The Seventy Seventh Call: Giving Sadaqah (Charity) before Consulting the Messenger
Almighty Allah says (what can be translated as): “O you who have believed, when you [wish to] privately consult the Messenger, present before your consultation a charity. That is better for you and purer. But if you find not [the means] - then indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. Have you feared to present before your consultation charities? Then when you do not and Allah has forgiven you, then [at least] establish prayer and give zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. And Allah is Acquainted with what you do.”
Almighty Allah commands the believers who want to consult Allah’s Messenger in person (i.e. talking privately) to give charity to the poor first to purify themselves and better their souls to reach that status. Offering Sadaqah, i.e. charity to the poor, prior to talking to Allah’s Messenger would lead to a great reward from Allah and purification of the believers’ souls. Whoever wants to consult the Messenger of Allah but he cannot give Sadaqah is pardoned and allowed to consult him because Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.
This verse was sent down to lighten the hardship of the Prophet, Peace Be upon Him, as Muslims were asking him many questions and consulting him concerning their affairs, so Allah Almighty revealed the verse to ease the hardship on the Messenger, Peace Be upon Him.
Did you withhold from spending in the path of Allah, feel scared of poverty if you give Sadaqah, and Satan whisper to you that spending means losing your money? If you do not spend the money because it is difficult for you, then Allah lightens this hardship and He permits you to consult the Messenger without giving charity to the poor. Make up for this by committing to establishing prayers the best you can, paying Zakah to purify your wealth, obey the commands of Allah and the Messenger and abstain from what He forbids you to do. Almighty Allah is All-Knowing of what people do and He shall judge them and hold them accountable of what they do.
The Quran also teaches them to refine their manners when dealing with the Prophet. It appears that people were eager to talk to the Prophet privately, each seeking his advice concerning his own private matter, or merely to have the pleasure of being alone with him. People did not seem to appreciate the demands on the Prophet’s time, with all his social and public responsibilities, or they did not realize that a matter for which they wanted a private conference with the Prophet must be a serious one. Therefore Allah wanted them to understand that it was necessary to impose a tax, for the benefit of the community, to be paid by the person who wanted the Prophet to attend to his personal problem because he was taking up some of the Prophet’s time which was devoted to the community. This tax took the form of a charity which should be paid before attending the Prophet: (O you who have believed, when you [wish to] privately consult the Messenger, present before your consultation a charity. That is better for you and purer. But if you find not [the means] - then indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.) (Verse 12)
This requirement was nonetheless difficult for the Muslims, as they were generally poor. The instruction, however, fulfilled its purpose, making them aware of the value of a private conference with the Prophet. Allah lightened their burden, revealing the next verse which abrogated the requirement of paying to charity before such a conference took place. The verse also directed the Muslims to attend better to their various aspects of worship: (Have you feared to present before your consultation charities? Then when you do not and Allah has forgiven you, then [at least] establish prayer and give zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. And Allah is Acquainted with what you do.) (Verse 13)
These two verses and the reports we have about the occasions in which they were revealed provide an aspect of the educational efforts that aimed to cultivate the manners and social approach of the Muslim community, even in matters of detail that were not particularly serious.