What is Zakat (Obligatory Charity)?
Zakat is an obligatory act ordained by Allah (The Glorified and Exalted) to be performed by every adult and able bodied Muslim. It is an important pillar among the five pillars of Islam. Zakat is a part of the wealth and property that Muslims must pay annually, to help the poor of their community. One of the main purposes of Zakat is to keep those who are wealthy clean, monetarily, from sin. It is a form of Sadaqah (charity) which is obligatory on Muslims.
What is the meaning of Zakat?
Zakat literally means “to be clear, to grow, to increase.” It comes from the root letters za, kaf, ya, which has several meanings: to be clean [Al-Quran Chapter 24: Verse 21, Chapter 23: Verse 4], to pay the obligatory charity [Al-Quran 2:43], to be pure, innocent [Al-Quran 19:19, 18:74], to be better in purity [Al-Quran 18:81, 19:13], and to praise oneself, to justify [Al-Quran 53:32]. It has been used in the Quran to mean all of these things. It can also be considered a form of sadaqah (charity), given to the poor.
- Levied on specific assets only, identified by Shariah (Islamic Law) as assets having the potential for growth.
- Levied at the rate of 2.5% each year (calculated according to the lunar calendar*) on the market value of the Zakat-able assets after deducting therefrom specified liabilities.
- The compulsory transfer of ownership of a portion of the property of the giver, calculated at the rate of 2.5% as aforesaid, to a poor and needy Muslim who qualifies to receive Zakat according to the Shariah.
- An Ibada’h (worship) and not a tax, Obligatory on every Muslim who owns Nisab viz. 613.35 grams of silver, or 87.49 grams of gold or who owns one or more assets liable to Zakat as set out below, equal in value to 613.35 grams of silver or 87.49 grams of gold. . (See Sections 12.1 and 12.2 for more on Nisab).
Why should I pay Zakat?
Allah (The Glorified and the Exalted- Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) commands in the Quran, “Take alms out of their property, you would cleanse them and purify them thereby, and pray for them; surely your prayer is a relief to them; and Allah is Hearing, Knowing.” [Al-Quran 9:103]Narrated Ibn ‘Umar: Allah’s Apostle said: Islam is based on (the following) five (principles): To testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and Muhammad is Allah’s Apostle; to offer the (compulsory congregational) prayers dutifully and perfectly; to pay Zakat (i.e. alms); to perform Hajj. (i.e. Pilgrimage to Mecca), and to observe fast during the month of Ramadan. (Al-Bukhari, Vol.1, Book 2, No.7).
What if I don’t pay zakat?
Allah (The Glorified and the Exalted) has strongly warned those who are negligent in the fulfillment of these duties. Thus He said, “Those who hoard up treasures of gold and silver and spend them not in the way of Allah; give them the news of a painful punishment, on the Day when that (wealth) will be heated in the Fire of Hell and with it will be branded their forehead, their sides, and their backs, (and it will be said to them:) ‘This is the treasure which you hoarded for yourselves. Now taste of what you used to hoard.‘” [Al-Quran 9:34-35] And also: “And let not those who hoard up that which Allah hath bestowed upon them of His bounty think that it is better for them. Rather, it is worse for them. That which they hoard will be their collar on the Day of Resurrection. Allah’s is the heritage of the heavens and the earth, and Allah is Informed of what you do.” [Al-Quran 3:180]
Further, At-Tabarani relates, on the authority of ‘Ali, that the Prophet (PBUH) said: “Allah has enjoined upon rich Muslims a due to be taken from their properties corresponding to the needs of the poor among them. The poor will never suffer from starvation or lack of clothes unless the rich neglect their due. If they do, Allah will surely hold them accountable and punish them severely.” (related by At-Tabarani in Al-‘Aswat and as-Saghir). Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “Whoever is made wealthy by Allah and does not pay the Zakat of his wealth, then on the Day of Resurrection his wealth will be made like a bald-headed poisonous male snake with two black spots over the eyes. The snake will encircle his neck and bite his cheeks and say, ‘I am your wealth, I am your treasure.‘” (Bukhari, Vol. 2, Book 24, No.486)