There are five essential pillars in Islam which are shahada, salat, zakat, sawm, and hajj. It is the obligation of every Muslim to adhere to these five pillars and live life with purity in heart. If searching for what is zakat, it is the third pillar of Islam that orders a person to do charity and give a portion of wealth to the poor and needy. It is a form of praying and leading life on the path shown by Allah. Not all have to perform annual donations, but only those who are eligible can pay zakat as a religious obligation.
What is zakat: zakat meaning
Zakat literally means ‘to increase’, and technically it means ‘that which purifies’. Therefore, it is a basic tenet in Islam that purifies the earnings of an individual in a year. It has to be donated on excess wealth including money in the bank account or at home, possession of gold/silver, agricultural produce, livestock earnings, and profits from stocks and investment. In turn, it liberates an individual from greed and selfishness. It is a way to be at peace and maintain harmony in society.
Importance of zakat
The importance of zakat in Quran is mentioned more than 80 times. It obliges an individual to be sincere in its proper calculation and donation. Their adherence to faith brings them closer to Allah, the only truth in the world. It is a highly significant factor in maintaining social order and removing beggary. Further, a balanced distribution of wealth among the rich and poor removes social evils like slavery, exploitation, and crime. The basic concept of annual donation is to promote brotherhood and Muslim unity worldwide in the name of Allah, the almighty.
Types of Zakat
1. Zakat al Mal: The most common type of Zakat, Zakat al Mal is the annual donation made on the the wealth of an individual. The wealth include money in cash, gold, silver and property.
2. Zakat al Fitr: Another significant donation that is obligatory for Muslims is Zakat al Fitr. The donation is made before the Eid in the fixed time limit for making it valid.
“If one gives in charity what equals (the size of) one date-fruit from the honestly-earned money and Allah accepts only the honestly earned money –Allah takes it in His right (hand) and then enlarges its reward for that person (who has given it), as anyone of you brings up his baby horse, so much so that it becomes as big as a mountain.”
– Sahih Bukhari, Vol 2, Book 24, No. 491
Benefits of zakat
Charity in the name of Allah has many impacts and benefits for an individual doing it and the society they live in. Some of these are:
- Unification in the cause of Allah: As mentioned in a hadith, an Angel prays Allah to provide for the person who donates for the divine cause. Donation makes the two ends meet that are a path led by an individual and the one shown by Allah.
- Protection from hellfire: Allah loves those who are righteous and obey Him with complete faith. Islamic scholars suggest that a person remains safe from hellfire, and Allah provides a home on the Judgment day who donates wealth on time.
- Promote belongingness in a society: Donation lays the foundation for balanced wealth distribution and uplifts the poor and needy. Hence, it removes the social difference between rich and poor and makes every individual, as Allah made them, equal to each other.
The annual donation has several basic rules that every Muslim must be aware of. Therefore, here are the essential rules to pay the annual donation:
Who is eligible for zakat?
An individual has to donate wealth as a responsibility if their annual income increases the minimum amount. The individual will have to donate their wealth every year from that day on. The charity should not be delayed as it is an obligation on the individual. Additionally, Zakat al-Fitr is to be paid by the head of the family at the end of Ramadan. One has to give Zakat al-Fitr for every fasting member of the family in terms of money or food, which equals the amount of one-day fasting of the member.
Who is eligible to give zakat?
The donation is due whenever a person’s wealth becomes more than the nisab.
The minimum amount of an individual’s wealth at which they are eligible to pay Zakat. The different sources and assets of wealth have different calculations for the total nisab. Also, if the wealth of an individual drops below the nisab at any time in the zakat year, the calculation of the year will restart once the wealth becomes more than nisab.
Who is eligible to receive zakat?
There are eight categories of people who can receive the donated wealth. These are:
- Fakir – poor and needy
- Miskin – hungry and have nothing to eat
- Amil – zakat collector who distributes it on behalf of others
- Riqab – enslaved people or captives
- Gharmin – people in debt
- Fisabilillah – individuals who work towards the cause of Allah
- Ibnus Sabil – stranded travelers
- Muallaf – new members or converts