Islam places strong emphasis on helping the poor in whatever way we can. It promises rich reward for those who often help the poor and the needy so as to alleviate their troubles. Needless to say, charity should come from oneâs own money or property. One cannot give charity from another personâs money, even though he has access to it, unless the owner has given him instructions to do so. A question arises as to the position of a wife giving away something that belongs to her husband: can she do so? Who receives the reward of such charity?
The answer is given in a Hadith reported by Ayesha who quotes the Prophet as saying: âIf a woman gives away something of the food of her home, causing no misfortune, she earns a reward for what she has given away. Her husband receives the reward of what he has earned, and the storekeeper receives a similar reward. None diminishes the reward of the others in any way.â (Related by Al-Bukhari).
This Hadith opens the door wide to increase charity and giving it in different forms. It also opens a window of opportunity for wives, servants and employees to do good and earn reward, and facilitates the way for the owner to earn reward when he is too busy to attend to some good deeds personally. We know from other Hadiths that a person who points out to another a way of doing something good he has a share of the reward of that good deed when it is done. Here we are told that a person who serves as the facilitator of a good deed also shares in its reward. The shares of the reward are different in each case.
What is important for the wife, or an employee, to know is that they should first obtain the ownerâs permission. The wife should know that her husband would approve of her charity if he knew of it, and would be willing to give it if he was present. The permission could be a general one, not related to the particular object or amount given in charity, but there should be a realization that the owner will not object to the charity when he knows of it. Again, the employee, whether a servant or a storekeeper, may give away something that belongs to his employer, if he is certain that the latter will not object. He should inform him of the fact, withholding no relevant information. In this way, the reward will be given by God to the person who gave the charity and to the owner of what has been given. Each will have their reward without diminishing the reward of the other in any way.
When we consider the wording of the Hadith, we note that it mentions giving away food. There are other versions of this Hadith, which are equally authentic, that mention charity in general, or feeding in general. Hence, scholars have different views on what is given and to whom.
What we gather from all these versions is that giving food to the poor does not require a special prior permission, because it is normally and traditionally accepted that husbands approve of it. The important thing is that the charity does not result in a misfortune, which means that a wife should not give away what causes a shortage of something necessary at home, or what her husband would consider excessive. Should she want to do that, she should seek his prior permission as the owner.