There are five pillars that are the essence of the religion of Islam. The five key elements of Islam are shahada, salat, zakat, sawm, and hajj. It is on these five pillars that the foundation of Islam lies. Hence, it is obligatory for each Muslim to obey these five pillars and live life with great virtues. Let’s understand the term zakat, it is the third pillar of Islam that commands a person to do charity and give a portion of wealth to the poor and needy. Zakat is also a form of prayer and leading life by following the path that has been shown by Allah. Performing Zakat is not obligatory at all, it is only those who are eligible can pay zakat as a religious obligation. Let’s know more in detail about the what is zakat, meaning and importance.
Meaning of Zakat
Out of the five pillars of Islam, the third pillar is Zakat. It calls for Muslims to donate 2.5% of their chartered wealth each year to help Muslims who need it across a range of categories. Zakat is a spiritual duty as well as an important part of the Islamic social welfare system. It is way more than just an act of charity. It’s a different form of religious social welfare by performing it the whole community is benefited.
Importance of Zakat
The main objective of performing Zakat is to eventually increase the trust and faithfulness towards Allah (God). It is also a social safety net for the needy and helps to uplift the entire Muslim community for Islam to flourish. Zakat works along with the other four pillars of Islam as a way of upholding and strengthening the religion. Zakat benefits the economy also. It helps in the distribution of wealth and allows individuals to free up from any burdens and gives them an opportunity to reach their potential. Performing Zakat gives a sense of satisfaction, increasing faithfulness towards good deeds. All of this has a long term impact not only on an individual Muslim but on the community as a whole.
Types of Zakat
Zakat is of two types: Zakat Al-Mal and Zakat Al-Fitr
Zakat Al-Mal or Zakat on Wealth
Zakat Al-Mal is commonly known as “Zakat” by most Muslims. In this type of Zakat, a Muslim is required to pay annually on wealth that may include currency, gold, silver, and property. The amount of Zakat Al-Mal varies from person to person as it is 2.5% of the net wealth that a person holds in a year. This Zakat is only required to be made once a Muslim reaches a defined financial slab known as nisab. Zakat Al-Mal isn’t required if the Muslims don’t reach this threshold.
Zakat Al-Fitr, or the Zakat of Fast-Breaking
Zakat al-Fitr, also referred to as Zakat of Breaking the Fast of Ramadan, is a specific donation that all Muslims are required to pay at the end of the holy month of Ramadan in the Islamic calendar. It is also known as Sadaqat al-Fitr, meaning the charity of breaking the fast of Ramadan. This charity is obligatory as every Muslim is required to pay at the end of Ramadan, irrespective of age or gender.
Zakat builds spiritual relations with Allah. It keeps one away from sins and immoral acts. Zakat will also prevent the Muslims from the Day of Judgment from hellfire. The Prophet (PBUH) said:
“Giving charity wipes away sins just as water extinguishes fire.”
Zakat is a way to care for the poor which may include widows, orphans, the disabled, the needy, and the impoverished. Allah mentions this virtue of care for the poor as Narrated by Abu Huraira (R.A): The Prophet (PBUH) said,
“Every day two angels come down from Heaven and one of them says, ‘O Allah! Compensate every person who spends in Your Cause,’ and the other (angel) says, ‘O Allah! Destroy every miser.” (Sahih Bukhari, Chapter 24, 522)
As stated in the above Hadith, if one gives zakat, angels pray for his blessings, and for the one who does not like to pay charity the angels pray for his destruction.
Charity is a form of investment with greater profits in comparison to other investments. As also mentioned by Allah in his Hadith and narrated by Abu Huraira:
“If one gives in charity what equals (the size of) one date-fruit from the honestly-earned money and Allah accepts only the honestly earned money –Allah takes it in His right (hand) and then enlarges its reward for that person (who has given it), as anyone of you brings up his baby horse, so much so that it becomes as big as a mountain.”
The importance of Zakat lies in not only cleaning one’s wealth but also in purifying one’s soul. There are numerous Hadiths in which Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has emphasized the importance of Zakat. Apart from being an act of devotion to Allah, Zakat is also an economic activity that ensures the welfare of the poor and needy in society. It helps in the free flow of money from the rich to the poor which ultimately helps in the economic development of society.