Understanding Sadaqah Jariyah: Meaning and Examples in Islam
‘Jariyah’ has the root meaning of ‘running’ or ‘flowing’ with the implication being that the charity one gives continues to provide benefit to its recipients long after the original donation. ‘Sadaqah Jariyah’ may be thought of as ‘ever-flowing charity’ and, as such, is a special form of charity.
Technically, Sadaqah Jariyah falls under the legal category of ‘waqf’ or ‘endowment’ and it may be said that Sadaqah Jariyah is waqf. Waqf can be understood to mean being ‘suspended in a fixed state or condition’. This also describes the legal state of the original donation.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on Sadaqah Jariyah for Deceased and Living Believers
The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, emphasised the significance of Sadaqah Jariyah in multiple hadiths. He said:
“When a human being dies, all one’s deeds cease, save three: a Sadaqah Jariyah, [religious] knowledge [one leaves behind] from which others benefit, and a righteous child who prays for one” (Muslim).
Further highlighting its importance, he also stated:
“The best one leaves behind after death are three: a righteous child who prays for one, a Sadaqah Jariyah, the rewards of which continue to reach one, and [religious] knowledge that continues to be applied after him” (Ibn Majah).
Understanding the Difference Between Sadaqah and Sadaqah Jariyah in Islamic Charity
Ordinary charity is given by one person to a recipient who it then becomes the property of (the recipient owns it) and that person may do with it as he sees fit. This includes money, food, clothing, medicine, utensils etc.
Sadaqah Jariyah on the other hand, cannot be owned by anyone and is waqf. As such, a Sadaqah Jariyah is frozen in a state of endowment (not ownership) so that its benefits or proceeds may continuously be used by those who constitute the original donor’s intended recipients. As it is an endowment – and not owned – the sadaqah jariyah cannot be given away or used outside of its originally intended purpose.
Qualifications and Types of Sadaqah Jariyah: Ensuring Continuous Charity
For donated money or goods to be considered Sadaqah Jariyah, they must be endowed. This means that they cannot be owned by anyone as that person or group of people could then sell, alter, destroy etc., the donated goods.
There are numerous potential examples of sadaqah jariyah. One good example is that of a water well. Funds may be donated towards the construction of a well. The well, once completed, is not owned by any recipient or group of recipients (though there may be locals responsible for its upkeep). The well will continue to benefit its users as long as it exists, and as long as it is used and provides benefit, the donor(s) will receive the reward from Allah. As the well is not owned, it cannot be sold or cannot be destroyed (as one can do with one’s own property).
Here's a quick 15 second video on how to donate towards one of MAA's Sadaqah Jariyah projects: