Any donation other than Zakah is considered ‘Sadaqah’ or ‘charity.’ Amounts large or small and towards any good cause are considered Sadaqah.
Narrated Abu Dharr: The Prophet (Peace be upon him) has said: ‘When you smile in your brother’s face, or enjoin what is reputable, or forbid what is objectionable, or direct someone who has lost his way, or help a man who has bad eyesight, or remove stones, thorns and bones from the road, or pour water from your bucket into your brother’s, it counts to you as Sadaqah.’ [Tirmidhi hadith no.594]
Charity and fasting is a stronger and more effective barrier that will keep the person away from the Fire. As for fasting and Charity, Narrated Mu’adh ibn Jabal (ra), the Prophet (saw) had said,
“The fasting is a shield against evil, the charity extinguishes (the fire of sin) just as water extinguishes fire,” [Transmitted by Tirmidhi Hadith no. 2, Ahmad, Ibn Majah]
This giving in charity is to eliminate the spiritual malady of miserliness. But because the heart of the giver is not immune from show and insincerity, it has been emphasized that Sadaqah should always be given secretly. Certainly, Riyah (pretending virtuousness) and miserliness are both very destructive diseases and Sadaqah that is rendered secretly is a powerful remedy to them.
Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “Those who patiently persevere seeking the countenance their Lord; establish regular prayers; spend out of (the gifts) We have bestowed for their sustenance secretly and openly; and turn off Evil with good: for such there is the final attainment of the (Eternal) Home.” [Qur’an, Surah Ar-Ra’d 13:22]
Because there are many types of Sadaqah, they have been divided into the following two categories (Sadaqah Wajibah and Sadaqah Nafilah) both of which have separate rulings:-
Sadaqah Jariyah is ‘continuous charity.’ It includes any charity that continues to bring benefit to people, animals or the environment over time, and for as long as it does so it brings reward to the donor Inshah’Allah. Education, orphans care, safe water and tree plantation are just a few examples of Sadaqah Jariyah projects.
Lillah meaning ‘for Allah’, comprises any form of charity given in the cause of Allah on a pure voluntary basis. This charitable giving is over and above the Zakah that one is liable for. For example, many charitable organisations collect Lillah for Relief Aid, Wells, and Masjid & Madrasah running costs. These contributions are made through the goodwill of Muslims who give solely for the pleasure of Allah.