Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam. These pillars strengthen the faith and character of the individual and build up the collective commitment and contribution of those who believe. The five pillars, individually and taken together, provide the foundation for Islam to flourish as a real commitment to God that inspires believers to strive for prosperity, harmony and justice for all.
The shahadah (declaration of faith) entails a commitment to God, in thought, word and deed. Salat (prayer) enables us to have a deep spiritual connection to God. In the Qur’an, prayer is mentioned together with Zakat as fundamentals of the faith in 28 verses.
In the Sharia, Zakat refers to the annual obligatory duty upon Muslims to pay 2.5% of specified components of wealth, by those who have above a minimum specified level. The word Zakat originates from the verb zaka, meaning to grow, increase and purify. When used in the context of a person, zaka means to improve or to become better. Consequently, Zakat means blessing, growth, cleanliness and betterment.
Zakat has a deep humanitarian and social-political value. This religious act prevents the hoarding of wealth and advocates solidarity with humanity because excessive wealth is distributed amongst the poor. The paying of zakat also helps purify one’s soul and encourages a person to have gratitude towards God’s bounties.
Zakat cultivates for ongoing connection to God. Zakat financially resources Islam, enabling it to flourish. Zakat enables individuals and the community to be faithful, successful and contribute to society for the benefit of all.
How can we achieve the purpose of Zakat?
- Firstly, by taking a holistic approach to distributing Zakat across the eight categories of Zakat recipients (Qur’an 9: 60). This provides support for those most in need, builds up community institutions and enables advocacy.
- Secondly, all scholars agree that each country is worthier of its own Zakat. Locally is where our primary responsibility lies as we know our context and needs best. Read more on local giving here.
- Thirdly, a central operation is best placed to pool resources for a strategic purpose, provided it is trustworthy and effective.
By paying the Zakat that is due, for the purposes which we believe God has decreed, we are fulfilling our obligation as Muslims. Some of the outcomes of local Zakat distribution are:
- Those most in need in our community will feel a sense of belonging, their situation can improve and they can strive to become Zakat payers themselves.
- Our community will improve in its understanding of faith and in its participation in wider society, while external perceptions of Islam and Muslims improve.
- This will enable Muslims to increasingly be faithful, successful and contribute to society for the benefit of all, and will allow all of us to reap the rewards both in this life and the hereafter, God willing.
Zakah or Zakat?
The meanings are the same. In Arabic, the word Zakat has a round taa (ة), (taa marboota) which is pronounced as a haa (ه) if you stop on that word.
Reviewed on 29/11/2021