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Introduction to Zakah

What does Zakah literally mean?
In Arabic it is known as Zakah which literally means “purification”, because Zakah is considered to purify one’s heart of greed.  It is not merely a deduction of a certain percentage from one's property, but an abundant enrichment and spiritual investment.[2] Love of wealth is natural and it takes firm belief in God for a person to part with some of his wealth.[1]

Third pillar of Islam
Charity is not just recommended by Islam, it is required of every financially stable Muslim. Giving charity to those who deserve it is part of Muslim character and one of the Five Pillars of Islamic practice.

What can be given as Zakah?
Zakah must be paid on different categories of property — gold, silver, money; livestock; agricultural produce; and business commodities — and is payable each year after one year’s possession.[1]

How much we need to pay for Zakah?
It requires an annual contribution of 2.5 percent of an individual’s wealth and assets.[1]

[1] Islam Religion
[2] Islam101

The Importance of Zakah

Charity is not just recommended by Islam, it is required of every financially stable Muslim. Giving charity to those who deserve it is part of Muslim character and one of the Five Pillars of Islamic practice.

Allah said in Quran:
"Take alms from their wealth in order to purify them and sanctify them with it." [Quran 9:103]

[Zakah] is one of the foundations of Islam. If the foundation is weak, then this weak foundation will have ramifications for other aspects of our lives [2].

Bukhari relates on the authority of Abu Hurayra that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "Whoever is given wealth by God and does not pay the Zakah due thereupon shall find that on the Day of Arising it is made to appear to him as a hairless snake with two black specks, which chains him, and then seizes him by his jaw and says, 'I am your wealth! I am your treasure!'" Then he recited the verse, 'Let not those who are miserly with what God has given them of His bounty think that this is good for them. Rather, it is bad for them. That which they withhold shall be hung around their necks on the Day of Arising.' [Quran 3:180]

Zakah is viewed as “compulsory charity”; it is an obligation for those who have received their wealth from God to respond to those members of the community in need.  Devoid of sentiments of universal love, some people know only to hoard wealth and to add to it by lending it out on interest.  Islam’s teachings are the very antithesis of this attitude.  Islam encourages the sharing of wealth with others and helps people to stand on their own and become productive members of the society. [1]

Like prayer, which is both an individual and communal responsibility, Zakah expresses a Muslim’s worship of and thanksgiving to God by supporting those in need.  In Islam, the true owner of things is not man, but God.  Acquisition of wealth for its own sake, or so that it may increase a man’s worth, is condemned.  Mere acquisition of wealth counts for nothing in the sight of God.  It does not give man any merit in this life or in the hereafter.  Islam teaches that people should acquire wealth with the intention of spending it on their own needs and the needs of others. [1]



[1] Islam Religion

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The Wisdom Behind Zakah

There is a great wisdom behind Zakah for all the parties that are involved in this process, the one who give the Zakah, the one who receive it, and the who society.

   1. Zakah purifies the property of the people with means and clears it from the shares which do not belong to it anymore, the shares which must be distributed among the due beneficiaries. When Zakah is payable, a certain percentage of the wealth should be distributed immediately in the right manner, because the owner no longer has moral or legal possession of that percentage. If he fails to do so, he is obviously retaining something which does not belong to him. This is corruption and plain usurpation from every point of view, moral and spiritual, legal and commercial. It means that the unlawfully retained percentage makes the whole lot impure and endangered. But, on the other hand, if the poor’s dividends are assorted and distributed among due beneficiaries, the remaining portions of the lot will be pure and decent. Pure capital and decent possessions are the first requisites of permanent prosperity and honest transactions.

   2. Zakah does not only purify the property of the contributor but also purifies his heart from selfishness and greed for wealth. In return, it purifies the heart of the recipient from envy and jealousy, from hatred and uneasiness; and it fosters in his heart, instead, good will and warm wishes for the contributor. As a result, the society at large; will purify and free itself from class warfare and suspicion, from ill feelings and distrust, from corruption and disintegration, and from all such evils.

   3. Zakah mitigates to a minimum the sufferings of the needy and poor members of society. It is a most comforting consolation to the less fortunate people, yet it is a loud appeal to everybody to roll up his sleeves and improve his lot. To the needy it means that it is by nature an emergency measure and that he should not depend on it completely but must do something for himself as well as for others. To the contributor it is a warm invitation to earn more so that he can benefit more. To all parties concerned, it is, directly as well as indirectly, an open treasure for spiritual investment that compensates abundantly.

   4. Zakah is a healthy form of internal security against selfish greed and social dissension, against the intrusion and penetration of subversive ideologies. It is an effective instrument in cultivating the spirit of social responsibility on the part of the contributor, and the feeling of security and belonging on the part of the recipient.

   5. Zakah is a vivid manifestation of the spiritual and humanitarian spirit of responsive interactions between the individual and society. It is a sound illustration of the fact that though Islam does not hinder private enterprise or condemn private possessions, yet it does not tolerate selfish and greedy Capitalism. It is an expression of the general philosophy of Islam which adopts a moderate and middle but positive and effective course between the Individual and the Society, between the Citizen and the State, between Capitalism and Socialism, between Materialism and Spirituality.


Source with slight modifications

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The Due Recipients of Zakah

The Holy Qur’an classifies the due recipients of Zakah as follows:

The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to free the captives and the debtors, and for the cause of Allah, and (for) the wayfarer; a duty imposed by Allah. Allah is Knower, Wise. [Quran 9:60]

1. The poor Muslims, to relieve their distress;
2. The needy Muslims to supply them with means whereby they can earn their livelihood;
3. The new Muslim converts, to enable them to settle down and meet their unusual needs;
4. The Muslim prisoners of war, to liberate them by payment of ransom money;
5. The Muslims in debt; to free them from their liabilities incurred under pressing necessities;
6. The Muslim employees appointed by a Muslim governor for the collection of Zakah to pay their wages;
7. The Muslims in service of the cause of God by means of research or study or propagation of Islam. This share is to cover their expenses and help them to continue their services;
8. The Muslim wayfarers who are stranded in a foreign land and in need of help.

The due recipient of Zakah is one who has nothing to meet his necessities or has little (less than $15.00) at the end of the year. If one has approximately $15.00 or more he must be a contributor, not a recipient of Zakah. If a recipient receives his share and finds that it is sufficient for his immediate needs with a balance of about $15.00, he should not accept any more. He should return whatever he may receive to other eligible recipients.

Zakah may be distributed directly to individuals of one or more of the said classes, or to welfare organizations which look after them. It may also be distributed in the form of scholarships to bright and promising MUSLIM students and researchers, or in the form of grants to welfare organizations and public service institutions which patronize such causes.

A disabled or invalid poor Muslim is preferable to one who is able and capable of making some earnings. The contributor should use his best judgment in finding the most deserving beneficiaries.

The taxes we pay to governments nowadays do not substitute for this religious duty; it must be earmarked as a special obligation and paid separately, aside from the government taxes. However, the Muslims of North America may take advantage of the tax laws that allow certain deductions for charity. They should pay their Zakah to the deserving beneficiaries and then claim the sums paid as proper legal deductions.

The contributor should not seek pride or fame by carrying out this duty. He should make it as covert as possible so that he may not be victimized by hypocrisy or passion for vanity which nullifies all good deeds. However, if the disclosure of his name or the announcement of his contribution is likely to encourage others and stimulate them, it is all right to do so.

Zakah is also obligatory on cattle and agricultural products. The shares payable in this regard vary from case to case, and need a detailed discussion. So the reader may be advised to consult the elaborate sources of Law and religion. [1]


Can we give Zakah to non-Muslims?

It is not permissible to give zakaah on one’s wealth or crops, or Zakaat al-Fitr, to kaafirs, even if they are poor, or wayfarers, or debtors, and if one who gives zakaah to them, that is not counted as zakaah.

It is permissible to give regular charity – not obligatory charity (i.e., sadaqah) to poor kaafirs, and to exhange gifts and with them and treat them well to soften their hearts towards Islam, so long as they have not carried out any hostile actions against the Muslims, which would disallow that. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Allaah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion nor drove you out of your homes. Verily, Allaah loves those who deal with equity” [Quran 60:8]
From Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, vol. 10, p. 30

There is one category of zakaah that may be given to the kuffaar, which is “to attract the hearts of those who have been inclined (towards Islam)” [Quran 9:60]. It is permissible to give zakaah funds to those kaafirs who hold positions of authority and influence among their people, if there is the hope that by giving them something they may become Muslims, then those who are under them may become Muslim too. And Allaah is the Source of strength. [2]



[1] Islam101
[2] Islam QA

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Why We Need The Zakah

The whole concept of wealth is considered in Islam as a gift from God.  God, who provided it to the person, made a portion of it for the poor, so the poor have a right over one’s wealth.  Zakah reminds Muslims that everything they have belongs to God.  People are given their wealth as a trust from God, and Zakah is intended to free Muslims from the love of money.


Why we need the Zakah

The money paid in Zakah is not something God needs or receives.  He is above any type of dependency.  God, in His boundless mercy, promises rewards for helping those in need with one basic condition that Zakah be paid in the name of God; one should not expect or demand any worldly gains from the beneficiaries nor aim at making one’s names as a philanthropist.  The feelings of a beneficiary should not be hurt by making him feel inferior or reminding him of the assistance.



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