“Take alms from their wealth in order to purify them and sanctify them with it.” (Al-Tauba – 103)
A building stands strong upon its pillars; without them it cannot stand tall. One of the five major pillars upon which the building of Islam is founded is called “Zakaat”.
What is Zakaat?
Zakaat means “Purity”, and is a certain percentage of one’s wealth that is taxed for the benefits of the poor and the needy. The wealth that has been given to us doesn’t only belong to ourselves; Allah has put in it a due share of the needy people. It is our duty to find them out and hand their share over to them. This can either be in the form of Zakaat or Sadaqah (charity).
What is the Percentage of Zakaat?
2.5% of a Muslim’s wealth is given off as zakaat, after a whole year of possession and ownership of that wealth has been passed.
What is the Significance of Zakaat?
First of all, it is an obligation that has to be fulfilled by all Muslims who come under the ambit of it. This is not a matter of choice; we cannot choose to payoff zakaat or not. Just like five times prayers and fasting, zakaat is an obligatory element of one’s faith.
There is no doubt that Allah wants to test His people and for this purpose, He uses many means. Sometimes it is a physical test like fasting and Jihad, and sometimes the test is monetary like zakaat. Allah expects us to be kind hearted, generous and helpful to other members of the community. Muslims are not meant to be misers; they are expected to be charitable and supportive.
Zakaat has also been made obligatory for the nations before Islam.
We can realize the significance of zakaat from verses of Quran, where Salah (prayers) and zakat come together at numberless occasions. It is compared with praying five times a day as Allah talks about Zakat and Salah together. First rightly guided caliph Abu Bakr (R.A.) fought with the Muslims who denied the obligation of zakaat after Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) left the world. Many companions advised Abu Bakr (RA) not to wage war against those who refused to pay off zakaat, but he stuck to his stance. In his opinion, Muslims would deny offering prayers in the future if denial of zakaat was not dealt with immediately. His farsightedness protected the institution of zakaat.
Allah has warned believers from refusing to pay off zakaat; huge penalties are awaiting such Muslims. Deterrence is vital for keeping things straight, as well as for making people obey rules. The system of zakaat makes sure that a Muslim society gets rid of poverty. The whole idea revolves around circulation of wealth.
Only if Muslims obey the rules laid down by Islamic teachings, and pay off zakaat the way it is meant to be; our societies would transform into the wealthiest and most prospered ones in the whole world. Our continued existence and success in the hereafter solely depends upon obedience of Allah Almighty.
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