The left hand shouldn’t know what the right is doing. There is wisdom in this advice. It is meant to encourage people to show discretion when performing a good deed such as charity. In Islam, the act of charity is highly encouraged. There are however two very different ways to go about it; you can either give charity publically or you can give it discretely. The latter carries more rewards, though, in some situations, public display of charitable donations is preferred because it encourages others to follow suit.
The act of charity is deemed to be one of the most favourable acts in Islam. Allah (SWT) and his Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) mentioned time and time again that the act of charity is great, and should be performed on a regular basis. There are several Ahadith on the importance of charity as well as verses in Quran that clearly tell us giving charity is a righteous and great act in the eyes of Allah (SWT).
However, when giving charity, discretion is advised, hence the saying that the left hand shouldn’t know that the right hand is doing. Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) once said:
"There are seven whom Allah will shade on the Day of Judgement…”
He went on to mention six of them and finally concluded by saying:
“…A man who gives in charity and hides it, such that his left hand does not know what his right hand gives in charity; and a man who remembered Allah in private and so his eyes shed tears.” (Abu Hurairah & collected in Saheeh al-Bukhari (English trans.) vol.1, p.356, no.629 & Saheeh Muslim (English trans.) vol.2, p.493, no.2248)
The last part of the Hadith mentioned above gives a very important message to all humanity. It reminds us that we, as humans, need to acknowledge the difference we can make and the motives behind it. A lot of us have forgotten the real meaning of charity, and so have ended up doing it with the wrong intentions. Many people give donations to help those who are in a critical situation, such as the people of Syria. Everyday Aid for Syria flows both within Syria and across its borders to the many refugee camps.
Eid-ul-Fitr recently concluded this last month. Prior to that, millions of Muslims observed a month of fasting during Ramadan and gave Zakat generously. This is encouraging because it is important to remember those that are less fortunate in difficult times. People like those of Gaza, as well as those suffering in Myanmar and Syria. These is a lot of relief work that needs to doing and making donations through relief aid agencies gives you the necessary discretion, but enables you to do your part in helping the poor.
A man who gives in charity and hides it, so that his left hand does not know what his right hand gives, is essentially a person who cares more about helping other people with good deeds than what other people think of his good deeds. Let us all be discrete in our pledges and donations this year. Let us donate graciously as is expected of us and assist the many who are suffering right now.