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Reflections on Zakat: The Fourth Pillar of Islam

Reflections on Zakat: The Third Pillar of Islam
Zakat, as Islam’s Fourth Pillar, shines as a beacon of compassion, social justice, and unity. It underscores our collective duty to relieve suffering and foster fairness globally. Whether in religious devotion or humanitarian spirit, Zakat reminds us that every act of kindness holds significance. Let’s pursue a world where compassion transcends borders, poverty diminishes, and our shared humanity strengthens communities, upholding Zakat’s legacy for a brighter future.

Introduction

Zakat, one of the Five Pillars of Islam, is a fundamental aspect of the faith that holds great significance for Muslims around the world. Derived from the Arabic word “zakat,” which means purification and growth. Zakat serves as a means of purifying one’s wealth and redistributing it to those in need. In this blog, we will delve deep into the concept of Zakat, exploring its importance, key principles, and profound impact on the lives of Muslims and broader society. Join us on this journey of reflection and understanding.

Zakat, the fourth pillar of Islam, is an obligatory act for all qualifying Muslims. The undertaking of submitting a set percentage of his or her profitable wealth to charity. It isn’t an optional act of generosity. It is a compulsory act that each qualifying Muslim needs to carry out annually. The giving of 2.5% of one’s profitable wealth to those in need Zakat holds a central place in Islam, not only as an obligatory act of worship but also as a symbol of social justice, empathy, and community building. One can understand its importance from multiple angles.

Hazrat Abdullah ibn Umar reported that the Prophet (SAW), “Islam is built upon five: the declaration that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah; the establishment of prayer; the giving of Zakat; the fast of Ramadan; and pilgrimage to Makkah (Hajj).” (Sahih al-Bukhari)

Types of Zakat

Zakat al Mal

The most common type of Zakat, Zakat al Mal, is the annual donation made on the wealth of an individual. The wealth includes money in cash, gold, silver, and property.

Zakat al Fitr

Another significant donation that is obligatory for Muslims is Zakat al Fitr. The donation is made before Eid in the fixed time limit for making it valid.

When should we give Zakat?

Zakat paid once a year. One should record the Islamic date on which one has attained minimal wealth (Nisab). Then, once a full lunar year has passed, one has to pay Zakat. Many Muslims choose to give Zakat during Ramadan, as the rewards for good deeds performed in Ramadan are greater than in any other month.

How is Zakat calculated?

Firstly, identify the assets that are eligible for Zakat. These usually include savings, cash, gold, silver, investments, and income-generating properties. Personal items like a primary residence and basic necessities are usually not subject to Zakat. Zakat is applicable at a rate of 2.5% (or 1/40) of a Muslim’s total savings and wealth above a minimum amount known as Nisab. If your net wealth (after deducting liabilities) is equal to or greater than the Nisab, you are obligated to pay Zakat. The Zakat amount is typically 2.5% (or 1/40) of your eligible assets.

The formula for calculating Zakat is

Zakat Amount = (Total Eligible Assets minus Liabilities) x Zakat Rate (e.g., 2.5%)

The Importance of Zakat

Religious Obligation

Zakat is an essential religious duty for Muslims. The Quran mentions it numerous times, emphasizing its significance as an act of worship. For devout Muslims, fulfilling this obligation is a means of seeking Allah’s pleasure and demonstrating their faith.

Establish prayer, pay zakat, and bow down with those who bow down.[Al-Quran 2:43]

Economic Justice

Zakat functions as a mechanism for wealth redistribution, addressing economic disparities within Muslim communities. By giving a portion of their wealth to those in need, Muslims contribute to a more equitable society, in line with the principles of social justice.

Establish prayer/namaz and pay zakat. Whatever good you send fourth for yourselves, you will certainly find its reward with Allah. Surely Allah is All-Seeing of what you do. [Al-Quran 2:110]

Community Solidarity

Significance of Zakat in Islam fosters a sense of unity and mutual support within the Muslim ummah (community). It strengthens bonds among individuals, creating a network of assistance that extends beyond geographical and cultural boundaries.

And ˹remember˺ when We took a covenant from the children of Israel ˹stating˺, “Worship none but Allah; be kind to parents, relatives, orphans and the needy, [Al-Quran 2:83]

Speak kindly to people; establish prayer; and pay alms-tax.” But you ˹Israelites˺ turned away—except for a few of you—and were indifferent.. [Al-Quran 2:83]

Spiritual Growth

Significance of Zakat in Islam as a form of self-purification categorizes the act of giving Zakat. It teaches Muslims to detach themselves from the love of material possessions and prioritize spiritual growth and compassion for others.

Are you afraid of spending in charity before your private consultations ˹with him˺? Since you are unable to do so, and Allah has turned to you in mercy,[Al-Quran 58:13]

then ˹continue to˺ establish prayer, pay alms-tax, and obey Allah and His Messenger. And Allah is All-Aware of what you do.[Al-Quran 58:13]

Zakat is a reminder

From an individual point of view, when one gives Zakat, one is acknowledging that everything belongs to Allah, and everything returns to Allah. When giving Zakat, we do experience that money is a blessing from Allah. We are not the real owners, but trustees of the wealth we have.

Hazrat Ibn Abbas reported that the Prophet Muhammabd (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever gives Zakat on his wealth will have its evil removed from him.” (Ibn Majah)

Conclusion

Significance of Zakat in Islam, the Fourth Pillar of Islam, serves as a guiding light of compassion, social justice, and community solidarity. It reminds us of our shared responsibility to alleviate suffering and create a more equitable world. Whether fulfilling a religious duty or seeking to make a difference, Zakat teaches us that every act of kindness matters. Let us continue striving for a world where compassion knows no bounds, poverty’s burdens are lightened, and communities are bound together by our shared humanity, carrying forward the legacy of Zakat towards a brighter, more compassionate future.

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