ZAKAT (almsgiving) is a required charity of a Muslim. It is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is given by free Muslims (not slaves), who have a certain amount of wealth. “…And perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat) and give Zakat, and lend to Allah a goodly loan. And whatever good you send before you for yourselves (i.e. Nawafil non-obligatory acts of worship: prayers, charity, fasting, Haj and ‘Umrah), you will certainly find it with Allah, better and greater in reward. And seek Forgiveness of Allah. Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most-Merciful.” (Qur’an 73:20).
In the verse quoted above, and at numerous other places in the Qur’an, Muslims are directed to pay Zakat from their wealth. Zakat in Islam is a method of wealth redistribution. It makes wealth circulate in the body of the nation.
The Qur’an demands that individuals take material responsibility for poverty and suffering in the Muslim community (Ummah). That is why the Qur’anic revelation demands that each person give up a certain amount of material wealth to support the poor, the indigent, the sick, and the suffering. Generally, charity in Islam is of two types: voluntary and obligatory. A Muslim should pay a certain percentage of his wealth every year; this is Zakat, which is obligatory charity. Other than Zakat, any other money a Muslim spends for the sake of Allah is voluntary charity (Sadaqa). All Muslims, rich or poor are to pay charity proportionally. Muslims should acquire wealth with the intention of spending it on their own needs, and the needs of others.Allah says: “And whatsoever you spend of anything (in the cause of Allah), He will replace it. He is the Best of those who grants sustenance.” (Qur’an 34:39)
There are also many warnings against those who do not spend for the sake of Allah:
“And spend something (in charity) out of the substance which We have bestowed on you, before death should come to any of you and he should say, O my Lord! Why did You not give me respite for a little while? I should then have given (largely) in charity, and I should have been one of the doers of good? But to no soul will Allah grant respite when the time appointed (for it) has come; and Allah is well-acquainted with (all) that yoy do.” (Qur’an 63:11).
The Muslim, who gives out Zakat, affirms the truth that nothing is dearer to him in life than the love of Allah and that he is fully prepared to sacrifice everything for Allah’s sake.
There is no burden of obligation on one who receives Zakat, and there must be a sense of thankfulness and gratitude on the part of the giver, since he has been enabled by the recipient to discharge his obligation that he owes to Allah and society.
Zakat is the wealth given in the way of Allah to obtain purity of heart and to obtain the blessings of Allah. The root of the word Zakat in Arabic has two meanings:”purity” and “growth.”
“Take alms from their wealth (O Prophet!) in order to purify them with it.” (Qur’an 9:103)
The word (zakat) was specifically used for the wealth a Muslim gives to those in authority to meet the collective requirements of a state. It is evident from the Qur’an that like prayer, Zakat has always remained an essential ingredient of the Shari ‘ah (Islamic legislation) given to Prophets of Allah.
Zakat also pleases Allah and strengthens one’s soul: “And the likeness of those who spend their wealth in search of Allah’s pleasure, and for the strengthening of their souls, is as the likeness of a garden on a height. The rainstorm smites it and it brings forth its fruit twofold. And if the rainstorm smite it not, then the shower. Allah is Seer of what you do.” (Qur’an 2:265)