Zakat – The Power of Islam

The Pillars of Islam are very rarely discussed from the perspective of a non-muslim. I will be covering all pillars and the importance for non-muslims in order to understand the Pillars of Islam and what it could mean for themselves or their families in the future. 

All five pillars are obligatory and a duty to Allah, the laws surrounding the pillars should be a concern to all non-muslims as the Muslim community (ummah) grows.

Pillar Three – Zakat

Zakat is payment – made by muslims – of food or money. There are two types, Zakat ul-Fitr (personal, payable at the breaking of the fast) and Zakat al-Mal (zakat on wealth). 

The amount payable is 2.5% (per person) of money remaning after all basic needs are met, which goes into a community fund.

Zakat is believed to give. 

  • growth
  • blessings
  • an increase in good
  • purification, or praise

The most authoritative source on Islamic law – Reliance of the traveller – states.

“It is called zakat because one’s wealth grows through the blessings of giving it and the prayers of those who receive it, and because it purifies its giver of sin and extolls him by testifying to the genuineness of his faith”

It should be noted in Islam, a sin for a muslim is something as simple as rejecting an obligation or something such as taking a genuine non-muslim friend.

Also, to testify to the genuineness of the faith, means, that Allah is the only God and Muhammad as his messenger, and to commit to all obligations enjoin what is halal (permissible) and to reject anything which is haram (forbidden).

It is a religious obligation to pay both types of zakat in Islam, as all wealth belongs to Allah. This is present in the qur’an as prayer and zakat are very often mentioned in the same verse. Zakat was mentioned alongside prayer in eighty-two verses of the Qur’an (The concise presentation of the fiqh of the Sunnah and the noble book, Dr.Abdul-Azeem Badawi)

As obligatory zakat is in the qur’an and the sunnah of Muhammad, Islamic scholars who ratified Islamic law declared this to be decreed by Allah. The message was confirmed when delivered by Muhammad – the messenger of Allah – if zakat is not paid, it is apostasy.

In Islamic law in an Islamic state that holds the penalty of death.

Every muslim is required to pay zakat if:

  • they are adult, male or female, young or old
  • sane
  • their basic needs are met for one lunar year
  • the person has dependants, or is responsible for an “insane” or old person, they pay the zakat on their behalf
  • they are not a slave. 

Every muslim must know the details of the ruling on zakat, its conditions, those required to pay it and the categories it is paid to.

Zakat is usually paid to the imam at the local mosque, or one method which is becoming increasingly popular, to an online zakat collection organisation. 

The scriptural reference which details the categories of zakat is.

“Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakah] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah. And Allah is Knowing and Wise.”(9.60)

Zakat was made obligatory – along with fasting – of year two after al-hijra (2 AH). 

Muhammad said when he sent one of his companions to Yemen.

“You will go to the people of the Scripture. So, when you reach there, invite them to testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah, and that Muhammad is His Apostle. And if they obey you in that, tell them that Allah has enjoined on them five prayers in each day and night. And if they obey you in that tell them that Allah has made it obligatory on them to pay the Zakat which will be taken from the rich among them and given to the poor among them.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari 1496)

Al Hijra – migration – was the year the Islamic calendar started; although all history before this date is included in the Islamic scriptures. The hijra was later chosen by Islamic scholars as the start of the Islamic calendar, as migration in the way of Allah is an important part of Islam:

  • to protect Islam by migrating to lands where muslims are in the majority 
  • to spread the word of Allah through growing the ummah by having offspring in countries which haven’t been conquered yet
  • to struggle to establish and enforce Islamic rule in those countries.

If conditions are met, Jihad can be enacted in those lands.

What other evidence is used for zakat being an obligation? 

Muhammad failed to appoint a leader before his death, due to this muslims felt they had no leader when Muhammad died and a new leader needed to be appointed.

Muslims disagreed how to appoint a new leader- caliph – this led to the Shia, Sunni split. Sunni muslims believed it should have been by election; which it was, and Shia; by bloodline. Shia believe Ali should have been the first Caliph: Ali became the fourth Caliph.

Many muslims refused to pay zakat when Muhammad died and left Mecca to live in other lands. Most were still praying, but refused to accept zakat as an obligation in Islam and saw it as a tax imposed on them, which was not obligatory.

Abu Bakr knew by the orders in the qur’an and the explanation of the qur’an as taught by Muhammad, people were to be fought until they paid the zakat.

This led to the Riddah wars, the wars of apostasy.

The Riddah wars were the first civil wars in Islam. They were fought for two reasons.

  • non-payment of zakat
  • some muslims did not pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr.

Many muslims were killed during the Riddah wars, most of the others were brought back under the rule of Islam. 

The argument used nowadays about muslims killing other Muslims.  

“The Islamic state can’t be Islamic because they kill muslims and that is forbidden in Islam”.

Many muslims were killed on both sides in the Riddah wars, not only for non-payment of zakat, but for refusing to pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr. This pattern of muslims killing each other for not adhering to all obligations of Islam, followed throughout Islamic history and is happening until this day.

Abu Bakr and the following three caliphs – the rightly guided caliphs – are very respected in Islam and are included in the sunnah. The salaf are known as the first three generations of muslims. Abu Bakr and all of the rightly guided caliphs are included in this category. This generation were the purest form of Islam and it is where the Salafi get their name from, the Salafi are the Jihad groups seen nowadays killing on a mass scale throughout the world, such as the Islamic state and many more. So the actions those caliphs took are respected and included within the sunnah and the islamic law. 

It was recorded in the sahih hadith about people who did not pay zakat. 

“Abu Bakr said: ‘I will fight whoever separates prayer and Zakah. By Allah, if they withhold from me a young goat that they used to give to the Messenger of Allah [SAW], I will fight them for withholding it.’ ‘Umar said: ‘By Allah, as soon as I realized that Allah has expanded the chest of Abu Bakr to fight them, I knew that it was the truth.” (Sahih Sunan an-Nasa’i) 

It is of unanimous agreement amongst scholars that non-payment of zakat is apostasy and refusal will result in fighting the people until they pay.

So why should this matter to non-muslims?

Every year during Ramadan the western media propagate a false image of Ramadan, stating that Ramadan is the month of giving charity, if anyone challenges it, the argument is used is.  

“The money is also given to non-muslims”  

This is false, zakat and charity are entirely different concepts in Islam. Only sadaqah can be given to non-muslims, but sadaqah is not obligatory to give, it would usually be given to soften to the hearts of non-muslims, as ordered in the shari’ah.

There can be confusion between the two terms, as early in Islam – and sometimes later – within the qur’an, zakat can be referred to as charity. It is usually explained in the qur’an – or the tafsirs – as obligatory zakat, even if the word sadaqah is used. Islamic scholars are very clear of the meanings of zakat and sadaqah and its conditions.

March of this year, a mufti in Malaysia stated zakat could be given to non-Muslims, there was opposition to this by the muslim community. It was explained by the Perlite Mufti Datuk Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin.

“Zakat to Non-Muslims under Asnaf “muallafah qulubuhum” (those who wish to harmonize their attitude and perception towards Islam) may be granted on the benefit that is determined by the Ulil Amri (those entrusted with authority),” 

In addition to this, it was stated.

“the practice of distributing alms to the poor followers of other faiths was also done by Prophet Muhammad.”

Zakat is paid at the end of Ramadan. 

Zakat ul-Fitr, should be paid on the breaking of the fast at the end of that day, prayer is also given.

Ibn Umar said that Allah’s Messenger (way peace be upon him) prescribed the payment of Zakat-ul-Fitr (on breaking the fast) of Ramadan for people, for every freeman, or slave, male and female among the Muslims-one sa’ of dried dates, or one sa’ of barley. (Sahih Muslim) 

Where is zakat distributed?

There are eight categories of zakat, the categories are detailed in the qur’an, the ahadith, and the shari’ah, some of the categories should be of a concern to all non-muslims.

The categories of zakat are distributed by 1/8 to each category. If a category is not applicable, money can be given to another category. If one category is in more need, all zakat can be given to that category. 

Zakat can be given to one sole category because a man who was in debt approached Muhammad for help, for which Muhammad said he would help the man with his need when the yearly zakat was collected from all muslims (Sahih Muslim 1044)

The Imam has final say where zakat is distributed, if the Imam sees a category which in more need, and wishes to give all of the zakat contributions to that sole category, then all zakat payments can be allocated to that category.

So what are the categories?

The first category is, those for the poor.  

These are muslims who cannot meet their basic needs for one year, if the Muslim has a skill they can use find work or has any property or wealth, zakat cannot be given to those people for this category.

The second category is, for those short of money. 

Muslims who can meet half of their basic needs, they are not as in need as the former category, but will receive some help for that yearly period.

The third category is, zakat collectors/admin. 

Zakat collectors were employed to collect zakat from people. Muhammad sent people to collect zakat.

The fourth category is, bringing their hearts together for islam/those weak in faith. 

If muslims needs any extra help to study Islam or Imams feel a muslim need more tuition, then money can be used for this.

Zakat can also be used within this category for new converts as a sweetener, Muhammad used to give camels or items to new converts. Nowadays new converts are treated very well upon joining Islam and they will receive a lot of attention, for a very short period on converting. This support and attention soon dries up as the sole aim was for conversion and softening the heart in order the person will convert and stay within Islam in the early days of conversion.

Once a person has converted and has been shown the duties reasonable for all muslims to know, there is no turning back.

The convert will face persecution – or even death if in an Islamic ruled country – on attempting to leave Islam.

“The Messenger of Allah [SAW] said: ‘Whoever changes his religion, kill him.” (Sahih, Sunan an-Nasa’i)

It is believed, even before conversion, if people have been called to Islam and shown the true path and they then reject Islam. Doing so is rejecting a revelation of Allah and will be fought until submission. There are specific rules around this, it is known as the call to Islam or Dawah and those are detailed here.

This is one Qur’an verse which supports this view. 

“Whoever is guided is only guided for [the benefit of] his soul. And whoever errs only errs against it. And no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another. And never would We punish until We sent a messenger.” (17.15)

Another reason zakat could be used within this category is to enable the person to study Islam which will be a benefit to the muslim community.

Also within this category zakat can be used to aid the non-muslim to fight on the side of the muslims, defend them, or for other justified purposes: which are not specified. At this point in time we are seeing the left in the political sphere joining Islam In opposing action taken to resist the propagation and spread of Shari’ah. The marches the left attend and organise are sometimes fronted by muslims, ones who have openly said that they support Shari’ah. The marches, protests and counter protests are heavily funded, It’s questionable all the sources which are going towards funding for the protests.

The fifth category is, to release slaves. 

It is not obligatory to release a slave, but a recommended deed.

The sixth category is: those in debt.

There are two sub categories within this.

  • the first is, if a muslim has became indebted to people because he was helping others
  • the second being if the Muslim has become indebted to non-muslims.

The seventh category is, those fighting for Allah, or also known as Jihad. 

Jihad is held in the highest regard and will bestow the greatest rewards in paradise. It is also believed anyone who equips a soldier of Allah will receive rewards as Muhammad said doing this is Jihad. In the Shari’ah it states families are provided for aswell.

Fighting is loved by Allah.

“Indeed, Allah loves those who fight in His cause” (61.4)

The Messenger of Allah decreeing providing equipment for Jihad is rewarded.

“I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say: Whoever equips a warrior in the cause of Allah until he is fully equipped, he will have a reward like his, until he dies or returns.” (Sahih, Sunan Ibn Majah)

The Messenger of Allah decreeing providing equipment and looking after the family of a fighter is Jihad.

“The Prophet of Allah (ﷺ) said: He who equips a warrior in the way of Allah (is like one who actually fights) said he who looks after the family of a warrior in the way of Allah in fact participated in the battle.”  (Sahih Muslim)

Finally the eighth category is, migration/travelling.  

This is for people who are stranded or cannot meet their needs on a journey, in Muhammad’s time this would be migration and to spread the word of Allah by Jihad.

Islam apologists and people with limited knowledge of Islam will say that the seventh category does not mean people fighting for Allah and the money goes towards bringing people towards Islam, some people will say it is used for building mosques.

All scholars and all literature by Islamic scholars, the tafsirs, the qur’an, the ahadith and Shari’ah are clear that, in the cause of Allah, or in the way of Allah, means the Muhajideen: fighters for Allah. If people were to seek information online, they might find some references which don’t state the words Jihad or fighters for this category. It will say something similar to “strengthen Islam”, with the term Fi-Sabillah beside it. The term Fi-Sabillah means, in the cause of Allah.

The most authoritative source in Islamic law: Reliance of the traveller, states.

“The seventh category is those fighting for Allah, meaning people engaged in Islamic military operations for whom no salary has been allotted in the army roster (0: but who are volunteers for jihad without remuneration). They are given enough to suffice them for the operation, even if affluent; of weapons, mounts, clothing, and expenses (0: for the duration of the journey, round trip, and the time they spend there, even if prolonged. Though nothing has been mentioned here of the expense involved in supporting such people’s families during this period, it seems clear that they should also be given it).” (hS.17)

The scholars are very clear about the categories as they are detailed in the Islamic sacred texts, which are believed to have been the word of Allah and Allah’s chosen messenger, Muhammad. Some scholars have said the category for “those whose hearts have been inclined towards Islam” can be used for calling people to Islam, Islamic educational establishments and also for building mosques, but this is not a consensus, this is disputed and disliked by many scholars.

As well as personal zakat there is zakat of wealth, Zakat al-Mal. 

Muslim business owners are obligated to pay this at a fixed point every year, when wealth reaches a certain threshold, for every $1000, $25 zakat is paid. 

The company who provides the product makes a contract with a halal certification organisation and is then required to meet all halal requirements. If the product is meat, the company is required to contract with a halal slaughterer, if it is not meat they are still required to meet halal standards. The halal certification company will assess if halal standards have been upheld and provide the company with a certificate to show they are halal certified.

It should be a concern to non-muslims as there is an increasing amount of halal certified products being sold in the west.

As zakat is obligatory for muslims to pay, plus an Islamic business owner to pay, then non-muslims are indirectly contributing to the categories of zakat, including Jihad and bringing people to Islam.

Zakat is largely ignored by non-muslims, most people do not know what the word means, most certainly are unaware of the categories and what they could mean for them. 

As 2.5% doesn’t sound a lot, again, it will largely be ignored, but there are approximately 3.1 million muslims in the UK and 1.6 billion in the world, muslims alone number nearly a quarter of the population of the world. The figures speak for themselves. 

If only half of muslims paid zakat – which is a liberal amount considering the fear of Allah all Muslims hold – then an astounding amount of money is invested into Islam just from zakat. 

Any money accrued by a muslim or a muslim business will largely remain within the Islamic economy, this will inevitably lead to the growth of Islam and see the rise of Islamic rule throughout the West. 

Muslims in the west are not obligated to pay zakat by an Islamic government, but all muslims are obligated – to Allah – to pay and all muslims are reminded daily of the punishment which faces them if they do not obey the commands of Allah and his messenger. 

“Indeed, those who disbelieve – never will their wealth or their children avail them against Allah at all. And it is they who are fuel for the Fire.” (3.10)

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