Islam has five pillars that are obligatory on every Muslim. These are as follows: to recite the testimony of faith (known as shahadah), to pray salah (daily prayers, performed five times a day), to fast during Ramadan, to give zakah (obligatory charity/alms) and to make the pilgrimage.


The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said to his followers: "Invite the people to testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and I am Allah's Messenger ﷺ, and if they obey you to do so, then teach them that Allah has enjoined on them five prayers in every day and night (in twenty-four hours), and if they obey you to do so, then teach them that Allah has made it obligatory for them to pay the Zakah from their property and it is to be taken from the wealthy among them and given to the poor." [Bukhari]


Although the other four conditions are more individual, zakah has a social dimension. This is because zakah helps elevate society in Islamic countries, and ensures the social security of its citizens. It is a constant flow from the wealthy to the poor. Thus the poverty of the poor is reduced, and the rich are protected from excess wealth. It encourages compassion and collaboration between the poor and the rich. It cleanses both the sins and the property of the rich. It saves society from anarchy. It improves conditions in the material world, and clears a path to the hereafter.


Zakah is not assistance from the wealthy; poor people have rights over a portion of the wealth of rich people.Zakah is obligatory, and people with sufficient wealth have to pay it to the poor every year. But in Islam, helping each other is not done only through zakah. Islam also strongly encourages charity of all kinds, or sadaqah. Charity does not always have to be financial. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said, "Every good deed is charity. Indeed among the good is to meet your brother with a smiling face, and to pour what is left in your bucket into the vessel of your brother."


Charity, in its broadest sense, includes money, good deeds, kindness, favours and assistance given to people and animals; even saying or doing something nice to gladden someone’s heart is considered sadaqah. Charity can be thought of as an umbrella term. Zakah is an obligatory form of charity. Another obligatory or strongly recommended form of charity is sadaqah al-fitr, given to the needy every year in the month of Ramadan. Beyond these compulsory forms of charity, other types of sadaqah are voluntary.


This idea of charity was reflected in the culture of Ottomans as well. During the time of Ottoman, a type of structure called “charity stone” was built, especially in the mosque complexes. People who wanted to help other people used to put some money on these charity stones, and needy people would take money from them as much as they needed. The importance and beauty of this practice is that people would put or take money without anyone noticing them; thus any possible feeling of arrogance of the giver and embarrassment of the taker was prevented.


Another type of charity is called sadaqah al-jariyyah (ongoing charity). It means charity that brings continued reward. In a hadith, deeds that are a constant source of reward are listed as follows: "When a person dies, his deeds end except for three. Sadaqah al-jariyah, knowledge that is benefited from, or a righteous child who prays for him." [Dârimi, Mukaddime, 46]. The sadaqah al-jariyyah mentioned in this hadith includes structures and venues that benefit others, such as roads, bridges, water wells, mosques, soup kitchens for the poor, hospitals and schools. For as long as people continue to benefit from such places, those who established them or contributed to their construction will continue to be rewarded for charity, both while alive and after their death.


We would like to conclude with these verses from the Qur'an:


“Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; [and who] establishes prayer and gives zakāh; [those who] fulfill their promise when they promise; and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous.” [Qur'an 2:177]