Charity and Volunteerism in Islam

PROPHETIC WISDOM FOR OUR TIMES series [The Message Magazine]


عنْ أبي موسى الأشعري، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ، قَالَ : ” عَلَى كُلِّ مُسْلِمٍ صَدَقَةٌ ” ، قِيلَ : أَرَأَيْتَ إِنْ لَمْ يَجِدْ ؟ ، قَالَ : يَعْتَمِلُ بِيَدَيْهِ ، فَيَنْفَعُ نَفْسَهُ وَيَتَصَدَّقُ ، قَالَ : قِيلَ : أَرَأَيْتَ إِنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ ؟ ، قَالَ : يُعِينُ ذَا الْحَاجَةِ الْمَلْهُوفَ ” ، قَالَ : قِيلَ لَهُ : أَرَأَيْتَ إِنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ ؟ ، قَالَ : يَأْمُرُ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ أَوِ الْخَيْرِ ، قَالَ : أَرَأَيْتَ إِنْ لَمْ يَفْعَلْ ؟ ، قَالَ : يُمْسِكُ عَنِ الشَّرِّ فَإِنَّهَا صَدَقَةٌ

The Prophet stated:

Every Muslim should give charity.

He was asked, What if one cannot? Then he should go find work and help himself and others.

He was asked, What if one cannot? Then he should help someone in need.

He was asked, What if one cannot? Then he should command what is right or good.

He was asked, What if one cannot? Then at least he should refrain from evil, and that would be charity for him.

[Bukhārī, Muslim]

The spirit of charity, volunteerism and service to others is the hallmark of Islam and among its greatest teachings. The Prophet never lost an opportunity to teach this message to others and on its basis, he built a prosperous and charitable society oriented to public service.

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Presenting a New Translation of the Ode of Bayqūnīyyah

The Ode of Bayqūnīyyah is a celebrated primer of ḥadīth terminology that represents the entry of a student of knowledge into the very broad discipline of ḥadīth sciences. Authored by ʿUmar b. Muḥammad  b. Futūḥ al-Bayqūnī [lived circa 1080H/1669CE], a Shāfiʿī scholar of Damascus about whom very little is known, it comprises 34 couplets of poetry covering exactly 34 types of ḥadīth. Upon completion of its study and receiving an ijāzah in this text going back to the author, I am pleased to present an original verse translation into English for the first time. Please note that this is a non-traditional, flowing translation and not a commentary, and should be studied with the aid of a teacher or a detailed commentary.

[Download as pdf here / Read bio of Imām al-Bayqūnī here]


أَبْـدَأُ بِالْحَمْـدِ  مُصَلِّـياً  عَلَى      مُحَمَّـدٍ خَـيرِ نَبِـيٍّ أُرْسِلاَ

Begin I do with praise, and prayers and salutations

On Muḥammad the Noble Prophet, the finest ever commissioned

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Aṣaḥḥ al-Asānīd (The Best Chains of Ḥadīth)

  • Two types of chains with respect to proximity to the Prophet:
  1. Elevated chains (al-isnād al-ʻālī): fewest links to the Prophet, vertical transmission only
  2. Descended chains (al-isnād al-nāzil): multiple links, often with horizontal transmission (between individuals in the same level or generation ṭabaqah)
  • Best chains of Abū Hurayrah:
    • Ibn Shihāb al-Zuhrī → Saʻīd b. al-Musayyib → Abū Hurayrah [considered the best isnād of Abū Hurayra]
    • Abūʼl-Zanād → al-Aʻraj→ Abū Hurayrah
    • Yaḥyā b. Abī Kathīr → Abū Salama → Abū Hurayrah
  • Best chain of Abū Bakr: Ismaʻīl b. Abī Khālid → Qays b. Abī Ḥāzim → Abū Bakr
  • Best isnād of ʻUmar: al-Zuhrī → Sālim → his father Ibn ʻUmar → his father ʻUmar
  • Best chain of ‘Ali: al-Zuhri → ‘Ali b. al-Husayn → al-Husayn → Ali
  • Best isnād of ʻĀʼisha: ʻUbaydullah b. ʻUmar → al-Qāsim b. Muḥammad b. Abū Bakr → his aunt ʻĀʼisha
  • The Golden Chain: Imām Aḥmad → Imām al-Shāfiʻī → Imām Mālik
  • Other strong chains:
    • Muḥammad b. Sīrīn → ʻUbaydah b. ʻAmr → ʻAlī b. Abī Ṭālib
    • Ibrāhīm al-Nakhaʻī → ʻAlqamah b. Qays → Ibn Masʻūd
    • Imām Mālik → Nāfiʻ → Ibn ʻUmar
compiled from . . .
  • Mohammad Hashim Kamali, A Textbook of Ḥadīth Studies. The Islamic Foundation, United Kingdom. 2005.
  • Muhammad Mustafa Azami, Studies in Hadith Methodology and Literature. American Trust Publications, Indiana. 1992.


General works on ʻUlūm al-Ḥadīth

Early works that laid the foundations of a methodology of ḥadīth evaluation:

  • Kitāb al-Ḍuʻafāʼ by Imām al-Bukhārī: discussed weak transmitters
  • Kitāb al-Ḍuʻafāʼ by Imām al-Nasāʼī: discussed weak transmitters
  • Kitāb al-Ṭabaqāt al-Kubrā by Ibn Saʻd (d 230H): detailed biographical work on transmitters
  • Kitāb al-Ṭabaqāt by Abū Ḥātim Muḥammad b. Ḥibbān al-Bustī (d 354H/965CE): a more specialized work in which he only mentioned the reliable transmitters

Later works that consolidated earlier ones:

  • Al-Muḥdith al-Fāṣil Bayn al-Rāwī waʼl-Wāʻī by al-Qāḍī Abū Muḥammad al-Ḥasan al-Rāmhurmuzī (d 360H): landmark work that combined and consolidated all aspects of ḥadīth studies for the first time, but still fell short of being a fully comprehensive work
  • Maʻrifat ʻUlūm al- Ḥadīth by al-Ḥākim Abū ʻAbd Allāh al-Nīsābūrī(d 450H): another landmark consolidating work that discusses fifty branches of ḥadīth sciences, but remained poorly consolidated and less-than-comprehensive according to Ibn Ḥajar
  • Al-Kifāyah fī Maʻrifat Uṣūl ʻIlm al-Riwāyah and al-Jāmiʻ li Ādāb al-Shaykh waʼl-Sāmiʻ by al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī (d 463H)
  • ʻUlūm al-Ḥadīth by Ibn al-Ṣalāḥ (d 643H): widely acclaimed reference work in the field of ḥadīth studies
  • Al-Bāʻith al-Ḥathīth ilā Maʻrifat ʻUlūm al-Ḥadīth by Ibn Kathīr (d 774H): another major reference that built upon the work of Ibn al-Ṣalāḥ Continue reading