Sadaqah and Zakat are both Islamic terms that are used interchangeably, but they have distinct meanings and purposes. While both terms have the same objective, which is to assist those in need, the manner in which they are given and the parties who are eligible to receive them are different.
Zakat is an obligatory charity that Muslims are required to pay annually on their accumulated wealth, including cash, gold, silver, and other assets. It is one of the five pillars of Islam, as defined in the Islamic shariah, and is meant to purify and cleanse one’s wealth. Zakat is only paid by Muslims who meet certain criteria, including owning assets above a certain threshold (nisab), and having owned them for a full lunar year.
In Islam, zakat is seen as a form of social security, and the money is distributed to specific categories of people known as asnaf. These include the poor and needy, debtors, slaves, wayfarers, and those fighting in the name of Allah. The purpose of zakat is to provide financial relief to these groups and promote social justice and equality in society.
On the other hand, Sadaqah is a voluntary form of charity that can be given at any time or place. It can be in the form of cash, goods, or services, and there is no obligation or minimum amount that needs to be given. Unlike Zakat, sadaqah is not an obligatory duty, but rather a personal act of generosity that is done out of pure sincerity and goodwill towards others.
Where Zakat is paid annually and is obligatory, Sadaqah is given voluntarily and can be given at any time and as much as the giver can afford. Sadaqah was not legislated in the same way as Zakat and the nature of the things that can be given as Sadaqah is much broader than that for Zakat. Zakat is specifically and narrowly levied on wealth only and for specific categories mentioned in the Quran.
The purpose of sadaqah is to cultivate a generous spirit in the giver, show compassion for others, and promote good deeds. The Prophet Muhammad once said, “Every act of kindness is sadaqah,” which shows the scope of how sadaqah can be given. Sadaqah can be given to family members, friends, or strangers, and can be in any form, such as donating to charities, helping someone in need, or simply making someone smile.
Unlike Zakat, which is given to specific groups only, Sadaqah can be given to any person or entity in need. This includes feeding the hungry, providing clean water, building hospitals or schools, and supporting families in need. Sadaqah can also be given to fund research into diseases or support environmental charities.
It is important to note that both Zakat and Sadaqah are essential charity practices in Islam because it fosters positive personal and societal growth. It is said in the Quran, “The parable of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is that of a grain of corn: it grows seven ears, and each ear has one hundred grains. Allah gives manifold increase to whom He pleases; Allah has enough and knows all things” (2:261).
In conclusion, while Zakat and Sadaqah are both forms of charity that Muslims can give to those in need, the two terms have different meanings, purposes and and the parties who are eligible to receive them. Zakat is an obligatory charity on one’s wealth paid annually by Muslims, while Sadaqah is a voluntary donation that can be given at any time and in any form. Zakat has specific categories of recipients mentioned in the Quran while Sadaqah can go towards any cause one sees as important. Both forms of charity are critical for developing personal and societal growth and promoting a culture of generosity, kindness, and compassion in Islamic practice.