What are the obligation of zakat? What is the aim and objective of zakat? What are the 5 benefits of zakat? What is the role of zakat in society?
A) Definition of Zakāt
Zakāt literally means growth, increase, purification, abundance, and praise. As an Islamic legal term, it is defined as follows: It refers to giving a certain portion of certain types of goods and property to certain Muslims determined by Allah.
Zakāt is also called “charity (ṣadaqa)” because it shows the faithfulness of the believers in obeying Allah’s commands. However, the word ṣadaqa is more comprehensive than zakāt and includes wājib and voluntary donations as well.
The reason for calling the goods given away for the sake of Allah zakāt is because it purifies the rest of the wealth and protects it from calamities. It is possible to see this meaning in the following verse: “Of their goods, take alms (zakāt), that so you might purify and sanctify them.” On the other hand, zakāt cleanses its payer from sins, his/her wealth from impurities, and raises his/her spiritual level.
B) Wisdom of Zakāt
There is much wisdom behind making zakāt legally obligatory and this is so clear that anyone can understand it. The matter of fact is that Allah Almighty has equipped people with different abilities, and accordingly, differences have emerged in the distribution of wealth.
The following is stated in the Qur’an: “Allah has bestowed His gifts of sustenance more freely on some of you than on others…” For that reason, it has been made obligatory for the rich with wealth to give some of their wealth to the poor. For without such an emphasis, this flow of goods from the rich to the poor would not be ensured. Allah Almighty says: “and in whose possessions there is a due share, acknowledged by them, for such as ask for help and such as are deprived of what is good in life.”
The practice of zakāt brought by Islam is an important measure that will ensure the balance between the wealthy and the poor. Zakāt ensures the realization of social assistance and solidarity in Islam and prevents wealth from turning into a circulating power only among the rich. As a matter of fact, in the first period of Islam, the newly conquered lands of Egypt, Syria, and Iraq were not distributed to the veterans but left in the hands of their former owners. Instead, the jizya and tribute tax was collected from the land owners, and such taxes were spent on public services. With this practice, the aim was to prevent monopolies of wealth. The following is stated in the verse: “What Allah has bestowed on His Messenger (and taken away) from the people of the townships,- belongs to Allah,- to His Messenger and to kindred and orphans, the needy and the wayfarer; In order that it may not (merely) make a circuit between the wealthy among you. So take what the Messenger assigns to you, and deny yourselves that which he withholds from you. And fear Allah; for Allah is strict in Punishment.”
Accordingly, Islam does not approve of the situation where wealth is concentrated in the hands of only a certain class and where a large mass of people live on the poverty line. The distribution of inheritance, the regulations regarding credits, zakāt, and other economic regulations are all based on this principle.
We can summarize the wisdom of zakāt as follow:
1) Zakāt brings the rich and the poor closer to each other, whilst the rich experience the joy of helping, the poor come to love and respect the rich, and in this way jealousy and envy may disappear. The Prophet said, “Protect your property by giving zakāt, cure your diseases by giving charity, and be prepared for the troubles that will come by praying.”, and “Only prayer can change the destiny, and only good deeds prolong life.”
2) Zakāt provides the proper circumstances for those who are unable to work to lead a normal life. It protects the society from poverty and the state from weakness. The Messenger of Allah said, “Woe to the rich on the Day of Judgment because of the poor! The poor will say: Our Lord! The rich have treated us unfairly by not giving us the rights You have appointed for us. Allah the Exalted will say: “For the sake of My Glory and Might, I will bring you closer to Me and I will drive them away.” After saying that, the Prophet recited the Qur’anic verse, “and in whose possessions there is a due share, acknowledged by them, for such as ask for help and such as are deprived of what is good in life.”
3) Zakāt protects people from stinginess, makes them generous, and strengthens their sense of altruism.
A person who gives a part of his wealth to his poor co-religionists just for the sake of Allah and does not expect anything from them in return acquires the habit of constantly putting the benefit of the society above his own personal interests.
4) Zakāt is to show gratitude for wealth and extinguishes Allah’s wrath. Therefore, it does not reduce the wealth but blesses and increases it. This is stated in the Qur’an as follows, “If you are grateful, I will add more (favors) unto you.” Giving zakāt for the wealth is like removing excess shoots from vineyards in the spring. If these are not cleaned, the roots cannot feed the grape clusters that grow on the vines, and the clusters remain weak and unproductive. The situation of the wealth whose zakāt is not given is similar.
5) The human is a social being. Living alone by being out of society is against human nature. On the other hand, society is a whole. Everyone benefits from each other in generating income and gains. This is why others have rights in the wealth created. Who can deny the contribution of society to the creation of the wealth of the rich? Furthermore, if the rich lived alone at the top of a mountain and not in a social environment, would their wealth even have been acquired? The debt of gratitude to Allah, who has given all these blessings to human beings, and to the society in which one lives, is paid by obeying the order of zakāt.
6) Since the essence of the human being is soil, the human has the characteristic of holding wealth just as the soil absorbs and retains water. Just as the soil grows the plants with the humidity it contains, the feeling of stinginess is reduced by giving out wealth to others. Therefore, zakāt is as beneficial for the giver as it is for the recipient.
C) Evidence About the Obligation Zakāt
Zakāt is one of the five pillars of Islam, and it was declared obligatory in the month of Shawwal in the second year of Hijra after fasting in Ramadan and fiṭra were declared obligatory. In the Qur’an, the word zakāt has been used in literal meaning in two places. On the other hand, its terminological meaning is seen in thirty verses, eight of which are in the verses that were revealed during the Meccan period. The Qur’an also uses the words like “ṣadaqa (charity)” and “ḥaqq (right)” as synonyms for zakāt. Infāq, which is encouraged in various verses, expresses the notion of doing voluntary goodness. Zakāt is mentioned together with ritual prayer in twenty-seven verses. This shows that there is a close relationship between the ritual prayer and the zakāt.
On the other hand, the zakāt was also ordered to previous prophets, usually together with ritual prayer. After stating that Ibrahīm (as) and his son Isḥāq (as) and his grandson Yaʿqūb (as) were made leaders who showed the right way, it is stated in the Qur’an, “We sent them inspiration to do good deeds, to establish regular prayers, and to practice regular zakāt” Ibrahim (as)’s other son, Ismail (as), is also mentioned as follows, “He used to enjoin on his people prayer and zakāt.” In general, Allah Almighty addresses the Israelites, who abide by the Torah, as follows, “And be steadfast in prayer; practice regular zakāt; and bow down your heads with those who bow down (in worship).” When Moses ascended Mount Sinai with seventy people, Almighty Allah said to him, “With My punishment, I visit whom I will; but My mercy extends to all things. That (mercy) I shall ordain for those who do right and practice regular charity, and those who believe in Our signs” When Mary was pressed with the questions about Jesus (as) whom she gave birth to without a father, the infant Jesus in the cradle is reported to have said, “And He has made me blessed wheresoever I be, and has enjoined on me prayer and zakāt as long as I live.”
The obligation of zakāt is established by the Qur’an, sunnah, and the consensus of the Muslim jurists.
Almighty Allah says, “Establish the ritual prayer and pay the zakāt.”, “Of their goods, take alms, that so thou might purify and sanctify them.”, and “Render the dues that are proper on the day that the harvest is gathered.”
Evidence from the Sunnah of the Prophet is the following hadith, “Islam is founded on five pillars. One of them is giving zakāt.” as well as the Prophet’s words that he said to Muadh b. Jabal when he sent him to Yemen as the governor, “then teach them that Allah has made it obligatory for them to pay the zakāt from their property and it is to be taken from the wealthy among them and given to the poor.” Numerous other hadiths state that zakāt is an obligatory act of worship.
Moreover, for centuries, all Muslim jurists have been in agreement on the obligation of zakāt. The Companions agreed that those who do not pay zakāt should be fought against and anyone who denies the obligation of zakāt leaves the faith of Islam.
D – Penalty For The Refusal To Pay Zakāt
There is a two-way sanction for those who do not pay zakāt. Punishment in this world and torment in the hereafter. Almighty Allah tells us about its punishment in the Hereafter with the following words, “O you who believe! There are indeed many among the priests and anchorites, who in falsehood devour the substance of men and hinder (them) from the way of Allah. And there are those who bury gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah: announce unto them a most grievous penalty. On the Day when heat will be produced out of that (wealth) in the fire of Hell, and with it will be branded their foreheads, their flanks, and their backs, their flanks, and their backs. ‘This is the (treasure) which you buried for yourselves: taste you, then, the (treasures) you buried!’”, and “And woe to those who join gods with Allah, those who practice not regular charity, and who even deny the Hereafter.” Furthermore, on the Day of Judgment, the people of Paradise will inquire from the sinners, “‘What led you into Hell Fire?’ They will say: ‘We were not of those who prayed, nor were we of those who fed the indigent.’”
The Prophet (saw) also said,
“Whoever is made wealthy by Allah and does not pay the zakāt of his wealth, then on the Day of Resurrection his wealth will be made like a baldheaded poisonous male snake with two black spots over the eyes. The snake will encircle his neck and bite his cheeks and say, ‘I am your wealth, I am your treasure.’” The Prophet (saw) then recited the following Qur’anic verse, “And let not those who covetously withhold of the gifts which Allah has given them of His Grace, think that it is good for them: Nay, it will be the worse for them: soon shall the things which they covetously withheld be tied to their necks like a twisted collar, on the Day of Judgment. To Allah belongs the heritage of the heavens and the earth; and Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do.”
The worldly punishment of those who do not fulfill the obligation of zakāt is that historically the zakāt was taken from them by force by the early Muslim State and a punishment (taʿzīr) was imposed by the state.
In a hadith narrated by Bahz ibn Ḥakīm (ra) from his grandfather through his father, the following is stated,
“For forty pasturing camels, one she-camel in her third year is to be given. The camels are not to be separated from the reckoning. He who pays zakāt with the intention of getting a reward will be rewarded. If anyone refuses to pay zakāt, we shall take half the camels from him as a due from the dues of our Lord, the Exalted. There is no share in it (zakāt) of the descendants of Muhammad (saw).” In another version of this hadith, there is the expression “half of the property is taken as punishment”.
According to Abu Ḥanīfa, Imam Shafiʿi, and Imam Malik, in such a case, the Muslim state only takes the zakāt that is not given and imposes a taʿzīr punishment if it deems it necessary. No financial penalty is applied. For such a punishment was not applied in the time of the Prophet, and in the time of Abu Bakr, war was waged against those who did not pay zakāt, but their property was not confiscated.
Some scholars, such as al-Shīrāzī (d. 476/1083), claimed that financial punishment had existed before and was abrogated later. Only Imam Zufar among the Ḥanafis is of the opinion that in such a case, up to half of the property can be confiscated.
A war is waged against communities that do not pay zakāt due to denial. As a matter of fact, this was the attitude of the first caliph, Abu Bakr (ra), towards those who did not want to pay their zakāt. Umar, who was hesitant about this issue at first, said to the caliph Abu Bakr, “How can you fight with these people although Allah’s Messenger (saw) said, “None has the right to be worshipped but Allah, and whoever said it then he will save his life and property from me except on trespassing the law (rights and conditions for which he will be punished justly), and his accounts will be with Allah.”
Abu Bakr replied, “By Allah! I will fight those who differentiate between the ritual prayer and the zakāt as zakāt is the compulsory right to be taken from the property (according to Allah’s orders) By Allah! If they refuse to pay me even a she-kid which they used to pay at the time of Allah’s Messenger (saw) I would fight them for withholding it.” Then Umar said, “By Allah, it was no one but Allah that opened Abu Bakr’s chest towards the decision (to fight) and I came to know that his decision was right.”
Another version of this hadith was recorded with the following statement, “If they do not pay the tie of the camel they were paying the Messenger of Allah (saw)…” Upon this, Umar (ra) said, “By Allah, it was no one but Allah that opened Abu Bakr’s chest towards the decision (to fight) and I came to know that his decision was right.”
Based on this evidence, Muslim scholars said, if a person or a group does not pay zakāt or if they rebel against the Muslim state in this way, they must be fought. However, if they do not pay it due to stinginess or ignorance, they will not be leaving Islam, but become sinners.
 Al-Tawba, 9: 103. Al-Naḥl, 16: 71. Al-Ma’arij, 70: 24-25. Al-Hashr, 59: 7. Al-Ṭabaranī and Abu Nuʿaym narrated this hadith from Ibn Masʿud in Hilya; Abu Dawud narrated it from Hasan as a mursal hadith. The hadith is weak. Al-Tirmidhī, Qadar, 6; Ibn Maja, Muqaddimah, 10; Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal, II, 316, 350, V, 277, 280. Al-Haythamī, Majmaʿ al-Zawāid, III, 62; al-Maʿārij, 70: 24. Ibrahim, 14: 7. See al-Kahf, 18: 81; Maryam, 19: 13. Al-Tawba, 9: 60, 79. Al-Anbiyā, 23: 73. Maryam, 19: 55. Al-Baqara, 2: 43. Al-Aʿrāf, 7: 156. Maryam, 19: 31. Al-Baqara, 2: 10. Al-Tawba, 9: 103. Al-Anʿām, 6: 141. Al-Bukhari, Imān, 1, 2, Tafsīru surah 2/30; Muslim, Imān 19-22; al-Tirmidhī, Imān, 3; al-Nasā’ī, Imān,13. Al-Bukhari, Zakāt, 1, Tawḥīd, 1; Abū Dawūd, Zakāt, 5; al-Nasā’ī, Zakāt, 46; Ibn Maja, Zakāt, 1. Al-Tawba, 9: 34-35. Fussilat, 41: 6-7. Al-Muddaththir, 74: 42-44. Al-Bukhari, Zakāt, 3, Tafsīru surah, 3/14; Ibn Maja, Zakāt, 2; Malik, Muwaṭṭā’, Zakāt, 22; Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal, II, 255. For the verse see Āl ʿImrān, 3: 180. Abū Dawūd, Zakāt, 5; al-Nasā’ī, Zakāt, 4, 7; al-Darimī, Zakāt, 36; Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal, V, 2, 4. Al-Shawkanī, Nayl al-Awṭār, IV, 121, 132 ff. Al-Qarḍāwī, Fiqh al-Zakāt, Trans. İbrahim Sarmış, Istanbul 1984, I, 86, 87; Y. Vehbi Yavuz, İslam’da Zekat Müessesesi, Istanbul, 1977, p. 85. See Muslim, Imān, 32-36; al-Bukhari, Imān, 17, 28; Ṣalāh, 28; Zakāt, 1; Iʿtisam, 2, 38; Abū Dawūd, Jihād, 95; al-Tirmidhī, Tafsīru surah 88; al-Nasā’ī, Zakāt, 3; Ibn Maja, Fitan, 1-3. Al-Bukhari, Zakāt, 1, Murtaddīn, 3, Iʿtisam, 2; Muslim, Imān, 32; Abū Dawūd, Zakāt, 1; al-Tirmidhī, Imān, 1; al-Nasā’ī, Zakāt, 3. Al-Shawkanī, ibid, IV, 119; al-Qarḍāwī, ibid, I, 90. Al-Zuhaylī, ibid, II, 735.
Source: Basic Islamic Principles (ilmiḥal) According to the Four Sunni Schools With Evidence From The Sources of Islamic Law, Prof. Hamdi Döndüren, Erkam Publications