The Zakat (Alms Tax) as a System

Article translated to : العربية

the zakat (alms tax) system provides practical mercy for the poor and the needy. the islamic government collects the alms tax from the rich and redistributes it to the poor. when allah's messenger (pbuh) sent muath ibn jabal to yemen he recommended him to" inform them that allah (swt) had imposed on them zakat (alms tax) to be taken from the rich of the muslim community and distributed to the poor. if they accept that refrain from laying hands upon the best of their goods and fear the cry of the oppressed, for there is no barrier between allah (swt) & it.

zakat or alms tax can be defined as the portion of a man's wealth which is designated for the poor. the zakat is calculated on a basis of 2.5% of the annual savings if they exceeded a certain value known as the nisab. the term zakat is derived from the arabic verbal root meaning "to increase", "to purify", "to bless". giving out the zakat is a purifier for a muslim's money and an approach to allah (swt) through which a muslim attains blessing and well being.

islam considers a muslim's wealth as a deposit entrusted to one by allah (swt) and in return a muslim has to give away the portion designated for the poor and has to use his wealth only in what pleases allah (swt). zakat or alms tax was the first system known to humanity that guaranteed custody to the needy and social justice among the members of the community, where part of the wealth of the rich is redistributed to the poor and needy. it had entitled "the poor have the right to take alms tax if the rich refrained from paying it voluntarily", as stated by one of the fair orientalists -leorodten-.

zakat leads to increasing the coherence of the society, to solidarity of its members and to abolishing poverty and its subsequent social, economic and moral problems if the money of zakat is distributed to those who deserve it.

talking about zakat, well durant said "throughout history we were unable to find any reformer who had imposed taxes on the rich to aid the poor the way muhammad (pbuh) did"

jack resler says elaborating on the virtues of zakat: "primarily zakat was a free administrative and cooperative work considered to be a great virtue. in organizing the madinah community allah's messenger (pbuh) had adopted such benevolent system as a legal mandatory tax in favor of the poor and needy. such system was to be evolved later into an organization of employees and “bayt mal” (treasury).

even though the states have taken such system as a source for their revenues, the principle of zakat, thanks to quran, had remained a virtue practiced spontaneously by muslims considering it a religious duty.

praise is due to muhammad (pbuh) for being the first to impose a tax on the wealthy to be distributed to the poor, in the manner quran was able to create the obligatory mercy".

penkmert beautifully described the zakat system saying "i found no religion providing a comprehensive legislation for zakat the way islam did. the islamic community which abides by zakat system is void of poverty, deprivation and vagrancy. i believe if the whole world followed such system hanger and deprivation will no longer exist. the islamic community which adheres to islamic rulings and manners is a clean and happy community where all kinds of crime are absent“.

on the other hand allah's messenger (pbuh) had warned of the consequences of preventing the payment of zakat and threatened those who prevent it with hideous torture on judgment day, saying "anyone whom allah has given wealth but he does not pay his zakat, then on the day of resurrection his wealth will be presented to him in the shape of a bald-headed poisonous snake with 2 poisonous glands in his mouth and it will encircle itself around his neck and bite him over the cheeks saying "i am your wealth, i am your treasure". then allah's messenger (pbuh) recited the divine verse :

"and definitely let not the ones who are miserly with what allah has brought them of his grace reckon that it is charitable for them. no indeed, it is an evil thing for them. they will have it wrapped around their necks whatever they were miserly with on the day of resurrection." (al-imran :180).

on the other hand allah's messenger (pbuh) said encouraging people to pay their zakat :"whoever pays his zakat his evil goes away from him".

allah's messenger (pbuh) said :"whoever does these three things feels the taste of iman (belief); to worship allah (swt) alone, knowing that there is no god but allah and who pays his zakat yearly generously and benevolently excluding from it the sick & old kettle and including the moderate ones for allah neither asked for your best nor your worst".

he (pbuh) also said :"whoever pays it hoping for allah's reward will have it and whoever prevents it i will take it from him in addition to half his money as a penalty and this money is impermissible for muhammad's family".

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