Zakah - The inspiration behind kindness, compassion and care
ALLAH says in the Holy Quran: "And whatsoever you spend of anything (in the cause of Allah), He will replace it. He is the best of those who grant sustenance". He further exhorts: Establish worship, pay the poor due (Zakah), and bow your heads with those who bow (in worship). Little wonder then that Zakah has been counted as one of the five pillars of Islam.
In its proper sense, Zakah is a practical manifestation of the brotherhood among the faithful and establishes mutual solidarity among them by the firm bond it creates between rich and poor, in a way that strengthens the individual's sense of relation to the community and the community's awareness of the value of the individual, and that it is strengthened by his strength and weakened by his weakness.
Zakah purifies the human personality by removing selfishness, greed and materialism. It creates compassion, care, love and kindness among Muslims and it makes a person more thankful to Allah. Zakah helps the needy and provides funds for good causes and for community projects.
Zakah is the wealth given in the way of Allah to obtain purity of heart and to obtain the blessings of Allah. The root of the word Zakah in Arabic has two meanings: purity and growth. It aims to ensure full social security in an Islamic society.
Zakah is mandatory on every Muslim, whose finances (not just cash) are above a certain specified minimum, and has to pay 2.5 per cent of his cash balances annually to a deserving fellow being.
The principle of this obligation is based on the premise that everything belongs to Allah; and we human beings are only trustees even of our own wealth.
Allah wants us to help the needy. In a bid to cleanse our wealth, the Muslims are taught to set aside a portion of it for those in need as this spirit of sharing with the less fortunate balances and encourages new growth. Thus, paying Zakah manifests an unbreakable bond amongst members of the community.
While the 'haves' are purified from the twin evils of greed and selfishness Zakah also cleanses the hearts of 'havenots' from feelings of jealousy and animosity.
Although Zakah can be distributed any time of the year, Muslims all over the world prefer the Holy Month of Ramadan for its distribution. Thus we see Ramadan is the time where Muslims look forward to sharing their possessions with their less fortunate fellow beings.
The Holy Quran is replete with verses on instructing people to pay Zakah equating it with purifying and cleansing oneself. A verse in Chapter Taubah, verse No. 103 reads: "Take from their wealth charity (alms) to purify them and cleanse them thereby, and pray for them." Another verse states: "Never shall you attain piety unless you spend (in the way of Allah) out of what you love (Al Imran: 92)."
It is reported that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "Until four questions have been asked to, no one will be allowed to move on the Day of Resurrection. Two of these questions are: How did you earn and how did you spend?" The Holy Quran guarantees the Zakah giver prosperity as the holy book states, "those who establish regular prayers and pay regular poor due (Zakah) are the ones who will prosper (31:45)."
Zakah can only be given to those who qualify to receive it. The Holy Quran has identified eight groups of people who are entitled to receive Zakah. They include fuqara (the hardcore poor), masakin (the needy), mu'allafatu 'lqulub (converts), Pi'rriquab (slaves), algharimin (overburdened debtors), fzsabilillah (those striving in the way of Allah), Ibnu'ssabil (travellers) and amilinaalayha (those who administer Zakah). Zakah is to be paid on cash as well as other wealth comprising several subcategories, namely, on savings, business, crops, livestock, buried treasures, etc.
Although it is permissible to take out Zakah and distribute it on an individual basis it is highly recommended to pay one's share of Zakah to Baitulmaal, literally a House of Wealth, from where it will be distributed systemically and to the right beneficiaries.
Zakah is compulsory for every Muslim, male or female, who owns more than the threshold (limit) of Zakah, which is equivalent to 85 grams of gold in excess of what he needs for his own and his dependent's living.
Writes Adil Salahi, a prominent Saudi-based scholar: "Zakah is imposed on every type of property that is liable to growth. Thus, it is not imposed on a person's own accommodation, or the tools of his trade, even though these maybe costly". He adds, "Zakah is payable on capital and profit, every year, at the rate of 2.5 per cent for most types of money and property, although the rates may be different in some situations." Islamic scholars guide Muslims to calculate their Zakah properly so that it is given out in correct proportion.
Thus Zakah ensures full social security in a society, giving is a demonstration of love and caring. It may be interesting to note that Zakah is the minimum and voluntary charity is wide open.
Sadaqah is another form which refers to voluntary charitable donations. Simply put, it is a financial help offered to a needy or a poor person without any obligation on the part of the giver or any condition on the receiver. Sadaqah need not be confined to financial help and refers to any good work. Offering just a glass of water is considered charity in Islam.
A tradition says that a good word is a charity and removing a harmful thing from the road is also a charity. Sadaqah is an act that reflects feelings of love and compassion on the part of the giver, who is considered "rich" in the sense that he has more than he needs. Thus, it has a dual effect of purification: It purges the beneficiaries of any feelings of grudge and hatred towards rich people and purges the rich givers of feelings of greed, self-aggrandisement and miserliness.
Charity has a tremendous positive impact on society. A person under poverty tends to think that Allah has deserted him and that the society shows no concern for him or his needs and thus shows no compassion. This enhances his sense of frustration and weakens his allegiance to his society resulting in a string of negative habits which will lead to destruction. Zakah or Sadaqah thus come as a godsend to him and he experiences a genuine sense of happiness and contentment. Thus through Zakah a social security is established and maintained in a society, ensuring that a poor person who is unable to work, or does not have sufficient income, has enough to meet his ends.