Capitalism Communism Poverty

The Philosophy of Zakat – Part II

Zakat is taken from the well-to-do and given to the poor. It teaches sympathy of the highest order.

49The Review of Religions – June 2005 The blessings of paying the Zakat The importance of paying the Zakat may also be judged from the fact that the Holy Prophet(sa) always used to supplicate on behalf of those who paid it. Hadhrat Abdullah ibn Abi Aufa, God be pleased with him, has related: ‘When the people brought the Zakat offerings to the Most Favoured Prophet(sa), he used to supplicate in these words, “O Allah, shower Thy mercy on the progeny of such and such a man, the son of such and such a man.” When my father brought his due Zakat to the Holy Prophet ( s a ), he prayed, “O Allah, shower Thy mercy on the progeny of Abi Aufa.”’ The above Tradition has been reported both by B u k h a r i a n d M u s l i m. And there is another report which says: ‘Whenever anyone brought his Zakat to the Holy Prophet, he used to supplicate, “O Allah, shower Thy blessings on this man.”’ Why has so great an importance been given to Zakat? As I have already mentioned the basic aim and object of Zakat is sympathy for mankind; rendering assistance to the poor; to raise the standard of life of those who had been left unprovided for and to protect them from mental and social degradation arising for want of means; and by means of Zakat provide the path of progress and prosperity and also of national betterment and stability. Over and above all this, there is also the aim The Philosophy of Zakat By the Late Maulana Sheikh Mubarak Ahmad, former Imam of the London Mosque An Urdu speech delivered at the 1975 Annual Jalsa in Rabwah, Pakistan. Translated by the Late Mr Muhammad Akram Khan Ghauri. 50 The Review of Religions – June 2005 through which every man may avail his birthright of partnership in all that Allah has created for the benefit of mankind. Pointing out this basic philosophy of Zakat, the Promised Messiah ( a s ) h a s e x p l a i n e d : ‘What is Zakat? It is that which is taken from the well- to-do and given to the poor. This teaches us the sympathy of the highest order and shores up the Muslim peoples. It is incumbent upon the rich to pay. Even if it had not been made incumbent human sympathy demands that the poor must be helped.’ Zakat is the source of purifying the soul I had explained that according to lexicology the basic philosophy of Zakat is to purify the soul and to polish it. The Holy Qur’an says: Take alms out of their wealth, so that thou mayest cleanse them and purify them thereby… (Ch.9: V.103) The love of riches is ingrained in man’s mind and it possesses the strongest attraction for him. That is why it is the main cause for one to stumble and he throws all the Commands of God overboard. Regular and due payment of Zakat destroys in man the love of lucre and releases him from the bonds and the curse of capitalism. I n d i fference towards wealth gives protection from many evils and induces man to walk in the paths of virtue. He who does not bolster up his income through foul means also gives up this evil habit and saves his soul from such contamination as love of dirty lucre. He does not remain any more a prey to niggardliness and similar obnoxious habits. The Holy Qur’an says: … And whoso is rid of the covetousness of his own soul- it is these who will be successful. (Ch.59: V.10) In other words, we could say that Zakat is the ‘healer’ of the disease of niggardliness. Love of THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART II 51The Review of Religions – June 2005 riches is weakened and the spirit of brotherly sympathy is born. This is because he pays Zakat in obedience to the command of Allah. In return he is rewarded with the love of Allah which is the main source of all virtues; and he gains the object for which he was created – perfect submission to Allah. The Holy Qur’an says: And the case of those who spend their wealth to seek the p l e a s u re of Allah and to strengthen their souls is like the case of a garden on elevated ground. Heavy rain falls on it so that it brings forth its fruit twofold. And if heavy rain does not fall on it, then light rain suffices. And Allah sees what you do. (Ch.2: V.266) The above verse explains the philosophy of Zakat. Those who spend to seek the pleasure of Allah find a place to stand on a firm rock and their hearts are filled with God’s love and for this reason they become pure- hearted and righteous and they gain admission to a haven where Satan has no access. Zakat – means of purifying wealth Zakat not only purifies the soul and inculcates good morals, it causes one’s wealth and possessions to be purified. While explaining the meanings of the word Zakat, we also explained that when the Zakat portion has been paid, the remainder does indeed become purified as it provides protection from loss and ruin. This is because in the possessions of the wealthy there is a share of others also. Unless and until their share has been paid, the wealth remains impure and sullied. The Holy Qur’ a n says: And in their wealth was a share for one who asked for help and one who could not. (Ch.51: V.20) The above verse clearly points out the fact that all wealth is earned through joint effort and they all have their share in it. There are some who are THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART II 52 The Review of Religions – June 2005 connected directly with its earnings and there are those who are not so directly connected. They did not work but they still have their share in it. Let us, for instance, take the case of a rich man who makes a huge profit from working a mine. He has paid for the labour of all those who helped him in the working. Whatever he has paid them is due to them only for the labour they have put in. But according to the teachings of the Qur’an, they also hold a share in that mine because all the treasures of the earth were created for the benefit of all mankind – not for any single person. Therefore, even after having been paid for their l a b o u r, their share of the ownership of the mines still remains unpaid. One way of doing it would be to pay an additional amount, out of the profits, to the labourers or other workers. But even doing that would not absolve the miner of all his obligations. Yes, he did pay an additional amount to all those who gave him assistance in making the huge profit. But what about the share of those who have not put in any labour in working the mine? The whole world has a share in the treasures of the earth. Islam has, therefore, made it incumbent to pay the Zakat – a share from the earnings into the treasury of the government so that they would spend these for the benefit of the whole nation. In this way every man gets his due share directly or indirectly and he reaps the benefit of his share that God Almighty had granted him in His creation. Therefore, the wealth from which the due share of the others has been paid becomes purified and when people understand and realise that due share of everyone has been paid they will not clamour for and claim any more for their rights. There shall be peace in the country; and the spirit of righteousness and doing good to others and culture and good behaviour shall be inculcated. This, as we all know, is most urgent and essential for national stability. THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART II 53The Review of Religions – June 2005 Hadhrat Shah Wa l i u l l a h , Muhaddith of Delhi, while discussing the philosophy of Zakat, writes in his book Hujjatullah-il-Balighah : ‘It must be clearly understood that Zakat has been made incumbent an account of two reasons. Firstly, for the training of the soul; secondly, for fulfilling the social and national re- quirements. As regards the training of the soul it is quite clear that wealth is the root cause of social ills like niggardliness, selfishness, mutual enmities and other known immoralities. The true remedy for this is spending the wealth suitably and generously. This puts an end to niggardliness, self- ishness dies out and instead of mutual enmity, a spirit of love is born and this mutual love is the true foundation of the highest moral behaviour and makes men treat each other with love and kindness. The net result of all this is that man becomes virtue personified and this is what is called the training of the soul.’ ‘Zakat is also the best remedy for all social and national necessities. This is because social admin- istration cannot become stable unless it is backed by strong and stable finances. It is because with sound finance the government is in the position of looking after all the highest or the lowest requirements of the admin- istration and fulfilling all the needs of the society equitably, and the poor, the needy, the weak, the orphans and the widows do not stand in need of going a-begging from others and are saved from all this humiliation and in this way the government may be able to look after them properly. All these duties of the government can be duly performed only when, along with the other resources, the government could safely depend upon the revenue obtained THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART II 54 The Review of Religions – June 2005 through Zakat from the rich and the wealthy. ’ ( H u j j a t u l l a h – i l – B a l i g h a h : Vol.2, Ch. Zakat) The means of sustaining and helping the poor Zakat is the best means of assisting and providing suste- nance to the poor of the nation. Through this, the poor and the have-nots can be properly and timely assisted. The command of the Holy Prophet(sa) that ‘Zakat should be taken from the rich and given to the poor’ denotes that the basic principle of Zakat is sympathy for mankind and helping the poor. From the details given by the Holy Qur’an, it becomes quite clear that the underlying idea is the support of the poor. The Holy Prophet(sa) was always very anxious to help the have-nots in their distress, their difficulties and in their scanty means and he, therefore, took the undermentioned steps in this matter: The Holy Prophet(sa) spent his own life like that of the have-nots and always supplicated, ‘O my Lord God, so long as I live, I should be poor and take me to Yourself while I am still poor and on the Day of Resurrection raise me up with the poor people.’ He did not confine his help of the poor only to their spiritual enhancement but took practical steps to remove their poverty and want. He adopted practical means, the best and most e ffective of which was the institution of Zakat and which served as a sure guarantee for their sustenance and other needs. History provides us with an undeniable evidence how splendidly the institution of Zakat worked and helped the needy in such a manner, that in no time the social conditions were radically changed so much so, that few have-nots were to be found in the length and breadth of the Muslim Empire and people became so prosperous that when people went about in search of the needy they could not find one who deserved help. Zakat is not only the most e ffective means of ending poverty and want in the society, THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART II 55The Review of Religions – June 2005 but is the best course of improving the moral conditions of the nation. Facts and figures provide us with an undeniable truth that poverty, destitution, hunger and want are the main causes of crimes. When individuals of a nation live in straitened circumstances and the empty purse looks them in their faces all the time, they are bound to commit crimes to put an end to their distress. It comes to our daily experience that merely because of their straitened means some people start thieving and robbing and start pick-pocketing and when in extreme poverty, they do not even hesitate to murder people and adopt this as a profession. This causes an upheaval in the country’s peace. Poverty does not only force people to commit crimes – thieving and robbing – but induces them to enter the walks of immorality. Poverty also tends to make one niggardly and mean, and the fear of God vanishes from the heart and only begins to think that the rich people are one’s gods who would come to one’s rescue. The poor consider them to be their only benefactors, sustainers and patrons. They begin to fear them more than they ever fear God. How true is the saying: ‘Poverty makes a man susceptible to disbelief and rebellion.’ These moral ailments and weaknesses suppress people’s capabilities. The only way to improve matters is to find ways and means to remove poverty and hunger, want and scarcity. Islam has given us a viable remedy to remove poverty in the nation. This remedy is the system of Zakat which guarantees prosperity and happiness for the people who will accept it. When Zakat was the law and the people obeyed and paid the Zakat into the government treasuries, crimes were seldom committed and most certainly not for want and poverty. The moral state of the people was indeed enviable. Zakat ensures economic prosperity Zakat is not only advantageous in the moral and spiritual uplift of THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART II 56 The Review of Religions – June 2005 man but is also a guarantee for economic betterment. The word Zakat also implies increase and growth. This, therefore, means God has made Zakat an important means of increase and multiplying of national wealth and betterment of social condi- tions. The Almighty God has said in the Holy Qur’an: . . . thou mayest cleanse and purify them… (Ch.9: V.103) And again He says: The similitude of those who spend their wealth for the cause of Allah is like the similitude of a grain of corn which grows seven ears, in each ear a hundred grains. And Allah multiplies it further for whomsoever He pleases and Allah is Bountiful. All- Knowing. (Ch.2: V.262) From the above two verses, it is evident that Zakat is the means of ameliorating social conditions and of making the nations economically prosperous. This is very easily understandable be- cause when the poor and the needy obtain financial assistance and the people get financial support in their difficulties and distress, they would naturally tend to stand on their own feet and try to become independent and would enter the highroad of success and prosperity. Economic welfare and prosperity of the nation is never attained through the wealth of the nation going into the hands of a limited few capitalists. National pros- perity means the happiness and prosperity of all the members of the nation collectively. When Zakat funds are distributed among the poor, the wealth of the nation shall pass from the hands of a limited few into the hands of the have-nots who form the majority. They shall in turn, by the means of this financial assistance, be able to make their own livings. The social and economic conditions are bound to become stable and rest on very firm footings. THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART II 57The Review of Religions – June 2005 It is often pointed out that in modern times revenue from Zakat alone cannot fulfil the needs of the poor and the needy. This is not untrue, because of the heavy expenditure of govern- ments. Some of this is legitimate. It is for this very reason that Muslims are enjoined to give additional alms in the name of Allah, both collectively and individually. In this respect the Holy Qur’an says: And spend for the cause of Allah, and cast not yourselves into ruin with your own hands, and do good; surely, Allah loves those who do good. (Ch.2: V.196) And again it says: Those who spend their wealth in the cause of Allah, by night and by day, secretly and o p e n l y, have their re w a rd with their Lord; on them shall come no fear, nor shall they grieve. (Ch.2: V.275) And again the Holy Qur’ a n mentions: Those who spend their wealth in the cause of Allah, then follow not up what they have spent with taunt and injury, for them is their reward with their Lord and they shall have no fear nor shall they grieve. (Ch.2; V.263) O ye who believe, render not vain your alms by taunt or injury, like one who spends his wealth to be seen of men, and believes not in Allah and the Last Day. His case is like the case of a smooth rock covered with earth, on which heavy rain falls and washes it clean, leaving it bare, smooth and hard. They shall not secure aught of what they earn. And Allah guides not the disbelieving people. (Ch.2: V.265) The evils of Capitalism and Communism The biggest evil of Capitalism is that the wealth of the nation is amassed in the hands of a limited THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART II 58 The Review of Religions – June 2005 few and the rest of the nation becomes a prey to want and poverty. It was on account of this iniquity that Communism gained its roots. It is based on the principle that no one really is the rightful owner of what he earns and the real master of the national wealth is the State which must distribute it according to the needs of the members of the community. When we devote our mind to both these systems we are bound to come to the conclusion that both these systems belong to the opposite extremes. If Capitalism is responsible for the wretched- ness and distress of a great number of the people living under it and due return is given to the real producer of wealth, Communism also completely ignores the labour and effort put in by the real producer of wealth. Under this system the person who has put in the labour to produce is totally deprived of its possession. The result is that the true zeal to work with earnest- ness dies out. Communism also fails to define human needs with the state determining such needs. The history of Capitalism tells us that the capitalist countries tend to rob the others so that they may get more and more rich. They openly trample over the rights of the others and usurp the rights of others as if it was their right to do so. They not only rapaciously grabbed the rights of individuals but also seized the wealth of other peoples and nations. As opposed to this, the Communist nations not only ravished and pounced upon the wealth and properties of individuals but also put them to torture and took away their lives mercilessly. But Islam does not at all favour tyranny and injustice. Islam neither allows the poor to be suppressed nor lets the rights of the rich to be swept away. Both the poor and the rich are God’s creation. He, therefore, provides protection to them both and guides them to progress and prosperity. Islam, unlike Communism and Capitalism, gives due regard to labour and upholds its dignity THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART II 59The Review of Religions – June 2005 and approves the right of owner- ship so that zeal and enthusiasm, for hard work and best results, is not lost. For this very reason, it has provided such a wise code of law as the Zakat so that wealth is not accumulated into the hands of a few men. It must keep in circulation and should never be allowed to stagnate. Under the Zakat rules, one-fortieth of one’s savings and stock-in-trade must be paid after every twelve months. This is a great incentive for the man in business to see that he is earning and increasing his wealth otherwise the annual payments will ultimately eat up all his capital. M o r e o v e r, when capital is employed in trade or industry, it naturally provides work for labour and it keeps on circulating among different classes of people. The businessman tries to pay the Zakat from profits and not from his capital and the farmer will try to work harder and produce more so that he is able to keep his head above water. That is the reason why Islam has imposed Zakat on things which have the quality of increasing. Islam has laid the condition to pay the Zakat each year so that one could take the best advantage of his posses- sions. The Companions of the Holy Prophet( s a ), were fully aware of this point and engaged themselves in trade and business. During his Caliphate, Hadhrat U m a r( r a ) had given special instructions to those who held in trust the property and wealth of the orphans, always to make investments so that their inher- ited wealth may not be eaten up by Zakat by the time they became of age and took over their properties. It has, therefore, become quite evident that Zakat gives an incentive to work hard and produce more wealth. Expert economists have often said that nations which do not employ themselves in business and trade and produce more wealth are bound to become bankrupt if their capital lies stagnant and unused. But the Holy Prophet(sa) had given this warning some fourteen hundred years ago in the THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART II 60 The Review of Religions – June 2005 following words of the Holy Qur’an: … And those who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah – give to them tidings of a painful punishment. (Ch.9: V.34) In this verse ‘painful punishment’ does not only mean punishment in the world to come. Nay, along with that punishment, withholding wealth and capital from circulation and hoarding money is bound to lead the nation to a certain economic disaster. Therefore, all those who hoard money and keep the national wealth idle, are guilty of bringing down their nation to ruin and degradation and they themselves begin to decay and ultimately totter to their fall. The system of Zakat provides to the wealthy a great incentive to earn more and more in order to save it being eaten up by annual payments. In this way a good businessman not only increases his own wealth but also provides work for others. But it is a great pity that very many people do not realise this fact and try to evade paying Zakat. They wrongly fear that this might cause a great loss. They do not understand that God enforced this law to induce men to make more wealth and become richer and richer. There is an assurance from God Almighty for those who pay the Zakat that their wealth will not decrease, it shall, on the contrary, continue to increase. Therefore, those who pay it reap the benefit. God Almighty says: Whatever you pay as interest that it may increase the wealth of the people, it does not increase in the sight of Allah; but whatever you give in Zakat seeking the favour of Allah – it is these who will i n c rease their wealth manifold. (Ch.30: V.40) Value and worth of Zakat in the eyes of non-Muslims Even a number of non-Muslims truly acclaimed the worth and THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART II 61The Review of Religions – June 2005 fruitfulness of Zakat and how it is beneficial to mankind; how it supports and sustains the poor and safeguards the rights of the high and the law; and how this system improves national pros- perity and raises the moral and spiritual conditions of the nation. They regard the system of Zakat in Islam as a very outstanding feature of the faith. ‘Besides the institution of the pilgrimage, the payment of the legal alms is another duty that continually reminds the Muslim that the faithfuls are brothers (XLIX-10) – religious, theory that is very strikingly realised in Muhammadan society and seldom fails to express itself in acts of kindness towards the new convert, whatever be his race, colour or antecedents, he is received into the brotherhood of believers and takes his place as an equal among equals.’ (T. W. Arnold, The Preaching of Islam Lahore edition, pp.415-416) The famous German scholar, Joseph Hell, has also discussed the commendable commands of Islam in his book The Arab Civilisation. Having discussed the beauty and the admirable concept of social equality in Islam and the practical training given in the congregational prayers in the mosque or outside, he goes to express his very high opinion regarding the excellent system of Zakat in Islam: ‘Besides the common prayer, the conception of social equality was an innovation peculiar to Islam. Help and maintenance of the poor thus became a sacred trust. It was left no longer to individuals to give what they pleased, but the poor tax (zakat) became an obligatory duty and was collected in a central treasury, and administered therefrom.’ (Joseph Hell, The Arab Civilisation) This, he points out, is a very important religious obligation. Every Muslim of means must pay the Zakat to the State and it THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART II 62 The Review of Religions – June 2005 is their duty to disburse these funds where they deem to be fit. The payment of these alms has not been left to the whims and caprices of the individual paying the Zakat. The needy person receiving the aid does not feel under any obligation or humil- iation to a private individual. In summing up the benefits of Zakat, we must also remember that Zakat enhances the spiritual, moral and economical standards of mankind. It is a devotion o ffered through one’s wealth which purifies the heart and cleanses the soul. It also destroys the evils of Capitalism and underwrites the sustenance of the poor and needy. It provides dependable security for those who need assistance. It also creates the spirit of sympathy and brotherhood among men; maintains peace in the society and provides the opportunity for the proletariat to obtain their birthrights in the national wealth. Zakat also guarantees human dignity and keeps the capital in circulation which in turn brings prosperity to the whole nation and foremost and above all the benefits, causes spiritual happiness and exultation for the individual and a pleasant and happy atmosphere to live in. What we have said above is not a mere boast. It is a stark naked truth and history provides an undeniable evidence to its truth. Under the direct guidance of the Holy Prophet(sa), his Companions faithfully observed this divine command and so did those who followed them later for the next two hundred years. They truly inherited the spiritual qualities and the zeal of their fathers and obeyed all the commands and walked steadfastly in the paths of obedience and virtue. They paid THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART II Zakat enhances the spiritual, moral and economical standards of mankind. It is a devotion offered through one’s wealth which purifies the heart and cleanses the soul.‘ ’ 63The Review of Religions – June 2005 the Zakat as an act of devotion and seldom failed in their religious as well as their national duty. The result was that history recorded that poverty and want practically disappeared from the Muslim society. Muslim culture and the Muslim way of life became the hallmark of prosperity, progress and success in all fields. There was such a radical change in social con- ditions that those who at one time stood in need of assistance, began to contribute towards Zakat themselves. However hard the administration of the State searched for the poor and the needy, they could not trace them. They were pure-hearted and righteous practical Muslims and followed all the injunctions of the Qur’an faithfully and steadfastly. The result was that they not only became the benefactors and patrons of the then civilised world, they also became a people whom God loved because they had become the torch-bearers of truth. We earnestly pray that God Almighty may grant us also the very same true understanding of the system of Zakat and its importance. May He grant us the strength and determination to observe this vital command along with all His other commands, so that each and every individual of our society may get his rightful share with dignity and honour. May it so happen that we all live together in brotherly affection without any enmity or hatred for any of us and that there may be no restlessness, no rebuffs, no repulses and no tumults in our midst. May we all gather together around our God, seeking His pleasure. Amin. THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART II We hope you have enjoyed reading this edition of the magazine. 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