Islam is all about feeling for others. Not just feeling, rather it instructs its followers to help those who are in trouble. Not only morally, religion also obliges its followers to assist fellow human beings in financial terms as well. Moreover, not in just one way only. Speaking in financial terms, there are plenty of ways to help your fellow human beings. There is zakat, zakat-ul-Fitr, fitrana, Sadqah, Sadqah-jariya and a few more. It is natural to get confused at times, given the complexity of rules that govern these charity methods. With Ramadan coming up, we thought it prudent to discuss the two most important and frequent forms of charity in Islam. These are zakat and sadaqah.
A recap of both zakat and sadaqah is critical before we begin to outline the differences between the two terms.
What is Zakat?
Zakat is the annual 2.5 percent money on all your zakat-able assets and possessions. Zakat is obligatory for every Muslim who meets the threshold of Nisab. Nisab is the minimum that you should possess, to be eligible for paying zakat. In terms of gold and silver, it is either 85 grams of gold or 613 grams of silver.
What is Sadaqah?
Voluntary charity in Islam has been termed as Sadaqah. You can make a sadaqah in many ways. It is not limited to just giving away money. You can plant a shadowy tree, install a water pump or teach someone. All of these acts fall under the act of sadaqah. A nobler form of sadaqah is the sadaqah-e-jariya.
What is the difference between Zakat and Sadaqah?
With this foundation of understanding laid, let us have a look at the major differences between zakat and sadaqah.
This is the basic difference between zakat and sadaqah. Zakat is an obligation. Every Muslim who meets the threshold level of Nisab must pay zakat on an annual basis. However, sadaqah is not compulsory. No Islamic injunctions force Muslims to donate in name of sadaqah. It is up to you if you want to make a sadaqah or not.
2- Specificity of assets
Certain assets are under consideration when it comes to paying zakat. For example, all of your cash, business assets and other treasure troves like jewelry items of gold and silver are taken into the account. A 2.5 percent is calculated and is paid as zakat, to the eligible ones. However, the matter is completely different when it comes to sadaqah. There are no such calculations involved in the case of sadaqah.
3- Dissemination channels
In an Islamic government, a zakat department collects zakat donations from the donors. It is this agency that later disseminates all the collections to those who deserve it. Some scholars go on to say that, the government can forcefully collect zakat as well. However, sadaqah is completely different from zakat. It is an act of personal nature, which is full of compassion and kindness. No government agency can enforce the payment of sadaqah.
4- The sinful nature of abandonment
Because of its obligatory nature, you cannot abandon paying zakat. This is one of the fundamental pillars of Islam; this alone reflects the seriousness that comes with zakat. It is considered treacherous if you meet the Nisab threshold but still do not pay zakat on your assets. However, not paying sadaqah is not a sin. Like mentioned before, it is an act of personal nature, something which can be carried out on your own will.
This might sound redundant, but it is important to mention it once again. Zakat is paid only if a certain threshold is met, speaking in terms of personal possessions. 85 grams of gold or 613 grams of silver are standard parameters, which are used as a reference. However, no such bands are defined when it comes to sadaqah.
Well, the limitations of time and space force us to conclude our debate here. While the nature of both of these charity forms is opposite to each other, the purpose is the same. It is helping those in distress that matters the most, something that Islam emphasizes on emphatically. Donations must be made with this spirit; only then, one can hope to reap all the rewards promised with making such donations!