Zakat is a form of charity made compulsory in Islam. Through Zakat, the prosperous and rich people can uplift the poor, help them in trouble and console them in their hardships. Zakat establishes the rights of the poor and the needy, people in debt, slaves or captives and travellers, etc. Zakat can be paid to deserving individuals or groups who fall into one or more of eight Zakatable categories mentioned by the Almighty in the Quran. 8 Kinds of People Who Can Accept Zakat. Allah says:
إِنَّمَا الصَّدَقَاتُ لِلْفُقَرَاءِ وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَالْعَامِلِينَ عَلَيْهَا وَالْمُؤَلَّفَةِ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَالْغَارِمِينَ وَفِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ فَرِيضَةً مِّنَ اللَّهِ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ
“Only the charities (are) for the poor, and the needy and those who collect them, and the ones inclined their hearts, and in the (freeing of) the necks, and for those in debt and in (the) way (of) Allah, and the wayfarer – an obligation from Allah. And Allah (is) All-Knowing, All-Wise.” (Surah At-Tawbah 9:60)
Zakat is an Arabic word that means “purification”. Zakat is the third pillar of Islam and compulsory on every financially stable Muslim that is wealthy enough to afford it. In religion, Islam charity holds so much importance that it is an obligation on Muslims in the form of Zakat. All eligible individuals are required to pay an annual percentage of 2.5% of the wealth and property they own as Zakat. Allah says:
خُذْ مِنْ أَمْوَالِهِمْ صَدَقَةً تُطَهِّرُهُمْ وَتُزَكِّيهِم بِهَا وَصَلِّ عَلَيْهِمْ إِنَّ صَلَاتَكَ سَكَنٌ لَّهُمْ وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ
“Take Sadaqah (alms) from their wealth to purify them and sanctify them with it, and invoke Allah for them. Verily! Your invocations are a source of security for them, and Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower.” (Surah At-Tawbah 9:103)
The basic purpose of Zakat is to do Charity and help the poor grow and establish a balance in society. It helps the poor to get basic needs which they could not fulfil due to financial problems. According to religion Islam, Zakat purifies your wealth and Allah gives you the rewards in the hereafter. When it comes to paying Zakat, different misconceptions are prevalent among Muslims. Zakat cannot be given to just anybody, Islam has defined the terms and conditions of giving Zakat.
There are eight categories of people who are eligible to receive zakat:
- The poor (Al-Fuqara), meaning low-income or indigent: Fuqara is the people who live below the poverty line and don’t have enough means to live a normal life like others. They deserve your zakat to meet the daily necessities of their lives.
- The needy (Al-Masakin), meaning someone who is in difficulty: Masakin is extremely poor and needy people. These people don’t have any possessions or income. Your zakat money can help them in improving their living condition.
- Zakat collectors: Zakat can be given to the people who are authorized to collect and distribute it among the needy and poor. It includes trustworthy institutions and NGOs who are working to help underprivileged Muslim communities.
- Who converted to Islam: Those who are newly converted to Islam are eligible to receive zakat (if they are needy). For example, if someone has converted and is detached from their family and friends, you can give your zakat to them so that they can start their new journey.
- Those in bondage (slaves and captives): Slavery is prohibited in many parts of the world but there are still some places where people are trafficked and kept as slaves. Your zakat money can help slaves in freeing themselves and improve their living standards.
- Debtors: Zakat can be given to pay off the debts of someone who cannot repay on his own. However, one must make sure that the money borrowed by a debtor is not used for any un-Islamic or wrong purpose.
- In the path of Allah: Those who are striving in the path of Allah are entitled to receive your zakat. These are the people who are fighting for Allah’s cause far away from their homes. Your zakat can help them have a better living.
- Wayfarer (Travelers): Zakat can be given to a traveller who is left alone in a foreign land and needs money to get back to his destination or to fulfil his objective of travelling. There is a condition that the person should be travelling for a lawful purpose otherwise he is not entitled to receive zakat. Refugees are also wayfarers and can be given zakat money as they leave their countries because of violence and oppression in search of a safe and better place.
وَآتِ ذَا الْقُرْبَىٰ حَقَّهُ وَالْمِسْكِينَ وَابْنَ السَّبِيلِ وَلَا تُبَذِّرْ تَبْذِيرًا
“And give the relatives his right, and the needy, and the wayfarer, and (do) not spend wastefully.” (Surah Al-Isra 17:26)
Zakat is the fundamental pillar of Islam. To remove economic imbalance from society, Islam imposes Zakat on the person who is affluent and capable of giving Zakat. Our zakat can be in the shape of food, clothing or money with which they can buy whatever they want. Zakat is payable only on those assets that are acquired to create or generate wealth. Allah says:
وَمَا أُمِرُوا إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّينَ حُنَفَاءَ وَيُقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَيُؤْتُوا الزَّكَاةَ وَذَٰلِكَ دِينُ الْقَيِّمَةِ
“And not they were commanded except to worship Allah (being) sincere to Him (in) the religion, upright, and to establish the prayer, and to give the zakah And that (is the) religion the correct.” (Surah Al-Bayyinah 98:5)
The second option is that we can provide them with something substantial that can earn them in the future. For example, if someone has a certain skill set, you can give him a tool with which he can start a small business and serve his family. Allah says:
Those who deserve Zakah most
The payer of Zakah needs to investigate to see who is most deserving of Zakah and who are in dire need of it. The more characteristics of eligibility one find in an individual, the more deserving he is of Zakah, e.g. a poor relative or a poor student of knowledge and so on, in this manner.
Here are some basic facts about Zakat which every Muslim should know:
- Zakat means to will to sacrifice for the order of Allah
- Zakat means that he or she loves the order of Allah
- Zakat is a form of charity and any charitable deed
- Zakat is a distinctive quality of the true believers
- Zakat is a precondition to obtaining Allah’s help
- Zakat create a chance to enjoy a better lifestyle
- Zakat helps the society who are less fortunate
- Zakat is a sign of brotherhood in religion
- Zakat brings to the circulation of money
- Zakat develops a sense of sacrificing
- Zakat teaches the message of sacrifice
- Zakat is paid to the most deserving people
- Zakat should be paid to all eligible relatives
- Zakat is a distinctive quality of the believers
- Zakat is an obligation and reward from Allah
- Zakat means by which to attain Allah’s mercy
- Zakat cleans one’s character from being a miser
- Zakat can be purifying the wrongly earned wealth
- Zakat show it in deeds of charity to our fellowmen
- Zakat makes one reach the rank of the perfect believer
While zakat is not the only form of charity in Islam, it is so important that it was made the Third Pillar. Through zakat, the prosperous can uplift the poor, help those who are troubled and comfort those who are in hardship. The law of zakat establishes the rights of the poor to support and help and releases those who are held captive as slaves or as debtors. Zakat has the power to change the world. But it starts with you paying it. Allah says:
يَسْأَلُونَكَ مَاذَا يُنفِقُونَ قُلْ مَا أَنفَقْتُم مِّنْ خَيْرٍ فَلِلْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالْأَقْرَبِينَ وَالْيَتَامَىٰ وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ وَمَا تَفْعَلُوا مِنْ خَيْرٍ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ بِهِ عَلِيمٌ
“They ask you as to what they should spend. Say: Whatever wealth you spend, it is for the parents and the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer, and whatever good you do, Allah surely knows it.” (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:215)
The main objective of paying Zakat is to help society by giving something from your wealth. In return, the Muslims get tremendous rewards not only in this world but also in the hereafter. Islam guides us to make this world a better place by helping others in need and that’s why it emphasizes charity. May Almighty Allah guide us to help the needy and poor people for the sake of His pleasure. Ameen!