What is Zakat?
The Importance of Zakat in Islam
So, what is Zakat? Well, Zakat is a specific form of general charity or Sadaqah that is hugely important in Islam not just for the material transference of wealth – but also to teach us how to let go of excess material wealth and not become ‘possessed by our possessions’. Zakat in Islam is the act of an adult Muslim giving wealth away through charitable acts. This practically demonstrates how we, as Muslims, are to rely upon God for our sustenance and daily blessings – as opposed to material accumulation.
As the famous Muslim poet Rumi said, “If you gave [of your wealth] do you think God will be stingy? When you sow seeds, the barn is left empty - but the ground is made rich. If you leave the seeds in the barn all you will have is a decaying feast for the mice and beetles.” This sentiment couldn’t be truer, as the Qur’an tells us to “Spend in charity for your own good. He who remains safe from his own greed will prosper”. [64:16]
An Increase in Wealth
The Prophet Mohammed (ﷺ) is reported to have said, “Charity does not decrease wealth.” [Muslim] Giving charity actually multiplies wealth and benefits both the giver and the given. This is true with all acts of charity, but especially with Zakat donations.
The Qur’an encourages us to give in general charity again and again but God, nevertheless, left Sadaqah as a voluntary act of piety. Zakat, however, is an obligation upon all adult Muslims who meet the necessary criteria of having surplus wealth – the Nisab threshold - and can be described as a spiritual and financial ‘wealth purification’. As one commentator put it, "Just as ablution (‘wudu’) purifies the body …and prayer purifies the soul ……Zakat purifies possessions and makes them pleasing to God." (Murata & Chittick)
But what is Zakat? We know that it is our obligation as Muslims, but what does it really mean to give your Zakat? The answer lies within the act itself! We must remember that Zakat has been described as ‘Giving as an instrument of God’ - because it is you who has been chosen by Allah (SWT) to respond to another soul’s needs through yourself as the instrument of giving.
The Qur’an asks us to ‘Give of what we love’ [3:92] and often this is associated with material wealth and worldly possessions. The idea of Zakat is to discipline and contain these attachments by being made to offer excess wealth in order to address another soul’s needs. As such, Zakat is simultaneously associated with multiplication, but it is also very invested in the notion of countering excess – which is something our ultra-consumerist society is in great need of!
Zakat in the Qur’an
The main Quranic verse that outlines Zakat also guides us as to who Zakat funds can be spent on – and the eight categories have been understood by some in very general terms and by others very specifically. The verse in question reads: “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; [this is] a duty imposed by Allah. Allah is Knower, Wise.” [9:60]
Interestingly, although Zakat is exclusively associated with Muslims today, the Qur’an mentions it in relation to previous prophets and peoples as being a duty that existed long before the advent of Islam. Zakat has always as an obligation alongside the upkeep of prayer, as indicated in the verses below:
Prophet Jesus saying: ‘And He has made me blessed wherever I may be, and He has enjoined on me prayer and Zakat so long as I live. [Qur’an 19:31]
Zakat In relation to Jews and Christians: “And they were not enjoined in anything except that they should serve Allah, being sincere to Him in obedience, upright, and keep up prayer and pay Zakat, and that is the right religion”. [Qur’an 98:5]
In relation to Prophet Ismail: “And he enjoined on his family prayer and Zakat and was one in whom his Lord was well pleased”. [Qur’an 19:55]
In relation to Prophet Abraham, Prophet Isaac, and Prophet Jacob: “And We made them Imams who guided (people) by Our command, and We revealed to them the doing of good and the keeping up of prayer and the giving of Zakat, and Us (alone) did they serve.” [Qur’an 21:73]
And to the Children of Israel: “And when we made a covenant with the children of Israel: You shall not serve any but god and (you shall do good to (your) parents, and to the near of kin and to the orphans and the needy, and you shall speak to men good words and keep up prayer and Zakat…. [Qur’an 2:83]
What is Zakat? - Now You Know!
Now you have the answer to the yearly question, what is zakat, and you can help others who are asking the same! Zakat gives us all a chance to purify our wealth and make the world a better place for our needy brothers and sisters. Each year we should look forward to fulfilling this blessed pillar of Islam.
If you haven’t yet made your Zakat payments this year, then have a look at some of our Zakat applicable appeals and make your donation today. When you give Zakat with Penny Appeal, 100% of you Zakat donation goes directly to those who are eligible to receive it – meaning you receive 100% of the rewards.
THURSDAY 25 MAR 2021