Page 72 - Islam In Focus

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The Alms (Zakah)
Another exceptionally remarkable institution and major pillar of Islam is the Zakah.
To the Qur’ anic word Zakah and the meaning it conveys, there is no equivalent in any
other language as far as we known. It is not just a form of charity or alms-giving or
tax or tithe. Nor is it simply an expression of kindness; it is all of these combined and
much more. It is not merely a deduction of a certain percentage from one’ s property,
but an abundant enrichment and spiritual investment. It is not simply a voluntary
contribution to someone or some cause, nor a government tax that a shrewd clever
person can get away with. Rather, it is a duty enjoined by God and undertaken by
Muslims in the interest of society as a whole. The Qur’ anic word Zakah not only
includes charity, alms, tithe, kindness, official tax, voluntary contributions, etc., but it
is also combines with all these God-mindedness and spiritual as well as moral
motives. That is why there can be no equivalent to the word Zakah because of the
supreme originality of the Qur’ an, the Divine Book of God
The literal and simple meaning of Zakah is purity. The technical meaning of the word
designates the annual amount in kind or coin which a Muslim with means must
distribute among the rightful beneficiaries. But the religious and spiritual significance
of Zakah is much deeper and more lively. So is its humanitarian and sociopolitical
value. Here is an explanation of the far-reaching effects of Zakah:
1. Zakah purifies the property of the people with means and clears it from the shares
which do not belong to it anymore, the shares which must be distributed among the
due beneficiaries. When Zakah is payable, a certain percentage of the wealth should
be distributed immediately in the right manner, because the owner no longer has
moral or legal possession of that percentage. If he fails to do so, he is obviously
retaining something which does not belong to him. This is corruption and plain
usurpation from every point of view, moral and spiritual, legal and commercial. It
means that the unlawfully retained percentage makes the whole lot impure and
endangered. But, on the other hand, if the poor’ s dividends are assorted and
distributed among due beneficiaries, the remaining portions of the lot will be pure and
decent. Pure capital and decent possessions are the first requisites of permanent
prosperity and honest transactions
2. Zakah does not only purify the property of the contributor but also purifies his heart
from selfishness and greed for wealth. In return, it purifies the heart of the recipient
from envy and jealousy, from hatred and uneasiness; and it fosters in his heart,
instead, good will and warm wishes for the contributor. As a result, the society at
large will purify and free itself from class warfare and suspicion, from ill feelings and
distrust, from corruption and disintegration, and from all such evils
3. Zakah mitigates to a minimum the sufferings of the needy and poor members of
society. It is a most comforting consolation to the less fortunate people, yet it is a loud
appeal to everybody to roll up his sleeves and improve his lot. To the needy it means
that it is by nature an emergency measure and that he should not depend on it
completely but must do something for himself as well as for others. To the contributor
it is a warm invitation to earn more so that he can benefit more. To all parties
concerned, it is, directly as well as indirectly, an open treasure for spiritual investment
that compensates abundantly