Zakah (Connecting Humanity)

Zakah (Community Wealth Tax). The Muslim contribution to life is open, without limits: he gives of his effort, his mind, his knowledge, his status and his money. The Prophet (peace be on him) said, “Every Muslim must perform a charity.” They asked, “Messenger of God, what if a person cannot find anything to give?” He answered, “He should work with his hands to benefit himself and give in charity.” “And what if he could not find that?” they asked again. “He should assist an aggrieved person in need.” “And what if he could not do that?” “Then he should do good and refrain from evil – that would be his charity.” (related by al-Bukhari)

Zakah regulates the wealth contribution in its minimum, making it a religious obligation from which the individual cannot free himself or take concessions, since it is the right of society to be devoted to the benefit of the needy and disabled individuals and classes.

In its proper sense, zakah is a practical manifestation of the brotherhood between the faithful and establishes mutual solidarity between them by the firm bond it creates between rich and poor, in a way that strengthens the individual’s sense of relation to the community and the community’s awareness of the value of the individual, and

An analysis of zakah in the Islamic system reveals its various functions in a Muslim society:

(a) a religious function: In this respect zakah is a manifestation of the faith that affirms that God is the sole owner of everything in the universe, and what men hold is a trust in their hand over which God made them trustees to discharge it as He has laid down: “Believe in Allah and His Messenger and spend of that over which He made you trustees” (Quran 57:7). It is also an expression of gratitude towards the Bestower Who said: “If you give thanks, I will give you more.” (Quran 14:7) In this respect zakah is an act of devotion which, like prayer, brings the believer nearer to his Lord, and being one of the pillars of religion, avoidance of payment is a manifestation of shirk (serving other gods besides God).

(b) an economic function: Its economic function is revealed in many ways: firstly, zakah gives a strong incentive for investing wealth for the benefit of society and makes us refrain from hoarding it. When the amount reaches the taxable minimum and has been possessed for a whole year, zakah falls due on it whether it has been invested or not. Those who do not invest their wealth expose it to continuous reduction of at least 2.5% annually. Gradually it will be removed from their possession to be used for the benefit of society.

Apart from this, zakah is a means of compulsory redistribution of wealth in a way that reduces differences between classes and groups, thus preventing the many social disorders from which Communist and Western societies alike suffer, no less than contemporary Muslim societies that have neglected zakah. Moreover, zakah is a means of establishing justice indirectly. It rectifies whatever wrongs, injustices or means of exploitation in trading and industrial relations that have arisen. This may explain the fact that it is called a “right” rather than “charity”, or an act of beneficence.

Zakah also facilitates the proper direction of purchasing power in society. It transfers part of the power of consumption, which may be used extravagantly to fulfill a proper function in the lives of those who need it.