How Much Should I Give in Charity?

Hanafi Fiqh

Answered by Sidi Wasim Shiliwala

Question: What is meant by giving charity daily? What percentage of my salary should I give in sadaqa, and how can I save money in a halaal way? Is it better to give it on a monthly basis or in a lump sum in Ramadan? I know a few people who are poor, but I’m not sure if they are eligible for zakat – can I still help them? Please help me in this regard. Jazak Allah khair


Answer: Walaikum As-salaam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu,

May Allah reward you for your noble intention to donate more in charity! May He make you from among “those who spend in the way of Allah…
there is no fear upon them, nor will they grieve” (2:262).

Daily Charity

I am not sure of the specific context where you heard this advice to give daily charity, but it was most likely in reference to the following hadith:

“A charity is due for every joint in a person on every day the sun comes up. Acting justly between two people is charity. Helping a man with his mount – lifting him onto it or hoisting his belongings onto it – is a charity. A good word is charity, and removing obstacles from the road is charity.” [Sahih al-Bukhari]

Whereas zakat deals mainly with monetary values, sadaqa (voluntary charity) can be of several types, as mentioned in the hadith. Charity, then, encompasses all acts of service done for others. Although giving money to the poor on a daily basis is a tremendous act, the Prophet (peace be upon him) is telling us in this hadith to perform daily acts of service to others.

Not everyone needs your money, but everyone can benefit from your time and effort. Whether it’s something as small as helping carry someone’s bag or as big as volunteering for a local charity, all types of help count as sadaqa.

Striking a Balance Between Saving and Giving

Of course, the more money you give, the better, and the sahaba (may Allah be pleased with them) and the Prophet (peace be upon him) are the best examples of this. They were quick to give large portions of their wealth to others.

However, the vast majority of us are not on their spiritual level, such that we can easily give away vast portions of our wealth. To the contrary, such giving might prove detrimental to our spirituality, especially if we get depressed and despair over this loss.

Therefore, we should seek to strike a practical balance between the money we need, the money we save, and the money we give. The money we need would encompass basic necessities of life including housing, food, travel, and the like. This can be determined by creating a detailed budget based on current and past expenses.

The money we save would include money for future necessities (such as college tuition for our children), emergencies, and luxuries. It is essential that you keep such goals realistic and practical so as to avoid becoming stingy, which the Prophet (peace be upon him) described as being one of the most evil traits a person can have [Sunan Abi Dawud]. So long as your intention is pure and you are saving the money for noble purposes, the money you save will not be seen as excessive insha’Allah.

Once you have a clear picture of how much money you need to live and how much money you want to save, you now have a good idea of how much money is “extra.” I encourage you to donate generously from this amount, and if you use any of it in investments, to invest in ethical businesses and projects that you support.

Give Often and Give Even More in Ramadan

It is always better to do small consistent deeds rather than big, infrequent ones. The Prophet (peace be upon him) tells us that Allah loves most those deeds that are consistent, even if small [Sahih al-Bukhari].

Rather than only give in Ramadan, the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to consistently give throughout the year, and then give even more during the blessed month. As ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “The Prophet (peace be upon him) was the most generous of people, and he was most generous during Ramadan.” [Sahih al-Bukhari]

So I therefore advise you to give charity on a consistent basis, and then to give a little more than usual during Ramadan. This, insha’Allah, will give you the full benefit of emulating the generosity of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

Determining Eligibility of Zakat Recipients

The important question here is whether the potential recipients have the nisab amount or not. Of course, it is improper to pry into the financial details of others, so all that is necessary is an honest effort to ensure the that they are eligible. For example, if you know they are unemployed, are being supported by relatives, or have a significant amount of debt, then you can safely assume that they are eligible for zakat without directly asking them about their financial situation. So long as you are reasonably sure that they are eligible, then you can give your zakat to them. Even if you later find out that they possess more than the nisab, any zakat you gave before that point remains valid. [Shurunbulali, Ascent to Felicity].

As a general point of advice, I encourage you to focus your charity on those closest to you, starting with family, friends, neighbors, and local charities. They are your first line of responsibility, since it is unlikely that someone from another area will help them if you do not. Along these lines, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said that one does not truly believe if they go to sleep satiated while their neighbors go to sleep hungry. [Sunan at-Tirmidhi]

Between Charity and Generosity

In addition to giving in charity, it is important to develop a charitable and generous character, as that is the true sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). The sunna of generosity is not simply a matter of doing a number of good deeds, but rather it is a matter of developing the habit of striving to help others in whatever ways one can whenever possible.

Once we adapt this trait, our money, time, energy, and even our entire lives will be spent in service to others. Their needs will take precedence over our personal comforts and worldly pursuits. This is the excellent character of the Prophet (peace be upon him), and it comes from an understanding of the world as it truly is: that acts done for Allah are of infinitely greater benefit than acts done for the self.

May Allah increase us in our generosity, and may He increase His generosity upon us!

Baarak Allahu Fikum,

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani