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The Concept of Zakat in Islam

Zakat is an important component of Islam, which carries huge weight in the virtual practices of a Muslim. It plays a vital role in the well-being of the less privileged. It has been pronounced to be the fourth pillar of Islam and its significance before Allah can be determined from the fact that its order has been placed everywhere in the Quran where the order of offering prayer has been passed. Allah says:

الَّذِينَ إِن مَّكَّنَّاهُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ أَقَامُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتَوُا الزَّكَاةَ وَأَمَرُوا بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَنَهَوْا عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَلِلَّهِ عَاقِبَةُ الْأُمُورِ

“Those who, if We establish them in the land they establish the prayer y give and the zakah and they enjoin the right and forbid from the wrong. And for Allah (is the) end (of) the matters.” (Surah Al-Hajj 22:41)

Zakat is a form of alms-giving treated in Islam as a religious obligation or tax, which, by Quranic ranking, is next after prayer in importance. Zakat purifies the soul of the giver from selfishness and greed and cleans his wealth from a portion specified for the unfortunate. Allah says:

إِنَّمَا وَلِيُّكُمُ اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا الَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ الصَّلَاةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُمْ رَاكِعُونَ

“Only your ally (is) Allah and His Messenger, and those who believe, and those who establish the prayer and give zakah and they (are) those who bow down.” (Surah Al-Ma`idah 5:55)

Zakat is extremely important. concept, purpose, and importance of zakat in Islam. According to Islamic principles, all things belong to Allah and that wealth is held by human beings in trust. Our possessions are purified when we give a proportion for those in need and this act of giving balances and encourages new growth in our economy. Allah says:

وَمَا آتَیْتُم مِّن زَكَاةٍ تُرِیدُونَ وَجْھَ اللَّـھِ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ ھُمُ الْمُضْعِفُون

“That which you give in Zakat, seeking Allah’s countenance, has increase manifold.” (Surah Ar-Rum 30:39 )

Zakat is a highly practical and beneficial Islamic action that needs to be taken very seriously as it only creates balance in society but also results in an overall improvement in the life of the one executing it. The basic purpose of Zakat is to maintain economic balance in society so that the circulation of wealth continues from rich to poor and never stays in one hand. Allah says:

خُذْ مِنْ أَمْوَالِهِمْ صَدَقَةً تُطَهِّرُهُمْ وَتُزَكِّيهِم بِهَا وَصَلِّ عَلَيْهِمْ إِنَّ صَلَاتَكَ سَكَنٌ لَّهُمْ وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ

“Take from their wealth a charity, purifying them and cause them to increase by it, and bless [upon] them. Indeed, your blessings (are a) reassurance for them. And Allah (is) All-Hearer, All-Knower.” (Surah At-Tawbah 9:103)

Zakat is an act that helps us to free from excessive desire and greed, learn self-discipline and honesty. Our life on earth is only decided by Allah and death can come at any moment and we cannot ask for more time. In this way, we can overcome poverty and other social evils from our society.

The impact of Zakat on the social life of Muslim society:

  1. Zakat means to will to sacrifice for the order of Allah 
  2. Zakat means that he or she loves the order of Allah
  3. Zakat is a form of charity and any charitable deed
  4. Zakat is a distinctive quality of the true believers
  5. Zakat is a precondition to obtaining Allah’s help
  6. Zakat create a chance to enjoy a better lifestyle
  7. Zakat helps the society who are less fortunate
  8. Zakat is an obligation and reward from Allah
  9. Zakat is a sign of brotherhood in religion
  10. Zakat brings to the circulation of money
  11. Zakat develops a sense of sacrificing
  12. Zakat is paid to the most deserving people
  13. Zakat should be paid to all eligible relatives
  14. Zakat is a distinctive quality of the believers
  15. Zakat means by which to attain Allah’s mercy
  16. Zakat cleans one’s character from being a miser
  17. Zakat show it in deeds of charity to our fellowmen
  18. Zakat makes one know the limits and rulings of Allah
  19. Zakat is a distinctive feature of the faithful community
  20. Zakat makes one reach the rank of the perfect believer
  21. Zakat is one of the causes of the downfall of goodness
  22. Zakat make a circle and circulates in the whole economy

The Holy Quran has mentioned Zakat more than eighty times. It is a duty from Allah similar to the duty of ‘Salat’. Islam is a religion of social practice as zakat is one of the main pillars of Islam and without this, no society can survive. The concept of Zakat teaches the affluent that they ought to look after the needy around them. Allah says:

الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُم بِالْآخِرَةِ هُمْ كَافِرُونَ

“Those who (do) not give the zakah, and they in the Hereafter they (are) disbelievers.” (Surah Fussilat 41:7)

Islam is a complete code of life and provides a guideline on all the aspects of life and the concept of Zakat is one of its economic aspects. The word Zakat means ‘purification’ and ‘growth’. The benefits of Zakat are manifold at a social and economic level. The system of Zakat in Islam targets the root causes of poverty. Allah says:

فَأَقِیمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِاللَّـھِ

“So establish Salat and give Zakat, and hold fast to Allah.” (Surah Al-Haj 22:78)

Zakat helps to shape the human character of the rich people as it saves them from greediness and selfishness and it establishes the concept of brotherhood and unity. Zakat is an amount of money that Muslims spare annually for the poor and needy. It is a beautiful concept of Islam that contributes to the economies of Muslim States. It causes prevailing social balance and prevents social disparity. Allah says:

وَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ

“And establish the prayer and give zakah and obey the Messenger, so that you may receive mercy.” (Surah An-Nur 24:56)

Zakat is the third pillar of Islam which is compulsory on every financially stable Muslim who is wealthy enough to afford it. The basic objective of paying Zakat is to create balance in society and never let the poor and needy suffer or die. Allah says:

الَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ الصَّلَاةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُم بِالْآخِرَةِ هُمْ يُوقِنُونَ

“Those who establish the prayer and give zakah and they, in the Hereafter, [they] believe firmly.” (Surah Luqman 31:4)

The Zakat is compulsory when we have a specific amount of Gold, Silver or other properties that can be weighed and calculated. In the Quran, it has been emphasized too many times to offer prayers and to pay zakat.

Following are the verses on Zakat from the Holy Quran:

  • “Who is active in paying Zakat.” (Surah Al-Muminun 23:4)
  • “If the debtor is in a difficulty, grant him time Till it is easy for him to repay. But if ye remit it by way of charity, that is best for you if ye only knew.” (Surah Al-Baqara, 280)
  • “And be steadfast in prayer and regular in charity: And whatever good ye send forth for your souls before you, ye shall find it with Allah”. (Quran, 2:110)
  • “Who is it that would loan Allah a goodly loan so He will multiply it for him and he will have a noble reward?” (Quran 57:11)
  • “And establish prayer and give zakah and bow with those who bow [in worship and obedience].” (Quran, 2: 43)
  • “Take Sadaqah (alms) from their wealth to purify them and sanctify them with it…” (Quran 7:103)

The implementation of the Zakat system in its essence can solve these problems because the distribution of Zakat to the deserving establishes social solidarity and the gap between social classes decreases. The proper Zakat system decreases the probability of a recession in the economy. Allah says:

الَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ الصَّلَاةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُم بِالْآخِرَةِ هُمْ يُوقِنُونَ

“Those who establish the prayer and give zakah and they in the Hereafter [they] believe with certainty.” (Surah An-Naml 27:3)

Zakat purifies our wealth as it goes into the hands of rich to poor, stabilizes the economic condition of the society and ensures that each person is benefitted from the wealth. All eligible individuals are required to pay an annual percentage of 2.5% of the wealth and property they own as Zakat. Allah says:

مَّن ذَا الَّذِي يُقْرِضُ اللَّهَ قَرْضًا حَسَنًا فَيُضَاعِفَهُ لَهُ أَضْعَافًا كَثِيرَةً وَاللَّهُ يَقْبِضُ وَيَبْسُطُ وَإِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ 

”Sadaqah is a guaranteed investment. Who is he that will loan to Allah a beautiful loan which Allah will double unto his credit and multiply it many times?’’ (Surah Al-Baqara, 2:245)

Zakat is a very jurisprudential concept of Islam and its roots are very deep in the human psyche. It discourages greed in human nature and creates love and sympathy for others. The uncountable benefits of Zakat can’t be determined until experiencing it and following this major principle of Islam.  They can play miracles if properly institutionalized by the state. Allah says:

وَمَا آتَيْتُم مِّن رِّبًا لِّيَرْبُوَ فِي أَمْوَالِ النَّاسِ فَلَا يَرْبُو عِندَ اللَّهِ وَمَا آتَيْتُم مِّن زَكَاةٍ تُرِيدُونَ وَجْهَ اللَّهِ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُضْعِفُونَ

“And what you give for usury to increase in (the) wealth (of) people, not (will) increase with Allah. But what you give of zakah desiring (the) Countenance (of) Allah, then those [they] (will) get manifold.” (Surah Ar-Rum 30:39)

Wealth is usually earned individually by hard work and intense dedication. So when we give or share even a small portion of this, it reflects our strong faith in Allah. It makes us realize what is given by the Grace of Allah and what we spend. Allah is pleased with those who spend happily in His cause. Zakat is obligatory and stands at a specific rate of 2.5% on all our properties that can be weighed. Allah says:

وَاكْتُبْ لَنَا فِي هَٰذِهِ الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِي الْآخِرَةِ إِنَّا هُدْنَا إِلَيْكَ قَالَ عَذَابِي أُصِيبُ بِهِ مَنْ أَشَاءُ وَرَحْمَتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ فَسَأَكْتُبُهَا لِلَّذِينَ يَتَّقُونَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَالَّذِينَ هُم بِآيَاتِنَا يُؤْمِنُونَ

“My Mercy extends to all things. That (Mercy) I shall ordain for those who have God-consciousness and give their Zakat and those who believe in Our Signs.” (Surah Al-Araf 7:156)

Zakat moulds individuals into responsible and caring persons. It inculcates the spirit of goodwill, cooperation, and brotherhood in upholding social solidarity in society. It is very much clear and proved that the System of Zakat plays an effective and successful role in developing the social life and moral values of Muslim society. Allah says:

فَإِن تَابُوا وَأَقَامُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتَوُا الزَّكَاةَ فَإِخْوَانُكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ وَنُفَصِّلُ الْآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ

“But if they repent and establish the prayer and give the zakah, then (they are) your brothers in [the] religion. And We explain in detail the Verses for a people (who) know.” (Surah At-Taubah 9:11)

Hence every opportunity should be used to do righteous deeds and we should give to charity from the abundance that Allah has granted us. It must be clear that Zakat is a portion of a charity system of Islam, otherwise, there is a good range of ‘Sadaqat’ i,e those alms which are not compulsory. May Allah Almighty gives us wisdom and understanding to realize the importance of these principles and follow them in their true spirit.