Why Zakat?

Why has Zakat been instructed in revelation? What does it do for us? To unearth the reality of Zakat, we must excavate deep in our tradition and sources. The following objectives, definitions, descriptions, characteristics and functions of Zakat are all found in the Qur’an, Sunnah, the commentaries of the Qur’an, the Hadith texts and Fiqh commentaries:

  • Zakat establishes subservience to Allah in one’s life
  • Zakat is to alleviate poverty and the need of the needy
  • Zakat is a gratitude for the blessing of one’s wealth
  • Zakat is a means of purification of the soul
  • Zakat purifies one’s wealth
  • Zakat removes any ill feeling and spiritual diseases in the needy such as jealousy, rancour or malice against those who have wealth
  • Zakat is a means to multiply one’s reward for the hereafter
  • Zakat is to sympathise and show compassion for the less fortunate
  • Zakat is a means to bless one’s wealth
  • Zakat is a form of social security and mutual assistance
  • Zakat is a means of developing and strengthening the economy
  • Zakat is a means of inviting to, and propagating, devotion to Allah

This list shows that Zakat is multi-dimensional and serves a number of functions. Zakat is a multi-purpose and multi-functional act of worship. Imam al-Shatibi (d.790 AH) discusses how one act of worship can have multiple layers and dimensions. All of these features and dimensions show that Zakat betters oneself, one’s wealth and the society. But what is it bettering us for? What is the end objective? The following verse tells us the ultimate objective of man in life:

“I created jinn and mankind only to worship Me” (Qur’an 51:56)

The emphasis in this verse highlights the supreme objective for all of mankind which is worship and subservience to Allah. And thus, Zakat ultimately facilitates greater subservience to Allah at a micro and macro level. 

References

Nawazil al-Zakat

Al-Muwafaqat

Tafsir al-Tabari

Bada’i al-Sana’i

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