Zakat in Islam is one of the five pillars of the religion that must be followed by all Muslims. It is, therefore, considered a compulsory act for anyone who has the minimum number of possessions required to be legible. The concept of Zakat is that it is supposed to be a method for Muslims to cleanse and purify their wealth. The purpose of poor-due is that by giving it, you are completing one of the obligations Allah has made mandatory upon you. In Surah Taubah, Verse 18, Allah mentions establishing prayer and giving Zakat in the same verse. This shows the immense importance that giving alms has in Islam.
Importance of Zakat: Satisfaction for the giver
Mankind has always been a materialistic species, never more so than in the modern-day world. Nowadays, almost everyone is completely geared towards making money to fulfill ever-increasing desires. However, the wishes rarely come to an end, and thus, man is seldom a happy creature. Therefore, Zakat is essential in society. By giving poor-due, not only does a person help the less fortunate and make their lives more comfortable, but he also feels a sense of satisfaction that cannot be attained by pursuing his impulses. Humans always want more money and goods, but in giving alms, they follow the principle that has been enshrined in every Muslim’s mind via a famous Hadith. The Prophet (PBUH) was quoted in Sahih Bukhari as saying that a Muslim can’t have faith until he wishes for his brethren the same as what he wants for himself.
Purpose of Zakat: Societal improvement
When we look at the Western world today, we see the ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor. The rich keep on piling up wealth, while the poor suffer in silence. Zakat is a form of charity that serves to bring equilibrium to society. Those who have lots of money will hardly be impacted by giving away a portion of their wealth. On the other hand, that slice can provide an opportunity for a large number of people to have a better lifestyle. Via Zakat, the downtrodden members of society are uplifted. This is the main benefit of giving poor-due. In Surah A’raf, Verse 156, Allah describes Zakat as a means to attaining His mercy. Thus, not only is this a means of reducing poverty in society, but it is also a very virtuous act.
From another point of view, giving Zakat can also reduce crime in a society as people often turn to criminal activities out of desperation when they are in need. The downtrodden members of the community may also have resentment towards those who are well-off, which can manifest itself in violent and rebellious acts. Alms can also help to counter these issues.
How to give Zakat
Once a person’s wealth exceeds the minimum account (Nisaab) required for Zakat, and a (Hijri) year passes by, with the person’s wealth staying above the threshold during that period, Zakat becomes mandatory (for he is sahib-e-nisaab). Zakat is not paid on personal belongings like a house or car. However, it is given on gold and silver that a person owns. Zakat is also paid on land, produce, and livestock, amongst other categories. 2.5% is the amount of a person’s wealth that needs to be given in alms. This process is then continued on an annual basis unless the person’s wealth falls below the threshold.
Zakat can be given to several categories of people. Allah defines them in Surah Taubah, Verse 60: For the poor and needy, for the Zakat collectors, for bringing people close to Islam, for freeing slaves, for those in debt, for Jihad and for stranded travelers.
Allah says in Surah Baqarah, Verse 267, that believers should look to spend from the good things in their possession. He warns them that they shouldn’t try and give away the defective items as a charity. Therefore, if a person is giving livestock or produce, he must ensure he gives of the good things he owns.
While giving the Zakat itself, believers must be down to earth and not have any pride, which can diminish the reward for the act. It must be given respectfully, keeping others’ sentiments in mind. If the recipient of Zakat is someone who may feel belittled by accepting poor-due, the fact that it is Zakat being given may be concealed from the receiver.
Benefits of giving Zakat
The first and foremost benefit of giving Zakat is that Muslims fulfill their obligation towards Allah. By doing this, they also avoid a terrible punishment in the hereafter. In a Hadith in Sahih Bukhari, the Prophet (PBUH) described how a wealthy person who didn’t give alms would be punished. He stated that the wealth would become a fearsome snake that would encircle the stingy person’s neck, reminding him of what he had (not) done. Allah, in the Quran, also warns those who hoard possessions and don’t spend in His way by giving them tidings of a painful punishment (Surah Taubah, Verse 34). By avoiding these punishments and fulfilling a pillar of Islam, a believer’s faith in Allah will also increase.
Another benefit of giving Zakat is that it doesn’t diminish your wealth. In fact, it does quite the opposite. Allah says in Surah Rum, Verse 39, that those who give alms sincerely will see an increase in their wealth. A similar sentiment is expressed in Surah Baqarah, Verse 276, regarding those who give in charity.
In a Sahih Hadith in Sunan Ibn Majah, it is narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) proclaimed that rain is withheld from the sky when people hold back from giving alms. In the following statement, he said that rain would stop entirely if it weren’t for animals. Therefore, giving Zakat increases the blessings that Allah sends upon Earth. Without rain and water, living beings would cease to exist.
In the generations gone by, the collection and distribution of Zakat was the responsibility of the state. However, nowadays, there is rarely any focus from Muslim countries towards this matter. Therefore, Muslims need to individually be vigilant about fulfilling this responsibility that is upon them. Believers have to be aware of the importance of giving alms. They must either learn the finer details about how, when, and where to give alms. If that isn’t possible, they must contact those who know and get advice. Zakat is not a voluntary act or even a tax. It holds a much higher status, relating to our Lord, Allah. It has numerous benefits for us, for society as a whole and our standing in the afterlife. Thus, there is no excuse for Muslims not to do their utmost to fulfill this third pillar of Islam.