ZAKAT (THE PRESCRIBED PURIFYING ALMS)

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The second important duty of servanthood is zakat. God’s Messenger, who depicts prayer as Islam’s pillar or support, describes zakat as its bridge (Canan, ibid., 6:346), for zakat not only brings the social strata closer to each other and fills in the gaps between them and their members, but also stops such gaps from forming.

Zakat means purity and growing. Since it purifies wealth and people’s attachment to it, and causes both it and Muslims to grow in purity and sincerity, the Qur’an calls it zakat (or the prescribed alms):

(O Messenger,) take alms (prescribed or voluntary) out of their wealth so that you may cleanse them thereby and cause them to grow in purity and sincerity, and pray for them. Indeed your prayer is a source of comfort for them. God is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (9:103)

Taking into account its very nature, zakat constitutes one of Islam’s five pillars. It is associated with prayer (salat) in 82 Qur’anic verses. God, the Exalted One, prescribed it in His Book (the Qur’an), His Messenger corroborated it by his sunna, and the Muslim community by consensus upheld it. Ibn ‘Abbas reported that when the Prophet sent Mu’adh ibn Jabal to Yemen (as its governor), he said to him:

You are going to a people who are People of the Book. Invite them to accept the shahada: that there is no deity but God and I am His Messenger. If they accept and affirm this, tell them that God, 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 sadaqa (meaning zakat) 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 God and it. (Bukhari, “Zakat,” 1:41; Muslim, “Iman,” 31.)

Many verses exhort Muslims to pay zakat and forbid hoarding wealth. For example:

The believers, both men and women, they are guardians, confidants and helpers of one another. They enjoin and promote what is right and good and forbid and try to prevent the evil. They establish the prayer in conformity with its conditions, and pay the zakat (prescribed purifying alms) fully. They always obey God and His Messenger. Those are the distinguished ones whom God shall treat with mercy. Assuredly, God is the All-Honored with irresistible might, All-Wise. (9:71)

and:

Those who hoard gold and silver and do not spend it in God’s way (to exalt His cause and help the poor and needy: O Messenger,) give them the glad tidings of a painful chastisement. (9:34)