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Zakat – The Third Pillar of Islam

Zakat, stands as the third pillar of Islam and is obligatory for every financially capable Muslim whose income meets or exceeds the prescribed amount by Sharia (Nisaab), in addition to their essential expenses.

Zakat is a fundamental pillar of Islam, representing the act of giving a portion of one's wealth to those in need, aiming to promote social justice and compassion within the community. It serves as both a religious duty and a means of fostering solidarity among believers.


Meaning of Zakat

The literal meaning of Zakah is ‘Taharah [purity]’, and ‘increment and blessing’. Since, in reality, Zakah becomes a cause of Taharah, increment and blessing for the remaining wealth [although it may not be apparent], this is why it is called Zakah. (Durr-e-Mukhtar, Rad-dul-Muhtar, Kitab-uz-Zakah, vol. 3, pp. 203; summarised)


A Monetary Act of Worship

The purpose of Zakat is to ensure that wealth doesn't only circulate among the rich, and needy individuals can fulfill their needs through Zakat. This fosters balance in society and gradually eradicates poverty. However, it is essential for the wealthy not to consider Zakat as a favor to the poor; rather, they are merely fulfilling their obligatory duty as commanded by the Allah Almighty.

The Messenger of Mercy and the Intercessor of the Ummah, صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم, has emphasized these principles, stating, “The foundation of Islam is on five acts: To testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ and Muhammad صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم is His Rasool; to offer Salah; to pay Zakat; to perform Hajj; and to observe the Siyam [fasts] of Ramadan.” (Sahih Bukhari, vol. 1, pp. 14, Hadees 8)

In the mentioned Hadith, Zakat is highlighted as an act of worship placed after Salah. Zakat, being the 3rd pillar of Islam, involves a monetary form of worship. The Holy Quran praises those who perform Zakat donation and condemns those who do not in several blessed Ayahs. To fully appreciate the merits and advantages of giving Zakat and to avoid its potential harms, it is crucial to acquire a thorough understanding of the Shari laws governing Zakat.


Significance of Zakat

The significance of Zakat becomes evident from the fact that Salah and Zakat are mentioned together 32 times in the Holy Quran (Rad-dul-Muhtar, Kitab-uz-Zakah, vol. 3, pp. 202). Additionally, the fortunate individuals who give Zakat receive abundant blessings and benefits in this world and the Hereafter (as mentioned in later pages of Rad-dul-Muhtar, Kitab-uz-Zakah, vol. 3).

Giving Zakat reflects a believer's willingness to share their wealth and blessings with the less fortunate in society. It is not merely an act of charity but a divinely ordained duty, reminding Muslims of their responsibility towards the underprivileged members of their community.

Through Zakat, the wealthy members of society are reminded that their prosperity is a blessing from Allah, and they have a responsibility to use a portion of it to uplift the less fortunate and promote the overall welfare of society.


Types Of Zakat

There are two types of Zakat:

1. Zakat of wealth

2. Zakat of people (i.e., Sadaqa-tul-Fitr)


There are further two types of Zakat of wealth:

1. Zakat of gold and silver

2. Zakat of trade goods and livestock, and the Zakat of cultivated crops and fruits (i.e. ‘Ushr). (Derived from: Bida`i’-us-Sana`i’ fi Tarteeb-ish-Shara`i’, Kitab-uz-Zakah, vol. 2, pp. 75)


Rulings on Zakat

Zakat is a fundamental Islamic practice involving giving a portion (usually 2.5%) of one's wealth to specific categories of individuals in need, as outlined in the Quran and Hadith. Obligatory for Muslims possessing a certain threshold of wealth (nisab), Zakat is calculated annually and requires a sincere intention. It's distinct from Zakat al-Fitr, a separate form given during Ramadan's end.

Zakat aims to promote social welfare and spiritual growth by sharing wealth with those less fortunate, with distribution generally encouraged within the local community. Variations in interpretation exist across Islamic schools of thought, necessitating consultation with knowledgeable sources to ensure proper adherence to Zakat guidelines.


Zakat - A Fard Obligation in Islam

The obligatory nature of Zakat is established through evidence from the Holy Quran and Sunnah. Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ has explicitly stated in the Holy Quran: “And keep Salah (obligatory prayer) established and pay Zakat (obligatory charity).” [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 1, Surah Al-Baqarah, Ayah 43)

In the Tafseer Khazain-ul-Irfan, Maulana Sayyid Muhammad Naeemuddin Muradabadi رحمتہ اللہ علیہ (who passed away in 1367 Hijri) explains that This Ayah is regarding Salah and Zakat being Fard.

“O Beloved, take Zakat from their wealth, by which you may cleanse them and make them pure.” [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 11, Surah At-Taubah, Ayah 103)

In Tafseer Khazain-ul-Irfan, Maulana Sayyid Muhammad Naeemuddin Muradabadi رحمتہ اللہ علیہ has explained that the word صدقہ ('Sadaqah') mentioned in the Ayah has various interpretations according to different Mufassireen (Quranic exegetes).

One opinion suggests that 'Sadaqah' was not Wajib and was given by the individuals mentioned in the previous Ayah as expiation. The second opinion is that this 'Sadaqah' refers to the Zakat that was compulsory upon them, and upon repentance, they attempted to pay it, leading Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ to command its collection. Imam Abu Bakr Raazi Jasaas رحمتہ اللہ علیہ has given preference to the view that 'Sadaqah' refers to Zakat (as mentioned in Khaazin and Ahkam-ul-Quran).


Virtues & Benefits of Zakat in Islam

Let's explore the wonderful virtues and benefits of Zakat in Islam. Zakat is not just about giving money to help others; it holds great spiritual and social rewards for both the giver and the receiver. By understanding the importance of Zakat, we can see how it brings blessings in this life and the life to come.

Zakat Completes One’s Iman

Paying Zakat is considered a means of completing one's Iman, as stated by the Beloved Rasool صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم: The completion of your Islam is that you pay Zakat of your wealth. (Attargheeb Wattarheeb, Kitab-us-Sadaqaat, vol. 1, pp. 301, Hadees 12)  (At-Targhib wat-tarhib)

The Holy Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم has stated: He who believes in Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ and His Rasool صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم, it is compulsory for him to pay Zakat of his wealth. (Al-Mujam-ul-Kabeer, vol. 12, pp. 324, Hadees 13561)

Mercy & Help for the Giver

The one who pays Zakat receives the mercy of Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ. As mentioned in Surah Al-Araf: “And My Mercy encompasses all things, so I shall soon decree favours for those who fear and pay Zakat.” [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 9, Surah Al-Araf, Ayah 156)

A Path to Taqwa and Asceticism

Zakat leads to the attainment of Taqwa. This is one of the signs of the Muttaqeen (pious people) mentioned in the Holy Quran. It is stated: “And spend in Our path from the sustenance We have bestowed (upon them).” [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 1, Surah Al-Baqarah, Ayah 3)

The Roadmap to Success

The one who gives Zakat becomes counted among the successful, as the Holy Quran includes Zakat among the deeds of successful individuals. It is stated: “Undoubtedly, the believers reached their goals. Those who humble themselves in their Salah. And who do not incline towards vain talk. And who are active in the payment of Zakat.” [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 18, Surah Al-Muminoon, Ayah 1-4)

Allah's Support for the Zakat-Giver

The one who pays Zakat receives the help of Allah. It is stated: “And undoubtedly, Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ will definitely help the one who helps His religion. Indeed, Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ is surely All Powerful, Ever Dominant. Those people that, if We give them control in the land, would keep Salah established and pay Zakat, and command virtue and forbid evil, and only for Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ is the end of all matters.” [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 17, Surah Al-Hajj, Ayah 40, 41)

In the Company of Goodness

Paying Zakat is among the characteristics of those who frequent the houses of Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ, i.e., the Masajid. It is stated: “Only those uphold the Mosques of Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ, who believe in Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ and the Last Day and keep Salah established and pay Zakat and fear none except Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ; so, it is imminent that they will be amongst the people of guidance.” [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 10, Surah At-Taubah, Ayah 18)

Blessings of Bringing Happiness to Islamic Brothers

By paying Zakat, the needs of poor Islamic brothers are met, and their hearts are filled with joy and contentment. This noble act of giving not only addresses their material needs but also provides them with a sense of hope and happiness. Through Zakat, a harmonious and caring society is built, where the less fortunate are supported, and the overall welfare and well-being of the community are upheld.

Exemplary Display of Brotherhood in Islam

Giving Zakat exemplifies the spirit of Islamic brotherhood, as it encourages a financially capable Muslim (Ghani-Muslim) to support his poor Islamic brother, allowing him to live with dignity in society. This act also safeguards the heart of the needy Muslim from negative emotions like ill-will and jealousy, as he recognizes his rightful share in the wealth of his Ghani Islamic brother.

Consequently, he prays for blessings in his brother's life, wealth, and children. The Beloved Rasool has beautifully expressed this bond, stating, 'Indeed, a Mu`min is like a building for a Mumin; one strengthens the other.' (Sahih Bukhari, Kitab-us-Salah, vol. 1, pp. 181, Hadees 481)

Manifestation of The Saying of Rasoolullah صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم

Zakat plays a vital role in strengthening the brotherhood among Muslims, fostering a sense of unity in the Islamic society. Through mutual assistance, Muslims exemplify the profound saying of their beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم: The example of mutual friendship, mercy, and affection of Muslims is like a body; when any part of the body is not well, the entire body joins [i.e., affected by] it in fever and sleeplessness. (Sahih Muslim, Kitab-ul-Birr, pp. 1396, Hadees 2586)

Purifies Your Wealth

Giving Zakat purifies wealth, as narrated by Sayyiduna Anas bin Malik رَضِیَ الـلّٰـهُ عَنْه that the Holy Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said, “Give Zakat of your wealth as it is the one that purifies, it will purify you.” (Al-Musnad Imam Ahmad Bin Hanbal, vol. 4, pp. 274, Hadees 12397)

Embracing Positive Change

Giving Zakat is a transformative act that helps a person overcome negative attributes like greed and miserliness while fostering the positive quality of generosity. It instills a sense of compassion and empathy, leading to spiritual growth and a deeper connection with others. By using their resources to help the less fortunate, individuals find fulfillment and purpose in their lives, making Zakat a powerful tool for soul purification.

Zakat in Quran

The wealth of the Zakat giving person not only remains intact but also increases in both this world and the Hereafter. Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ has assured: “And whatever you spend in the path of Allah, He will give more in return. And He is The Best Provider.” [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 22, Surah Saba, Ayah 39)

At another place, it is stated: “The example of those who spend their wealth on the path of Allah is similar to a grain which has sprouted seven ears (of wheat) and each ear contains a hundred grains, and Allah may increase this many a time for whomsoever He desires, and Allah is All-Encompassing, All-Knowing. Those who spend their wealth in the path of Allah, and after spending they do not boast of their favour nor taunt; their reward is with their Lord; they shall have no fear nor shall they grieve.” [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 3, Surah Al-Baqarah, Ayah 261, 262)

The Zakat-giving person should offer their Zakat wholeheartedly, firmly believing that Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ will grant them something even better in return. The beloved Rasool صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم has affirmed, “Wealth does not decrease by giving Sadaqah.” (Al-Mujam-ul-Awsat, vol. 1, pp. 619, Hadees 2270)

Shielded from Harm

The one who gives Zakat finds protection from evil, as the Beloved Rasool صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم has stated, "He who has paid Zakat of his wealth, indeed, Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ has removed evil from him.” (Al-Mujam-ul-Awsat, vol. 1, pp. 431, Hadees 1579)

Safeguard of One’s Wealth

Giving Zakat acts as a safeguard for one's wealth, as the Beloved Rasool صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم has advised, “Bring your wealth into strong fortresses by giving Zakat and treat your sick people with charity.” (Maraseel Abi Dawood ma Sunan Abi Dawood, pp. 8)

Allah Will Fulfil the Needs

Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ will meet the needs of those who give Zakat, as the Beloved Rasool صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم has conveyed, “He who fulfills the need of any person, Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ will fulfil his needs in the religion and the world.” (Sahih Muslim, Kitab-uz-Zikr wad-Dua, pp. 1447, Hadees 2699)

At another occasion, the Beloved Rasool صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم has conveyed, “He who relieves the worldly suffering of any Muslim, Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ will remove the trouble of the Day of Judgement from him.” (Sunan-ut-Tirmizi, Kitab-ul-Hudood, vol. 3, pp. 115)

The Poor Make Du’a

The poor pray for the Zakat giving person, and as a result, the mercy of Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ descends upon them, and they receive the help of Allah. The Beloved Rasool صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم has affirmed, “You receive the help of Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ and sustenance because of the blessing of the old and their Duas.” (Sahih Bukhari, Kitab-ul-Jihad, vol. 2, pp. 280, Hadees 2896)


Recipients of Zakat

Initially, the Quran outlined 8 categories of Zakat recipients, yet one group, those with inclinations towards Islam (مولَّفة القلوب), was later excluded based on the consensus of the Sahabah, resulting in seven remaining beneficiary groups for Zakat:


1.   The poor (Fuqara)

2.   Destitute people (Masakeen)

3.   Zakat collectors

4.   Slaves, to have them freed

5.   Debtor

6.   In the cause of Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ

7.   Travellers who do not possess wealth


Nonetheless, in contemporary times, the fourth group, pertaining to slaves, is no longer applicable.