or alms tax can be defined as that portion of a man’s wealth which is
designated for the poor. The term is derived from the Arabic verbal root
meaning “to increase.” “to purify,” and “to bless.” It find its origin in
Allah’s command to: “Take sadaqah (charity) from their property in order to
purify and sanctify them” [at-Taubah 103]. That is why this kind of sadaqah is
called zakah, for by paying it, one is aspiring to attain blessing,
purification, and the cultivation of good deeds.
Taking into account its very nature, it is no wonder that zakah constitutes one of the five pillars of Islam. It is associated with prayer (Salah) in eighty-two Qur’anic verses. Allah, the Exalted One, prescribed it in His Book (The Qur’an), His Messenger corroborated it by his (Sunnah), and the community (ummah) by consensus upheld it. Ibn ‘Abbas reported that when the Prophet, upon whom be peace, sent Mu’azh ibn Jabal to Yemen (as its governor), he said to him: “You are going to a people who are People of the Scripture. Invite them to accept the shahadah: that there is no god but Allah and I am His Messenger. If they accept and affirm this, tell them that Allah, the Glorious One, has enjoined five prayers upon them during the day and night. If they accept that, tell them also that He has enjoined sadaqah upon their assets which will be taken from the rich of the (Muslim) community and distributed to the poor. If they accept that, refrain from laying hands upon the best of their goods and fear the cry of the oppressed, for there is no barrier between Allah and it.”
At-Tabarani relates in al-’Awsat and as-Saghir, on the authority of ‘Ali, that the Prophet said: “Allah has enjoined upon rich Muslims a due to be taken from their properties corresponding to the needs of the poor among them. The poor will never suffer from starvation or lack of clothes unless the rich neglect their due. If they do, Allah will surely hold them accountable and punish them severely.” According to at-Tabarani: “It was reported only by Thabit Ibn Muhammad az-Zahid.” Of Thabit’s credibility, al-Hafiz in turn says: “Thabit was an honest and trustworthy person. AlBukhari and others related from him, and the rest of the narrators in the chain are considered as accepted authorities.”
In the early days of Islam at Makkah, no limit or restriction was placed on the amount to be donated, for that decision was left to the individual Muslim’s conscience and generosity. In the second year of hijrah, according to the widely known authorities, both the type and the quantity of zakah revenues were determined, and detailed illustrations were provided.
TO GIVE ZAKAH IN THE QUR’AN
At-Taubah 103 authorizes the Prophet, upon whom be peace, to take either a stipulated amount of alms from the believers’ holdings in the form of the obligatory zakah, or a voluntary, unstipulated amount (zakah of tatawwul). In this ‘ayah, “purify” means to purify them from stinginess, greed, and meanness, and a lack of remorse toward the poor and the wretched. To sanctify them is to raise them in esteem through good deeds and blessings so that they will be worthy of happiness both now and in the afterlife. In reference to the life hereafter, Allah reveals: “Lo! Those who keep from evil will dwell amid gardens and water springs, taking that which their Lord gives them. For they were before doers of good. They used to sleep but little of the night, and in the hours of the early dawn they prayed for forgiveness.... In their wealth, the beggar and the outcast had due share” [azh-Zhariyat 15-19]. Allah views beneficence and righteousness as exclusive qualities of the pious. It is because of their beneficence that they pray at night and ask Allah’s forgiveness at dawn as a way of worshipping and approaching Him. Their beneficence is likewise in their giving to the needy their share of mercy and sympathy.
Allah further confirms: “And the believers, men and women, are protecting friends of one another; they enjoin the right and forbid the wrong, they perform prayer and pay the zakah, and they obey Allah and His Messenger. Upon them, Allah will have mercy” [at-Taubah 71].
Such are the people blessed by Allah and given His mercy-- those who believe in Him, who take care of each other through support and love, who exhort fairness and restrain lewd behavior, who have strong ties with Allah through prayer, and who strengthen their mutual relations through zakah.
Finally, these people, as reflected in al-Hajj 41, are: “Those who, if we give them power in the land, perform prayers and pay zakah, and enjoin kindness and forbid inequity.” Giving zakah is, therefore, one of the reasons for which the righteous are given authority on earth.
TO GIVE ZAKAH IN THE HADITH
At-Tirmizhi relates from Abu Kabshah alAnmari that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: “I swear upon three (things) and ask you to memorize my words: Sadaqah taken from a property never decreases it; a man who suffers injustice and is patient with it, Allah will grant him strength; a man who starts begging, Allah will cause him to be poor.”
Ahmad and at-Tirmizhi relate (and the latter graded it sahih) from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said: “Allah receives charity by His right hand, and then He causes it to grow for each of you. Just as you raise a horse, colt, foal, or young weaned camel, so that morsel becomes as large as the Mount of ‘Uhud.”
Of this hadith’s content, Waki’ says: “This is sanctioned by the Qur’an: ‘Do they not know that it is Allah alone who can accept the repentance of His servants and is the (true) recipient of whatever is offered for His sake - and that Allah alone is an acceptor of repentance, a dispenser of grace?’ [at-Taubah 104]. ‘Allah deprives usurious gains of all blessing, whereas He blesses charitable deeds with manifold increase.’ [al Baqarah 276].”
Again, Ahmad relates, with a sound chain of narrators, that Anas said: “A man from the tribe of Tameem came to the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, and said: ‘O Messenger of Allah! I have plenty of property, a large family, a great deal of money, and I am a gracious host to my guests. Tell me how to conduct my life and how to spend.’ The Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, replied: ‘Pay zakah out of your property, for truly it is a purifier which purifies you, and be kind to your relatives, and acknowledge the rights of the poor, neighbors, and beggars’.”
It was reported from ‘Aishah that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said: “I swear upon three things: Allah does not equate one who has a portion in Islam with one who does not. The portions of Islam are three: prayer, fasting, and zakah. If Allah takes care of a man in this world, He will take care of him on the Day of Judgment. If a man likes a group of people, Allah will certainly include him among them. As for the fourth, if I swear on it, I hope I will not commit a sin: that if Allah conceals a man’s sin in this world, He will certainly not expose him on the Day of Judgment.”
At-Tabarani relates in al-’Awsat, that Jabir reported: “A man said: ‘O Messenger of Allah! What will be the gains for a man who pays zakah on his assets?’ The Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said: ‘For one who pays zakah on his assets, he will be removed from the evil in them’.”
On the same subject, al-Bukhari and Muslim relate that Jabir Ibn ‘Abdullah reported: “I gave my allegience to the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, that I will establish Salah (prayers) and zakah, and I will give advice to every Muslim.”
IN THE QUR’AN FOR THE DELINQUENTS OF ZAKAH
Allah says: “O you who believe! Most surely many of the doctors of law and the monks eat away the property of men falsely and turn them from Allah’s way; and as for those who hoard treasures of gold and silver and do not spend them for the sake of Allah--warn them of grievous sufferings [in the life to
come]. On the Day when that [hoarded wealth] shall be heated in the Fires of Hell and their foreheads and their sides and their backs branded with it, [it will be said to them:] ‘These are the treasures which you have hoarded for yourselves. Now taste of what you used to accumulate!’ [at-Taubah 34-35].” He also says: “And they should not think--they who avariously cling to all that Allah has granted them out of His bounty--that this is good for them. No, it is bad for them, for that which they hoard will be hung about their necks on the Day of Judgment” [al-’Imran 180].