Poor-rate [Zakat]

Five Pillars of Islam

by Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din

Every Muslim is expected to take stock of his savings once a year and has to disburse 2½ per cent of this as “alms.” Charity takes two different forms in Islam. One sort is optional and the other compulsory. The last named is called “zakat,” the expenditure of which is not permissible to the payer himself. The “zakat,” has to be paid into a fund under the supervision of a committee, who make use of it for eight different purposes as laid down in the Quran in this wise:

“Alms are only for the poor and the needy, and the officials (appointed over) them, and those whose hearts are made to incline to truth and the ransoming of captives, and those in debt and in the way of Allah: An ordinance from Allah, and Allah is Knowing, Wise” (The Holy Quran, 9:60).

The expression

“in the way of God,”

which is the translation of

“Fi Sabilillah”

in the text, in the above verse signifies the dissemination of Islam and its truths to the non-Muslim. Similarly, the fourth item of the disbursement of “zakat” refers to another aspect of Islamic propaganda.

“Those whose hearts are made to incline to truth”

are those who come with their adhesion to Islam. Their conversion to the faith makes them an object of persecution, and sometimes deprives them of the comfort they have been used to. A portion of the “zakat” should go to guard the interest of and secure happiness to these new members of the Muslim fraternity. Thus, the verse clearly lays a duty on every Muslim to devote the quarter of his “zakat” in the spread of Islam. Besides “zakat” other alms are undefinable. In the words of the Holy Prophet (pbuh):

“From giving a smile to one in distress, to devoting everything dear to you in the cause of humanity,”

is optional charity.

The provisions of old age pensions, parish relief measures and other similar means of saving indigent members of a society from the ravages of poverty and want are but replicas of Islamic provisions of poor law.

It was Islam alone before all other religions of the world which systematized “alms” and gave charity the prestige and form of an institution. When asked what was the ultimate aim of “zakat,” the Holy Muhammad (pbuh) replied that it was a means whereby the rich had to give something out of their opulence for the help of those in need. Hence it is that by means of prayer, fasting, and alms, a Muslim, through giving up for the help and succour of others all that does belong to him, learns to practise rejecting all that does not belong to him lawfully. In this, respect Islam is a wonderful system indeed.