Warning against the rejection of Zakat
As a pillar of Islam, Zakat is obligatory – something we HAVE to do. There are several Hadiths that discuss warnings that the Prophet (peace be upon him) gave to those that rejected Zakat payment. He spoke of severe punishments in the hereafter highlighting how much the rejection of Zakat would upset Allah the Almighty. In the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) time, if individuals did not pay Zakat themselves, the power of the state was brought in to forcibly collect it.
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah said: “He who is given wealth by Allah but he does not pay its Zakat, that wealth is made for him, on the Day of Judgment, into the form of a huge bald serpent with two horns, encircling that person and squeezing him all day, then holding him by lips telling him, ‘I am your wealth, your treasure that you hoarded.’ “ – imagine that as a punishment, and all because of an individual’s own greed!
Not only did the Prophet (peace be upon him) issue a stern warning with regard to the punishment in the Hereafter, but he went on to warn of a punishment in this life as well, both from Allah and from the State.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Zakat is never intermingled with any amount of wealth without destroying and rotting it.” (Bukhari). This saying has two meanings according to Al Mundhiri. Firstly, that whenever due Zakat is not paid it will be a cause for ruining that wealth. “Whenever any amount of wealth is destroyed in the land or in the sea it could be because its Zakat was not paid.” (Al-Tabarani). Secondly, if a person who takes Zakat as recipient without deserving that Zakat and mixes it with his wealth, it will be a reason for rotting all his wealth. (Ahmad)
This teaches us to give a little so that the rest we have can be blessed, or act with greed and keep it all and in doing so, have it all rot away. We know which one we would rather!
Delaying the payment of Zakat
Zakat may be delayed for certain legitimate reasons, such as when there is a lack of liquid funds, otherwise the delay or negligence in the payment of Zakat is not permitted and is in fact sinful.
“And those who hoard Gold and Silver and do not give it in the path of Allah then give them the glad tidings of a severe punishment. A day on which, it (Gold and Silver) will be heated from the fire of Jahannam and their forehead, their flanks and their backs will be branded and it will be said to them: “This is the treasure which you used to hoard for yourselves, now taste of what you used to hoard.”
“There is no person who owns some gold or silver who does not give its proper due except that it will be beaten out into plates on the Day of Judgment and then heated in the fire of Hell. His sides, forehead and back will be cauterized with it, on a day the duration of which is fifty thousand years until judgment is pronounced among the servants, and he sees whether his path is to take him to Paradise or to Hell.”
(Reported by Muslim)
The legal punishment if a person does not pay the Zakat disbelieving in its obligation, then such a person is a disbeliever.
On the other hand, if a person does not pay it due to laziness, arrogance, ignorance etc, then it can be taken from him forcefully under Islamic law but this does not apply to us in the UK.