Tzedakah and Sadaqah… the laws of charity in Islam and Judaism

Both the Jewish and Muslim traditions obligate their followers to help those less fortunate. In Judaism this obligation is called sedaqah (tzedakah) which is based on the Hebrew word (צדק, Tzedek) meaning righteousness, fairness or justice. In Islam according to al-Mawardi this obligation is called sadaqah which means strengthening something with something.

In both Islam and Judaism supporting the needy is not an optional good deed, but an obligatory necessity like breathing or drinking. In Islam there are 2 forms of charity zakat, a charity all Muslims give if they can afford to, and a voluntary charity known as sadaqah (although as noted earlier, while not practised so commonly today this term and zakah can be used interchangeably). Sadaqah has no upper or lower limits and a person gives what they believe to be just.

Who gives what?

  Judaism Islam
Called Sedaqah (tzedakah) Sadaqah and Zakah
Minimum 10%
“Let this stone that I have set up as a pillar become a temple to God. Of all that You give me, I will tithe a tenth to You.”(Genesis 28:22)
2.5%
“When Abu Bakr; sent me to (collect the Zakat from) Bahrein, he wrote to me the following:– (In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful). These are the orders for compulsory charity (Zakat) which Allah’s Apostle had made obligatory for every Muslim, and which Allah had ordered His Apostle to observe: Whoever amongst the Muslims is asked to pay Zakat accordingly, he should pay it (to the Zakat collector) and whoever is asked more than that (what is specified in this script) he should not pay it; … For silver the Zakat is one-fortieth of the lot (i.e. 2.5%), and if its value is less than two-hundred Dirhams, Zakat is not required, but if the owner wants to pay he can.'” (Bukhari Volume 2, Book 24, Number 534)
Maximum – everyone 20%
R. Elai stated: It was ordained at Usha that if a man wishes to [give to charity] liberally he should not spend more than a fifth (Talmud Ketubot 50a)
2.5%
“When Abu Bakr; sent me to (collect the Zakat from) Bahrein, he wrote to me the following:– (In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful). These are the orders for compulsory charity (Zakat) which Allah’s Apostle had made obligatory for every Muslim, and which Allah had ordered His Apostle to observe: Whoever amongst the Muslims is asked to pay Zakat accordingly, he should pay it (to the Zakat collector) and whoever is asked more than that (what is specified in this script) he should not pay it; … For silver the Zakat is one-fortieth of the lot (i.e. 2.5%), and if its value is less than two-hundred Dirhams, Zakat is not required, but if the owner wants to pay he can.'” (Bukhari Volume 2, Book 24, Number 534)
Maximum – the rich Unlimited Unlimited
Obligation
“If there be among you a needy man, one of thy brethren, within any of thy gates, in thy land which HaShem thy G-d giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thy heart, nor shut thy hand from thy needy brother” (Deut. 15:7)
“What is Islam?” Allah’s Apostle replied, “To worship Allah Alone and none else, to offer prayers perfectly to pay the compulsory charity (Zakat)” Hadith of Gabriel

How is it distributed?

  Judaism Islam
Distribution
  1. Captives, prisoners and matters of life and death
  2. Very close relatives
  3. The poor and places of religious learning
  4. The wider community
  5. To finance your own religious needs
  1. Those living in absolute poverty
  2. Those who were restrained because they cannot meet their basic needs
  3. The zakat collectors themselves
  4. Non-Muslims who are sympathetic to Islam or wish to convert to Islam.
  5. People whom one is attempting to free from slavery or bondage. Also includes paying ransom or blood money (Diyya).
  6. Those who have incurred overwhelming debts while attempting to satisfy their basic needs
  7. Those working in Allah’s way
  8. Children of the street / Travellers
Charitable preference
  1. Giving a poor person work
  2. Making a partnership with him or her
  3. Giving an interest-free loan to a person in need.
  4. Giving a grant to a person in need.
  1. Zakah – Obligatory tax every Muslim must pay
  2. Sadaqah Wajibah – Obligatory charity that isn’t zakat (for missed fasts, pledges, atonement, sacrifices, etc)
  3. Sadaqah Nafilah – Optional charity (alms given for the removal of difficulties, philanthropic (beyond zakat), the giving of Halal items, thanks giving to Allah)
  4. Qarz Hasan – An interest free loan
Widows and Orphans Do not mistreat an orphan or a widow
“Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child” Exodus 22:21
Do not mistreat an orphan
“Have you considered him who calls the judgment a lie? That is the one who treats the orphan with harshness, And does not urge (others) to feed the poor. So woe to the praying ones, Who are unmindful of their prayers, Who do (good) to be seen, But refuse (to supply) (even) neighbourly needs).” (Qur’an, Sura 107 (Al-A’raf), ayat 1-7[2], Islam)
Crops
  • In the third and sixth years of a 7 year cycle all crops are left for the poor
  • 2% of grain, wine or oil should be given to the priests
  • 9.9% of crops to the priest or Levi
  • In the second, fourth and fifth years 10% of crops are given for the poor
  • A corner of any field is left for the poor
  • Gleanings of crops and single grapes left on the floor after the harvest are left for the poor
  • Zakah on irrigated crops – 5%
  • Zakah on rain, river or spring-watered crops – 10%

How should one give?

  Judaism Islam
Give ungrudgungly
“Thou shalt surely give him, and thy heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him;” (Deuteronomy 15:10)
Saddka should be given solely out of love for God, out of the desire to do good to His creation, as the Quran says about the righteous:”They give food, out of love for Him (Allah), to the poor, the orphan, and the slave, saying: We feed you only for Allah’s pleasure – we desire from you neither reward nor thanks.” (Al-Insaan 76:8-9) Qur’an, Sura 7 (Al-A’raf), ayat 73-74[4], Islam
Give anonymously
On seeing someone giving charity publicly Rabbi Yannai said “It would have been better had you not given him anything, because your giving shamed him.” (Talmud Chagigah 5a)
There are eight levels of charity, each greater than the next. [1]Support your fellow by endowing him with a gift or loan, partnership or finding employment for him. [2] Give to the poor without knowing to whom one gives, and without the recipient knowing from who he received. (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Charity, 10:7–14)
If ye disclose (acts of) charity, even so it is well, but if ye conceal them, and make them reach those (really) in need, that is best for you (Surat Al-Baqarah 2:271)

Is there a reward?

  Judaism Islam
Atonement
“Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai said: Just like teshuvah atones for Israel, giving charity atones for all of the world” (Bava Basra 10b)
“Sadaqa extinguishes sin as water extinguishes fire.” (Tirmidhi : 2541)
Pro-longs Life
“but charity (righteousness) delivers one from death” (Proverbs 10:2)
“Sadaqa appeases the Lord’s anger and averts an evil death.” (Tirmidhi : 1909)
Avert calamity
Prayer, repentance, and charity avert the evil decree” (Ta’anit 2:1, 65b)
“Give the Sadaqa without delay, for it stands in the way of calamity.” (Tirmidhi: 1887)

Comments

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2 thoughts on “Tzedakah and Sadaqah… the laws of charity in Islam and Judaism

  1. Pingback: Changing the Edifice: Martin Luther King Day Retreat | Walking the Walk

  2. Sadaqa is the obligatory charity FERRAL /FAREELATH Ref: Quran Sura 9:60 to be provided to the needy at any time when thwy needed and as you can.
    Zakath is the social/cultural work helping soceity

Tzedakah and Sadaqah… the laws of charity in Islam and Judaism