“…and those who are observant of zakāh
These aayaat were revealed in Makkah, while zakat was made obligatory in 2AH, so the meaning of zakat here is wider than the 2.5% tax. Imam Ibn Kathir explain it refers to the purification of the soul and of one’s wealth, because that is part of the purification of the soul, and the true believer is one who pays attention to both matters. Other scholars say it was commanded before this point but its exact amount was only specified in Madinah.
Most mentioned acts of worship are establishing salah and giving zakat to purify our wealth. It also purifies our hearts from stinginess and clinging to wealth. The primary objective is to distribute wealth amongst the poor in the community. The second objective is to remove the love of wealth from ones heart. The third is that it prevents monopolies in society.
On the Day when that (Al Kanz: money, gold and silver, the Zakaah of which has not been paid) will be heated in the fire of Hell and with it will be branded their foreheads, their flanks, and their backs, (and it will be said unto them:) ‘This is the treasure which you hoarded for yourselves. Now taste of what you used to hoard’” [al-Tawbah 9:34, 35]
Allah’s Messenger (Allah’s blessings and salutations upon him) said, “Whoever is made wealthy by Allah and does not pay the Zakat of his wealth, then on the Day of Resurrection his wealth will be made like a bald-headed poisonous male snake with two black spots over the eyes. The snake will encircle his neck and bite his cheeks and say, ‘I am your wealth, I am your treasure.’ “Then the Prophet recited the verses: — ‘Let not those who withhold…’ (to the end of the verse). (3.180). (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī)
This narration explains the severe punishment of not paying Zakat. The verse which the Prophet recited was:“And let not those who covetously withhold of that which God has bestowed on them of His Bounty (wealth) think that it is good for them. Nay, it will be worse for them. The things which they covetously withheld shall be tied to their necks like a collar on the Day of Resurrection. And to God belongs the heritage of the heavens and the earth, and God is Well-Acquainted with all that you do” (Quran 3:180).
Ibn Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, obligated Zakat al-Fitr as purification of the fasting person from vain talk and misbehavior, as food for the poor. Whoever pays it before the Eid prayer, it is accepted as Zakat. Whoever pays it after the Eid prayer, it is part of voluntary charity. [Sunan Abī Dāwūd 1609] Imam An-Nawawi reported: Waki’ ibn al-Jarrah, may Allah have mercy on him, said, “Zakat al-Fitr is to the month of Ramadan like the prostration of forgetfulness is to prayer. It makes up for deficiencies in fasting just as the prostration makes up for deficiencies in prayer.” [al-Majmū’ Sharḥ al-Muhadhab 6/107]
Zakat removes evil: Jabir reported: A man among his people said, “O Messenger of Allah, what do you think if a man pays alms on his wealth?” The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Whoever pays alms on his wealth, his evil will depart from him.” [ al-Mu’jam al-Awsaṭ 1579]
Take what you have from what is permissible and honestly gained through effort and give it for the sake of Allah(SWT). Allah(SWT) states give from what you love. Ustadh Yawar Baig shared a true story of a senior medical consultant from America who was visiting Pakistan and was taken for a visit to Raiwind Markaz, the home of Tablighi Jamaat, near Lahore. Here he was given a full tour and was amazed to see the organisation and khidma – hundreds of people arriving every hour, every one fed and catered for with one sitting after another, with no payment and no stress. He was so taken aback that when he met the Principal, he took out his cheque book and made out a cheque for $100,000. The Principal looked at the cheque and then gave it back to him. He reminded him of the ayah “Lan tanaalul birra hathaa thunfiquu” Never will you attain the good [reward] until you spend [in the way of Allah] from that which you love [3:92] He then said, for some its easy to give their wealth but what do you really love. Why don’t you join us for 40 days? To which the consultant replied I can’t leave work – that’s too much for me. Ask yourself whats most beloved to you and give from it.
And importantly they are constant in their giving. Many years ago, I was with a brother driving to a venue when someone in the car mentioned a person in need. At the first opportunity the driver of the car pulled over by a cashpoint, took out some money and shoved a wad of cash into the hand of the one who had mentioned it. The recipient said he was just sharing the story but the donor replied “If you cant give it when you have it, then when can you give it?”
Abdullah ibn Mu’awiyyah reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Whoever does three deeds will taste the sweetness of faith:
- one who declares there is no God but Allah
- one who worships Allah alone
- and one who gives charity from his wealth each year with a cheerful and earnest soul.”
[ Sunan Abī Dāwūd 1582]
Ali(RA) said that zakat is such a miraculous institution that if every single Muslim that zakat is mandatory upon, no one would sleep hungry. Why, because the blessings from Allah(SWT) would descend upon humanity. And this was while Muslims were a minority.
It is said that Uthman(RA) would say “Know that your need for sadaqah is greater than the need of the one you are giving sadaqah to.” If the one giving charity knew that his charity falls in Allahs hand before it falls in the poor persons hand, the joy of the giver would be greater than the joy of the recipient” [Ibn ul Qayyim rh]