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The Different Levels of Charity

The Holy Qur’an (the Final Testament) identifies 4 levels of Charity

    • The First Level (Basic Charity)

002.219 …They ask thee how much they are to spend; Say: "What is beyond your needs."

 وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ مَاذَا يُنفِقُونَ قُلِ الْعَفْوَ

This is the act of charity where one gives out of one’s excess, i.e. after accounting for all expenses and spending on themselves / family. Notice that the verse does not say, “give a part or what is excess” – so I interpret this as giving everything that is excess or beyond your needs. This is the basic form of charity and the lowest level we should be at – unfortunately many of us are not even at this level and instead continue to hoard wealth beyond our known short term and long term needs.

    • The Second Level (Intermediate Charity)

002.002 This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear Allah;

002.003 Who believe in the Unseen, are steadfast in prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them;

ذَلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لاَ رَيْبَ فِيهِ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ

الَّذِينَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْغَيْبِ

وَيُقِيمُونَ الصَّلاةَ وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ

In this act of charity, believers give out of their income or wealth (including non-monetary income/ wealth) – they do not wait to account for their expenses but instead spend from what they have got / own. I interpret this as the act of treating the recipients of your charity as part of yourself and part of your family. Just like you would spend on yourself and your family out of your income and wealth – the pious who practice this level of charity also spend for those who need. This essentially has the effect, in my opinion, of balancing one’s expenses to accommodate supporting a larger virtual family while simultaneously eliminating frivolous splurges that have unfortunately become commonplace these days.

    • The Third Level (Advanced Charity)

003.133….and for a Garden whose width is that (of the whole) of the heavens and of the earth, prepared for the righteous,-
003.134 Those who spend (freely), whether in prosperity, or in adversity….

أُعِدَّتْ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ

الَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ فِي السَّرَّاء وَالضَّرَّاء

This level is the highest level most people can achieve because it calls for charitable acts irrespective of your current economic position. People in this level will give in charity at the same level irrespective of their income or wealth. They do not correlate hoarding any amount of money with achieving a more comfortable status. Yet they are not frivolous and do not act in a way to endanger their lives or the lives of their family. Instead when the opportunity to perform charitable acts presents itself they jump right in freely and give the same percentage of income, or time, and so on, as they would if they were the wealthiest person alive.

    • The Highest Level of Charity

There is a higher level of charity than the one described above, the story of which has been captured in the Holy Qur’an in chapter 76 (Al-Dahr). The verses were revealed in responses to a well known historical event that occurred in the household of the final Prophet. To event was one of charity where the act of giving took place over 3 consecutive days to those who asked – but what makes it so astonishing is that the givers gave out what they needed for themselves. It is sometimes hard for me to comprehend this. Cursorily thinking about the event sometimes makes it seem like “no big deal” – but I try to imagine what I would do. Think of a selfless sacrifice where the one making the sacrifice did so to save or help another but at the risk of their life. Now think about whether you would do this? Would you do this for the needy on the street, or an orphan, or a prisoner? That is the ultimate form of charity which I believe is attainable by a very few.


- Mujtaba Khambatti, October 2005

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