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The following hadith says:

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) said:

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: "A man (from amongst the people before you) said: 'Indeed! I will give in charity.' So he took his Sadaqah out and placed it in a thief's hand.

In the morning the people were talking (about this incident) and saying: 'Sadaqah was given to a thief last night.' The man said: 'O Allah! Praise be to You. I have given Sadaqah to a thief. Indeed, I will give in charity!' So he took his Sadaqah out and he placed it in a prostitute's hand.

In the morning the people were talking (about this incident) and saying: 'Sadaqah was given to a prostitute last night.' On hearing this, the man said: 'Praise be to You, O Allah! I gave Sadaqah to a prostitute.

Indeed, I will give in charity!' So he took his Sadaqah out and placed it in a rich man's hand. In the morning the people were talking (about this incident) and saying: 'Sadaqah was given to a rich man last night.' The man said: 'O Allah! Praise be to You (for helping me) give charity to a thief, a prostitute and a rich man.'

Then he had a dream in which he was told that his Sadaqah to the thief might result in his refraining from his theft, his Sadaqah to the prostitute might help her abstain from her immorality, and his Sadaqah to the rich man might help him pay heed and spend from what Allah had bestowed upon him."

[Al- Bukhari].

This hadith seems to imply that giving money to a rich person is sadaqah. However, it is unclear if this rule apply to the Ummah because it may be a story about people of other prophets (the rules revealed to other prophets don't apply to us). Is giving gifts or money to a rich person regarded as Sadaqah?

  • Imam Malik considered the shari'a of former nations as our shari'a as long as it was not clearly abrogated. – Medi1Saif Dec 21 '16 at 16:57
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Whether gifts or money given to a rich person are regarded as sadaqah depends on the intention of the bestower, as it may have been given to seek Allah's pleasure, or to show love and strengthen friendship, or for some worldly reason.

What this hadith implies is that:

  • It is permissible to give non-obligatory charity to a rich person. Agreement has been claimed on on this.

    تحل صدقة التطوع للأغنياء بلا خلاف فيجوز دفعها إليهم ويثاب دافعها عليها ولكن المحتاج أفضل

    It is permissible to give voluntary charity to rich people, and there is no difference of scholarly opinion on that. It is permissible to give it to them and the giver will be rewarded for it, but it is better to give it to one who needs it.

    al-Majmoo' translation from islamqa ; also see مغني المحتاج and كشاف القناع and بدائع الصنائع

  • Charity given by mistake to an unintended or invalid recipient will still receive reward according to the intention behind the act. Bukhari has also narrated another hadith in a similar context:

    لك ما نويت يا يزيد، ولك ما أخذت يا معن

    O Yazid, you have what you intended, and O Ma'n for you is what you took.

    Bukhari

As for the rules revealed to other prophets not applying to us, note that the view of the majority is that established laws of former nations are applicable to us when they have not been explicitly abrogated.

أولئك الذين هدى الله فبهداهم اقتده

Those are the ones whom Allah has guided, so from their guidance take an example.

Quran 6:90

See my answer here: Is there a concrete reason that Qur'an 5:32 (which prohibits murder) applies to modern-day Muslims?

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