Abu Huraira narrated that Allah’s Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
A man-made an intention that he would give something in charity. He went out with his object of charity and unknowingly gave it to a thief. The next morning the people said that he had given in charity to a thief.
(On hearing that) he said: “O Allah! All the praise is to You. I will give in charity again.”
And so he again went out to give charity, but he (unknowingly) gave it to an adulteress. The next morning the people said that he had given his alms to an adulteress last night.
The man said: “O Allah! All the praise is to You. (I had given in charity) to an adulteress. I will give in charity again.”
So he went out with his charity again and he (unknowingly) gave it to a rich person. (The people) The next morning said that he had given his charity to a wealthy person.
He said: “O Allah! All the praise is to You. (I had given in charity) to a thief, to an adulteress and to a wealthy man.”
Then someone came to him in his dream and said to him:”The alms which you gave to the thief, might make him abstain from stealing, and that given to the adulteress might make her abstain from illegal sexual intercourse (adultery), and that given to the wealthy man might make him take a lesson from it and spend his wealth which Allah has given him, in Allah’s cause.”
From this story, we learn that we shouldn’t always take a person’s actions on face value alone. Although the man’s charity didn’t go to a needy person directly, it can still yield benefits. We must note that the man did not give in charity to the types of people mentioned knowingly, rather his intention was sincere and he only found out afterward that he had given the money to a thief, adulterer, and a wealthy person, so we know from this that we can’t hide under a sincere intention when we know the action itself is incorrect.
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