By Dr Muzammil H. Siddiqi

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Zakat: The Meaning and Purpose

 

... فَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِاللَّهِ هُوَ مَوْلَاكُمْ فَنِعْمَ الْمَوْلَى وَنِعْمَ النَّصِيرُ {الحج 78}

… So keep up the prayer, give Zakat and hold fast to Allah: He is your Protector – an excellent protector and an excellent helper. (Al-Hajj 22:78)

خُذْ مِنْ أَمْوَالِهِمْ صَدَقَةً تُطَهِّرُهُمْ وَتُزَكِّيهِم بِهَا وَصَلِّ عَلَيْهِمْ إِنَّ صَلاَتَكَ سَكَنٌ لَّهُمْ وَاللّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ {103}أَلَمْ يَعْلَمُواْ أَنَّ اللّهَ هُوَ يَقْبَلُ التَّوْبَةَ عَنْ عِبَادِهِ وَيَأْخُذُ الصَّدَقَاتِ وَأَنَّ اللّهَ هُوَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِيمُ {104}وَقُلِ اعْمَلُواْ فَسَيَرَى اللّهُ عَمَلَكُمْ وَرَسُولُهُ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَسَتُرَدُّونَ إِلَى عَالِمِ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ فَيُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ {التوبة 103-105}

Receive (O Prophet) from their wealth some charity in order to cleanse them and purify them and pray for them – indeed your prayer will be a comfort for them- Allah is all hearing and all knowing. Do they not know that it is Allah Himself who accepts repentance from His servants and receives what is given freely for His sake? Indeed Allah is always ready to accept repentance, most merciful. Say (Prophet), ‘Take action! Allah will see your action – as will His Messenger and the believers – and then you will be returned to Him who knows what is seen and unseen, and He will tell you what you have been doing. (Al-Tawbah 9:103-105)

Zakat is the third Pillar (rukn) of Islam. After declaring faith (shahadah) the first duty is to pray daily, the Salat, and then to give the prescribed charity, the Zakat. Salat is obligatory on every Muslim whether rich or poor (except for children and women during their monthly period and post-natal bleeding). Zakat is, however, obligatory on every person who has certain amount of wealth, whether male or female, old or young, even sane or insane. In the case of young children or insane persons, if they have wealth, it must be given by their guardians. Zakat is the command of Allah, the right of the poor in the wealth of the rich and it brings many blessings.

The word ‘zakat’ itself is chosen by Allah to give us the sense that this is not a burden, but a blessing. It has the meanings of purification, increase and sweetening. Those who are blessed by Allah with enough means, they should help those who are poor and in need. By this giving they bring happiness in the society, purify their hearts from greed and selfishness and entitle themselves to receive more blessings from Allah in this life and in the life to come.

Allah has promised His mercy on those who give Zakat:

... وَرَحْمَتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ فَسَأَكْتُبُهَا لِلَّذِينَ يَتَّقُونَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَـاةَ وَالَّذِينَ هُم بِآيَاتِنَا يُؤْمِنُونَ {الأعراف 156}

… My mercy encompasses everything: I shall ordain it for those who are mindful (of Me) and give the Zakat and those who believe in our Revelations. (Al-A’raf 7:156)

Those who do not give Zakat they are considered as polytheists and hypocrites according to the Qur’an:

قُلْ إِنَّمَا أَنَا بَشَرٌ مِّثْلُكُمْ يُوحَى إِلَيَّ أَنَّمَا إِلَهُكُمْ إِلَهٌ وَاحِدٌ فَاسْتَقِيمُوا إِلَيْهِ وَاسْتَغْفِرُوهُ وَوَيْلٌ لِّلْمُشْرِكِينَ {6}الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُم بِالْآخِرَةِ هُمْ كَافِرُونَ {فصلت 6-7}

Say (Prophet), ‘I am only a mortal like you, but it has been revealed to me that your God is One. Take the straight path to Him and seek His forgiveness. Woe to the idolaters who do not pay the Zakat and who refuse to believe in the Hereafter. (Fussilat 41:6-7

الْمُنَافِقُونَ وَالْمُنَافِقَاتُ بَعْضُهُم مِّن بَعْضٍ يَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمُنكَرِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَقْبِضُونَ أَيْدِيَهُمْ نَسُواْ اللّهَ فَنَسِيَهُمْ إِنَّ الْمُنَافِقِينَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ {التوبة 67}

The hypocrites, both men and women, are all the same: they order what is wrong and forbid what is right and close their hands (from spending). They have ignored Allah and Allah has ignored them. The hypocrites are the disobedient ones . (Al-Tawbah 9:67)

Zakat is not like other charities (sadaqat or khairat) that one can give as much and whenever one feels like giving and to whomever one likes to give. Zakat has specific rules, just like Salat. It should be carefully calculated, it should be given on time and it should be given only to those who are its lawful recipients. If you give less than what you are supposed to give, your Zakat is not paid. If you did not pay one year or for some years, you still have to pay it.

Zakat is obligatory on every Muslim whose wealth has reached or exceeded a certain minimum threshold (nisab) and a lunar year has passed while one has sustained that minimum amount. Zakat is obligatory on personal wealth, commercial merchandise, agricultural produce, and livestock for commercial purpose and on treasure troves. Zakat is not a tax but it is an act of worship (‘ibadah). Unlike taxes it is not taken without considering one’s personal needs. Taxes are taken on income; Zakat is taken after deducting personal and dependants’ expenses. Taxes could be as much as 50% or more; Zakat in most cases does not go beyond 2.5%. On gold, silver, cash, stocks, bonds, savings, retirement accounts etc. The ratio of Zakat is 2.5%, if the wealth meets the Nisab which is the value of 3 ounces (or 85 grams) of gold. On personal wealth, commercial merchandise, Zakat should be paid every year. On agricultural produce Zakat is paid at the time of harvest.

Zakat is not obligatory on one’s residential home, car, clothes and other household goods. Zakat is not obligatory on those who have outstanding loans; but the basic rule is what the Third Caliph ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan said, “Let one in debt repay his debt, then pay Zakat on his remaining assets.” Those who do not pay off their debt and keep money they have to pay Zakat, if their wealth meets the Nisab and a year has passed on it. Those who need more information should learn or consult those who know the rules.

Muslims must organize the Zakat collection so that it can reach to those who deserve it in time. It is to be given to those whom Allah has prescribed in the Qur’an:

إِنَّمَا الصَّدَقَاتُ لِلْفُقَرَاء وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَالْعَامِلِينَ عَلَيْهَا وَالْمُؤَلَّفَةِ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَالْغَارِمِينَ وَفِي سَبِيلِ اللّهِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ فَرِيضَةً مِّنَ اللّهِ وَاللّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ {التوبة 60}

Indeed the (prescribed) charitable offerings are for the poor, the indigent, those who administer it, those whose hearts are to be reconciled, to (free) those in bondage, to the debt-ridden, for the cause of Allah and to the wayfarer. This is an obligation from Allah. And Allah is all knowing, all wise . (Al-Tawbah 9:60)

Zakat is taken from the well to do Muslims and it is should be spent on the welfare of those who are in need among them. The rich, those who are capable to work but refuse to work, children, parents and wives of Zakat payers are not eligible for Zakat.

 

Sadaqatul Fitr or Zakatul Fitr :

This is a special charity for the month of Ramadan. All those who are supposed to give the Zakat must give Sadaqatul Fitr in Ramadan for themselves as well as on behalf of their dependents. It is estimated about $10.00 per person. This charity should be given during Ramadan or before the Idul Fitr prayer. It is to be given to the poor and needy people so that they can enjoy the happiness of Idul Fitr with other Muslims.

(Khutbah at ISOC – Ramadan 18, 1434/ July 26, 2013)

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