Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam. It has been mentioned, along with daily Prayers (Salaat), over seventy times in the Qur'an. From this we can conclude that after Salaat, Zakat is the most important act in Islam.
وَأَقِيمُواْ ٱلصَّلاَةَ وَآتُواْ ٱلزَّكَاةَ وَٱرْكَعُواْ مَعَ ٱلرَّاكِعِينَ
Establish Salaah, pay Zakat and bow your heads with those who bow in worship [Qur’an 2:43]
Just as Salaat is the most important act of worship which has to be performed bodily, so is Zakat the main act of worship which has to be performed monetarily. Those who fulfill this duty have been promised abundant reward in this world and hereafter. Whoever evades Zakat has been sternly warned in the Qur'an and Hadith of the consequences.
Linguistically, Zakat has two meanings: purification and growth. Technically, it means to purify one's possession of wealth by distributing a prescribed amount to the poor, the indigent, the slaves or captives, and the wayfarer.
There are many major benefits of giving Zakat:
· It reminds Muslims of the fact that whatever wealth they may possess is due to the blessings of Allah and as such it is to be spent according to the His commands.
· Zakat functions as a social security for all. Those who have enough money today pay for what they have. If they need money tomorrow they will get what is necessary to help them live decently.
· Zakat payer pays his dues to Allah as an act of worship, a token of submission and an acknowledgment of gratitude. The receiver of Zakat receives it as a grant from Allah out of His bounty, a favor for which he is thankful to Allah.
· Economically, Zakat is the best check against hoarding. Those who do not invest their wealth but prefer to save or hoard it would see their wealth dwindling year after year at the rate of the payable Zakat. This helps increase production and stimulates supply because it is a redistribution of income that enhances the demand by putting more real purchasing power in the hands of poor.
Zakat is obligatory upon a person if :
· He or she is an adult, sane, free and Muslim.
· He/she must possess wealth in excess of specified minimum (Nisaab) excluding his or her personal needs (clothing, household furniture, utensils, cars etc. are termed articles of personal needs).
· It should be possessed for a complete lunar year.
· It should be of productive nature from which one can derive profit or benefit such as merchandise for business, gold, silver, livestock etc.
The amount of wealth which makes one liable for Zakat is called Nisaab. The payment of Zakaat is compulsory on the excess wealth or effects which is equal to or exceeds the value of Nisaab, and which is possessed for a full Islamic year. If such wealth decreases during the course of the year and increases again to the value of Nisaab before the end of the year, the Zakaat then must be calculated on the full amount that is possessed at the end of the year.
THE PUNISHMENT FOR NOT GIVING ZAKAT:
Allah says in the Qur'an:
"And there are those who hoard gold and silver and do not spend it in the way of Allah, announce to them a most grievous penalty (when) on the Day of Judgment heat will be produced out of that wealth in the fire of Hell. Then with it they will be branded on their forehead and their flanks and backs. (It will be said to them) This is the treasure which you hoarded for yourselves, taste then the treasure that you have been hoarding." [Tawbah 34-35]
Rasoolullah (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam) has said;
- "The nation that does not give Zakaat, Allah will bring about a drought on them (i.e. necessities of life will become scarce)."
- "The person on whom Allah has bestowed wealth, and he does not give Zakaat, on the Day of Qiyaamah, his wealth will be turned into a venomous bald serpent which will wind around his neck and bite his jaws and say: "I am your wealth, I am your treasure." [Bukhari]
- Once Rasoolullah (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam) saw gold bangles on the hands of two women. He enquired if they gave the Zakaat for the bangles. They replied "No." Rasoolullah (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam) then said: 'Do you wish on the Day of Qiyaamah that you be made to dress in bangles of fire?" They replied: "No." He then said: 'Give Zakaat on them." [Tirmizi]
ZAKAT IS NOT A TAX - IT IS AN IBAADAHAllah Ta'ala says in the Qur'aan:
خُذْ مِنْ أَمْوَالِهِمْ صَدَقَةً تُطَهِّرُهُمْ وَتُزَكِّيهِمْ بِهَا
"Take from their wealth Zakat so that you may cleanse them and purify them there-with.' [Tawbah 103]
This Aayat points to the fact that Zakaat is not a governmental tax, but its main purpose is to keep those who are wealthy clean monetarily from sins.
There are two major benefits of giving Zakat:
- It keeps one away from sin and saves the giver from moral ills arising from the love and greed for wealth;
- Through Zakat the poorer class, (those who are not capable of providing for themselves) are being cared for, such as widows, orphans, the disabled, the poor and the destitute, and it is intact a vital part of the elaborate and equitable system of the distribution of wealth established by Allah for mankind.
Even if there are no widows, orphans, poor or needy persons, Zakat is still incumbent upon Muslims. This clearly shows that Zakat is not solely for giving to the destitute and the poor but has been ordained as a monetary devotion. In the same manner that Salaat and Sawm are a physical devotion, Zakat is a monetary Ibaadah. It is a special favour of Allah on this Ummah, and in this manner the wealth which is spent in the way of Allah is made lawful for use by the poor and the needy.