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Monday, May 18, 2020

A Quick Look at Zakat — Islam’s Obligatory Alms on Wealth

This year, the holy month of Ramadan in Islam, which concludes with a period of giving, is more poignant than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged businesses and industry, leaving millions struggling to survive financially. As unemployment numbers increase, and as social services are strained, zakat this year will undoubtedly impact the lives with a greater appreciation for many Muslims. In today’s blog, Zakat Foundation of America (★★★★) explores the origins of zakat, the role it plays in Islam, and the impact it has on society.



What is zakat? 
Zakat is a required form of charity within the Five Pillars of Islam. Muslims are required to donate a portion of their wealth. The primary recipients of this generosity are primarily defined as the poor, vulnerable, and deserving as their divinely established right. The Prophet Muhammad (on him be peace), the founder of Islam, placed zakat as the third of the famed Five Pillars of worship.

What does the word ‘zakat’ mean?
The literal meaning of the Arabic word ‘zakat’ is “increase,” as in “growth.” It also suggests “betterment” and “blessings,” as well as “purification” and “sweetening.”
Early in its 23-year period of gradual revelation, the Quran — Islam’s scripture, revealed in the month of Ramadan — restyled ‘zakat’ as the name for its prescribed almsgiving.

What makes zakat different from charity in other faiths?
It is a compulsory charity for followers of Islam of means. This charity does not come at the discretion of its payers. The Quran and prophetic tradition outlines the various kinds of property of which zakat payments come directly due, their minimum amounts, and their rates of payment.

Islam does not class zakat as a simple good deed. It is an essential part of the Islamic faith. It is on par with the Pillar of worship: the five-times daily prayer that defines Muslim devotion.

Individual Muslims are required by faith to learn zakat’s rules and fulfill them correctly. This means assessing zakat accurately — a task for which Zakat Foundation of America has built a calculator — and ensuring its proper distribution.

Two of the three types of charity are Zakat al-Mal and Zakat al-Fitr, or the Zakat of Breaking of the Fast of Ramadan respectively. Muslims do not have to pay their Zakat al-Mal in Ramadan, though many prefer to. But the special Zakat al-Fitr, is paid by all Muslims at the end of Ramadan.


What are zakat’s requirements?
Zakat has two main conditions set by the Quran:

1.   Nisab (threshold amount). This marks the minimum quantity of a material good a person owns, becoming “wealthy” in it, from which one must pay zakat. Nisab literally means “‘origin”,’ because the right of the poor in one’s wealth begins at this point of its accumulation.
2.   Payment rate. Each type of eligible wealth has a Zakat percentage. A 2.5% rate is assessed on all surplus personal and business wealth. Agricultural produce, livestock and treasure troves (hidden windfalls and extraction of natural resources) vary by percent.

Who receives zakat?
The Quran designates eight kinds of zakat eligible recipients, sortable into three groups:
1. The poor and the needy (top priority)
2. Zakat’s collectors and those entitled to compensatory reconciliation
3. For the emancipation of the enslaved and captive; the debt-ridden; those engaged in benevolent Godly causes; and the wayfaring (the stranded, migrants, the displaced, refugees, and the homeless)
What does society gain from Zakat?
Zakat directly alleviates the poor and needful of worldly hardship, improving their life conditions while upholding their human dignity.

Zakat is not intended to serve as a stopgap measure of short-term or one-time relief. It is meant to institutionalize and anchor a communal enterprise that systematically eliminates poverty and servitude on earth.

Zakat functions as the primary socio-financial institution of the global Muslim community. It aims at annually recalibrating the just human balance in society, fostering harmony between relatives and neighbors, and strengthening a shared unity and equitable social cohesion.

Zakat Foundation of America is unique among humanitarian organizations in advancing zakat as a vehicle for social change. The third pillar of Islam, zakat is an obligatory claim on the wealth of the affluent to empower the indigent. We channel this egalitarian spirit of zakat into a global vision of social development that transcends national boundaries and stands as the foremost authority on interpreting zakat as a factor for positive change.

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