Zakāt

Charity towards man, in the widest sense of the word, is the cornerstone of Islamic society and a constant theme in Quranic teachings. There are two kinds of charities in Islam: the obligatory and the voluntary. The obligatory charity is called Zakāt, while the voluntary charity is called Sadaqah.

Zakāt comes from the Arabic language and means that a certain thing has become available in abundance. When this is used in relation to Allah, it would mean that God has caused someone to grow and develop in a perfect manner. Another meaning is that God has caused him to be purified. ‘AI-Zakāt’ also means a thing of the highest quality; or perfect obedience to Allah. These alms are called ‘Zakāt’ because the wealth and riches from which this portion has been taken becomes blessed and is bound to increase and certainly be protected from loss.

Charity towards man, in the widest sense of the word, is the cornerstone of Islamic society and a constant theme in Quranic teachings. There are two kinds of charities in Islam: the obligatory and the voluntary. The obligatory charity is called Zakāt, while the voluntary charity is called Sadaqah. Zakāt comes from the Arabic language and means that a certain thing has become available in abundance. When this is used in relation to Allah, it would mean that God has caused someone to grow and develop in a perfect manner. Another meaning is that God has caused him to be purified. ‘AI-Zakāt’ also means a thing of the highest quality; or perfect obedience to Allah. These alms are called ‘Zakāt’ because the wealth and riches from which this portion has been taken becomes blessed and is bound to increase and certainly be protected from loss.

Therefore, Zakāt, is understood to be the means of increasing, cleansing and purifying; of growth and of blessings and of ensuring protection from poverty and all sorts of embarrassments. It is this very cleansing and purifying of one’s possessions and in turn one’s soul which makes one flourish and prosper and increases submission and obedience to Allah. Thus, Zakāt not only ensures material welfare but also encourages personal growth.

The concept of Zakāt was not totally new to Islam; similar alms giving had been enjoined upon the Israelites and the Christians as well. In Islam, Zakāt takes the form of a prescribed contribution based on a person’s wealth and income. According to the law of Islam, one has to pay 2.5% of one’s cash money, capital, stock and tradeable assets, including jewellery in gold and silver of which one was in possession for one full year, provided that one had more than the assessable limit. This means, no Zakāt is to be paid on land, houses for a personal residence, and other goods in daily use, but rather only on one’s additional savings and assets.

Zakāt is given to help the poor and the needy, as has been commanded by the Holy Quran and explained and put into practice by the Holy Prophet (saw) himself. The proceeds of Zakāt are supposed to be devoted towards:

  • relieving poverty and distress
  • helping those in debt
  • providing comfort and convenience for travellers
  • providing stipends for scholarships
  • providing ransom for prisoners of war
  • propagation of Islam
  • meeting the expenses for the collection of Zakāt
  • other things beneficial for the society

Zakāt, therefore, is a duty enjoined by Allah in the interest of society as a whole. While on one hand, these charitable contributions provide the needs of society, on the other hand, the act of giving in the name of Allah purifies the heart of the contributor from selfishness and greed. As Allah states in the Holy Qur’an: 

‘…and observe Prayer, and pay the Zakāt, and lend to Allah a goodly Loan. And whatever good you send on before you for your souls, you will find it with Allah. It will be better and greater in reward…’ (73:21)

References:

https://www.alislam.org/articles/zakat/