Q583 :It is common knowledge that sadaqah is financial help given for Allah's sake. Some people suggest that it is extended to include any friendly help. From the financial angle, how is sadaqah different from zakah. Please advise.

A583 : The Arabic term "sadaqah" is one of a few to which Islam gives a very broad meaning. It is often used interchangeably with zakah. Indeed, it is the term used to refer to zakah in the Qur'anic verse which enumerates the classes of beneficiaries of zakah. But it is more general than zakah, because zakah denotes only that part of charitable donations which a Muslim must pay as a duty. If he refrains from paying it, he incurs a grave sin. Indeed, Abu Bakr, the first ruler of the Islamic state after the Prophet and the closest to the Prophet of all his companions, went to war against Arab Bedouin tribes who declared that they would no longer pay zakah. He considered that a rebellion against Islam and the Muslim state. He stated unequivocally: "By Allah, I am going to fight those who differentiate between prayer and zakah." Sadaqah, on the other hand, refers to all charitable donations, whether obligatory or not. It is, however, more frequently used to refer to charitable donations which are given voluntarily. The meaning which immediately springs to mind when the term "sadaqah" is used is financial help given to a poor person, without any obligation on the part of the payer or any condition imposed on the receiver. In an authentic Hadith, Abu Hurairah quotes the Prophet as saying: "A charity is due for every joint in each person on every day the sun comes up; to act justly between two people is a charity to help a man with his mount, lifting him onto it or hoisting up his belongings onto it is a charity; a good word is a charity; every step you take to prayers is a charity; and removing a harmful thing from the road is a charity." In another version, the Prophet is quoted to have mentioned another different example of actions which count as charity: "To smile to your brother is a charity." Anyone who is familiar with the Islamic philosophy can easily appreciate the great value attached to sadaqah. This is further emphasized by the fact that Islam does not confine it to financial help. Kindly actions and good turns done by one person to another are considered in the same light. The term is used in ordinary speech by all people, whether educated or not, to refer to any good and kindly work` including removal of harmful objects from the road.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )