The blessings of paying the Zakāt
The importance of paying the Zakāt may also be judged from the fact that the Holy Prophet, on whom be peace, always used to supplicate on behalf of those who paid it. Hazrat Abdullah ibn Abi Aufa, God be pleased with him, has related:
‘When the people brought the Zakāt offerings to the Most Favored Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, he used to supplicate in these words, “O Allah, shower Thy mercy on the progeny of such and such a man, the son of such and such a man.” When my father brought his due Zakāt to the Holy Prophet, he prayed, “O Allah, shower Thy mercy on the progeny of Abi Aufa.”‘
The above Tradition has been reported both by Bukhari and Muslim. And there is another report which says: ‘Whenever anyone brought his Zakāt to the Holy Prophet, he used to supplicate, “O Allah, shower Thy blessings on this man.”‘
Why has so great an importance been given to Zakāt?
As I have already mentioned before you, the basic aim and object of Zakāt is sympathy for mankind; rendering assistance to the poor; to raise the standard of life of those who had been left unprovided and to protect them from mental and social degradation possible for want of means; and by means of Zakāt provide the path of progress and prosperity and also of national betterment and stability. Over and above all this there is also the aim through which every man may avail his birthright of partnership in all that Allah has created for the benefit of mankind. Pointing out this basic philosophy of Zakāt, the Promised Messiah has explained:
‘What is Zakāt? It is that which is taken from the well-to-do and given to the poorly off. This teaches us the sympathy of the highest order and shores up the Muslim peoples. It is incumbent upon the rich to pay. Even if it had not been made incumbent human sympathy demands that the poor must be helped.’
Zakat is the source of purifying the soul
In the very beginning of my speech I had explained that according to lexicology the basic philosophy of Zakāt is to purify the soul and to polish it. The Holy Quran says:
‘Take alms out of their wealth, so that thou cleanse them and purify them thereby.’ (9:103).
The love of riches is ingrained in man’s mind and it possesses the strongest attraction for him. That is why it is the main cause for one to stumble and he throws all the Commands of God overboard. Regular and due payment of Zakāt destroys in man the love of lucre and releases him from the bonds and the curse of capitalism. Indifference towards wealth gives protection from many evils and induces man to walk in the paths of virtue. He who does not bolster up his income through foul means also gives up this evil habit and saves his soul from such contamination as love of dirty lucre. He does not remain any more a prey to niggardliness and similar obnoxious habits. The Holy Quran says:
‘And whoso is rid of the covetousness of his own soul–it is these who will be successful.’ (59:10)
In other words, we could say that Zakāt is the ‘healer’ of the disease of niggardliness. Love of riches is weakened and the spirit of brotherly sympathy is born. This is because he pays Zakāt in obedience to the command of Allah. In return he is rewarded with the love of Allah which is the main source of all virtues; and he gains the object for which he was created-perfect submission to Allah. The Holy Quran says:
‘And the case of those who spend their wealth to seek the pleasure of Allah and to strengthen their souls is like the case of a garden on elevated ground. Heavy rain falls on it so that it brings forth its fruit twofold. And if heavy rain does not fall on it, then light rain suffices. And Allah sees what you do.’ (2:266)
The above verse explains the philosophy of Zakāt. Those who spend to seek the pleasure of Allah they find a place to stand on a firm rock and their hearts are filled with God’s love and for this reason they become pure-hearted and righteous and they gain admission to a haven where Satan has no access.
Zakat–means of purifying wealth
Zakāt not only purifies the soul and inculcates good morals, it causes one’s wealth and possessions to be purified. While explaining the meanings of the word Zakāt we also explained that when Zakāt portion has been paid the remainder does indeed become purified as it provides protection from loss and ruination. This is because in the possessions of the wealthy there is a share of others also. Unless and until their share has been paid, the wealth remains impure and sullied. The Holy Quran says:
‘And in their wealth was a share for one who asked for help and one who could not.’ (51:20)
The above verse clearly points out the fact that all wealth is earned through joint effort and they all have their share in it. There are some who are connected directly with its earnings and there are those who are not so directly connected. They did not work but they still have their share in it. Let us, for instance, take the case of a rich man who makes a huge profit from working a mine. He has paid for the labor of all those who helped him in the working. Whatever he has paid them is due to them only for the labor they have put in. But according to the teachings of the Quran, they also hold a share in that mine because all the treasures of the earth were created for the benefit of all mankind-not for any single person. Therefore, even after having been paid for their labor, their share of the ownership of the mines still remains unpaid. One way of doing it would be to pay an additional amount, out of the profits, to the laborers or other workers. But even doing that would not absolve the miner of all his obligations. Yes, he did pay an additional amount to all those who gave him assistance in making the huge profit. But what about the share of those who have not put in any labor in working the mine? The whole world has a share in the treasures of the earth.
Islam has, therefore, made it incumbent to pay the Zakāt-a share from the earnings into the treasury of the government so that they would spend these for the benefit of the whole nation. In this way every man gets his due share directly or indirectly and he reaps the benefit of his share that God Almighty had granted him in His creation.
Therefore, the wealth from which the due share of the others has been paid becomes purified and when people understand and realize that due share of everyone has been paid they will not clamor for and claim any more for their rights. There shall be peace in the country; and the spirit of righteousness and doing good to others and culture and good behaviour is inculcated. This, as we all know, is most urgent and essential for national stability.
Hazrat Shah Waliullah, Muhaddith of Delhi, while discussing the philosophy of Zakāt, writes in his book Hujjatulah-il-Balighah:
‘It must be clearly understood that Zakāt has been made incumbent on account of two reasons. Firstly for the training of the soul; secondly for fulfilling the social and national requirements. As regards the training of the soul it is quite clear that wealth is the root cause of social ills like niggardliness, selfishness, mutual enmities and other known immoralities. The true remedy for this is spending the wealth suitably and generously. This puts an end to niggardliness, selfishness dies out and instead of mutual enmity a spirit of love is born and this mutual love is the true foundation of the highest moral behavior and makes men treat each other with love and kindness. The net result of all this is that man becomes virtue personified and this is what is called the training of the soul.
‘Zakāt is also the best remedy for all social and national necessities. This is because social administration cannot become stable unless it is backed by strong and stable finances. Because with sound finance the government is in the position of looking after all the highest or the lowest requirements of the administration and fulfilling all the needs of the society equitably, and the poor, the needy, the weak, the orphans and the widows do not stand in need of going a-begging from others and are saved from all this humiliation and that the government may be able to look after them properly. All these duties of the government can be duly performed only when, along with the other resources, the government could safely depend upon the revenue obtained through Zakāt from the rich and the wealthy.’ (Hujjatullah-il-Balighah: Vol. 2, Ch. Zakat)
The means of sustaining and helping the poor
Zakāt is the best means of assisting and providing sustenance to the poor of the nation. Through this the poor and the have-nots can be properly and timely assisted. The command of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, that ‘Zakāt should be taken from the rich and given to the poor’ denotes that the basic principle of Zakāt is sympathy for mankind and helping the poor. From the details given by the Holy Quran it becomes quite clear that the underlying idea is the support of the poor. The Holy Prophet was always very anxious to help the have-nots in their distress, their difficulties and in their scanty means and he, therefore, took the undermentioned steps in this matter:
He spent his own life like that of the have-nots and always supplicated, ‘O my Lord God, so long as I live I should be poor and take me to Yourselves while I am still poor and on the Day of Resurrection raise me up with the poor people.’ He did not confine his help of the poor only to their spiritual enhancement but took practical steps to remove their poverty and want. He adopted practical means the best and most effective of which was the institution of Zakāt and which served as a sure guarantee for their sustenance and other needs. History provides us with an undeniable evidence how splendidly the institution of Zakāt worked and helped the needy in such a manner that in no time the social conditions were radically changed so much so that few have-nots were to be found in the length and breadth of the Muslim Empire and people became so prosperous that when people went about in search of the needy they could not find one who deserved help.
Zakāt is the most effective means not only of ending poverty and want in the society but is the best course of improving the moral conditions of the nation. Facts and figures provide us with an undeniable truth that poverty, destitution, hunger and want are the main causes of crimes. When individuals of a nation live in straitened circumstances and the empty purse looks them in their faces all the time, they are bound to commit crimes to put an end to their distress. It comes to our daily experience that some people merely because of the straitened means start thieving and robbing and start pick-pocketing and when in extreme poverty they do not even hesitate in murdering people and adopt this as a profession. This causes an upheaval in the country’s peace.
Poverty does not only force people to commit crimes-thieving and robbing, but induces them to enter the walks of immorality. Poverty also tends to make one niggardly and mean and the fear of God vanishes from the heart and they begin to think that the rich people are their gods who would come to their rescue. They consider them to be their only benefactors, sustainers and patrons. They begin to fear them more than they ever fear God. How true is the saying: ‘Poverty makes a man susceptible to disbelief and rebellion.’
These moral ailments and weaknesses suppress people’s capabilities. The only way to improve matters is to find ways and means to remove poverty and hunger, want and scarcity. Islam has given us a viable remedy to remove poverty in the nation. This remedy is the system of Zakāt which guarantees prosperity and happiness for the people who will accept it. When Zakāt was the law and the people obeyed and paid the Zakāt into the government treasuries, crimes were seldom committed and most certainly not for want and poverty. The moral state of the people was indeed enviable.
Zakāt ensures economic prosperity
Zakāt is not only advantageous in the moral and spiritual uplift of man but is also a guarantee for economic betterment. The word Zakāt also implies increase and growth. This, therefore, means God has made Zakāt an important means of increase and multiplying of national wealth and betterment of social conditions. The Almighty God has said in the Holy Quran:
‘… thou may cleanse and purify them.’ (9:103).
And again He says:
‘The similitude of those who spend their wealth for the cause of Allah is like the similitude of a grain of corn which grows seven ears, in each ear a hundred grains. And Allah multiplies it further for whomsoever He pleases and Allah is bountiful. All-Knowing.’
From the above two verses it is evident that Zakāt is the means of ameliorating social conditions and of making the nations economically prosperous. This is very easily understandable because when the poor and the needy obtain financial assistance and the people get financial support in their difficulties and distress they would naturally tend to stand on their own feet and try to become independent and would enter the highroad of success and prosperity.
Economic welfare and prosperity of the nation is never attained through the wealth of the nation going into the hands of a limited few capitalists. National prosperity means the happiness and prosperity of all the members of the nation collectively. When Zakāt funds are distributed among the poor, the wealth of the nation shall pass from the hands of a limited few in to the hands of the have-nots who form the majority. They shall in turn, by the means of this financial assistance, be able to make their own livings. The social and economic conditions are bound to become stable and rest on very firm footings.
It is often pointed out that in modem times revenue from Zakāt alone cannot fulfill the needs of the poor and the needy. This is not untrue, because of the heavy expenditure of governments. Some of this is legitimate. It is for this very reason that Muslims are enjoined to give additional alms in the name of Allah, both collectively and individually. In this respect the Holy Quran says:
‘Spend yourself and your belongings in the cause of Allah and do not push yourselves into ruins with your own hands, and be benevolent, surely Allah loves the benevolent.’ (2:196)
And again it says:
‘Those who spend their wealth in the cause of Allah, by night and by day, secretly and openly, have their reward with their Lord; on them shall come no fear, nor shall they grieve.’ (2:275)
And again the Holy Quran mentions:
‘Those who spend their wealth in the cause of Allah, then follow not up that which they have spent with reproaches and injury, their reward is with their Lord. They shall have no fear nor shall they grieve … O ye who believe, render not vain your alms by reproaches or injury, like one who spends his wealth to be seen of people and believes not in Allah and the Last Day. His case is like that of a smooth rock covered with earth, on which heavy rain falls and washes it clean, leaving it bare and hard. Such people shall not secure for themselves aught of that which they earn. Allah guides not the disbelieving people.’ (2:265)