Poverty The Companions of the Holy Prophet (sa)

The Philosophy of Zakat – Part I

30 The Review of Religions – May 2005 Zakat is an important subjectand we should, therefore, understand the underlying philo- sophy of this great injunction of the Holy Qur’an. The importance of this basic command in Islam cannot be overstressed as it is one of the main sources of national progress and rapid advancement. Zakat is a part of devotion enjoined upon the Muslims by the Holy Qur’an. In order to understand its proper aim and purpose one must bear in mind that whatever has been created on the earth is entirely for the benefit of mankind. God says in the Qur’an: He it is Who created for you all that is in the earth. (Ch.2: V.30) And again He says: And He has subjected to you whatever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth; all this is from Him. . . (Ch.45: V.14) It is, therefore, not at all diff i c u l t to understand that everything that has been created in the whole of the universe is for the service and the benefit of all mankind and is not confined or limited to any special persons or groups. These have neither been created for Tom, nor for Dick, nor for Harry and for that matter neither for the Pharaoh. Nay, these are created for everyone who is born in this world. Therefore, be it the governor or the governed, be he rich or poor, be he great or small or be he the king or one of his 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. 31The Review of Religions – May 2005 subjects, no single person could ever claim to be the sole inheritor and say that these were created only for him. But in actual practice we see that, for various reasons, every man is not deriving equal benefit and there are some who are getting no benefit at all. God has, therefore, directed a special course, a special system under which even those who have no means to get their share may derive a certain benefit from what God has created for mankind and from which they have been totally denied their share. The Holy Qur’an also guides us to the fact that God alone is the Supreme Master of everything and He alone owns the entire universe and all its contents. He s a y s ; To Allah belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth… (Ch.2: V.285) For the very simple reason that God is the Creator and the Sustainer of all the worlds and men and animals and all else have been created by Him, therefore, all His creatures have a right in all His creations. The Holy Qur’an says: And in their wealth was a share for one who asked for help and for one who could not. (Ch.51: V.20) So long as the have-nots do not get their due share, they have a claim on the wealth and possessions of the rich. For this reason Islam has laid down rules under which the due share of the poor and the weak is taken from the wealth of the rich. This system under which the poor get their due share is known as the ‘Zakat’. What is Zakat? What is the real significance of Zakat? We should know that the word ‘Zakat’ comes from the Arabic language and is a noun from the root ‘Z’, ‘K’ and ‘W’ which means that a certain thing THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART I 32 The Review of Religions – May 2005 has become available in abundance. When this is used in relation with Allah, it would mean that God has caused someone to grow and develop in a perfect m a n n e r. Another meaning is that God has caused him to be purified. Al-Zakat also means a thing of the highest quality; or perfect obedience to Allah. There is another meaning also, i.e. a certain portion levied on s o m e o n e ’s possessions so that the remaining part becomes blessed with purity. Another lexicographer explains that these alms are called Zakat for the reason that the wealth and riches from which this portion has been taken becomes blessed and is bound to turn plenteous and definitely makes it immune from loss and depreciation. We, therefore, come to understand that Zakat, in fact, is the means of increasing, cleansing and puri- fying; of growth and of blessings and of ensuring protection from poverty and all sorts of embar- rassments and of submission and obedience to Allah. It is the peculiarity of the Arabic language that its words hold within themselves the meanings and their beauty and philosophy. We could say that the entire philosophy and usefulness of Zakat is contained in the word itself. We know that it is the means of cleansing and purifying o n e ’s possessions as well as one’s soul; Zakat makes one flourish and prosper. One also gains the pleasure of Allah through it. It ensures personal progress and material welfare. The Assessment of Zakat According to the Islamic law one has to pay 2.5% of one’s cash m o n e y, capital, stock and tradeable assets, including gold and silver jewellery that had been held for one full year, provided it exceeded the threshold (i.e. above the assessable limit). This is paid to help the poor and the needy, as has been commanded by the Holy Q u r’an and explained and put into practice by the Holy Prophet( s a ) h i m s e l f . It must be remembered that Zakat is not an income tax that is levied THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART I 33The Review of Religions – May 2005 on one’s income, but it is levied on one’s savings and is spent wholly for the benefit of the poor and the needy. Islam has imposed Zakat on wealth and properties which have the attribute of increasing and multiplying and which could also be preserved s a f e l y, for which reason it is assessed every year during which one has had ample chances of spending. It is on this principle that gold, silver, cash in any shape or form, business stock, goats, sheep and cattle which feed themselves by grazing and all the produce from the land are assessable for Zakat. But no Zakat is to be paid on land, houses for personal residence, and other goods in daily use e.g. fruit and vegetables are not assessable. A proper scale for assessment has been fixed, as for instance 620 grammes of silver and 87 grammes of gold are liable for assessment. Stock-in-trade and houses that are rented and bring income are assessable after every twelve months. This is Zakat and is collected for the poor and the n e e d y. (See Appendix, page 48) Jewellery in the form of gold and silver in one’s use or which is loaned for use to poor friends is not assessable. It is preferable that the rich people should pay Zakat on their jewellery in their own use but which is not loaned to the poor at all. It brings merit if paid, although it is not compulsory. But the jewellery of gold and silver which is not in use is definitely taxable. Zakat has to be paid on this every year so long as it falls above the minimum level of assessment as specified above. It is evident from the Holy Qur’an that Zakat was being paid from the time when the command for this had been revealed. We read in the Chapter Al-Muzzammil: . . . and observe Prayer, and pay the Zakat, and lend to Allah a goodly loan. And whatever good you send on before you for your souls, you will find it with Allah. It will be better and greater in reward… (Ch.73: V.21) THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART I 34 The Review of Religions – May 2005 The Spending of Zakat In the earliest period of Islam, the method of paying Zakat adopted by the Companions was that they used to pay all that was left after their personal needs. But grad- ually a scale was worked out until the Chapter Al Tauba was revealed before the Fall of Mecca in 8AH and the following verse was revealed: The alms are only for the poor and the needy and for those employed in connection t h e rewith, and for those whose hearts are to be reconciled and for the freeing of slaves, and for those in debt, and for the cause of Allah, and for the wayfarer- an ordinance from Allah. And Allah is All-Knowing, Wise. (Ch.9: V.60) In the above verse Allah has outlined the spending of the Zakat in eight diff e r e n t categories and these are as follows; 1. The Poor The poor are those people who depend upon others for sub- sistence. This includes, the disabled who cannot earn and who depend upon others for their daily needs, one or more of those who cannot earn as much as required for normal subsistence and may even be reduced to the point of starving, those who are engaged in the service of the faith and who cannot spare time for earning their own livelihood. God says in the Holy Qur’an: These alms are for the poor who are detained in the cause of Allah and are unable to move about in the land . . . (Ch.2: V.274) In this category were also considered the ‘Companions of the Lounge’ (As-habus Sufa) of the time of the Holy Prophet(sa) who voluntarily remained attached to a Man of God, never quitting his company, in order to benefit spiritually from it. 2. The Needy As a matter of fact the needy people also come under the THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART I 35The Review of Religions – May 2005 category of the poor. The only difference is that ‘Miskeen’ is ‘saakin’ (stationary) – the poor who do not move away unless and until their need is removed. But the Holy Prophet( s a ) h a s defined the ‘Miskeen’ as one who confines himself to his own house and who does not go begging after people; nor does he let them know that he is light of purse. The Holy Qur’an also describes them: …The ignorant man thinks them to be free from want because of their abstaining f rom begging. Thou shalt know them by their appearance, they do not beg of men with importunity… (Ch.2: V.274) Such a man maintains his dignity even if he is at death’s door and does not extend his hand begging. The point in mentioning the ‘Miskeen’ quite separate from the poor is that he is more deserving than an ordinary poor man and God Almighty has especially drawn the attention of those responsible for disbursing Zakat to bear that fact in mind when distributing alms. They must not give preference to those who come craving and clam-ouring and ignore those who stand aloof and hesitant. Those who maintain their dignity and give a proof of high moral integrity do deserve much more consideration. The Holy Prophet( s a ) had condemned b e g g i n g . 3. The staff responsible The department and the staff engaged especially for the administration and disbursement of Zakat have to be paid from this fund only. 4. For those whose hearts are to be reconciled The literal meaning of ‘Al- Muallafat-Al-Qulub’ is ‘those whose hearts have become joined with you’. Under this category come those who, on account of some kind of fear from the disbelievers, do not or cannot come out in the open and declare themselves Muslims, but are definitely very much inclined THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART I 36 The Review of Religions – May 2005 towards Islam. It would be permissible to render assistance to such men to come out of the sphere of influence of the disbelievers. Then there are those men who are thoroughly convinced of the truth of Islam but are in the unhappy position of losing their means of livelihood if they declare that they are Muslims. They may also be given assistance from the Zakat funds. But this does not mean that financial assistance would be given simply to attract people to Islam. This would surely make them hypocrites. Those who interpret the above term to mean that it is lawful to attract and lure people to Islam with money are exceedingly wrong and are guilty of bringing a bad name to Islam. They ascribe a thing to Islam for which neither Allah is responsible nor His Prophet( s a ). Islam does not stand in need of enticing people through monetary or other gains. Islam must be accepted on its own merits. 5. Freeing Slaves The phrase ‘Fir-riqaab’ literally means ‘setting the neck free’. This is the term used for getting someone freed from the yoke of slavery. Freedom of slaves can be purchased with the Zakat funds. For this, there are no restrictions that the slave must necessarily be a Muslim. In the beginning of Islam all slaves were non- Muslims. The term ‘Fir-riqaab’ also applies to men in distress who may virtually be like slaves, for example someone who has been imprisoned on account of debts that he is unable to pay. Such men may be given assistance from the Zakat funds. 6. ‘Wal-Gharimeen’ ‘Gharimeen’ are those bound under penalty or a guarantee given on behalf of someone who was in difficulty and for which they are not personally res- ponsible. As for instance one who issued a guarantee for some friend or a relative or he may unintentionally or unknowingly cause the death of someone or he THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART I 37The Review of Religions – May 2005 may have suffered a heavy loss in business for reasons beyond his control and one who could recover his losses only through timely assistance. Zakat fund could be used for this purpose. 7. In the Way of Allah Under this sub-heading come the organising of the Muslims, their protection, their stability or for their progress and welfare. This kind of expenditure is for the benefit of the whole nation and carries great importance. Zakat funds could also be used for this. 8. ‘ Ibnis-Sabeel’ Under this heading come the travellers of small means who need some assistance. Sometimes even a wealthy and rich traveller who has exhausted all his funds that he has brought with him may stand in need of financial assistance. One may have become the victim of a crook and may therefore be out of funds. Such travellers may also be given assistance from the Zakat funds. Under this sub-heading also come the expenses for providing means of comfort for the travellers. As for instance constructing roads, bridges, guesthouses or providing all the necessary information about travel and providing literature for this purpose. Zakat funds could be used for all these p u r p o s e s . Zakat is the means of national progress We have given above the purposes for which Zakat funds are used to provide assistance for people of different walks of life who need to be assisted. It is evident that Zakat is an effective means of national progress and advancement. Zakat is a state cheque and not charity. The Promised Reformer, Hadhrat Mirza Mahmud Ahmad, may God be pleased with him, has stated: ‘No religion except Islam provides an injunction like that of Zakat. No doubt something like Zakat is also found in the Jewish faith, but not in so fine a detail as in Islam where all the different heads of expenditure are also THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART I 38 The Review of Religions – May 2005 explained at length to include all possible means of national progress. Zakat entails a col- lective effort that is not found in the Jewish ordinance. In the ordinance of Zakat in Islam each and every type of needy person has been described. As for example a certain person lacks finances for business. Islam com- mands that he should be given assistance. There is a tailor quite proficient in his profession but he is unable to buy a sewing machine. Islam commands that he should be helped from the Zakat funds; then there may be a man who is fully conversant with the work of a horse-trap which he wishes to ply for hire. But he lacks the capital with which to buy. Islam commands that he should be given assistance in buying this for him. A traveller comes to a town. He is very well off and has enough money with him but he is robbed and has no time to get anything from home. He also should be helped out of his difficulty from the Zakat funds. If a poor man happens to go to prison and leaves nothing for his wife and children to live upon, they also have a right to get help from the Zakat funds. In short the Zakat dis- bursements are so flexible that all types of men of any religion or nation could derive benefit from it without any sufferance or humiliation, because payments are made by the government and not by any individual. Individuals, even if they so wish, cannot pay out their Zakat money to the poor themselves. Take my own case. I cannot distribute my Zakat money to the poor myself. It has got to be paid into the government treasury from where it will be duly distributed among the deserv- ing poor and the needy. If the government pays my money to my neighbour, he shall receive it from the govern- ment even though it may be the money that I had paid. Thus, my neighbour will not THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART I 39The Review of Religions – May 2005 be under any debt of gratitude to me nor feel any humiliation or any sense of shame. Therefore under the Zakat system no poor man has any cause to feel disgrace or to hide his face and in spite of the fact that he has received the amount that was paid by his rich neighbour, he has no need to look small and humiliated. He can say that he has not taken any help from him.’ (Tareekh-i-Ahmadiyya, Vol. 5, PP.66-67) The importance of Zakat in Islam Islam has laid a great stress on the importance of Zakat and has included it in the basic principles. While discoursing about the basic principles of Islam, the Holy Prophet (sa) said: ‘Islam has been founded on five pillars – to be a witness that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah; and saying the Prayers (in congregation); and paying the Zakat; and the Hajj; and fasting in its month.’ (Bukhari: Vol. 1; the Book of Faith) Addressing the Muslims on the occasion of his last Hajj, the Holy Prophet(sa), said: ‘Fear God and observe your five prayers and you must fast in the month of Ramadhan and pay the Zakat from your wealth and obey when you are commanded and your God shall grant you admission to paradise.’ (Tirmidhi) We can also judge the importance of Zakat from the fact that Zakat has been bracketed with the Prayers in the Holy Qur’an which proves that the payment of Zakat is equally as important as the Prayer and these two are classed as blessings of Allah Who says in the Holy Qur’an: A guidance and good tidings to those who would believe, who observe Prayer and pay THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART I 40 The Review of Religions – May 2005 the Zakat, and have firm faith in the Hereafter. (Ch.27: Vs.3-4) One can see in the Holy Qur’an that Prayer and the Zakat have been bracketed together, not once but twenty-seven times. God Almighty says: And observe Prayer and pay the Zakat; and whatever good you send on before you for yourselves, you shall find it with Allah; surely, Allah sees all that you do. (Ch.2: V.111) But if they repent and observe Prayer and pay the Zakat, then they are your brethren in faith. And We explain the Signs for a people who have knowledge. (Ch.9: V.11) This refers to the disbelievers and those who associate other gods with Allah. Zakat, along with observing Prayer, is stated to be the true sign of Islam. We read: Those who, if We establish them in the earth, will observe Prayer and pay the Zakat and enjoin good and forbid evil. And with Allah rests the final issue of all affairs. (Ch.22: V.42) And again we read: . . . and especially those who o b s e rve Prayer and those who pay the Zakaat and those who believe in Allah and the Last Day. To these We will surely give a great reward. (Ch.4: V.163) The Holy Qur’an has mentioned the Prayer and the Zakat separately also and this has been done again and again. Sometimes it is mentioned with the ‘Faith in Allah’, sometimes it is men- tioned with the ‘Last Day’, and sometimes it is mentioned entirely on its own account and its importance emphasised. God says: THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART I 41The Review of Religions – May 2005 …But My mercy encompasses all things; so 1 will ordain it for those who act righteously, and pay the Zakat and those who believe in Our Signs. (Ch.7: V.157) And again He says: . . . 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) The Holy Prophet( s a ), in his exhortations, very often stressed highly the importance of Zakat after explaining to the Muslims the significance of Prayers. And whenever someone asked him regarding the do’s and do-nots in Islam, he would, after telling about the importance of Prayers, explain in detail the importance of paying the Zakat. Abu Ayub has reported in the Traditions that once a man came and asked the Holy Prophet(sa), kindly to point out to him an act which would take him straight to paradise, even though it involved all his wealth. The Holy Prophet(sa) said: ‘The most glorious thing for you would be to worship Allah and not to associate anything with Him and to observe Prayer and to pay the Zakat and to show kindness to all your relatives.’ (Bukhari: Vol. 1, p.165, printed in Egypt) There is another Tradition that was reported by Abu Huraira who said that once a Bedouin came to the Holy Prophet(sa) and asked, ‘Do please tell me about an act which, if I do it, shall take me straight to paradise.’ T h e Holy Prophet (sa) said: ‘Wo r s h i p Allah and do not associate anything with Him; and observe Prayer which is binding, and pay the Zakat which may be due and keep fasts during the month of Ramadan.’ The Bedouin then said, ‘I take Him as my witness, Who is the Lord of my life, that I shall not add a mite to it, nor shall I lessen a wee bit from it.’ Then he went away. The Holy THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART I 42 The Review of Religions – May 2005 P r o p h e t(sa) then said: ‘Anyone who wishes to see a man from among the dwellers of Paradise, he should look at that man.’ (Bukhari: Vol. 1. p.169) Whenever the Holy Prophet( s a ) took the oath of allegiance from anyone, he never failed to mention these two (Prayer and Zakat). We have the Tradition in which Jabeer bin Abdullah reported that he took his oath of allegiance and the Holy P r o p h e t( s a ) made it binding on him to observe Prayers regularly, to pay the Zakat and to wish well for each and every Muslim. (Bukhari). A deputation from Abdul Qais came to the Holy Prophet(sa) in the year 5AH. They sought some information about Islam and the first things he explained were about observing Prayers and paying Zakat. In the year 9AH the Holy Prophet(sa) sent Hadhrat Mu-adh on the mission to go and preach Islam in Yemen. He instructed him the order of preference in which to preach. He said, ‘You must in the first instance call them to the Unity of God and when they become familiar with this, then tell them that to observe Prayer five times daily is an important basic principle and when they accept this then tell them that it is incumbent upon every Muslim to pay the Zakat on their possessions which is taken from them to be distributed to their own poor people.’ The Holy Prophet(sa) had spent all he had in the way of Allah. He died without any material wealth. During the month of Ramadan he used to spend so much that the left hand knew not what the right hand possessed. He promoted this spending secretly as well as with the knowledge of others. The practice and under- standing of Zakat by the Companions All his very close companions were fully conversant with the details of Zakat and whenever an occasion arose they fully expounded it as they had learnt direct from the Holy Prophet(sa) THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART I 43The Review of Religions – May 2005 himself. After the demise of the Holy Prophet( s a ), when some tribes rebelled and refused to pay the Zakat, Hadhrat Abu Bakr(ra) most firmly and undauntedly proclaimed, ‘By God, I shall fight all those who discriminated even a little between observing Prayer and paying the Zakat as it is incumbent upon wealth. By God, if they refuse to give me even the rope for tying the camel’s knee which they used to give to the Holy Prophet(sa) I shall fight them because of this denial.’ (Mishkat: the Book of Zakat) In another version it is mentioned that Hadhrat Abu Bakr(ra) said: ‘Zakat is incumbent upon wealth and by God if anyone discriminates between Prayer and Zakat, he who used to give a small lamb to the Holy Prophet, he shall have to give the same to me also.’ (Authentic Bukhari: Book of Zakat: Vol. 1) Some orientalists have miscon- strued from this tradition that the payment of Zakat only became compulsory after the death of the Holy Prophet( s a ). The Holy Q u r’an, which was revealed during the Prophet’s lifetime, and traditions quoted earlier prove that their allegation is totally incorrect. On the contrary, Hadhrat Abu Bakr (ra) enforces the practice of the Holy Prophet(sa) in this tradition. Warning for those who do not pay Zakat The Holy Qur’an also warns those who do not pay Zakat that they shall be punished. Zakat is so important an injunction that its defaulter earns, without the least doubt, the displeasure of Allah Who has warned all in the Qur’an: . . . And woe to idolaters who do not pay the zakat, and they it is who deny the Hereafter. (Ch.41: Vs.7-8) Those who do not pay the Zakat are called ‘idolaters’ in the above verses and they have been THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART I 44 The Review of Religions – May 2005 warned in the following verse of the Holy Qur’an: And let not those, who are n i g g a rdly with respect to what Allah has given them of His bounty, think that it is good for them; nay, it is evil for them. That with respect to which they were niggard l y shall be put as a collar round their necks on the day of Resurrection. (Ch.3: V.181) And in the Chapter Al-Taubah He says: . . . And those who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah–give to them the tidings of a painful punishment, on the day when it shall be made hot in the fire of Hell, and their foreheads and their sides and their backs shall be branded therewith and it shall be said to them: “This is what you treasured up for yourselves; so now taste what you used to treasure up”. (Ch.9: Vs.34-35) In the above verses a warning of punishment in the hereafter has been given. (For a detailed discussion on the state of man in the life hereafter see T h e Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam by Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as)) A warning from the Holy Prophet(sa) In the Traditions also a warning has been given of a dreadful pun- ishment. The Holy Prophet ( s a ), said, ‘He who has been blessed by Allah with affluence, but does not pay Zakat on his assessable assets, shall, on the Day of Resurrection, accost his wealth in the shape of a serpent who will catch hold of both his jaws and bite him saying ‘I am your wealth’ and then the Holy P r o p h e t( s a ) recited this verse: And let not those who are niggardly . . . on the Day of Resurrection. (Ch.3: V.181) It is mentioned in another Tradition that the Holy Prophet(sa) saw two women wearing bangles THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART I 45The Review of Religions – May 2005 of gold on their wrists and he asked them whether they had paid Zakat on them. They both replied in the negative. He then said, ‘Do you wish that you be wearing bangles of fire instead of these?’ They said, ‘No.’ He then said that they should pay Zakat for them (Tirmidhi). In another Tradition of S a h i h Bukhari it is mentioned that the Holy Prophet( s a ) will refuse to intercede for those who do not pay the Zakat (Bukhari). But this also is a fact so often proved that whenever the assessable portion of Zakat remains intact with one’s possessions, one has to suff e r loss here in this world over and above the retribution in the Hereafter. Hadhrat Ayesha(ra), the Holy Prophet’s spouse, said, ‘I have heard the Holy Prophet(sa) saying “If the Zakat portion remains unpaid from anyone’s assets, that portion causes the ruin of the whole.”’ (Mishkat: the Book of Zakat) An Ansar of Madinah, named Th’alabah, once came to the Holy Prophet(sa) and entreated for supplication on his behalf that he may become rich. The Holy P r o p h e t( s a ) did as he was requested. The man had pro- mised that he would always pay the due Zakat. God Almighty accepted the supplications of the Holy Prophet( s a ) on behalf of Th’alabah and made him affluent. He got so engrossed in tending his goats that he began to neglect his Prayers and gradually completely stopped coming to the mosque for Prayers. Once the Holy Prophet( s a ) enquired from his companions about Th’alabah, what had happened to him and why he did not come for Prayers? Someone told him that he was busy looking after his flocks. The Holy Prophet(sa) said sadly, ‘How pitiable for Th’alabah’, and he repeated this three times. When the command for Zakat was revealed from Allah to the Holy Prophet ( s a ) he sent some men for collecting Zakat from him. But Th’alabah refused, saying what is this penalty for? He asked them to come some THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART I 46 The Review of Religions – May 2005 other time. But when they went to him again, he refused again, complaining that he was being penalised for no reason at all. The men came back to the Holy P r o p h e t( s a ) and reported what Th’alabah had said. The Holy P r o p h e t( s a ) said, ‘How sad for Th’alabah’, and there and then the following verse was revealed to him: And among them there are those who made a covenant with Allah, saying, “If He gives us of His bounty, we would most surely give alms and be of the virtuous.” But when He gave them of His bounty they became niggardly of it, and they turned away in aversion. So He re q u i t e d them with hypocrisy which shall last in their hearts until the day when they shall meet Him, because they broke their p romise to Allah, and because they lied. (Ch.9: Vs.75-77) Someone went to Th’alabah and told him that some verses had been received concerning him. Th’alabah at once came running to the Holy Prophet( s a ) a n d offered to pay the Zakat. But the Holy Prophet(sa) refused to accept anything from him and said, ‘Allah has commanded me not to accept any alms from you as you have been guilty of breaking your words.’ After the demise of the Holy Prophet(sa), Th’alabah brought the due Zakat portion to Abu Bakr(ra), to Umar ( r a ) and to Uthman( r a ) every year. But each of these Caliphs refused to accept anything from him. The man died during the caliphate of Hadhrat Uthman(ra). Harith bin Wahab reports that he heard the Holy Prophet(sa) s a y : ‘Spend in the way of Allah because a time will come on you when man shall take his alms to give and will find no one to give it to. Another will say: Had you brought it yesterday, I would have accepted but today I do not need it.’ (Bukhari) Precisely according to these prophetic words, there came a THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART I 47The Review of Religions – May 2005 time during the middle and later Khilafat when the Muslims had become so rich that no one accepted alms. That is the economic revolution that Zakat weaves into our lives. One can easily deduce from the above how important it is to pay the Zakat and also how beneficially it is disbursed. The Reformer of this age, the Promised Messiah(as), has made it very clear to all his followers that: ‘O ye all, who consider themselves members of my C o m m u n i t y, you shall be considered, in heaven, the members of my Community only when you will really and truly walk in the paths of righteousness. Observe, therefore, your five daily prayers with the fear of God in your hearts and with such an attention as if you are actually seeing Him with your own eyes. And also observe your fasts with all sincerity and everyone from among you who is liable to pay the Zakat must pay it and must go for the Hajj on whom it is due and for whom there are no impediments.’ (to be continued) 1 [It should noted that Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad. Khalifa- tul-Masih IV ( r u ) wrote that, ‘[Zakat] is normally levied at 2.5% on disposable assets above specific thresholds which have remained in the hands of owners beyond one year. Although much has been said about the rate or percentage of this tax, we find no reference to any fixed percentage in the Holy Qur’an. In this respect I beg to differ with the dogmatic view of medieval scholars. I believe that the question of percentage remains flexible and should be determined according to the state of the economy in a particular country.’ (I s l a m ’s Response to Contemporary I s s u e s, published by Islam International Publications Ltd, 1992, p.146). Ed] THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART I 48 THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART I The Review of Religions – May 2005 APPENDIX Nisaab – Quorum of Zakat Aggregation Zakat is payable on a herd of 40-120 goats (see livestock). But three people collectively owning 120 goats cannot offer one goat. Nor can an assessor of Zakat aggregate the combined wealth of two brothers to take them above one threshold. But in aggregating currency notes or coins, all of them should be added to establish the threshold. Where wealth is jointly owned and cannot be separated to individual participators, it will be aggregated and treated as if it belonged to one entity, but where there are partners and their assets can be allocated per partner, they will be treated as separate individuals. On these aspects, there exists dispute among various schools of juris- prudence, but the correct principle is that assets should not be aggregated to avoid Zakat nor should an assessor of Zakat aggregate or treat as separate joint wealth to extract more Zakat than may actually be due. Agriculture No Zakat is payable on produce obtained from the land on which tax is payable to the government. Zakat becomes due on produce only when the crop is harvested and gathered. This is an important distinc- tion because on all other kinds of wealth, Zakat becomes due only when a Muslim has had its possession for one full lunar calendar year, whereas with crops it becomes payable immediately on harvest. This is because in the subsequent year, the wealth obtained for the previous year may have been spent and the current year may be open to uncertainties of weather and current market prices. Similarly, with crop rotation, at each harvest, even if occurring more than once a year, Zakat is payable each time. Produce from arable land nourished through natural rainfall is assessable at one-tenth of the total open market value obtained for the crop harvested. The first ton by Iraqi standard or two-thirds of a ton by Hejaz standard is exempt from Zakat. Where produce from the land is obtained by other means of irrigation, e.g. canals or other artificial means, then only one-twentieth (5%) is payable as Zakat on the crop harvested. The reason for this distinction is that labour would have been expounded in providing irrigation and remuneration needs to be reserved for that purpose. Coins Once Zakat has been paid on something there is no harm in keeping that wealth (Bukhari, Ch. 4 on Zakat). Zakat is not payable on borrowed funds. During the Holy Prophet’s(sa) time, and even today, the principal unit of currency was silver, though present 49 THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART I The Review of Religions – May 2005 method of minting coins has lessened the silver content in coins. Zakat becomes payable on the pure silver content after the first five units (620 grammes of silver, or 200 Dirhams, or 52 1/2 tolas) and thus the rate applicable to gold is the equivalent of gold that can be purchased for the stipulated minimum amount of silver. Similarly, coins of all metals are assessable exactly as silver at 2.5% after the first minimum for silver equivalent. Where a person has had coins, or a set of coins, at more than one place and they have remained there for more than one year, they must all be accounted in the assessment of Zakat, no matter where situated. (The same rule applies to livestock, etc., and to the minimum threshold assessment of whatever source). The hoarding of units of currency which should circulate freely deprives the poor who have a right to the total wealth (see: Warning for those who do not pay Zakat). God Almighty does not accept Zakat on money which has been obtained by theft, deceit, fraud or bribery, nor does the payment of Zakat from such sources render it pure. The Promised Messiah(as) states: ‘Some people pay Zakat but are not mindful of the fact whether their earning has been acquired lawfully or illegally. Remember, if a person slaughters a dog in the name of Allah and though he pronounces His name on it or slaughters a swine with similar rites, could that dog or swine be reckoned to be Halal? It indeed shall remain forbidden. Zakat originates from TAZKIA as a result of which wealth is purified so that a human being may earn his livelihood from pure and lawful means and may spend in the cause of faith. It is owing to such mistakes that they fail to grasp the truth. One must refrain wholly from such notions. The pillars of Islam are means of our salvation but as a result of such errors people stray from the right path.’ On currency notes of whatever denom- ination, Zakat is similarly payable by establishing their value against an ex- change of the silver price. This is because such notes are merely the modern bearer currency unit of the former silver or gold standard which over recent years has been abandoned for floating rates of exchange yet bear some relationship to the gold (perhaps subject to greater fluctuation) and silver prices. The same rule applies to coins of other metals, foreign currency, bills of exchange and other negotiable instruments. With monetarism replac- ing other methods of controlling economy, governments invariably try to control money supply to maintain 50 THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART I The Review of Religions – May 2005 exchange parities though the interplay of interest rate (interest is totally forbidden in Islam) is a factor that cannot be ignored by world economists. All such factors affect the current value of monetary items and it is on that value, above the minimum threshold, that Zakat becomes payable Exclusions Any form of capital or income which is difficult to account or be assessed is not liable to Zakat. But rents received from real estate, other accountable trading profits from buses, etc., or bank accounts, or livestock or crops, or gold and silver, or royalties from mineral rights can all be readily accounted and are assessable. But sundry income which cannot be accounted, or accommodation for one’s own use, or chattels in constant use, e.g. clothing, soft furnishing or values of factories, etc., are excluded from assessment. Gold See notes on silver for establishing value. The minimum standard (thresh- old) above which Zakat is payable is, at current rates, about 87 grammes of gold, above which Zakat becomes payable at 2.5% (or one-fortieth) on the pure gold content. Gold and silver, or indeed any other ornaments, e.g. precious stones, etc., in constant use (i.e. are regularly worn) or which have been lent for use by the poor, are excluded from the assessment of Zakat. But gold and silver, etc., kept locked up in a jewellery or safe-deposit box for a year or more are assessable to Zakat. Nonetheless, this distinction should not be exploited as a loophole and Zakat should not be evaded merely on the pretext of casual usage because God well knows what a Muslim’s intentions are. Livestock Camels No Zakat is payable on a herd of less than 5 camels. Goats and Sheep One goat or sheep is to be surrendered as Zakat from a flock of 40 (minimum) to 120 animals. Number of Camels owned Zakat payable Between 5-9 camels one goat 10-14 camels two goats 15-19 camels three goats 20-24 camels four goats 25-35 camels one camel (1 yr old) 36-45 camels one camel (2 yrs old) 46-60 camels one camel (3 yrs old) 61-75 camels one camel (4 yrs old) 76-90 camels two camels (2 yrs old) 91-120 camels two camels (3 yrs old) For each 40 camels above that one camel 2 yrs old For each 50 camels above one camel 3 yrs that old, etc. 51 THE PHILOSOPHY OF ZAKAT – PART I The Review of Religions – May 2005 In offering animals as Zakat, an old or lame animal should not be surrendered. An assessor of Zakat should neither obtain the healthiest specimen if the flock is generally old or poor in quality. Some schools of jurisprudence have devised tables for assessment, but these are not universally accepted by other schools. Cattle One calf is to be surrendered for every thirty heads of cattle. Horses Only the profit obtained from the purchase and sale of horses in trade is assessable to Zakat at 2.5% of the profit made. The reason for this distinction is that whereas other livestock animals provide meat and hides for skins, a stable of horses is not used as an investment for these purposes. Mineral Resources The income arising from what the earth yields belongs to the entire community. Thus a higher rate is fixed for these. Zakat is levied at 20% (one-fifth) of the net income from mines, excavated treasures, inclusive of royalties obtained therefrom. Despite the high cost of extraction, the profit arising from such ventures should rightly belong in part to the rest of the community with the balance belonging to the entrepreneur who undertook the risk. This includes oil revenues, whether obtained from the land or seabed and all other mineral resources, e.g. gold, silver, diamonds. Cut diamonds and smelted gold, etc., then if possessed and held for more than a year in the hands of an individual is also assessable to Zakat at 2.5% (see earlier section). Rents Rents’ received from property not o w n e r-occupied or part sub-let and commercial rents, licence fees, etc., are also assessable to Zakat at 2.5%. Stock-in-trade Stock-in-trade which has remained in the owner’s possession for more than one year is also similarly assessable at 2.5%. If such stock appreciates in value because of inflation, the current market price would be paid on it and where it depletes or becomes obsolete, the estimated realisable value of that stock would be assessable to Zakat. Settlement If the form of wealth on which Islamic law imposes Zakat is no longer available or by separating that part of Zakat from it undue loss would arise from that wealth or cannot be conveyed from one place to another, then Zakat may be paid to an equivalent amount from another source or object or in the form of cash.