Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|09/29/01 at 04:16:31|
|Assalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh|
By Dr Muhammad Kamal Al-Shareef[/center]
"Truly, to a happy state shall attain the believers, who humble themselves in their prayer, and who turn away from all that is frivolous, and who fulfill their zakah duty." (23: 1-4)
Five major elements constitute the foundation of Islam. These are: A declaration of belief that there is no deity other than God and that Muhammad is His messenger; attending to prayers; payment of zakah (which is an obligatory charity paid by all Muslims who have more than a specified sum); fasting in Ramadan and pilgrimage to Makkah if one can afford it. Prayer and zakah, however, have a particularly great importance. Hardly ever is faith mentioned in the Qur'an without it being associated with prayer and zakah, and the need to fulfill both duties. Abu Bakr, the first ruler of the Muslim state after the Prophet, went to war against groups of Muslims who wanted to abrogate zakah.
When the Muslim community was given permission by God to fight against non-believers, God gave them the happy news that they would eventually gain power in the land. He also reminded them of their duties when that prospect came to be a reality. Their first duties were to establish prayers regularly, to pay their zakah and to fulfill their social duty of helping others to do good and refrain from what is wrong and evil. Describing good believers, God says in the Qur'an: "(They are) those who, when We firmly establish them on Earth, remain constant in prayer, and give in charity, and enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong. But with God rests the final outcome of all events." (22: 41)
Prayer and zakah are given precedence over other types of Islamic worship because prayer, which is offered purely for God's sake, has an important role in restraining people from committing sinful and evil deeds, while zakah has a greatly beneficial effect on both individual and society.
In reference to zakah and other types of charity, God says in the Qur'an: "Take a portion of their wealth as charity, so that you may cleanse and purify them thereby; and pray for them: for your prayers are a source of comfort for them. God hears all and knows all." (9: 103) This means that charity in general, and zakah in particular, work in such a way as to purify believing hearts, and generate growth and increase, as well as blessings for the Muslim community.
In fact, the very word, zakah, combines both sets of connotations: purification and growth. But the question is asked: What does it purify; and how does it bring about growth?
Zakah as a purifier
Zakah and other charity purifies the believers' hearts of various negative feelings, such as a sense of guilt, envy, grudge, hostility, hatred, worry, isolation, powerlessness, as well as the feeling of being a social outcast or abandoned.
Divine wisdom necessitates that God grants people different aspects of His grace in different measures. Thus, some people are rich, while others are poor; some are healthy while others suffer from sickness, and some are physically strong while others are weak. But believers are brought up as God-fearing, nurturing a lively conscience and a compassionate attitude.
A believer who enjoys an abundance of something other people have not been given will find that his active conscience will not let him enjoy such abundance fully while others are deprived. He will feel a twinge of conscience every time he enjoys his blessings because others are not sharing that enjoyment, even though it may not be a necessity. Although he knows that he is not responsible for the fact that others do not have what he has been given in abundance, he will continue to feel ill at ease when he realizes that he has plenty while others have little.
A sense of guilt has been experienced by a person who escapes a massacre or a concentration camp in war times, when others with him are killed. Such sense of guilt is felt by such a person simply because he manages to escape while others do not, even though he has no role in their fate. He realizes that his escape has not been at their expense, but simply God has determined that he would live longer. If the case is so, we can imagine what feelings are experienced by a believer with a refined conscience when he has much to enjoy while others are deprived.
A believer will undoubtedly experience something of the guilt-consciousness experienced by those who survive massacres and disasters. He will not be satisfied until he shares with those who are deprived something of the blessings he enjoys. Does this mean that he should give everything he has in charity so as to join the poor and share with them their deprivation? This is definitely a non-starter, as it is in direct conflict with human nature. Moreover, it remains at variance with Divine wisdom, which has dictated that people differ in the type and amount of the grace they receive from God.
We can discern here the wisdom of imposing obligatory zakah or charity on a believer, which he pays out of what he has over and above his needs for a full year. We also appreciate the benefit of the precise determination of the amount of zakah one pays out.
It is merely 2.5 percent of one's entire property that is not essential for his own and his family's living. He may enjoy the other portion of 97.5 percent provided that he spends it in legitimate ways. When he has paid out that portion of zakah, he may enjoy the rest without a twinge of conscience. Should he give more to charity, as he is encouraged to do, he feels greater satisfaction. This is the case with a believer, whenever he or she decides voluntarily to do something good for God's sake and in the hope of earning reward from Him only.
We will continue to highlight the psychological effects of zakah tomorrow, God willing.
[i]"Islam in Perspective" - Arab News - 21 May 2001[/i]
Wassalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh
Individual posts do not necessarily reflect the views of Jannah.org, Islam, or all Muslims. All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective owners. Comments are owned by the poster and may not be used without consent of the author.The rest © Jannah.Org