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 The Spiritual Dimension of the Zakah

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PostSubject: The Spiritual Dimension of the Zakah   Sun Jun 26, 2011 9:25 am



An Introductory Section from Wikipedia:

Zakāt or "alms giving" is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, and it serves principally as the welfare contribution to poor and deprived Muslims. It is the duty of an Islamic community not just to collect zakat but to distribute it fairly as well.

Zakāt is different from sadaqah (plural, sadaqat). Where Zakat exclusively involves the sharing of one's material & financial wealth to help others, sadaqat in addition to that, can also involve the sharing of happiness among God's creation, such as saying kind words, smiling at someone, taking care of animals or the environment, etc. Unlike Zakat, sadaqah is not obligatory. There is a hadith that says that smiling in the face of your brother is charity.

Zakat and sadqah are acts of worship undertaken as a means of spiritual purification, as it can absolve a Muslim of some of their sins. [It is made as penance in some cases to absolve one of his/hers sins as a way of securing social solidarity.]

While Zakat plays a large role in the Muslim religion, "classic Sufi sources portray the Sufi as standing outside the system of Zakat". This is because a traditional Sufi will own no property and therefore they will pay no Zakat. Now this places them in a class with the poor who are allowed to receive the benefits of Zakat, but they are not allowed to receive what others are able to give due to their "greater spiritual wealth".

It is said that the Prophet, pbuh, lived his life at this level as so simple were his needs and possessions that he never qualified for the nisab (the amount of possessions you should have intact for a full year to be eligible for being the obligatory zakah on income) due to his donating most of his earnings on a daily basis.


Allah gives us money to test us. "I have given you, let me see if you will give to others." I believe it is a test, but most people are miserly and covet wealth.


[89:15]
And as for man, whenever his Lord tests him and honours him, and is gracious to him, he says, ‘My Lord has honoured me’.

[89:16]
But when he tests him and restricts his provision for him, he says, ‘My Lord has humiliated me’.

[89:17]
No indeed! Rather they do not honour the orphan,

[89:18]
and they do not urge the feeding of the needy;

[89:19]
and they devour inheritance greedily;

[89:20]
and they love wealth with abounding love.

Even regarding mercy, in the Qur'an, there is an ayah that says:

Say, ‘If you possessed the treasuries of my Lord’s mercy, you would surely withhold [them] for fear of spending; and man is ever niggardly’. [17:100]

There is an emphasis on spending in Islam and Allah says:

[2:261]
The likeness of those who expend their wealth in the way of God is as the likeness of a grain of corn that sprouts seven ears, in every ear a hundred grains; so God multiplies for whom He will; God is Embracing, Knowing.

[2:262]
Those who expend their wealth in the way of God then do not follow up their expenditure with a reminder of their giving and hurt, their reward is with their Lord, and no fear shall befall them, neither shall they grieve.

[2:263]
Kind words and forgiveness are better than a voluntary almsgiving followed by hurting by [reminding others of what you did]; and God is Independent, Forbearing. And one must spend from the best one has not the bad:


[2:267]
O believers, expend of the good things you have earned, and of that We have produced for you from the earth, and intend not the corrupt of it for your expending; for you would never take it yourselves, except you closed an eye on it; and know that God is All-sufficient, All-laudable.


There is a hadith to the effect that one's money never becomes less by giving charity.

This is very true. Every time one gives charity, one finds money coming out of no where. Allah opens doors of provision for one indeed.

The Inner Dimensions of Zakat

By: Imam Ghazali

Certain inward attitudes and duties are incumbent on those who seek, through the payment of Zakat, that which leads to good in the Hereafter:

Knowing Zakat's Purpose and Significance

To understand the necessity of paying Zakat, how it represents a test of character, and why it has been made one of the fundamentals of Islam, even though it is a financial transaction and not a physical act of worship.

Three points deserve consideration here:

Testing the Degree of Love for Allah

To pronounce the two sentences of the Confession of Faith (Shahada) ("There is no God but Allah-Mohammad is God's Messenger") is obligatory as affirmation of the Divine Unity and testimony to the singleness of the One to Whom all worship is due.
Complete fulfillment of this obligation requires that he who affirms the Divine Unity should direct his love to none but the One, the Unique.

There is little value in mere verbal affirmation.The degree of love is tested only by separating the lover from other things he loves.

Worldly goods are an object of love in everybody's eyes, being the means by which they enjoy the benefits of this world. Because of them, we become attached to life and shy away from death, even though death leads us to meet the Beloved (Allah). The truth of our claim to love God is therefore put to the test, and we are asked to give up the wealth which is the apple of our eye. [18: 46]

Wealth and children are the embellishment of the worldly life, and the everlasting virtues [good deeds that remain in your record of deeds] are better with your Lord, both in rewards and in creating good hopes

That is why Allah said: "God has bought from the believers their persons and their goods, Paradise being theirs for the price " (Quran: 9:111).

Allah also says that true piety means giving away one's wealth, in spite of love for it, to close relatives, orphans, the wayfarer and beggars, and for the emancipation of slaves.2

True piety is [that of] the one who believes in God and the Last Day and the angels and the Book and the prophets, and who gives of his substance, however cherished to kinsmen and orphans and the needy and the traveller and beggars, and for slaves, ... [2: 177]


The Elimination of Miserliness

The Divine decree by which Allah bids His servants to spend their wealth, is also significant in purging the habit of miserliness, which is a deadly sin.

"And whosoever is saved from his own covetousness, such are they who will be the successful" (Quran 59:9).

The habit of miserliness is only eliminated by making oneself accustomed to spending money, for to break an attachment one must force oneself away till a new habit is found.

The purity he acquires is in proportion to his expenditure, to his delight in giving away and to his joy in spending for the sake of Allah.

Expression of Gratitude

The third factor is gratitude for benefits received, for the servant is indebted to Allah for personal and material bounties

Payment of Zakat at the Proper Time

The second duty with regards to Zakat concerns the time of payment. A good practice is to anticipate the moment when payment is due. This demonstrates a willingness to comply by bringing joy to the hearts of poor, forestalling the obstacles time might place in the way of charitable action, being aware that there are dangers in delaying payment, as the servant runs the risk of disobedience should he or she postpone beyond the appointed moment.

Whenever the impulse to good arises from within, the opportunity must be grasped at once as the believers heart lies between the two fingers of the All-Merciful. Yet how fickle is the heart! The devil threatens poverty and bids us to commit atrocious and abominable deeds.

Demonic suggestion follows hard on the heels of angelic inspiration. One should therefore seize the opportunity and fix a definite month for giving Zakat (if one is used to paying it all at once.)

One should endeavor to choose one of the most opportune times to pay Zakat, resulting in more closeness to Allah and compounding the value of the Zakat.

One such favorable time would be month of Muharram, since it is the first month of the Islamic year and one of the sacred months. Another is Ramadan.

Give in Secret

The third duty is secrecy, for this is farthest removed from hypocritical display and reputation-seeking.

Allah says, "If you disclose your Sadaqat (alms giving), it is well, but if you conceal it, and give it to the poor, that is better for you. (Allah) will forgive you some of your sins. And Allah is Well-Acquainted with what you do" (Quran 2:271).

According to one Hadith, the Prophet said, "Seven people will be shaded under Allah's Throne on the Day on which there will be no other shade:

a just ruler,

a young person who worships Almighty Allah,

a person whose heart is attached to Masajid,

two people who love one another for the sake of Allah, and who come together and part for His sake,

a man who is called by a beautiful woman of good family, but refuses her, saying 'I fear Allah',

a person who gives his money in charity so secretly that his left hand does not know what his right hand gives,

and someone who remembers Allah privately, so that his eyes brim with tears."3

According to one of the scholars, "Three things are accounted among the treasures of righteousness, one of them being to give Alms in secret."

Whenever fame is the donor's objective, his work will be in vain, since the purpose of alms giving is to eliminate miserliness and to weaken the love of wealth. But the love of status has a stronger hold over the soul than the love of wealth, and both of them have deadly consequences in the Hereafter.

Give Openly

The fourth duty, when one knows that such conduct will tend to encourage others to follow suit, is to let one's giving be seen. In doing so, however, one must be inwardly on guard against hypocritical motives.

Apart from the expectation of gratitude and the risk of hypocrisy, there is another danger in visible alms giving, namely that of offending a poor man's dignity. It may be hurtful to him to be seen to be needy.

But someone who begs in public is bringing the disgrace upon himself; there is therefore no sense in being wary.

Avoid Taunting and Hurting

The fifth duty is not to invalidate one's alms giving through taunting and hurting.
As Allah said, "Do not make your Alms giving void by taunting and hurting."(part of Quran 2: 264).

Taunting is reminding a person of a favor, while hurt lies in making it known. According to others, taunting is to exploit a person in return of a gift, while hurt lies in making him feel ashamed of his poverty.

Still others say that taunting means making one's gift an excuse for arrogant behavior.
One should therefore realize that giving alms is actually paying Allah, Great and Glorious is He, what is due, while the poor person is actually receiving his sustenance from Allah.

Anyone who grasps the significance of the three points mentioned above while discussing the purpose and importance of the Zakat, or even one of them, realizes that he is a benefactor only to himself , through spending his wealth either to demonstrate his love of Allah or to purge himself or herself of the voice miserliness, or to give thanks for the blessing of wealth in the hope of receiving more.

Adopt Humility

The sixth duty to think little of one's donation, for to regard it highly is to invite that pride which is one of the deadly sins, making good deeds worthless.

It must be recognized that ten of two and-a-half percent is a tiny fraction, and that to pay only this is to content oneself with the least generous level of expense as we have explained above.

This is something to be ashamed of rather to boast about. Even if one rose to the highest level, disbursing all or most of one's wealth, one should still reflect on where it came from in the first place, and for what purpose it is being spent. For all wealth belongs to Allah. It is to Him that one should be grateful for for being given it and being enabled to spend it, so why pride ourselves on spending for the sake of Allah when it is actually His property?

And, if one's situation is such that one must look to the Hereafter, spending for the sake of spiritual reward, why boast of giving what one expects to receive many many times over?

As for action, one's giving should be done with a sense of shame at one's meanness in holding back the rest of one's wealth from God, Great and Glorious is He. One's demeanor should be humble and abashed, like that of someone who is asked to hand back a deposit but returns only part of it and holds on the rest.

For all wealth belongs to Allah and He would prefer to see us give all we possess. If He has not commanded His servant to do so, it is only because that would be too hard on them by reason of their greed.

As Allah says: "If He were to ask you of it, and press you, you would covetously withhold, and he will bring out all your (secret) ill wills'" (Quran 47:37).

Give the Best and the Dearest

The seventh duty is to select from one's wealth what is best and dearest to one: the finest and most excellent part, for God,exalted is He. Allah is good and accepts only what is good.

If the offering has been acquired by dubious means, it may not strictly belong to the donor and will then be disqualified.

"O you who believe! Spend of the good things which you have (legally) earned, and of that which We have produced from the earth for you, and do not aim at that which is bad to spend from it, (though) you would not accept it save if you close your eyes and tolerate therein. And know that Allah is Rich, and worthy of all praise." (Quran 2:267).

Seek the Worthy and Deserving

The eighth duty is to seek out the truly worthy recipient for one's offering (Sadaqa), rather than be content with just anybody who happens to fall within the eight categories of legally qualified beneficiaries.

For among those generally eligible there are some with special qualities. Attention should be paid to these five qualities:

First, one should seek out those pious people who have renounced the world and devoted themselves exclusively to the business of the Hereafter.

Second, the recipient should be chosen from among the people of learning, to support him in his quest for knowledge. Learning is the noblest form of worship, so long as it is based on right intention.

Third, the recipient should be a person who kept his need to himself, not being given to fuss and complaint.

Fourth, the recipient should be someone with a large family or disabled by illness or some other cause.

Fifth, the recipient should be a close relative, whether paternal or maternal.
Each of these points should therefore be taken into consideration, for they represent the desired qualities. Within each quality there are further gradations, so one ought to seek the highest .

If anyone can be found in whom all these qualities are combined, that is the greatest treasure and the supreme prize. If one does one's best and succeeds, one gets a double reward, but even if one fails, there is still a single reward for the effort.

NOTES

1. Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, Inner Dimensions of Islamic Worship.
2. "It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces Towards east or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfil the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah-fearing." (2, 177)
3. Bukhari, Muslim.

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