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Its Meaning and Philosophy

Zakat is an Arabic word meaning 'purity' and 'cleanliness', since discharging part of one's wealth to the poor purifies a person’s wealth and heart from miserliness. Zakat purifies one's heart from the love of material possessions and prepares one to make sacrifices for the cause of Allah and for the benefit of society.

Another literal meaning of zakat is growth, which has two dimensions:


Spiritual development by pleasing Allah. In the Islamic code of life, absolute ownership of everything belongs to Allah who has created everything, including wealth in its different forms. Therefore, Allah has the right to guide and control their economic activities including acquisition and spending of wealth and, accordingly, the requirement of spending a part of the wealth in His way. The institution of zakat creates the spirit of sharing and helping others against the inherent selfish tendency, and thus resulting in a healthy and congenial social environment.


Redistribution of income. This enables greater economic participation by the poor and needy, and in turn, greater production. Accumulation and hoarding of wealth can negatively affect economic activity, whilst distribution and circulation can stimulate production and growth.

Benefits and Wisdom of the Individual and Social Zakat

Zakat is an obligatory annual levy on wealth or transfer of payments by prosperous Muslims to the destitute and the needy in society. According to Islamic law, zakat is the part of wealth which the rich have been ordained to spend for the deserving recipients at prescribed rates, as per rules stipulated in the Islamic sources. It is an instrument for the distribution of income and wealth in Islam in order to eradicate poverty in its entirety by spending for the welfare of the poor and destitute.

1- Establishing and upholding a pillar of Islam.

If a person fulfils the obligations and duties of zakat, as prescribed in the Quran and Hadith, they will complete their faith. This is a divine ordainment which every Muslim is commanded to fulfil.

2- It is proof of the truthfulness of the faith of the one who gives zakat.

This is because money is loved by souls and what is loved cannot be sacrificed except in return for something similar to or more beloved than it. Therefore, it is called sadaqah (charity) as it indicates the truthfulness of the request of its payer for the pleasure of Allah, the Almighty.

3- It purifies the morals of the payer of zakat.

It disassociates him from the group of misers and includes him in the group of the generous. This is because if one is used to giving - be it knowledge, money or honour - then giving will become natural for him to the extent that he may feel sad on a day in which he does not give anything.

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4- It makes one reach the rank of the perfect believer.

The Prophetﷺ (may Allah exalt his mention) said “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself” (Muslim). So, as one loves to be given money to satisfy his needs, he should also love to give it to his brother/sister. By doing so, one will have perfected his/her faith.

5- It is one of the causes of entering Paradise.

This is because Paradise is for “those who use soft speech, spread the greeting of Islam, feed people and spend the night in voluntary prayer while the people are asleep” (Ahmad and At-Tirmithi). All of us earnestly seek to enter Paradise.

6- It makes one know the limits and rulings of Allah the Almighty.

This is because one will not fulfil zakat unless he knows its rulings, properties, nisab (the minimum limits of sum or quantity liable for zakat), its recipients and other such matters that the need calls for.

7- The poor could feel a sense of jealousy towards someone who has everything

one desires in the form of transportation, residence, food and clothing. This could lead to further ill feelings in the heart, thus, diminishing the amicable bond that Islam encourages. However, if the rich give to the poor regularly, it will extinguish their feeling for revolution, calm down their anger and make them appreciate the brotherhood and foster a feeling of love towards those who provide financial support.

8- It prevents financial crimes such as robbery and stealing.

This is because the poor will receive what satisfies their needs and so they will excuse the rich as they give them from their wealth. They give them one quarter of one-tenth (2.5 percent) on gold, silver and trade goods, one-tenth or one-half of one-tenth on grains and fruits and a great percentage on flocks. Thus, they will see that they are treating them well and will not transgress against them.

9- Salvation from the intense heat of the Day of Resurrection.

The Prophetﷺ said “Every man will be in the shade of his charity on the Day of Resurrection” (Ahmad). Furthermore, heﷺ said regarding the seven categories of people whom Allah will shade with the shade He Creates on the day when there will be no shade but His - “A man who gives in charity so secretly that his left hand does not know what his right hand spends” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).

10- It makes one know the limits and rulings of Allah the Almighty.

This is because one will not fulfil zakat unless he knows its rulings, properties, nisab (the minimum limits of sum or quantity liable for zakat), its recipients and other such matters that the need calls for.

11- It purifies and increases wealth.

If one gives charity on his wealth, then this will protect it from affliction and Allah may increase his provision due to this charity. Therefore, it is mentioned that “wealth does not decrease because of charity” (Muslim). In contrast, the wealth of a miser may be afflicted with what may destroy it or the most of it due to fire, a great loss or diseases that force him to seek treatment that consume great amounts of his wealth.

12- It is one of the causes of the downfall of goodness if not upheld.

It is mentioned that “No people ever withhold the zakat of their wealth but rain is withheld from the sky” (Ibn Majah and Al-Hakim).

13 – It expiates sins.

The Messengerﷺ said: “Charity extinguishes sins as water extinguishes fire” (Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi and An-Nasa’i).

14- It expands the breast with assurance and pleases the heart.

This is because if one gives something, especially money, he will feel an assurance in his heart. This is something that is tried and tested, providing that his giving should be done with complete generosity and pleasure. His sacrifice should not dwell in his heart (with regret and displeasure).

Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy upon him) mentioned in his renowned book Zad Al-Ma‘ad that giving and generosity are included in the causes of expanding the heart with assurance. However, no one can achieve this benefit except one who gives with generosity and pleasure. The money leaves his heart before it leaves his hand. However, the one whose money leaves his hand while his heart is still attached to it will not benefit from giving.




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