Allah has given numerous commandments for mankind to follow. Five of these are mainly the crux of sharia i.e. the Islamic jurisprudence which encompasses the entire code of life. The five fundamental principles of sharia which Allah made compulsory upon the believers are: tawhid i.e. believing in the Oneness of Allah; salat; zakat; sawm (fasting) and hajj (pilgrimage). However, zakat is a vast concept as Allah has used different words and expressions within Quran to refer to it. Usually, Muslims strictly limit the term zakat to sharia. Although, if they keenly consider its other aspects then it would actually mean ‘spending in the way of Allah in any form’.
Among other terms used in Holy Quran for spending for the cause of Allah, infaq-fi-sabilillah and sadaqah are most prominent. In Arabic, infaq literally means ‘to spend’ and fi-sabilillah means ‘in the way of Allah’. Infaq-fi-sabilillah and sadaqah actually refer to all kinds of spending in the way of Allah for achieving His goodwill.
People often misunderstand term sadaqah as payment for protection from adverse effects of evil eye which is actually sadaqah-e-nazar. Its other form is sadaqah rd-e-bla which is payment to avert misfortune. These are, in fact, part of sadaqah and not sadaqah itself.
According to Arabic dictionary, sadaqah actually means “donating in the way of Allah”. In the Holy Quran, Allah also uses the term sadaqah while referring to all forms of spending in His way which includes zakat, sadaqah to avert ill-luck or evil eye, hadiya (gifting something of monetary value to a Saint), fitrana (charity to the poor Muslims at the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr), kaffarat (fees of atonement), khairaat (alms-giving to Muslims) and other donations.
To categorize broadly, infaq-fi-sabilillah is of two types: infaq-e-wajiba and infaq-e-nafila.
Infaq-e-wajiba is a religious obligation for all Muslims for which the Islamic terminology is zakat. The Muslims entitled to receive zakat have eight categories. They are called the masarif-e-zakat i.e. the recipients of zakat. Sufis and Fakirs call it zakat-e-sharia i.e. the zakat of sharia. Ushr is also a part of it. Literal meaning of Ushr is one-tenth. It is, in fact, the tenth portion of agricultural produce obligatory to donate in the way of Allah.
On the other hand, infaq-e-nafila is spending in the way of Allah without any obligation. It includes all kinds of sadaqat which a Muslim gives out of his own desire to please Allah. It is the sunna of our Holy Prophet. According to the Mystics and Saints, this is zakat-e-haqeeqi i.e. the zakat of dignity.