed on him. So Allaah makes him reach the most virtuous position due to his truthful intention. The third is a boastful wealthy person. He is covetous and stingy; so his deed takes him to the most evil position. The fourth is a boastful poor person and his intention is evil. So together with his poverty, his intention takes him to the most evil position. So based on this, we know that by way of truthful intentions Allaah raises the person. And an evil intention debases a person until he finds him/herself in the most evil position. (4)
Different Types of Charity
Narrated Abu Hurairah [may Allaah be pleased with him] that Allaah’s Messenger [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] said: There is Sadaqah (charity) to be given for every joint of the human body (as a sign of gratitude to Allaah) every day the sun rises. To judge justly between two persons is regarded as Sadaqah, and to help man concerning his riding animal by helping him to ride it or by lifting his luggage on to it, is also regarded as Sadaqah, and (saying) a good word is also Sadaqah, and every step taken on one’s way to offer the compulsory congregational prayer is also Sadaqah, and to remove a harmful thing from the way is also Sadaqah. [Bukhaari, hadeeth Number 2989. Vol 4]
Al-Allaamah Saaleh Al-Fawzaan [may Allaah preserve him] said: Allaah (Glorified be He) has not limited charity to a person’s spending by way of wealth; rather Allaah (The Most High) made it wider than this and everyone is able to partake in it.
Acts of charity mentioned in this hadeeth:
[a] To judge justly between two people in a dispute and bring about conciliation between them– by uniting their hearts and make them become pleased with one another. This indeed is a great act of charity. Allaah (The Most High) said:
لَّا خَيۡرَ فِى ڪَثِيرٍ۬ مِّن نَّجۡوَٮٰهُمۡ إِلَّا مَنۡ أَمَرَ بِصَدَقَةٍ أَوۡ مَعۡرُوفٍ أَوۡ إِصۡلَـٰحِۭ بَيۡنَ ٱلنَّاسِۚ وَمَن يَفۡعَلۡ ذَٲلِكَ ٱبۡتِغَآءَ مَرۡضَاتِ ٱللَّهِ فَسَوۡفَ نُؤۡتِيهِ أَجۡرًا عَظِيمً۬ا
There is no good in most of their secret talks save (in) him who orders Sadaqah (charity in Allah’s Cause), or Ma’ruf (Islamic Monotheism and all the good and righteous deeds which Allah has ordained), or conciliation between mankind, and he who does this, seeking the good Pleasure of Allah, We shall give him a great reward. [Soorah An-Nisaa: Ayah 114]
Therefore, a person should not leave the people in dispute; rather it is incumbent upon him to be eager to bring about conciliation between disputing parties, especially relatives. As for some people—and Allaah’s Protection is sought—they only bring into disputes that which will increase it. This type of person is a shaytaan.
Also the one who seeks to bring about conciliation between the people should do that with justice; he should not oppress any of them or judge based on desires.
[b] Helping a person concerning his riding animal: To help him concerning his riding animal—whether it is a riding beast or a car—if he is weak or disabled. You help him to climb his riding beast or to get in his car, or help him carry his luggage. This is an act of charity. Indeed, you did not give him money, but you aided him.
[c] Uttering a good word; such as greeting with As-Salaamu alaykum; supplicating for your Muslim brother etc. And a good word includes acts of worship a person does in the presence of his Lord, such as remembrance of Allaah-the utterance of Subhaanallaah; Laa-ilaaha-ilal-laah etc
[d] Walking to the masjid for the prayer: Every footstep taken towards the masjid is charity, and the farer the masjid the more reward a person gets. In this is an encouragement to attend the compulsory prayer in jamaa’ah and not to stay away from it. To miss the prayer in jamaa’ah is a great loss.
[e]Removing something harmful from the way: Removing harmful things from the pathways of the Muslims or from the pathways of the people in general; likewise removing harmful things from the pathways of the animals. One should not place harmful things in pathways that will harm pedestrians. One should not leave a harmful thing which another person left in a pathway. It has been reported in a hadeeth that the Prophet (sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam) said: ”While a man was going on a way, he saw a thorny branch and removed it from the way and Allaah (The Mighty and majestic) became pleased by his action and forgive him for that.” [Bukhaari Vol 1: hadeeth number 652]. He was entered into paradise because of his act of kindness to pedestrians.
But how about those who place harmful things in the roads; such as stones, thorns, planks of woods, metals, and spilling water on the road, which may be impure and placing rubbish on the roads. The person who does this has greatly sinned and everyone passer-by supplicates against him. The action of this person is oppression and the supplication of the oppressed person is answered. Therefore a Muslim should hasten to remove harmful things from the path in order to receive this reward mentioned in the hadeeth. (5)
Nullifier of Charity
Allaah [The Most High] 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]
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 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 whom 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 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. (6)
[Ref 1: An Excerpt from Sharh Saheeh Muslim vol 7. Page 113]
[Ref 2: Fat-hul Baaree Sharh Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree vol 3 p375. Daarus Salaam Publisher. 1421AH (Year 2000)
[Ref 3: Reported by Tirmidhee 2325; Ahmad 18031; Al-Baghawiy 4097]
[Ref 4: An Excerpt from: البيان المرصع شرح القواعد الأربع- pages 8-9. Slightly paraphrased]
[Ref 5: Excerpt from ‘Al-Minhatur Rabbaaniyyah Fee Sharh Al-Arba’een’ by Al-Allaamah Saaleh Al-Fawzaan (may Allaah preserve him) pages 213-217. paraphrased]
[Ref 6: An Excerpt from ‘Tareequl Hijratayn pages 452-453. Slightly paraphrased]