Zakat - The Fourth Pillar of Islam
Zakat, also known as almsgiving, is the fourth pillar upon which the faith of Islam rests upon. It is not just encouraged in Islam, it is mandatory upon all Muslims to give in the way of Allah (SWT) and help the needy. Zakat is the act of taking a portion of the wealth that Allah (SWT) has given you and giving it to those who are not as fortunate.
In all sense and purposes, Zakah is a ‘purification’ of wealth; it cleanses the person’s wealth, instills empathy, generosity, and love in the heart of the giver and protects the individual from becoming stingy and miserly. The religion of Islam is based on helping your fellow brothers and sisters and giving back to society rather than hogging your wealth just for yourself. Giving charity is an integral part of being a good Muslim.
It is important to note that Zakat is different from voluntary almsgiving (Sadaqah) because Zakat is mandatory for every able Muslim whereas Sadaqah is given on a completely voluntary basis.
Allah (SWT) has laid great emphasis on Zakaat in His book, The Holy Quran, mentioning it 70 times, which only goes to show the importance of giving Zakat in the eyes of Allah (SWT) and helping the needy. If one considers Salah to be a form of worship that is carried out physically, Zakat is a form of worship, which is carried out through financial means.
“And We made them leaders, guiding (men) by Our Command, and We sent them inspiration to do good deeds, to establish regular prayers, and to practice regular charity; and they constantly served Us (and Us only).” (Surah Anbiya:73)
Zakat is giving away 2.5% of your wealth and assets to the poor. It is obligatory on every Muslim who owns the nisaab (the minimum amount) for at least a year. The amount of Zakat (see: Zakat Calculator) varies on the different types of valuables owned by the person e.g. gold, silver, cash, property, livestock etc. It is to be paid every year after one year’s procession.
Giving Zakat brings in endless rewards and blessings from Allah (SWT), not only this world but the Hereafter as well. It is a reminder that all wealth comes from Allah (SWT) and belongs to Allah (SWT) and we are merely receivers of His gift. A portion of everyone’s wealth is a portion that has been pre-ordained by Allah (SWT) to give to the poor. The fact is, Allah (SWT) does not need Zakat, He is not dependent on anything. In turn, we are the ones who need Allah’s (SWT) provisions and blessings.
The purpose of Zakat is to maintain an equilibrium in society and distributing the wealth taken from the rich and using it to help the poor and easing their life in this world. Hence, it is our moral duty as Muslims to give as much as we can to those who need it and help as much as we can!