The Meaning of Altruism
Ithar linguistically: is the root of athara, yu’thiru, itharan, meaning to prioritise or put forth by choice. From this, the word atharah comes meaning antecedence and speciality.  See al-Kulliyyat, al-Kafawi (1/38).
Ithar technically: is preferring the other over the self in terms of benefit and protection. It is the epitome of brotherhood.  al-Ta`rifat, al-Jurjani (1/59). The Difference between Altruism, Generosity (Sakha’), and Munificence (Jud)  Madarij al-Salikin, Ibn al-Qayyim (2/292).
Altruism is the abode wherein generosity, munificence, and beneficence reside. It is referred to as the station of altruism because it is the highest of its levels. There are three levels:
The first: is that giving does not decrease one, nor is it difficult upon one. This is generosity.
The second: is that one gives the larger portion and keeps a bit, or gives as much as he keeps. This is munificence.
The third: is that one prioritises others over himself with a thing despite his need for it. This is altruism.Commandments of Altruism and Encouragement towards it in the Qur’an and Sunnah
❖ Allah, blessed and exalted, says: “As for those who had settled in the city and embraced the faith before the arrival of the Emigrants, they love whoever immigrates to them, never having a desire in their hearts for whatever is given to the Emigrants. They give the Emigrants preference over themselves even though they may be in need. Whoever is saved from the avarice with their own souls, it is they who are truly successful.” al-Hashr: 9. Meaning, they give the Emigrants their wealth, giving them preference over themselves, even if they have need of that which they gave preference over themselves with.  Tafsir al-Tabari (22/528).
❖ Allah, exalted, says: “You will never achieve righteousness until you donate some of what you cherish. And whatever you give is certainly well known to Allah.” Al `Imran: 92.
❖ Abu Musa al-Ash`ari, Allah be pleased with him, said: ‘The Prophet ﷺ said: “The Ash`ari clan, when they run out of food  Armalu: meaning their food ran out. See: Sharh al-Nawawi `ala Muslim (16/62). during an expedition, or their families’ food becomes scarce in their town, they gather all they have of food in their garments then they split it between themselves equally in a single platter. They are from me, and I am from them.”’  Reported by al-Bukhari (2486) and this is his wording, as well as Muslim (2500).
❖ Jabir ibn `Abdillah, Allah be pleased with them both, narrated “The Prophet ﷺ wished to go on an expedition, so he said: ‘Assembly of Emigrants and Supporters, among your brothers are those without wealth and family, so let each of you foster in two or three men. None of us have extra animals to ride, so take turns.’ So I took in two or three.” Jabir said to them: “I do not have spare camels - we will take turns.”  Reported by Abu Dawud (2534) and Ahmad (14863). Graded authentic by al-Albani in Sahih Sunan Abi Dawud (2543). Categories of Altruism
Categories of Altruism with Regards to its Object
There are two categories of altruism when considering its object: Altruism with the Creator
This is the highest level of altruism and its best form. From its signs is that a person fulfils all that Allah loves and commands, even if it be disliked by the slave, heavy on his chest. Also, that he leaves off that which Allah hates and forbids from, even if it be beloved to the slave, desired by his ego and sought by it. Altruism with the creation
It is sub-categorised into three: Prohibited
That one gives preference over oneself with regards to what is legally obligatory. It is unlawful to do so. Altruism in legal obligations is impermissible, since it necessitates one not fulfilling one’s religious obligation. Disliked or permissible
This is altruism in recommended religious matters. Some scholars disliked this, while others allowed it. Leaving it certainly is of more priority, unless there be benefit in it. Permissible
Altruism in permissible matters may be recommended. It is to give preference to others in non-religious matters.
Conditions of this type of altruism: That it does not waste the time of the altruistic. That it does not corrupt his affairs. That it does not ruin his religiosity. That it is not a cause for blocking off goodness to him. That it does not prohibit from him an anticipated matter. Categories of Altruism with Regards to its Cause Altruism caused by one’s intrinsic disposition and inherent nature, like that which parents show their children, and those deeply in love. Altruism caused by faith, and loving good for others at the expense of the self’s desires. It is an altruism that comes about from sound, rational judgement. It relies upon faithful and rational emotional intelligence.  See: al-Akhlaq al-Islamiyyah wa Ususuha, `Abd al-Rahman al-Maydani (2/435). Benefits of Altruism
The altruistic are among those Allah praises and causes to be successful. Altruism is a means to loving Allah, exalted, and gaining His love. Realising perfect faith. Altruism leads one to other sound morals and praiseworthy attributes, as well as leaving off blameworthy ones. Altruism brings about blessings in one’s food, wealth, and property. Altruism being common in society is evidence that there is cooperation, aid, and love therein. Its absence from society is evidence of it lacking said fundamental virtues necessary to build strong, faithful communities. Barriers to Acquiring Altruism
● Barriers to Acquiring Altruism in Relation to the Creator
That the self is rigid, not quick-witted, but is rather slow and unable to see the reality of a thing except after great difficulty. Even if it sees it, doubts and uncertainties creep into it. It is never able to truly see it for its pure nature. That one’s disposition is clear-sighted and capable of detailed comprehension, but the self is weak. If it sees truth and guidance, it is unable to favour it. Its owner directs it like he who rides a weak, sick animal. With each step, he must stop before finally taking the next.  Tariq al-Hijratayn, Ibn Qayyim (1/450).
● Barriers to Acquiring Altruism in Relation to the Creation
Weak faith and certitude. Just as strong faith incites its owner to expend and give preference over himself, its weakness is a cause for egotism and selfishness. Obeying one’s selfish desires. This is why Allah, honourable and majestic, praised those of altruism that they disobey the call to be stingy, and are therefore successful. Love of self and overpowering narcissism. Having a harsh and unmoving heart. Whoever has a soft heart and is easy in his disposition, altruism becomes easy for him. Being unaspiring and not caring to have a good mention. Means to Acquiring Altruism
● Means to Acquiring Altruism in Relation to the Creator
That one’s disposition is soft, abiding, and easy-going, as opposed to harsh and dry. Rather, it follows him where he guides it. Having deep-rooted faith and unyielding conviction. Altruism is the result of strong faith. Patience and steadfastness.
● Means to Acquiring Altruism in Relation to the Creation
The slave’s desire to seek virtue and lofty character. Having a dislike of immoral character and a hate of stinginess. Revering the rights which Allah, exalted, made for his slaves, fulfilling them as they ought to be, and fearing their neglect. Examples of Altruism from the Life of the Prophet ﷺ, the Companions, Predecessors, and Scholars
❖ Abu Hurayrah, Allah be pleased with him, narrates that a man came to Allah's Messenger ﷺ seeking to be fed and hosted. The Prophet ﷺ sent a messenger to his wives to prepare something, but they said: “We have naught but water.” Allah's Messenger ﷺ said: "Who can host - or entertain - this man?” A man from the Supporters said: “I will.” So he went to his wife and said to her, “Graciously host the guest of Allah's Messenger ﷺ.” She replied: “We have naught but my sons’ sustenance.” He said, “Prepare the food, light your lamp, and put your sons to sleep if they want to eat dinner.” She prepared the food, lit the lamp, and put her children to sleep. Then, she got up as if she was fixing the lamp, but turned it off. They then pretended that they were eating to him, but they slept hungry. In the morning, the man went to Allah's Messenger ﷺ, who said to him: “Allah laughed - or was amazed - at your deed.” Then Allah revealed: “They give the Emigrants preference over themselves even though they may be in need. Whoever is saved from the selfishness of their own souls, it is they who are truly successful.” al-Hashr: 9.
❖ Abu al-Hasan al-Antaki narrated that thirty-something men gathered at his house in one of the towns of Rayy. They had a limited number of bread pieces that could not feed them all. They then broke up the bread pieces, turned out the lamps, and sat to eat. When they lit the lamps again, the bread was untouched. No one ate from it out of complete selflessness and giving preference to his brother over himself.
❖ It is narrated that Masruq had taken out a heavy loan, and his brother Khaythamah was also in debt. Masruq went and paid back Khaythamah’s debt without him knowing, and Khaythamah paid Masruq’s debt without him knowing.  Ihya’ `Ulum al-Din, al-Ghazali (2/174).
❖ Muhammad Musa said, speaking about sh. Ibn Baz, Allah have mercy upon him: “What is in his hand is not his, regardless of how great the asking is. He may be asked for money, so he gives it. He may be presented with a gift in a sitting then he is asked for it so he gives it to him. Often, he would automatically give what he is gifted to those next to him. He may even be asked for the cloak that he is wearing, so he gives it to the one who asks him for it.”  Jawanib min Sirat al-Imam `Abd al-`Aziz Ibn Baz Rahmahullah, Muhammad ibn Ibrahim al-Hamad (p. 182). Quotes, Proverbs, and Poetry in Altruism
❖ It is said: “Do not treat a hungry person but with altruism, a wealthy person but with good manners, and a weak person but with fervor and joy.”  al-Adab al-Shar`iyyah, Ibn Muflih (3/557).
❖ Abu Sulayman al-Darani said: “If all the world was mine, and I gave it to one of my brothers, I would still belittle it as a gift.”  hya’ `Ulum al-Din, al-Ghazali (2/174).
❖ Hatim al-Ta’i said:
“I hold back my hand, lest it reach theirs
As we both reach out, our needs the same.
I am too shy that my companion sees
The place my hand grabbed some provision.”  al-Imta` wa al-Mu’anasah, Abu Hayyan al-Tawhidi (1/391).