Is it permissible to give money to beggars? If they are not in need, do the alms we give have rewards?

Details of the Question
Is it permissible to give money to beggars? If they are not in need, do the alms we give have rewards?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The help we offer for the sake of Allah’s acceptance and approval is not left without a reward. Whether the other party deserves it or not does not change this judgment. However, as much as possible, we should search for the real needy people and donate accordingly.

Whatever motive lies beneath begging, there is a bitter reality that we all will accept: That illness is an unyielding wound of the society.

As it seems, beggars fall into these categories: those deprived of a chance of finding a job and working because of such bodily handicaps as paralysis, physical disability, illness or old age; those who, though handicapped, do not make do with what they have and crave ample money; those who are physically and spiritually sound but choose begging as a means of livelihood and as a job.

Prophet Muhammad, who carried out radical and essential revolutions in society, brought about certain solutions to the illness of begging. The following anecdote reveals the responsibility laid on those who beg though they are in no need, and shows us in which circumstances begging can be permitted:

Anas bin Malik narrates:

One day, a person from Ansar came to The Prophet and asked for something. The Prophet asked him:

“Do you have anything at home?”

“Yes, Allah’s Messenger, we have a piece of cloth. We lay some of it beneath us, and with some of it we cover ourselves. We have a water pot; we drink water from it.”

“Then, get up immediately, bring both your cloth and water pot to me.”

The person fetched them both.

The Prophet took the cloth and the water pot in his hand, and showing them to the people who were present, he asked, “Is there anybody who will buy these two articles?”

One person among them said, “I will give one Dirham to both.”

The Prophet repeated a couple of times: “Is  there not anybody who gives more than one Dirham?” Afterwards, someone else said, “I will buy them in return for two Dirhams.” The Prophet sold the cloth and the water pot to that person. He took the two Dirhams and gave it to the possessor of the articles; then he said:

“Buy food with one Dirham of this money and give it to your family; and with the other one Dirham, buy an axe and bring it to me.”

The man left, bought an axe and came back. The Prophet put a stick to the axe himself. Giving it to the man, he said: “Take this, go and cut some wood, gather it and sell. I should not see you for fifteen days.”

The man went away, cut wood, gathered and sold it. When he came to the presence of the Prophet, he had made fifteen Dirhams. With some of it, he bought clothes and with some, foods. Thereupon, The Prophet said:

“Instead of coming to the Day of Resurrection as a black point because of begging, this state of yours is better.

“Begging is permissible only for the following three kinds of people: 1. The one stricken by poverty which causes one ‘to sprawl on the earth’ (extreme poverty), 2. The one in insurmountable debt, 3. The one who took on blood money in order to reconcile people.” In another narration, there is a fourth condition: “The one who suffers a very painful chronic illness can ask for as much money as he is in need of.” 1

It is clearly understood from the hadith (saying of The Prophet) that only the one who is so distressed, handicapped and disabled to work - if there is no one to take care of him/her, and if the state does not help, either -  can ask from others only so much money as to meet his/her essential needs, and beg for it. The state of being indebted should also be added to those conditions. Other than those requisite conditions, those who take begging as a means of livelihood incur a grave responsibility. The Prophet’s warnings for such people are as follows:

“Whoever asks from people their possessions in order to increase his/her possessions, s/he asks for but a piece of fire. Either for less of it, or for more, as s/he wills.” 2

That hadith views begging, without the need to do so, as non-permitted and forbidden, indicating that it results in punishment in Hell.

Therefore, such people’s proliferating should not be allowed so that the number of people committing such forbidden acts would not increase.

The intended meaning in one of the verses in the chapter ad-Duha in the Qur’an, meaning “Nor chide and drive away the petitioner.” is ‘not to turn down the one who asks a question of wisdom and who wants to learn something’. Otherwise, it should not be interpreted as not turning down anybody asking for something (3).This is because begging would be encouraged that way.

1. Abu Dawud, Zakat: 26.
2. Muslim, Zakat: 35.
3. As-Sawi, 4: 330.

Mehmed Paksu
Helal – Haram (The Permitted – The Forbidden)

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