Zakat is the third pillar in Islam, after Shahadah and Salat

Zakat is the third pillar in Islam, after Shahadah and Salat

Islam places great importance on the giving of Zakat, and it is one of the five principles of Islam.

Zakat was not obliged by previous religions, and its obligation during Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) prophet hood is considered a distinguishing feature between his message and earlier scriptures.

The word Zakat means both purification and growth. The literal meaning of Zakat, according to Islamic scholars, is “that which purifies”. It symbolizes an annual payment made by individuals who have wealth beyond a certain minimum amount known as nisab to help the poor or those in need to achieve social harmony where wealth is unevenly distributed.

Zakat is obligatory for all Muslims who have financial means. According to Zakat authorities, it represents 2.5% of a Muslim’s total savings and assets if they are equal to or more than the nisab, which is currently set at $3650 (USD) per annum.

Islam places great importance on the giving of Zakat or “poor-due”. The Quran states that it is the duty of all those blessed with ample means to help out their less fortunate brethren and become entitled to God’s protection.

Zakat comes from the Arabic root word ‘Zaka’, which means purity. As per Islamic Shariah, this obligatory act of charity is not limited to any one group of people but emphasizes economic justice involving universal brotherhood.

Before we understand what Zakat is all about, it would be worthwhile to examine some incidents mentioned in the Quran relevant to this act of charity; they appear as follows:

“…spend something (in charity) out of (the bounties) with which We have provided you before death should come to any of you, and he should say: ‘O my Lord! Why did You not give me respite for a little while?…(2:236)

“…whoever is saved from his covetousness, such are they who will be successful.” (59:9)

“Let neither their property nor their children astonish you. Such is the provision of Allah which He bestows on whom He pleases. And Allah’s provisions are infinite.” (8:28)

The Quran also mentions that those who refrain from spending on charity will suffer severe consequences as stated below, “…those who spend their wealth to increase self-purification. And have in their minds no favour from anyone for which a reward is expected in return, but only the desire to seek the Countenance of their Lord Most High. Soon they will attain complete satisfaction.” (92:18-21)

The Importance of Charity according to Islam In this verse, three main points need particular emphasis:

– Zakat must be given from one’s surplus wealth and not from one’s essential needs. After meeting their expenses, if someone has nothing left, they cannot give anything as Sadaqah or Zakat. So the Prophet (PBUH) said: “One cannot give Zakat when one is poor…”. And Imam Al-Bukhari narrated that Umm Salamah (may Allah be pleased with her) said: “O Messenger of Allah! What if I know that I have something which will suffice me my dependants and the like of them, but cannot find anything to suffice me another day. Should I spend it on myself or give it to Sadaqah? He (peace be upon him) replied: “(Give it) in Sadaqah”‘.

– The second point involves using Zakat for one’s own needs first, especially before giving it away in charity. This is because it reduces hardship and brings tranquillity to mind.

– Thirdly, Zakat should only be given to those entitled to receive it, people who meet certain conditions, or those whom others are obliged to give it.

As stated above, the Quran has made Zakat obligatory on Muslims who have reached a certain level of financial stability. Those who are unable to meet this criterion must spend out of what Allah has bestowed on them through voluntary charity. However, if an individual is wealthy but does not give Zakat, they will be held accountable for this omission as stated below: “If anyone saved up gold and silver and did not spend them in the Way of Allah, then on the Day of Resurrection those things will be heated in the Fire of Hell and his forearms, sides and back will be branded with them…” (9:34)

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