Why Zakah Is Called “Sadaqah” in Quran

Zakah as known in Shari`ah is sometimes called in the Qur’an and Sunnah “sadaqah“, to the extent that al-Mawardi said “Sadaqah is zakah, and zakah is sadaqah. They are two names for the same thing.”  (Al-Mawardi, al Ahkam al Sultaniyah, Chapter 11)

God says,

{Of their wealth take sadaqah that so thou mightest purify and sanctify them} (At-Tawbah9:103), and {and among them are men who slander thee in the matter of sadaqat} (At-Tawbah9:58) and {Sadaqat are for the poor and the needy.} (At-Tawbah9:60)

Hadith says, “There is no sadaqah in what is less than five Wasaq. There is no sadaqah in what is less than five camels and there is no sadaqah in what is less than five uqiyah.” (Al-Bukhari, Muslim and others)

Addressing Mu’adh when sent to Yemen, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Inform them that God has prescribed sadaqah on their funds, to be taken from their rich.

All these texts were talking about zakah while using the word sadaqah, even the zakah collector and distributor is called musaddiq.

But in the later history of Islam, sadaqah was traditionally used to mean only voluntary charitable donations given to beggars and destitutes.

Meaning of Sadaqah

But such a tradition must not be allowed to mislead us and divert us from the meaning of the word at the time when Qur’an was being revealed. The root of the word sadaqah is the word sidq. Judge Abu Bakr bin al ‘Arabi, commenting on naming zakah sadaqah, states that

“It is derived from sidq. Sidq is truthfulness in realizing declared belief by action. The root sidq means realizing and supporting something by another. The word sadaq (Dowry) for women means realizing the lawfulness of intimacy by the contract and the dowry under specific conditions known in Shari`ah.

The root sidq has several derivatives. The verb saddaqa with respect to statements means to accept and to realize. The verb tasaddaqa with respect to funds means gave away, realizing his faith by action. And the verb asdaqa means to give dowry in marriage to women.

The meaning of sadaqah is derived from the root sidq because sadaqah implies giving away goods and funds for the sake of God in expression of faithfullness and in realization of the belief in resurrection and afterlife.”  (Ahkam al Qur’an, part 2, p. 946, with commentary by al Bijawi)

Proof of Faith

It is for that reason that Qur’an associated giving with affirmation of faith and withholding with rejection of faith, God (SWT) says,

{So he who gives in charity and fears God and in all sincerity testifies to the best, we will indeed make smooth for him the path to bliss, but he who is a greedy miser and thinks himself self-sufficient and gives lies to the best we will indeed make smooth for him the path to misery.} (Al-Layl 92:5-10)

Sadaqah is thus an indication of truthfulness in faith and sincere belief in the day of judgment, Accordingly, the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “sadaqah is a proof (or evidence),” (Muslim)

* This article is from Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi’s book Fiqh Az-Zakah, rendered into English by Dr. Monzer Kahf.