Allah (swt) says in the Holy Quran:
“If you disclose you charity, it is well, but if you conceal it and give it to the poor, that is better for you. (Allah) will forgive you some of your sins. And Allah is well-acquainted with what you do”. (TMQ-2:271)
This verse shows that under normal circumstances it would be best if a person gives charity secretly. It has been advised to give charity openly only when a person wishes to encourage others to give charity too. If a person wants to set a good example in the society and he feels that other people will also get the initiative to spend their wealth in charity then there is no harm if he gives charity openly. Hence, if a person openly takes the initiative of giving charity with the noble intention of earning Allah’s Goodwill and not with any show-of or hypocrisy on his part, then such a person will be rewarded with Allah’s Mercy and Bounty. Besides such a particular situation as mentioned above, it is better to give charity secretly. Prophet Mohammad (saw) has said that those who give charity in such a way in this world that their left hand does not know what the right hand gave, they will be amongst the lucky people who will be provided with shade by Allah (swt) (on the Day of Resurrection) when there will be no shade except the shade of the Throne of Allah (swt).
Secret charity which has been encouraged in this verse includes both the Sadaqaat-e-Waajiba (Zakaat) and Sadaqaat-e-Naafila (voluntary charity).
In another Quranic verse Allah (swt) says:
“Not upon you (Muhammad saw) is their guidance but Allah guides whom He Wills. And whatever you spend in good, it is for yourselves, when you spend not except seeking Allah’s Countenance. And whatever you spend in good will be repaid to you in full and you shall not be wronged’. (TMQ-2:272)
During the lifetime of Prophet Mohammad (saw) the Muslims did not approve of giving charity to their needy relatives who had not embraced Islam. They wished that their relatives should accept Islam first. This is the background to this verse in which Allah (swt) says that it is only up to Him to Guide people. As we know, Islam does not believe in compulsion in religion. So the people have been asked to change their attitude regarding charity to the non-believers who are needy. This verse establishes the point that charity to the poor, irrespective of their religion, is a virtuous deed if it is given to obtain Allah’s Goodwill and not to show-off. Hence, the charity given to even a needy, non-believer relative shall also be rewarded by Allah (swt) if it is given with the right intention of earning Allah’s Goodwill. However, as far as zakaat (Compulsary charity) is concerned, it has to be given only to the Muslims.
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