THE MEANING OF ZAKAT AND ITS IMPORTANCE
the Fourth Pillar of Islam. It is an obligation (Fard),
by God on those Muslim men and women who possess enough means, to
distribute a certain percentage of their annual savings or capital in
goods or money among the poor and the needy. Zakat is assessed
once a year on both capital
and savings from income.
literal meaning of the word zakat is 'purity'.
Prophet (peace be on him) has said: "God has made zakat obligatory
simply to purify your remaining property ." There is no equivalent
practice in other religions. Hence, while terms such as 'charity "
poor-tax', 'alms-tax' and 'poor-due' have been coined by various
translators, none of these terms actually conveys the true sense of the
word zakat. Zakat is not a tax levied by a government, nor is it
a voluntary contribution. It is first and foremost a duty enjoined by
God and hence a form of worship. In Qur'an the payment of zakat is
frequently mentioned in the same sentence or verse as the establishment
of salat (prayers).
Those who believe and do good deeds and establish salat and pay zakat,
their reward is with their Sustainer; and no fear shall come upon
them, nor shall they grieve." (2:277)
are verses of the Book full of wisdom, a guide and mercy to the doers of
good -those who establish salat and pay zakat and have the
assurance of the Hereafter. These are on guidance from their Sustainer,
and these are the ones who will prosper ." (31 :1-5)
an act of worship through words and bodily action, zakat is a
devotional act through one's wealth. Without
the spirit of submission to God and love of Him, both acts are
without spiritual and moral significance.
From a practical point of view, it is the duty of an Islamic
state to collect zakat from every Muslim who meets the
requirements for paying it. The first Caliph, Abu Bakr Siddiq, declared
war on those tribes which refused to pay zakat while still
professing Islam and observing daily prayers.. He reasoned that the
Divine law (Shari'ah) cannot be divided and that one cannot
follow part of the Holy Book and cast aside other parts.
in a non-Islamic state it is up to the individual Muslim to be.
conscientious enough to voluntarily fulfil this duty to God
and to his community, and it is up to his brother Muslims to remind him
of this duty.
THE SPIRIT OF ZAKAT
the Holy Qur'an,
wealth is referred to as God's bounty (fadl).
as the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, is also the Owner of all
things, including all the things which man possesses and uses.
has created the heavens and the earth and sends down rain for you from
the sky? With it We caused to grow orchards full of loveliness; it is
not in your power to make trees grow in them." (27:60)
God is the true Owner of all things and we are merely His trustees,
wealth is to be produced, distributed, acquired and spent in a way which
is pleasing to Him. The acquisition of wealth is not an end in itself,
nor is wealth to be squandered for meaningless or wasteful purposes, and
above all it is not to be used in order to gain power over other people
through exploitation or control of the means of livelihood. Qur'an and Hadith
make it very clear that any form of gain which results in some
injustice or harm to others is an act of disobedience to God. On the
other hand, Qur'an tells us that next to purity of faith, the most
pleasing thing in the sight of God is kindness and charity, forbearance
and forgiveness, and doing good to others.
who spend in charity. whether in prosperity or adversity. , who restrain
anger and pardon people; for God loves those who do , good to
others." (3: 134)
God enjoins on us humility before the Creator and His creatures,
moderation in the satisfaction of our legitimate needs and desires,
control of our appetites, and a spirit of generosity and charity, while
He asks us to shun pride in ourselves and contempt for others,
self-indulgence and pleasure
and greed for material things and worldly power. We find, therefore,
that prayers (salat)
made obligatory to purify our hearts from every kind of pride, fasting (seeyam)
our appetites, and zakat to overcome
greed. The spirit
behind all these acts of worship ought to be the spirit of submission to
God, gratitude for all His bounties, and hope for His forgiveness and
particular, it is with utmost gratitude and joy that a Muslim who
possesses enough means that zakat is obligatory for him should
fulfil his obligation gratitude for the bounties which God has showered
upon him and joy in being able to help others. Because the payment of zakat
is a duty to God, no one should ever think of it as a favour
done to the person who receives it. In fact, it is his right to receive
it and the obligation of the giver to give it. Like any other act of
worship in Islam, in giving zakat it is necessary that the
intention of the giver and receiver be pure and honest.
THE BENEFITS OF ZAKAT
moral and material benefits of zakat are obvious Giving zakat purifies
the heart of the giver from selfishness and greed for wealth and
develops in him sympathy for the poor and needy. And receiving zakat purifies
the heart of the recipients
from envy and hatred of the rich and prosperous, and fosters in him a
sense of good will towards his brother Muslims who although they are
better off, have shared their wealth with him for the sake of God.
in Qur'an :
Him belong the keys of the heavens and
earth; He enlarges or restricts the sustenance to whom He wills, for He
knows full well all things." (42:12) .
has raised some of you in ranks above others that He may try you in the
gifts He has given you." (6: 165)
a Muslim, whether prosperous or needy, considers his condition in this
world as a test from God. Those who have wealth have the obligation to
be generous and charitable and to share the bounties of God with their
brothers, while those who are poor have the obligation to be patient, to
work to improve their situation, and to be free of envy .Qur'an tells us
that it is
a man's wealth or position but his God-consciousness, the quality of his
character, and the manner in which he uses whatever is given to him by
God which determines his ultimate destiny in the Hereafter. The economic
objective of Islam is just and humane. distribution of wealth, as stated
in Qur'an: "...so that this (wealth) may not circulate solely among
the rich from among you." (59:7) Thus, Islam neither approves of
hoarding and unlimited building up of capital,
nor of compulsory equal distribution of wealth, as both are unjust. Its
teaching encourages the earning of a livelihood and acquisition of
wealth by lawful, honest and productive means, and enjoins the just
sharing of the acquired wealth among the workers, the investors and the
community at large. The community's share in the produced wealth is zakat
and sadaqah (charity), the first an obligatory and the second
a voluntary contribution from individuals. Zakat , when honestly
practiced, results in freeing the society from class distinctions,
rivalries, suspicion and corruption. It produces a community of people
who love and respect each other, and who have sympathy and concern for
each other's welfare. Giving zakat is not a matter of pride. It
is a devotional act, like salat, on the completion of which the
contributor should be thankful to God for the fulfilment of his
obligation and pray for the forgiveness of his sins.
KINDS OF PROPERTY ON WHICH ZAKAT IS OBLIGATORY
compulsory on cash, cattle and crops .
The regulations differ for each of these categories. As the
detailed system of computation in the last two categories
is rather complicated, it will not be discussed here. Such information
is available in standard books on Islamic jurisprudence.
cash, the minimum rate is two and half percent (2.5%). Zakat should
be given only on the net balance after all lawful expenses have been met
at the end of the year. The rate mentioned above is only a lower limit.
There is no upper limit, except that one should not deprive himself and
his dependents from meeting their lawful necessities. Beyond these
obligations, the more one gives, the greater the benefit on both the
giver and the recipient.
RECIPIENTS OF ZAKAT
who are eligible to receive zakat are mentioned in the Holy
alms are only for the poor, the needy, those who collect them, those
whose hearts are to be reconciled, to free the captives and the debtors,
for the cause of God, and for the travellers; a duty imposed by God. God
is All-Knowing, AII-Wise." (9:6ql
should be remembered that these categories of persons who are to be
helped by zakat were laid down fourteen hundred years ago. They
are equally applicable to our own time.
The poor: Those who does
not have anything to support themselves .
The needy: Those people who have
some income or earnings but it is not enough to provide them with basic
Zakat collectors: The salaries of these workers may be paid from this
Converts: Those people who have embraced Islam and .
should be made to settle them in a normal life.
People who are not free: This category would include payment of ransom
for freeing Muslim salves
Debtors: People who are unable to pay debts incurred due to pressing
Wayfarers and travellers: Those people who are rendered helpless out
side their city.
the Cause of Allah
In the wider sense, this channel of distribution covers all
methods of promoting the Islamic faith, whether through Jihad,
propagating the enactment of the Islamic legislation or defending Islam
through the intellectual confrontation against its opposing hostile
This channel of distribution includes the following:
a. Financing Jihad activities to spread Islam and repel enemies
attacks against Muslim countries.
b. Supporting fruitful individual and collective efforts aiming at
spreading Islamic rule, establishing Islamic law, and resisting plans to
marginalize Islam and its law.
c. Financing the Islamic centers and mosques established in
non-Muslim countries, directed by faithful men with the aim of adopting
valid methods to spread Islam in these countries.
d. Financing the serious efforts exerted to support the Muslim
minorities under non-Muslim rule.
SOME REGULATIONS CONCERNING ZAKAT
legal dependents of the contributor may not receive
exceeding the recipient's requirements is not to be given, nor may the
recipient accept more than enough to meet his requirements.
which are paid to the government are not included in the category of zakat
contributor should not indulge in pride nor seek fame by carrying out
this duty, but if the mention of his name is likely to encourage others
to pay zakat, it is permissible to give his name.
is not necessary to tell the recipient that he is receiving , zakat money.
If there are deserving persons who will not accept . the money if they
know it is zakat, it can be given without specifying its source.
The contributor, however, still gives it
as his zakat payment.
be distributed directly to the individuals or organizations mentioned
above. The contributor should use his best possible judgment to find the
most deserving beneficiaries." In the past, when there were legally
constituted Islamic governments, zakat was collected through
official channels and its distribution was the function of a special
department of the government. In the present day, however, especially in
non- Muslim countries, giving zakat is an obligation for which
each Muslim adult must take responsibility each year himself. In this
country , Muslims may give their zakat directly to some deserving
needy person, of whom there are many in every community, or he may give
it for use as zakat to some Islamic organization.
an obligation on Muslim men and women who are better off financially. Sadaqah
(charity) refers to any other act of charity.
Charity -an essential part of righteousness: To give to help others from
one's possessions, no matter whether they are many or few, is a
necessary part of a Muslim's sense of submission to God and his concern
for his fellow human beings. God says in Qur'an :
shall not attain righteousness unless you spend on others of that which
you love, and whatever you spend, verily God has knowledge of it."
Holy Prophet (peace be on him) has said: "Son of , Adam! To give
away what is beyond your needs is better for you and to withhold it is
worse for you, but you are not blamed , for having sufficiency. Give
first to those who are dependent on you."
What to spend in charity: God says in Qur'an:
ask thee what to spend ( in charity) .Say: What is beyond your
you who believe! Spend of the good things which you have earned, and of
that which We bring forth from the earth for you,
do not seek to give the bad things (in charity) , when you would not
take them for yourselves except with disdain." (2:267)
Prophet (peace be on him) exhorted: "Spend; do not calculate and so
have God calculating against you; do not hoard and so have God hoarding
from you; but give such small amounts as you can."
How to give charity: The best charity is that which is given in secret,
in order to respect the dignity of the recipient and to keep the motives
of the giver free of pride or desire for praise.
you who believe! Do not cancel your charity by reminders of your
generosity or by injury, like those who spend their substance . to be
seen men but do not believe either in God or in the Last Day."
"Kind words and the covering of faults are better than charity
followed by injury. God is free of all wants, and He is most
Prophet (peace be on him) has said: "The best charity is that which
the right hand gives and the left hand does not know of it."
Recipients of charity: Charity starts with one's own family and
dependents and extends to relatives, to the poor and the needy of the
community, to widows and orphans, debtors, travellers, those who strive
or who migrate in the cause of God, and finally to any others in need.
ask thee what they should spend ( in charity) .Say: What ever of your
wealth you spend shall be for the parents and for the near of kin and
the orphans and the needy and the traveller; and whatever good you do,
verily, God has full knowledge of it." (2:215; also 9:60)
is) for those in need, who, in God's cause are restricted . (from
travel) and cannot move about in the land, seeking (for trade or work)
.The ignorant man thinks, because of their dignity, that they are free
from want. You shall know them by their mark: they do not beg from people
. And whatever of good you give, be assured that God knows it
in a broader sense, it is important to stress that the meaning of
charity is not confined to money or things given to help someone in
need. It includes everything we do or say to help others -our time, our
energy, our concern, our sympathy, our attitude of support, our words of
kindness, our prayers. To
care for the needs of a neighbour, to minister to the wants of a child,
to visit the sick, to go the funeral of an acquaintance, to console the
bereaved all these are acts of charity. There are many hadiths (saying
of the Prophet) which emphasize clearly how broad the meaning of charity
is, among which are the following: "When you smile in your
brother's face, or enjoin what is reputable, or forbid what is
objectionable or direct someone who has lost his way, or help a man who
has bad eyesight, or remove stones, thorns and bones from the road, or
pour water from your bucket into your brother's, it counts to you as
charity ," and "Every act of kindness is charity ." May
God Most High guide each of us to do our utmost, in the true
Islamic spirit of brotherhood, in charity.