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Zakah: Connecting Humanity


 

Zakah, purges society of destructive afflictions and causes human and social virtues to grow ..

By: Dr. Ebrahim M. A. El-Khouly
IslamiCity* –

Zakah (Community Wealth Tax). The Muslim contribution to life is open, without limits: he gives of his effort, his mind, his knowledge, his status and his money. The Prophet (peace be on him) said, “Every Muslim must perform a charity.” They asked, “Messenger of God, what if a person cannot find anything to give?” He answered, “He should work with his hands to benefit himself and give in charity.” “And what if he could not find that?” they asked again. “He should assist an aggrieved person in need.” “And what if he could not do that?” “Then he should do good and refrain from evil – that would be his charity.” (related by al-Bukhari) 

Zakah regulates the wealth contribution in its minimum, making it a religious obligation from which the individual cannot free himself or take concessions, since it is the right of society to be devoted to the benefit of the needy and disabled individuals and classes. 

In its proper sense, zakah is a practical manifestation of the brotherhood between the faithful and establishes mutual solidarity between them by the firm bond it creates between rich and poor, in a way that strengthens the individualÕs sense of relation to the community and the communityÕs awareness of the value of the individual, and that it is strengthened by his strength and weakened by his weakness. 

An analysis of zakah in the Islamic system reveals its various functions in a Muslim society: 

(a) a religious function: In this respect zakah is a manifestation of the faith that affirms that God is the sole owner of everything in the universe, and what men hold is a trust in their hand over which God made them trustees to discharge it as He has laid down: “Believe in Allah and His Messenger and spend of that over which He made you trustees” (Quran 57:7). It is also an expression of gratitude towards the Bestower Who said: “If you give thanks, I will give you more.” (Quran 14:7) In this respect zakah is an act of devotion which, like prayer, brings the believer nearer to his Lord, and being one of the pillars of religion, avoidance of payment is a manifestation of shirk (serving other gods besides God). 

(b) an economic function: Its economic function is revealed in many ways: firstly, zakah gives a strong incentive for investing wealth for the benefit of society and makes us refrain from hoarding it. When the amount reaches the taxable minimum and has been possessed for a whole year, zakah falls due on it whether it has been invested or not. Those who do not invest their wealth expose it to continuous reduction of at least 2.5% annually. Gradually it will be removed from their possession to be used for the benefit of society.

Apart from this, zakah is a means of compulsory redistribution of wealth in a way that reduces differences between classes and groups, thus preventing the many social disorders from which Communist and Western societies alike suffer, no less than contemporary Muslim societies that have neglected zakah. Moreover, zakah is a means of establishing justice indirectly. It rectifies whatever wrongs, injustices or means of exploitation in trading and industrial relations that have arisen. This may explain the fact that it is called a “right” rather than “charity”, or an act of beneficence. Zakah also facilitates the proper direction of purchasing power in society. It transfers part of the power of consumption, which may be used extravagantly to fulfill a proper function in the lives of those who need it. 

(c) a social function: Zakah makes a fair contribution to social stability. By purging the soul of the rich of selfishness and the soul of the poor of envy and resentment against society, it stops up the channels leading to class hatred and makes it possible for the springs of brotherhood and solidarity to gush forth. Such stability is not merely based on the personal feelings of the rich: it stands on a firmly established right, which, if the rich denied it, would be exacted by force if necessary.

Zakah is not used merely to meet the present needs of the poor and needy, but serves other functions that deeply affect social life. As the Quran laid down, it solves the following problems: 

(i) The problem of freedom, by assisting slaves seeking their freedom to attain it (slavery was an established system in the world at the time the Quran was revealed). 

(ii) The problem of indebtedness which threatens an individual with bankruptcy, hardship, stress, humiliation or loss of good name, whether caused by the necessities of life or fluctuation in the market resulting in hardship to a good producer or an honest merchant. The Quran allots a portion of the zakah fund to solving such problems of indebtedness – a better solution than any contemporary system of insurance, as it is more positive and more in line with true cooperation and social solidarity. 

(iii) The problem of defense and security of Muslim land against external threat and such matters as may be related to struggle in the cause of God. 

(iv) The need of those who are away from their home seeking knowledge or a lawful livelihood and have not attained a settled life yet – the Quran devotes a portion of the zakah fund to meeting their need. 

All this is contained in the Quranic verse that specifies the items upon which zakah should be expended, and recipients of the fund: “The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those employed in collecting them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to free the slaves and the debtors, and for the cause of Allah, and (for) the wayfarer, a duty enjoined by Allah; Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.” (Quran 9:60) 

In its lexical definition zakah means “purity” and “growth”, in both of which we can perceive its religious connotations: it purges society of destructive afflictions and causes human and social virtues to grow, leading to sound social relations, peace and stability. 

In this light we can understand the position taken by Abu Bakr, the first Khalifa (may God be pleased with him) in the face of the first attempt to suspend payment of zakah by those who refused to pay it. He used the Muslim army to uphold this social right and compelled the recalcitrant faction to pay the community wealth tax, asserting a principle in which he was following the Prophet, “I swear by God, if they refuse to pay to me even a small piece of robe which they used to pay to the Messenger of God, I would fight them for it.” (related by al-Bukhari).

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2007 in Articles

 

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It is in the heart not in the money


 

Real generosity is not dependant so much on income as it is on the capacity of the heart ..

By: Sadullah Khan
IslamiCity* –

The way people relate to wealth influences most aspects of their personal lives. For many people, where there is wealth there is attention.

If you became wealthy overnight…

  • What will the first thing you would do? 

  • Is charity one of your primary focuses?

  • How much more charity will you give? … and what is your proof?

Biblical text encourages each person to give in proportion to the way God has blessed them [Deuteronomy 16:17] Many believe that the more they have, the more generous they’ll become; but is that really the case. To become more generous, you have to have a spirit of generosity in the first place.

It’s Not really about the Money, It’s actually about the Heart

Real generosity is not dependant so much on income as it is on the capacity of the heart. There are many who have the means to give, but not the heart to give. And there are many, who, the more they have the less they give. Henry Ward Beecher warned; “watch, lest prosperity destroy generosity”.

Father, Unlike Son

In the 1950s J.P. Getty was the richest man in world. He is known to have disliked the attention his wealth brought, but not because of his humility but because of people’s request for donations, he “despised passive acceptance of money”; had a pay-phone installed in his house for guests; delayed ransom for his grandson’s kidnapping for 6 months and only paid a fraction of the ransom after his grandson’s ear was cut off and sent to him.

J.P. Getty Jr. inherited relatively a small part of his father’s estate yet gave millions in charity saying, “I am privileged to be the heir to huge wealth and I regard myself as custodian of that money for the benefit of people who need it more than I do.”

Even when you do give of your material wealth, do not give merely from the top of your wallet, but rather give from the bottom of your heart. Also, it is not material help only. Whatever one can do to enhance the situation of others is considered generosity. Prophet Muhammad said; “There is charity due on every part of the body every day.” He went on to say: ” to bring justice between people is charity, to help a person with transport and helping with baggage is charity, a good, kind word is charity, every step towards prayer is charity, removing harmful things from the way is charity and giving water to the thirsty is charity. A person’s true wealth lies in the good they accrue for the Hereafter through good deeds in this world. When a person dies people say ‘what has he left behind?’ while angels say ‘what has he sent forth?’ “

To give of your self is the best kind of giving. Prophet Muhammad said: “When you give of yourself then you truly are a Believer”.

The great Lebanese poet and writer Khalil Gibran echoed the same sentiments when he said: “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” 

So, if you genuinely desire to become a generous person, don’t wait for your income to change; change the attitude of your heart.

Stinginess

As for those who are stingy due to fear that generosity will deplete their wealth, Prophet Muhammad said: A person says, ” ‘this is my wealth, my things’ but all that he really has is three; What he consumes and digests, what he wears and wears out, or what he gives in charity and it continues to benefit; The rest you leave behind when you depart from this world.”

Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Every person must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

Note that the stingy person is far from people, far from Allah, far from paradise and closer to the fire of Hell. (Prophet Muhammad )

Positive Aspects of Giving

  • The Company of the generous is delightful. The generous focus on other than themselves, and their generosity not only makes them likeable but also makes the world a happier and better place.

  • Life should not really be about how much money we accrue, but rather how many people we serve; because the greater your giving, the greater your living. Giving does not devalue your worth and the Prophet said that “charity does not decrease wealth”. Remember, we are here to enrich the world, and if we ever forget that we impoverish ourselves.

  • In helping others we enhance ourselves, for when you light another’s path you can’t help but cast light on your own path. Realize that no one stands taller in success than the one who bends down to help those in need. We become enriched by enriching the lives of others. The Prophet said that a Believer feels good doing good. So do not do good merely to feel good, but rather feel good doing good.

    In a humorous incident, a beggar asked a woman for money and she said; “I’ll give you a dollar, not because you deserve it but because it pleases me”. So the beggar said; “Thanks Maam, why don’t you give me $100 and you could feel really, really good about it.”

  • By living a life that is helpful, one’s life becomes significant. “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is … What are we doing for others?” (civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr.) How we answer that question is in a way a good measure of our spirit of generosity. 

Spirit of Generosity

Characteristic of a true Believer: When asked about the characteristics of a Believer, Imam Zainul ‘Abideen said: “Righteousness in privacy, generosity even when needy, patience during misfortunes, sense of control when angry and truthfulness even when fearful.”

Kindness: Giving requires compassion, mercy, and love. Each person should give what he has decided in his heart to give; not reluctantly nor under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. [2 Corinthians 9:7] 

Selflessness: Eventually, what we do for ourselves alone dies with us, but what we do for others outlives us. Wise are the words that reminds us:

He who lives for himself, lives small, and dies small and will be forgotten, 
And he who lives for others, lives big, and dies big and will be remembered

Our function in life is not merely to have and to hold, but to give and to serve, to get and not to forget. “The service we render to others is really the rent we pay for our room on this earth.” (Dr Wilfred Grenfell) Prophet Muhammad said: “Allah is at the assistance of a person as long as that person is of help to another.”

Remember the promise, people will enter Paradise; by the Mercy of Allah, through the generosity of their spirits and the soundness of their hearts. (Prophet Muhammad )

O Allah! I seek refuge in Thee from anxiety, grief, incapacity, laziness, stinginess, cowardice; from the burden of debt and from the domination of people. (Prayer of Prophet Muhammad )

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2007 in Articles

 

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One take away one is equal to one


 

It is possible to give your time, your knowledge, your labor, and your skills. Having little money is no excuse for a lack of generosity ..

By: Sheikh Ragip Robert Frager al Jerrahi
IslamiCity* –

Generosity

If everything flows from God and everything returns to God, do you truly own anything? Are you not but a steward, taking care of that the portion of this world under your care, which is to be preserved and protected and possibly shared?

There are different forms of generosity. Most of us feel generous when we give something-money, time, advice. We know that our generosity is successful when we are seen, acknowledged, thanked, and praised for what we have done. This is the most obvious level of generosity. The truth of the matter is, in these cases, we give and we are repaid. These transactions are actually exchanges and contain the actual generosity.

A higher level of generosity is to give anonymously. The giver still benefits, but not as directly. Payment comes from knowing that we have been not only generous but also virtuous in not expecting gain recognition for our giving. However, the recipient will still feel gratitude, and inside ourselves, we assure ourselves, intuitively, that we gain merit.

There is still another level – “secret charity.” This occurs when you give so that someone benefits from your actions, but unlike at the other two levels, that person does not feel given to, nor is there any burden of gratitude. How do you feel, for example, if you find a dollar bill on the sidewalk? You look around and pick it up with a smile on your face. You may feel blessed or at least lucky. You don’t feel that someone “gave it to you” but that you found it. If, however, someone made a practice of laying bills on the ground now and then-then walking away and telling no one-he or she would be practicing a simple form of secret charity.

If you try something like this, you will soon feel the effects in your life. If you look for small, daily opportunities, they abound. My local library, for example, has a place where I can donate books so I can get a tax deduction. They also have a box so that books can be given anonymously. The choice is mine.

You can practice generosity with other than things. It is possible to give your time, your knowledge, your labor, and your skills. Having little money is no excuse for a lack of generosity.

At yet another level, if you give what is in your heart patience, insight, compassion you will find not only that your generosity arises from God, but that each act of giving also becomes an act of remembrance.


One take away one is equal to one
(A traditional teaching story)

Two brothers, one married and one single, farmed together and divided the grain from the harvest equally between them. The single brother often thought that his brother had extra worries and expenses because of his family so he would, from time to time, move some of the filled sacks from his storeroom into his brother’s. His brother, on the other hand, often thought of how lonely his single brother must be. He thought, if my brother had a little more money he might buy himself some nicer things. So he would, without the other’s knowledge, move some of his grain sacks into his brother’s storeroom.

For many years the number of sacks remained equal between them, and neither brother could ever understand why this was so.

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2007 in Articles

 

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