The Quranic word sadaqah or saduqah can be translated as charity but the word ‘charity’ as used in the Christian context does not convey all the shades of the meaning of the word sadaqah. The Quran has attached two essential preconditions with the act of charity. First charity has to be given purely and exclusively for the sake of the pleasure of Allah (SWT). That is why the Quran uses the alternative term, infaq fi sabil Allah (spending in the way of Allah) for it, although the latter term has a wider connotation. Secondly sadaqah has not to be given with any feeling of condescension, patronization and favour but returned to the poor and the needy as if it were a debt payable to them. Performing charity in this spirit has incalculable spiritual and moral benefits. It uplifts the giver spiritually and creates feelings of love and sympathy in the heart of the recipient. In contrast any artificial scheme that seeks to create economic equality forcibly does not only fail in its objective but also generates feelings of hatred and converts the society into a battleground.
The obligatory form of sadaqah in Islam is zaqat which is binding on all those who have attained to a certain degree of affluence (ashab al-nisab). This is only the minimum expected from those believers who can afford to spend in the way of Allah; the maximum is open without any ceiling.
The value of sadaqah and reward for it from Allah (SWT) depends on the intention of the giver and the nobility of the manner in which it is given. Naturally such value has degrees which can be determined by the All-seeing and All-knowing Creator only. The Quran says:
The likeness of those who spend their wealth in Allah’s way is as the likeness of a grain (of seed) which grows seven ears (and) in every ear are one hundred grains; Allah gives increase manifold to whom He wills and Allah is All-embracing, All-knowing. (2:261)