We all know that Islam consists of five pillars. Five foundations, upon which our connection to Allah (SWT) is built. These are often seen to be ranked by level of importance:
First, the essential Shahadah: a wholehearted belief and outward demonstration of belief in one God, Allah, and his final Messenger (SAW). Second, is a daily occurrence Salah: five prayers offered at specific times of the day. Next, a yearly obligation Zakat: giving a portion of one’s wealth to help the poor and needy. Fourth and fifth are also yearly obligations, Sawm: fasting 29-30 continuous days from Fajr to Maghrib, during the month of Ramadan and finally Hajj: visiting the House of Allah in Makkah, during the month of Dhul- Hijjah.
Some pillars in this list however, are obligatory only with conditions. So, what actually is Zakat? And what are the conditions which make it a compulsory act?
The origins of the Arabic word Zakat mean, ‘That which purifies.’ Here we learn that Zakat is much more than just a payment or a random act of charity; the effects are far-reaching.
Not only does Zakat represent an act of worship and servitude to Allah, but interestingly we are told that giving on a regular basis, purifies our wealth in much the same way that Salah purifies our body and soul. Zakat when implemented correctly forms a social system which benefits the community in a simple way, whilst being fair to all. It is a common belief that there is enough wealth and resources in the world for everyone to flourish. Even Gandhi stated, “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.” Zakat deals with two of the vices that Gandhi mentioned here. The first is an individual’s predisposition to greed. Our beloved Messenger (SAW) said in a hadith:
“If the son of Adam had a valley full of gold, he would want to have two valleys.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
Zakat fights against this, by dedicating 2.5 per cent of one’s yearly wealth to those who are most needy in society. The second imbalance that zakat re-addresses, is the distribution of wealth in society. Everyone who possesses a minimum requirement of wealth, known as the nisab amount, is obliged to give 2.5 per cent of their wealth. This done regularly, helps to redistribute wealth from the most wealthy to the most needy.
“And establish prayer and give Zakah, and whatever good you put forward for yourselves – you will find it with Allah. Indeed, Allah of what you do, is Seeing.” [Qur’an 2:110]