In zakah and other charities, one should take extra precaution in five matters:

1. Give in secrecy – A hadith sharîf states “Verily, giving charity in secret extinguishes the anger of Allâh Ta’ala.” The Muslim who spends with his right hand in such a manner that his left hand does not know what it (the right hand) spent, will be among one of the seven groups of people whom Allâh Ta’ala will grant shade on the day when there will be no shade but His.

Allâh Ta’ala states,” And if you conceal it, and give it to the poor then it is better for you.” The wisdom behind this is, that the object of giving charity is to remove the evil quality of stinginess. However, in the action of giving charity, there is fear of developing the dangerous disease of giving in order to show others. By giving secretly, one will be saved from show and ostentation. When a person is placed in the grave, riya (show) personified as a snake, and stinginess personified as a scorpion, will inflict pain on one. Thus by not spending, and by being stingy, one is sending forth a scorpion to his grave to torment him.

If however, one spends, but his object is to show others, then it is as though he has made the scorpion food for the snake. In this case, he will attain salvation from the scorpion, but the poisonous effect of the snake will increase, because by fulfilling the demands of stinginess, the power of the scorpion will increase, and by fulfilling the demand to show others, the power of the snake will increase.

2. Abstain from boasting/broadcasting of your favour to others. Do not feel that you have favoured the person to whom you have given charity too. The sign of this is, for example, you anticipate that he shows gratitude to you, or if he has dealt with you in an unfavourable manner or has love for your enemy, then you become angry to such an extent, that if he had done this without you giving him something, you would have not become so angry. This clearly shows that you feel that you have favoured this poor person; therefore you became upset with his conduct.

The Cure: Regard the poor person you are spending upon, as your benefactor, who by accepting your wealth, is releasing you from the right Allâh Ta’ala has placed over you. He has become the cure for your ailment of stinginess since you know that one of the objectives of zakâh and charity is to remove stinginess. Thus zakâh acts as a cleanser or remover of stinginess. It is for this reason that Rasulullâh Sallallahu Allaihi Wasallam would not accept zakâh (for personal use), and he would say, “Verily zakâh is the filth of people’s wealth.” So tell me, have you favoured the poor Muslim who takes your wealth, or has he favoured you? If any surgeon operates on you, free of charge and removes from your body blood etc. that causes harm to you, will you not regard him as your benefactor? In like manner, a person who, at no cost, removes the corrupt matter of stinginess from your heart, a matter that will cause harm to your life of the Hereafter, should be regarded as your benefactor and well-wisher, to a greater extent.

3. You should spend from your purest and best wealth, because how can it be appropriate to spend that which you dislike for Allâh Ta’ala’s sake? You have already read, that the object of spending is to expose the level of your love. You will be able to gauge the level of love you possess for Allâh Ta’ala, according to what you spend for His Ta’alas sake.

4. You should give charity happily, and with a smiling face as Rasulullâh Sallallahu Allaihi Wasallam said, “One dirham surpasses one hundred thousand dirhams.” What Rasulullâh Sallallahu Allaihi Wasallam meant is that one dirham spent happily, with a good intention and from one’s best wealth, is more virtuous than one hundred thousand dirhams spent unhappily.

5. Seek an appropriate avenue when giving charity i.e. give it to a pious scholar, who by using it will gain strength to obey Allâh Ta’ala and his taqwâ (piety) will increase, or give it to a pious family man who has a large number of dependants. If these qualities are not found in one person, then give it those who possess even one of these qualities. Consideration for piety is the most important matter, as the worldly possessions have not been created except as a conveyance here, and to be utilized as provision for the Hereafter. Thus, spend on those travelling towards the Hereafter; on those who consider this world as a path needed to be crossed, in order to reach the Hereafter. Rasulullâh Sallallahu Allaihi Wasallam said,” Do not eat except the food of the pious, and let only the pious eat of your food.”1 Rasulullâh Sallallahu Allahi Wasallam also said, “Feed your food to the pious, and show good conduct to the believers.”

Tabligh-al-Deen – The forty foundations of the Religion by Imam Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazaali Rahmatullahi Allaihi. Pg 16 – 18

Source: Darul Uloom Zakariyya