I often have a tendency to detach my act of worship from the underlying purpose, perhaps like many others around me . I give charity in order to give charity for the sake of the charity itself, but what we should really be doing is connecting it back to the original purpose. This is a task that is extremely difficult and forces me to consider what Zakat really is.
The purpose of Zakat is to purify us and to detach ourselves from dunya.
When we are told to look at the way the prophets considered an act of worship , we must be like Ibrahim (peace be upon him). When we see light, we attribute it to the sun. When Ibrahim (peace be upon him) sees light, he attributes it to the sun, and he attributes the sun to Allah. Whenever we do any act, it needs to be connected, otherwise it is in a void, and we see our deeds increase, yet our Iman remains stagnant. We fall into habit rather than worship. This reminds me that I need to re-establish what the true purpose of my actions are.
The purpose of Zakat is NOT to relieve poverty or to distribute wealth from those who have more to those who have less. This is simply one of the effects of Zakat. Its ultimate goal is to resource the believing community such that financial barriers to faith being developed and protected are removed from the individual and society. Like the other pillars, the purpose of Zakat is to support the continuing worship of the Almighty.
If you strip Zakat from taqwa, then it is no longer Zakat. You can’t take the bricks from the Taj Mahal and attach it to your own house; will it be as beautiful as the Taj Mahal? You cannot maintain the essence of Zakat while giving weight to only material benefits and goals. Zakat is an act of worship instituted to connect the payers to Allah.
Notes from a recent Shaykh Akram Nadwi class.