Charity is widely accepted to be a very commendable action, it helps the impoverished, assists the oppressed, feeds the hungry, heals the sick. However, most Muslims are ignorant of the fact that their religion does not classify charity as just a monetary sum given in good faith, no, rather there is a wide spectrum of different actions that have been included as charity.
We should not neglect monetary charity, as Allah has explicitly stated its virtue in the Quran: “Those who spend their wealth [in Allah ‘s way] by night and by day, secretly and publicly – they will have their reward with their Lord. And no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve.” (2:274) Rather we should spend and do other forms of charity, neglecting neither to the best of our ability.
Charity has many variant forms, we should try to act on each one, some have been explained by the greatest of creation (SAW), he has said; “Every Sulama [bone] of every person owes Sadaqah [charity] each day in which the sun rises. To exercise justice between two people is Sadaqah, to help a man with his beast so that you help him mount it, or lift his goods up to him when he is on it is Sadaqah, a good word is Sadaqah, every step with which you walk to prayer (in the mosque) is Sadaqah, and to remove some harm from the road is Sadaqah.” (Bukhari) (Muslim) From this narration we can gauge just how vast the word Sadaqah or charity really is. The actions listed do not require exhaustive amounts of effort, rather they are simple to perform, this is why we should be motivated to carry out these various modes of charity.
In another narration the leader of worlds (SAW) has stated “There is Sadaqah due for every Muslim.” They asked, “What if he finds nothing [to give]?” He replied, “Then let him work with his hands, benefit himself and give Sadaqah.” They asked, “What if he is not able, or he does not do it?” He answered, “Then let him help someone troubled who is in need.” They asked, “And if he does not do that?” He replied, “Let him command good,” or he said, “what is right.” They asked, “And if he does not do that?” He answered, “Then let him withhold himself from doing wrong, because it will be a Sadaqah for him.” (Bukhari) (Muslim) Here we see a desire from the Companions (RA) who were constantly striving to gather good deeds. The Prophet (SAW) informed them that if one is unable to do a certain type of charity, due to some restriction, then there are many doors open to that individual. To the extent that staying away from that which Allah has forbidden is also considered a charity.
Monetary charity should be supplemented with these variant forms of charity, if one finds himself unable to fulfill this then he should turn to these other forms only. If he has correct intention the he will be rewarded, if Allah wills.
Another virtuous act of charity has been explained by the Prophet (SAW) as lending to a person in the time of need. The Prophet (SAW) asked, “Do you know what is the mot bounteous and best Sadaqah?” They [The Companions] said, “Allah and His Messenger know best.” He said, “The gift (Manihah) that you grant your brother of some dirhams, or the back of a riding animal or the milk of a ewe or the milk of a cow.” (Ahmad) What is meant by the gift of the dirhams is ending them to him, the back of the animal means lending him a conveyance, the gift of the milk means lending him the animal so that he may drink from its milk. This means lending him these items to use, they would then be returned to the owner.
The above Hadith described loaning as the best form of charity, this noble act is corroborated by another Hadith; the Prophet has said, “Whoever grants the loan of a milking ewe or cow, or of silver, or guides someone on a narrow side-street, then it will be for him like freeing a slave.” (Tirmidhi) (Ahmad) At-Tirmidhi said “The meaning of his saying, ‘Whoever grants the use of silver,’ only means the loan of dirhams. His saying, ‘guides someone on a narrow side-street,’ only means guidance on the path, which is directing someone on the way.” We can see from this how superb granting loans are.
In regards to loans and charity, the Prophet (SAW) has stated, “Whoever allows a [debtor] who is in difficulty some time, then he has a Sadaqah for every day before the debt is due. Then when the debt falls due and he allows him some extra time after that, then he has for every day the like of it in Sadaqah.” (Ahmad) (Ibn Majah) If you are owed money and you are aware the person who owes you that money is struggling with the payment then allow his respite, you will, if Allah wills, get your money back but that extra time you afforded him could benefit you in the next life.
If you still assume that charity is difficult then the Prophet (SAW) has informed us that, “Every right action is a Sadaqah, and it is a good action that you should meet your brother with a smiling face, and to pour from your well-bucket into his container” (Ahmad) Even smiling will be counted as a charity for you, how much easier could charity be? If you cannot spend anything just crack a smile.
May Allah allow us to spend abundantly in charity. May he record our good deeds as charity. May he increase our wealth. May he grant us Paradise. Ameen.