Zakat is an Arabic word which means “purification”. Allah Almighty mentioned in the Quran: “Take from their wealth so that you might purify and sanctify them” (Quran 9:103). Zakat is the third pillar of Islam and compulsory on every financially stable Muslim that is wealthy enough to afford to it. Zakat is basically the compulsory giving of a pre-set proportion of one’s wealth to charity. All eligible individuals are required to pay an annual percentage of 2.5% of the wealth and property they own as Zakat. Its significance could be realized from the fact that Allah made it a pillar and by making it a pillar, Allah makes almost everyone experience it either as a giver or as a receiver.
Zakat has so much significance that Allah (SWT) combined it with salah on many occasions in the Holy Quran. Zakat is considered as compulsory charity and an obligation for those who have received their wealth from Almighty Allah to respond to those who are less fortunate in society. The basic purpose of making Zakat a compulsory charity is to purify a Muslim’s heart from all forms of greed and selfishness. The compulsory charity Zakat must be paid on different categories of property in which we have gold, silver, money, livestock, agricultural productions, and other business commodities. Zakat is payable each year after one year’s retention.
Our beloved Prophet (SAW) said: “The believer’s shade on the Day of Resurrection will be his charity” (Tirmidhi). From this hadith, we can conclude that Allah Almighty will shade and shelter those who give charity and care for the needy people. The Muslim’s sacrifice in this life will be their protection on the Day of Judgment which will benefit them forever. Just like prayer (salah), which is both an individual and communal responsibility, zakat also expresses a Muslim’s worship of and thanksgiving to Almighty Allah by supporting those who are in need.
Zakat reminds us that everything we have belongs to Allah (SWT). People are given their wealth as a trust from Allah Almighty, and zakat is intended to free Muslims from the love of money. Islam teaches that people should acquire wealth with the intention of spending it on their own needs and the needs of others. Allah Almighty mentioned in Quran: “Zakat expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect (zakat) and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the (stranded) traveler – an obligation (imposed) by Allah . And Allah is Knowing and Wise.” (Quran, 9:60)
Other than zakat which obviously is the compulsory charity, the Quran and Hadith also stress on giving Sadaqah, or voluntary charity, which is proposed for the needy people of the society. In the Quran Allah almighty emphasizes on feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, helping those who are in need. The more one helps, the more Allah Almighty helps the person, and the more one gives, the more Allah (SWT) gives the person in return. One feels he is taking care of others and Allah is taking care of him/her.
In short, zakat develops the sense of purification from greed, develops a circulation of money for the economy. It also encourages the people to develop a better society that lives in peace and harmony. May Almighty Allah give us the strength to fulfill this obligation and following the right path so that we will be considered in true followers of Islam! Ameen