Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|Zakah as a means of purification|
|09/29/01 at 23:23:58|
|Assalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh|
[center]Zakah as a means of purification
By Dr Muhammad Kamal Al-Shareef[/center]
As it is well-known, zakah is an act of Islamic worship, specifying a financial duty on every Muslim, male or female, who has money in excess of a certain threshold. It is collected at specified rates, and its beneficiaries are clearly defined. It aims to ensure full social security in Islamic society, including Muslims and non-Muslims living within it.
Zakah, normally levied at a rate of 2.5 percent on both capital and income, apart from what is essentially needed for living and business, is the obligatory part of Islamic charity, constituting the minimum that everyone liable to it should pay. Had it not been set at a certain rate, and a believer donates even double that rate, he may still feel that he is not doing well enough, or that he really has no right to keep for himself 95 percent of his money. This feeling of failing to do one's duty may remain even when one pays 10 percent of his money to the poor, or even a higher share. Some people are so sensitive in this particular aspect that they would always be blaming themselves for not doing enough, even when they are doing fine by all standards.
As it is God who has set the rate of zakah, this gives believers a sense of satisfaction that the fulfillment of this duty at its minimum rate is certain to provide sufficient help. God, who knows all, has set this limit which He in His wisdom knows to be sufficient to alleviate poverty and eventually eradicate it from Muslim society. Thus, a believer would not belittle the amount of the obligatory zakah, realizing that he or she could do more and pay voluntary charity as they please, hoping for great reward from God. Indeed, God rewards sadaqah, which means voluntary charitable donations to the poor, with up to 700 times its value and even more.
This means that zakah is the minimum, and voluntary charity is wide open. However, the Prophet did not allow his companions to give charitable bequests amounting to more than one third of the total of their property, in order not to jeopardize the rights of their legal heirs.
This last point applies to the property one leaves behind on one's death. During one's lifetime, one is required to take care of one's dependents, paying their living expenses and other essential requirements. Dependents and close relatives have a stronger claim to be looked after. Whatever a believer pays for his wife's and children's needs is credited to him by God in the same category as sadaqah or charitable donations so that God may reward him for it as such. Beyond this, the best type of charity is defined by the Prophet as the one that keeps the donor in good means. It must not take away all his money, leaving him in poverty.
All charity, or sadaqah in Islamic terminology, including zakah, is a tangible gift which reflects man's attainment of the highest degree of maturity in the psychological sense of the word. A mature person is one who is always ready to give without expectation of a reward.
As the age of 40 represents the climax of a person's maturity, it also represents, according to psychological studies, the stage of giving in a person's life. From that point onward, a person devotes more of his ability and energy to being a giver. He gives more and more, starting with his children and including all humanity.
Giving is a demonstration of love, and mature love is the love of giving to others, not taking from them. If we watch children carefully, we note that theirs is a love based on taking from others. A child loves his parents because he needs them and takes from them. A mature person, on the other hand, loves to give and is ready to sacrifice for his beloved. However, romantic love by adolescents and young people has its distinctive aspects.
Sadaqah is an act that reflects feelings of love and compassion on the part of the giver, who is considered to be "rich" in the sense that he has more than he needs. Thus, it has a dual effect of purification: It purges the beneficiaries of any feelings of grudge and class hatred toward rich people, and purges the rich givers of feelings of greed, self-aggrandizement and miserliness. God says in the Qur'an: "Those that are saved from their own covetousness are indeed the ones who will attain to a happy state." (59:9)
Furthermore, sadaqah purges the hearts and minds of feelings of anger at their lot, reflected in an attitude of displeasure with the Creator. They are also free from hostility toward other members of society which may result from intense frustration. They no longer experience feelings of being isolated or deprived, or that they are a class apart from the rest of society. A person's poverty and deprivation, coupled with his heavy responsibilities, may cause him to think that God has deserted him, or that society has shown him no compassion. This may enhance his sense of frustration and weaken his allegiance to his society.
All these negative feelings may lead to different types of negative behavior, starting with immorality, prostitution, drug addiction and even violent crime. In fact, they may lead, when experienced on a wide scale, to violent revolution propelled by hatred and a blind desire for revenge.
By contrast, a believer who is ready with his charitable donations experiences a genuine sense of happiness and satisfaction as he pays his zakah and sadaqah. In paying them he fulfills part of the role God has assigned to man as His vicegerent on Earth. Indeed by making such charitable payments, a believer activates within himself some of God's own attributes, as God is the one who gives and feeds.
When a believer is able to give others so as to make them happy, he himself experiences a sense of real happiness. His is a sense of personal satisfaction, not arrogance or conceit. He simply realizes that his action brings him closer to the ideal image of a God-fearing believer, which is his ultimate goal. Whenever the reality draws closer to the ideal image one paints for oneself, a sense of serenity and reassurance, as well as freedom from worry, becomes paramount.
[i]"Islam in Perspective" - Arab News - 28 May 2001[/i]
Wassalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh
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