Being alive as human has been described as a gift from Allah (swt) as He may have chosen to create many of mankind as animals or other forms of creation.

The Arabic word for charity is sadaqah (from sidq, meaning truth) and it is different from the Zakat, the third pillar of Islam, which is the obligatory due on money or other forms of wealth.
All acts of worship through financial expenditure and other good or charitable deeds are, by broader definition, classified as Sadaqah, though scholars classify the deed into categories even with separate rulings.

There are many verses of the Glorious Qur’an including: “They ask you about giving: say, "The charity you give shall go to the parents, the relatives, the orphans, the poor, and the travelling alien." Any good you do, God is fully aware thereof.” (Surah Baqarah 2:215)

Also in verse 262 of the same surah: “Those who spend their money in the cause of GOD, then do not follow their charity with insult or harm, will receive their recompense from their Lord; they have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.”

Prophet Muhammad (Salallahu alaehi wasallam [Allah’s Peace upon him]) reportedly said and reported by Bukhari: “To smile in the company of your brother is charity. To command to do good deeds and to prevent others from doing evil is charity. To guide a person in a place where he cannot get astray is charity. To remove troublesome things like thorns and bones from the road is charity. To pour water from your jug into the jug of your brother is charity. To guide a person with defective vision is charity for you.”

The importance of charity is such that some scholars, including Farah Rahim Dadabhoy, espouse criteria for sadaqah.

1. Sincerity: Sadaqah must be done sincerely for the pleasure of Allah and not out of show off to gain praise or recognition from others: “O you who believe! Do not render vain your charity by reminders of your generosity or by injury, like him who spends his wealth to be seen of men and he does not believe in Allah nor in the last Day.” (Qur’an, 2: 264).

2. Privacy: “And whatever you spend in charity or whatever vow you make, be sure Allah knows it all.  But the wrongdoers have no helpers.  If you disclose (acts of) charity, even so it is well, but if you conceal them and make them reach those (really) in need, that is best for you.  It will remove from you some of your (stains of) evil.  And Allah is well acquainted with what you do.” (Qur‘an, 2:270-271).

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) reportedly said and reported by Bukhari: “Seven people will be shaded by Allah under His shade on the day when there will be no shade except His. They are: a just ruler, a youth who grew up in the worship of Allah, a man whose heart is attached to the mosque, two men who love each other for Allah’s sake, meeting for that and parting for that; a man who is called by a woman of beauty and position but he says, ‘I fear Allah’; 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.”

3. Lawful source: Abu Hurairah narrated that Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said: “If one gives in charity what equals one date-fruit from the honestly earned money and Allah accepts only the honestly earned money Allah takes it in His Right (hand). And then, enlarges its reward for that person (who has given it), as anyone of you brings up his baby horse, so much so that it becomes as big as a mountain.”

4. Relations: Beginning with ones dependents:
Hakim ibn Hizam narrated that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The upper hand is better than the lower hand, (he who gives charity is better than him who takes it). One should start giving first to his dependents. And the best object of charity is that which is given by a wealthy person (from the money which is left after his expenses.) And whoever abstains from asking others for some financial help, Allah will give him and save him from asking others, Allah will make him self-sufficient.”

5. Timing: Not to delay giving of sadaqah nor show lethargy or negligence in giving it:  
And spend something (in charity) out of the substance which We have bestowed on you, before death should come to any of you and he should say, “O my Rabb (only God and Sustainer). Why do you not give me respite for a little while?  I should then have given (largely) in charity, and I should have been one of the doers of good.”  (Qur’an 63:10).

6. Selflessness: Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said and reported in Bukhari and Muslim: “Spend in charity and do not keep count for then Allah will also keep count in giving you provision.”

7. For Allah Sake only: “Those who spend their wealth for increase in self-purification, and have in their minds no favor from anyone for which a reward is expected in return, but only the desire to seek for the Countenance of their Creator Most High; and soon will they attain (complete) satisfaction.” (Qur’an, 92:18-21).

With charity being part of what would count for gaining Paradise, many Muslims would be smiling to Paradise with its classification as charity by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

Sadaqah is Truth!
Truth is when you believe in our maker Allah.