Becoming a Practicing Muslim: The Five Pillars of Islam [III]
11 Feb 2018
Third: Zakat (Charity)
Islam always teaches us to be thankful for our blessings and therefore to express our gratitude in positive action, which means always lending a helping hand to others in any shape or form. Zakat (Charity), which was initiated by Prophet Muhammad, is an essential practice in Islam, so much so that one cannot be called a Muslim and ignore such an important pillar in the Islamic faith.
“And establish prayer and give zakah, and whatever good you put forward for yourselves - you will find it with Allah. Indeed, Allah of what you do, is Seeing.” [Al-Baqarah, 110]
Zakat linguistically means “purification”; and the terminology refers to a charitable giving to those who deserve this charity based on accumulated wealth in order to purify one’s income and sins. It is obligatory for all Muslims who are able to do so in an effort to ease the economic hardship of others and to eliminate inequality. It is obligatory to pay 2.5% of one’s capital assets as Zakat (this is governed by specific rules and regulations that are out of the scope of this article). It also depends on the assets continuously owned over one lunar year.
Distributing Zakat is governed by five main guidelines, including declaring your intention to God that you are about to give Zakat; there must be no exaggeration in paying Zakat or spending more than one possesses; payment must be in kind; Zakat must be distributed in the community from which it was taken, and it must be paid on the day that it is due.
“Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakah] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveler - an obligation [imposed] by Allah . And Allah is Knowing and Wise.” [At-Tawbah, 60]
The people who are entitled to receive Zakat are the poor (al-fuqarâ’), the needy (al-masâkîn), the Zakat collectors, new converts who have just embraced Islam as their faith, slaves and captives, the debt-ridden, important religious causes, and those who are stranded or traveling with little to no means.
All in all, Zakat brings the community closer together and encourages Muslims to support and aid each other whenever possible, and strengthens their faith in Islam and in Allah.
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