The Meaning of Sadaqa (Infaq)

Besides zakat, Muslims are strongly encouraged to contribute Sadaqa (non-obligatory charity). The world sadaqa comes from the word sidq (sincerity), i.e. it is a sign of sincerity of faith on the part of the person who gives it.

While the word infaq has a very broad meaning, all kind of expenditures for the sake of Allah without asking for any favour or hoping for a return constitutes its general meaning. The word nafaqa comes from the same root, and it means alimony.

Sadaqa means worshipping Allah by giving wealth without that being made obligatory in the Islamic law. However, depending on the context, the word sadaqa is sometimes used to refer to obligatory zakat as well.

Infaq can be for family’s father expenses for the wife and children, also it can be for the poor and the needy.

With regard to the difference between zakat and sadaqa (infaq), it is as follows:

  • Zakat is enjoined in Islam on specific things, which are: gold, silver, crops, fruits, trade goods and animal livestock, i.e., camels, cattle and sheep.
  • With regard to sadaqa, it is not obligatory on any kind of wealth, rather it is what a person can give, without any specific limits or guidelines.
  • Zakat is subject to the conditions that one full Hijri have passed since acquiring the wealth, and that the wealth meets the minimum threshold (nisaab), and it is a specific portion of wealth.
  • Sadaqa is not subject to any conditions, and it may be given at any time, in any amount.
  • Allah has enjoined that zakat be given to certain types of people, and it is not permissible to give it to anyone else.
  • With regard to sadaqa, it may be given to those mentioned in the verse on zakat and to others.
  • Whoever dies and owes zakat, his heirs must pay it from his wealth, and that takes precedence over the will (wasiyah) and inheritance.
  • As for sadaqa, there are no such obligations with regard to it.
  • The one who withholds zakat is to be punished,
  • With regard to sadaqa, the one who does not pay it will not be punished.
  • According to the four schools of law, it is not permissible to give zakat to one’s ascendants or descendents. Ascendants include one’s mother, father, grandfathers and grandmothers; descendents include one’s children and their children.
  • Sadaqa may be given to one’s ascendants and descendants.
  • It is not permissible to give zakat to one who is rich or who is strong and able to earn a living.
  • Sadaqa may be given to those who are rich and those who are strong and able to earn
  • In the case of zakat, it is better for it to be taken from the rich of a land and given to their poor. Many scholars are of the view that it is not permissible to send it to another country unless that serves an interest
  • But charity may be spent on those who are near and those who are far.
  • It is not permissible to give zakat to kuffaar and mushrikeen.
  • Sadaqa may be given to kuffaar and mushrikeen.
  • It is not permissible for a Muslim to give zakat to his wife.
  • But sadaqa may be given to one’s wife.

The word sadaqa may be applied to all kinds of good deeds. Al-Bukhaari (may Allah have mercy on him) said in his Saheeh: “Chapter: every good deed is a charity” then he narrated from Jaabir ibn ‘Abd-Allaah (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Every good deed is a charity.”

Ibn Battaal said: This hadeeth indicates that every good thing that a person does or says is recorded for him as an act of charity.

Al-Nawawi said: The Prophet’s words “Every good deed is a charity” means that it is like charity in reward.