The Virtue in Giving the Alms (Zakat)

Our Prophet SAW was the one who expended the most from what Allah SWT gave to him. If anyone wanted anything from the Messenger SAW, he would certainly give, whether it was much or whether it was little; he always gave whatever he could. The pleasure he took from giving was more than the happiness of the person who received. Our Prophet SAW specified four types of possessions from which to give alms (zakat):

1) Agricultural products and fruits,

2) Animals (camel, cattle),

3) Gold and silver,

4) All sorts of commercial goods.

“You who believe! Give away some of what We have provided for you before a Day arrives on which there is no trading, no close friendship and no intercession…” (Surat Al-Baqarah : 254)

Cooperation had a great place in our Prophet’s SAW life. He informs us that the best of all aids given are the ones given in secret. Our Prophet SAW says:

“Seven are (the persons) whom Allah would give protection with His Shade on the Day when there would be no shade but that of Him (i. e. on the Day of Judgment, and they are): … a person who gives charity and conceals it (to such an extent) that the right hand does not know what the left has given: and a person who remembered Allah in privacy and his eyes shed tears.” (Sahih Muslim, Book 005, Number 2248)

Satan inspires fear for future in people so as to hinder them from giving away from that which Allah SWT has blessed them with. This way, he drifts them into stinginess. Our Prophet SWT says that this is a great danger for believers.

 “Spend and do not calculate, (for) Allah would calculate in your case; and do not hoard, otherwise Allah would be withholding from you.” (Sahih Muslim, Book 005, Number 2244)

 “He who gives time to one who is financially hard up (in the payment of debt) or writes off his debt, Allah will provide him His shadow.” (Sahih Muslim, Book 042, Number 7149)

“If any owner of gold or silver does not pay what is due on him, when the Day of Resurrection would come, plates of fire would be beaten out for him; these would then be heated in the fire of Hell and his sides, his forehead and his back would be cauterized with them. Whenever these cool down, (the process is) repeated during a day the extent of which would be fifty thousand years, until judgment is pronounced among servants.” (Sahih Muslim, Book 005, Number 2161)

Giving to charity is one of the five “pillars” of Islam. Muslims who have wealth remaining over the year, after paying for their own basic needs, must pay a certain percentage to help others. This almsgiving is called Zakat, from an Arabic word which means both “to purify” and “to grow.” Muslim believe that giving to others purifies their own wealth, increases its value, and causes one to recognize that everything we have is a trust from God. Paying Zakat is required of every adult Muslim man or woman who possesses wealth of a certain minimum amount.

In addition to the required alms, Muslims are encouraged to give in charity at all times according to their means. Additional, voluntary charity is called sadaqah, from an Arabic word meaning “truth” and “honesty.” Sadaqah may be given at any time and in any amount. 

How Much to Pay in Zakat: Zakat is only required of those who have wealth beyond a certain amount to meet their basic needs (called nisab in Arabic). The amount of money paid in Zakat depends on the amount and type of wealth one possesses, but is usually considered to be a minimum of 2.5% of a person’s “extra” wealth. The specific calculations of Zakat are rather detailed and dependent on individual circumstances, so zakat calculators have been developed to assist with the process.

Who May Receive Zakat: The Qur’an specifies eight categories of people to whom Zakat may be donated (in verse 9:60):

  • Poor people — who have few belongings
  • Destitute people — who have absolutely nothing
  • Zakat collectors — for their work in collecting and distributing the zakat
  • Muslim converts — who may be estranged from their families and in need of help
  • Slaves — to free them from slavery in times/places where slavery has existed
  • Debtors — to help free them from insurmountable debts
  • Those working in the path of Allah — soldiers fighting a just war to defend the Muslim community
  • Wayfarers — who are stranded during their travels

When to Pay Zakat: While Zakat can be paid anytime during the Islamic lunar year, many people prefer to pay it during Ramadan or your could contribute now to Al-Hikmah Surau/Madrasah for student who studied Al-Quran and Alim.

The assessor of alms should try to give his Zakat to an eligible person, but if he makes a mistake and gives it to an ineligible person it is accepted. In a hadith related by Abu Hurairah, he said the Messenger SAW said:

“A man expressed his intention to give charity, so he came with his charity and placed it in the hand of an adulteress. In the morning the people were talking and saying charity was given to an adulteress last night. The donor said: O Allah, to thee be the Praise – charity to an adulteress! He then again expressed his intention to give charity, so he went out with it and placed it in the hand of a rich person. In the morning the people were talking and saying charity was given to a rich person. The donor said, O Allah to You be the praise – charity to a rich man! He then expressed his intention to give charity, so he went out with his charity and placed it in the hand of a thief. In the morning the people were talking and saying charity to the thief. So the man said, O Allah to You be the praise (what a misfortune that charity has been given) to the adulteress, the rich and the thief! Then someone came to him and told him your charity has been accepted. As for the adulteress the charity might become the means whereby she might restrain from fornication. The rich man might perhaps learn a lesson and spend from what Allah has given him, and the thief might thereby restrain from committing theft. (Muslim/ Bukhari).

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