Which Are Better? Private or Public Charity

The charity can be practiced with two forms: Private and public. Of course there is no doubt that both forms are good because one important goal of charity is economic benefit that help to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. The Holy Quran says: “If ye disclose (acts of) charity, even so it is well, but if ye conceal them, and make them reach those (really) in need, that is best for you: It will remove from you some of your (stains of) evil. And God is well acquainted with what ye do.” (2:271)
But between private and public charity which form is recommended? Before answering this question it is nice to refer to a matter of Islamic teachings. Islam teaches us that what is donated in charity will reach God first and it will not get lost. Indeed it is a storing away with The Lord. So, no matter whether anyone is aware or not. Hence, due to God knows it, giving charity in private is better than in public.


In this regard, Imam Sajjad (the fourth Imam of Muslims) has said: “It is more appropriate for you to do privately what you now do in public and keep the affairs between you and Him [God] secret under all circumstances. And you should also not take your hearing and sight as witnesses for the donations that you make in charity as if you have the most trust in yourself. It should not be as if you are not sure that your donations will be returned to you.” (The Treatise on Rights, Right n.13)


Cancel Not Your Charity

Good things are in need of care and if it is too valuable needs to take more care.
All agree that Charity is among the best things in life. But if we don’t care, it will lose its value.  Sometimes charity mixes with things that nullify its effect. In other words, not having pure intention in charity nullifies its effect.

The hypocrisy and showing off in acts of charity is one of the most important things that can nullify charity. Some persons give charity in order to show off. They do not seek God’s satisfaction but they like to be famous and popular among the people. Such charity is ineffective.

Some other persons remind others of their favors they have done. This causes the one who is received charity to be belittled.


The hypocrisy and reminding others, has been explained clearly in Holy Quran:

“O ye who believe! Cancel not your charity by reminders of your generosity or by injury, – like those who spend their substance to be seen of men, but believe neither in God nor in the Last Day. They are in parable like a hard, barren rock, on which is a little soil: on it falls heavy rain, which leaves it (just) a bare stone. They will be able to do nothing with aught they have earned. And God guide not those who reject faith.” (2:264)

As a result, the charity is too valuable and needs to take more care.

The Charity, a Sure Way to Happiness

It is useful to know the benefits of an action because the person would be interested to do it. For example if a student knows the benefits of studying h/she will do it without the advice of parents.
Generally, Human negligence is rooted in ignorance, for instance the ignorance of the truth and the purpose of life and the ignorance of the way to success and some things like that.

The charity is also no exception. Most people think that they lose what they give away in charity while it is not so. The sacred religion of Islam expressed the benefits of charity.

An increase in your wealth
Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be upon Him and His Progeny) said: “Give charity since it will cause an increase in your wealth. Therefore give charity and God will have Mercy upon you.” (Wasa’il al-Shi’ah, v.6, p.257)

Treatment of Our Patients
Imam Sadiq (the sixth Imam of Muslims) has said: “It is recommended for an ill person to give charity to a poor person with his own hands and ask the poor man to pray for him.” (Ibid. v.6, p.262)


Preventing Calamities
Imam Baqir (the fifth Imam of Muslims) said: “Giving charity will fend off seventy of this world’s calamities and save you from a bad death in addition to granting you the rewards for the Hereafter.” (Wasa’il al-Shi’ah, pp.268-277)

As you see charity has several benefits for us and it can be realized that the benefits of what we do return to ourselves.

The Charity Is a Storing Away With Your Lord

“Nor forget thy portion in this world…” (The Holy Qur’an, 28:77)
Islamic teachings are based on reality. So, Islam has never commanded almsgiving entire property because the person will be poor. And it is unacceptable to Islam because one of the main goals of Islam is the elimination of poverty.
Hence, Charity in Islam is according to the financial ability of each individual and it is a form of savings. It might seem to us that we lose what we give away in charity while it is not so. Imam Sajjad (the fourth Imam of Muslims) has said: “And the right of charity is that you should know that it is a storing away with your Lord and a deposit for which you will have no need for witnesses, Then once you know this you will be more confident of it if you donate it in secret than if you donate it in public.” (The Treatise on Rights, Right n.13)


Although both forms of public and private charities are beneficial but Imam highly stresses giving charity in private. Charity in private is safe from some pests such hypocrisy. Imam Hossein (the third Imam of Muslims) said: “Giving charity in secret will quench the Wrath of the Lord and wipe out wrong-doings just as water puts out fire. It will also ward off seventy types of calamities.” (Wasa’il al-Shi’ah, p.277)

As it is said, both forms of charities are beneficial. Let’s try. 

The Benefit of Charity Returns to Us

There have always been poor and needy people in the community. They are deprived of basic rights such as food, clothing and housing. However, what is the way out of poverty? The gap between the various social classes is not acceptable to Islam. So, the sacred religion of Islam has a strong emphasis on helping the poor. Encouraging people to give charity is one of the major orders of Islam. The Holy Quran says: “The parable of those who spend their substance in the way of God is that of a grain of corn: it groweth seven ears, and each ear hath a hundred grains. God giveth manifold increase to whom He pleaseth: And God careth for all and He knows all things.” (2:261)
This parable of how a grain of corn grows and yields a manifold increase shows how one’s charity is returned to God.

Islamic teaching says that the benefits of what we do return to ourselves. Hence, Charity has two benefits. One is for the poor and another is for us. There is an event supporting this idea.


A man was going to go somewhere. The Prophet Muhammad said that a black snake would follow him and kill him. The man went and returned after a while with a load of wooden sticks on his back. The Prophet asked him to drop the load on the ground. He did so, and a black snake came out.
The Prophet him asked him what he had done that day. He said he had given one of the two loaves of bread he had to eat to a poor man. The Prophet told him that his life had been saved due to his act of charity. (Wasa’il al-Shi’ah, pp.268-277)

Do not Break God’s Allegiance

To declare God’s allegiance to us it is nice to make a deal. This deal can be formed with acknowledging his power and to obey him. This is a form of a deal which brings mutual responsibilities. One accepts to obey the other, and the other one accepts to protect and defend him.
The proper use of hands is an important provision of allegiance to God. With hands we can either do the right thing and the wrong thing. But only doing right things can help us to make the deal that is mentioned above. You can read the correct way to use of hands in following tradition Imam Sadiq (the sixh Imam of Muslims):

“And God made it incumbent upon the hands not to extend out for what God has forbidden, and do what the Almighty God has decreed for them including giving charity, establishing the ties of kinship, fighting in the way of God, and making ablutions for the prayers.” (Usul al-Kafi, v.2, p.36)


The pledge of allegiance of the people with God, indicate their loyalty to him and its breach is considered a great sin as Imam Musa ibn Ja’far (the seventh Imam of Muslims) has said there are some sins which will cause one’s destruction: one of them is breaching one’s allegiance. (Bihar al-Anwar, v.67, p.185)

The only way out of destruction is Persistence and perseverance in God’s promise otherwise there is no guarantee of salvation from it.