Abu Dharr reported that some people went to the Prophet (SAW) and complained that rich people were seizing all rewards. They complained that the rich observe prayers just as they do; and they give out alms from of their wealth which where they surpass the poor in piling up of rewards.
The prophet (SAW) answered: “Has not Allah given you what you should give in charitable alms too? Truly in every tasbih (saying “Subhana Allah”, meaning “Glory be to God”) there is an alms; in every takbir (saying “Allalu Akbar”, meaning “Allah is the Greatest”) there is an alms; in every tahmid (saying “Alhamdu lillahi”, meaning “Praise be to Allah”) there is an alms; in every tahlil (saying “There is no God except Allah”) there is an alms; enjoining others to do what is right and forbidding them from what is wrong, there is an alms; even when one of you martially approaches his wife, there is an alms in that”. They said: “O messenger of Allah, do you mean to say that when one of us satisfies his desire (with his wife) there will be reward for him in that?” He answered: “Had He put it among the things forbidden it would have been sinful for one, so when He puts it among the permissible things, there is a reward for it”. Muslim relates this hadith.
This tradition of the Prophet (SAW) teaches that there are many doors that lead to heaven. It also teaches that no single individual is denied the opportunity to seeking heaven; confirming that persons who have no wealth have no cause to despair. In spite of their financial predicaments, the poor can yet seek heaven through the abilities with which they have been endowed with, which may include knowledge and physical strength. So, the rich do not actually have monopoly of good deeds over others.
Wealth is certainly not the only means to earning rewards or even heaven. A good deed can be done in a variety of ways. A nice speech is a good deed; a good advice to a friend is a good deed; a consoling word to one who is in a worried state is a good deed; a guide to a stranger who misses his ways is a good deed; to remove a stone or any harmful object from the way is a good deed; And even a smile is a good deed; And for every good deed there is a reward from Allah (SWT).
The twenty sixth hadith in Annawawi’s collection also gives a list of deeds that the poor could do to earn as much reward as earned by the affluent. Alms are due each day and time when two people exchange greetings. If you settle a quarrel between two individuals, that is an alms. There is reward for you if you help a man to mount on to his beast or hoist his luggage on to it. In every step you take while walking to perform prayers, there is reward.
Some vocations also earn reward or those who practice them. This includes farming and teaching. The search for knowledge too is alms. A poor person who is healthy can use his health to organize to provide physical labour to the building of a mosque, school or orphanage. Community service is also a god deed. For every good deed and every act of goodness or kindness, there is reward from Allah (SWT).
The reward of some specific good deeds has been quantified by the Prophet (SAW). According to him, the saying of “Alhamdu lillahi”, meaning “Praise be to Allah”) will fill the scales on the Day of Judgment. Similarly, the saying of “Subhana-llahi Wal Hamdu lillah” will fill all that is between the heavens and the earth.
Muadh bn Jabal once asked the Prophet (SAW): “O Messenger of Allah, tell me about some work which if I do will surely bring me into paradise and keep me far from Hell”. The Prophet (SAW) considered it a very serious question and answered by first mentioning the pillars of Islam. He then went further and said: “shall I not also point out to you the gates to what is good?” He thus mentioned among other things that standing up in prayers in the middle of the night is a good deed. The Prophet (SAW) then recited Qur’an 32: I6 and 17: “Their limbs do forsake their beds to sleep, the while they call on their lord, in fear and hope: And they spend (in charity) out of the sustenance, which we have bestowed on them. Now, no person knows what delights of the eye are kept hidden (in reverse) for them as a reward for their (good) deeds”.
In Islam, charity is not limited to giving out wealth. It includes every deed that impacts positively on others including neighbours, the community and humanity in its entirety. May Allah (SWT) guide us to understand and appreciate the fact that even a smile is charity in Islam, amin.