Zakat literally means purification. Technically, it is a tax on the wealthy to provide social justice. As one of the pillars of Islam, Zakat is a form of obligatory charity meant to ease the sufferings of poor people. Its scope covers the moral, social, and the economic sphere. In the moral sphere, it washes away greed and acquisitiveness of the wealthy, makes them alive to and responsible for solving the problem of poverty. Secondly, the institution of Zakat performs its purifying process in the entire social sphere. As a saying goes, “A nation of paupers on one side and millionaires on the other is the most unfortunate of nations”. Islam does not object to earning of millions, but makes it the duty of the state to see to it that not a single man is left un-provided with the basic necessities of life.
The well-to-do persons are to pay for this aim Zakat on their wealth. The third domain in which Zakat performs its purifying process is wealth itself. Zakat purifies wealth from its evil tendency to gather more and more in fewer and fewer hands on account of unequal opportunities. Zakat takes away from the few their surplus wealth and gives it to the many to provide necessities of life to them. Zakat can be considered as the best tool for social justice.
The order to pay Zakat runs like a refrain in the Quran. There are various passages in the Quran where Zakat and prayer are mentioned together. Besides this, scores of verses are also present in the Quran in which only charity is enjoined.
“And establish prayer and give Zakat, and whatever good you put forward for yourselves – you with find it with Allah” (2:110, Quran).
Apart from realization of social justice, Zakat makes a special contribution which is not present in any other economic system, which is uncompromising opposition to hoarding. Hoarded wealth is the first item on which Zakat is assessed. Indeed, no secular system can possibly tackle the problem of hoarding with the effectiveness with which Islam can, because hoarded wealth can only be taxed with the cooperation of hoarders. In Islam, the fear of God and the fear of Day of Judgment are enough to force cooperation upon the hoarders.
According to the Hanafi fiqa in Islam, Zakat is 2.5% of wealth that has been in one’s possession for a lunar year. If wealth amounts to less than a threshold figure, termed the Nisab, then no Zakat is payable. If wealth amounts to more than the Nisab, Zakat becomes obligatory. In this current crisis of Covid-19 pandemic, all Muslims should follow this obligation to help some of the world’s poorest and most destitute communities. Your donations bring joy to these people, and brings hope that one day they will be able to give rather than receive Zakat.
The writer studied Political Science at University of Kashmir. [email protected]