As Muslims, we all know the five pillars of Islam and incorporate it into our lives on a regular basis. We pray atleast five times a day and fast 30 days a year, and when it comes to Zakat – we only need to do it once a year.
Why is Zakat obligated as a pillar of Islam? How is Zakat different to Sadaqah? And why does Allah mention Zakat along with Salat 28 times in the Quran?
When people think of Zakat, most people associate it primarily with the poor and needy. The general thought process revolves around validating if people are really in need of Zakat, if the cause is Zakat eligible and belongs to one of the eight categories of recipients stipulated in the Quran, whether or not they are the most deserving or if there are other causes that you believe deserve your Zakat more, etc.
Unfortunately, most people look at Zakat the other way around. They look at Zakat primarily from the perspective of those that receive Zakat, and not from the perspective of themselves, the payer of Zakat.
Allah promises – “And whatever you give for interest to increase within the wealth of people will not increase with Allah. But what you give in zakāh, desiring the face [i.e., approval] of Allah – those are the multipliers” (Quran 30:39).
Zakat is an act of worship that many simplify as charity and interchange with Sadaqah – but it is much more than that. The root word of Zakat literally means growth and ‘to purify’.
As Zakat is given to those in less fortunate circumstances from the wealth of those who are in better circumstances, wealth re-distributed promotes growth within us and our wealth like the pruning of a plant, while growing our communities. B
eyond that, Zakat reinforces the Islamic values of love, kindness, compassion and generosity in us as individuals, which is built into the core of our religion.
This act of giving through Zakat also fosters continual care for our brothers and sisters – reaping the rewards in this world and the hereafter as payers of Zakat.
Allah reminds us in the Quran, “Your wealth and your children are but a trial, and Allah has with Him a great reward” (Quran 64:15).
The five pillars of Islam can be seen as tests for various aspects we are meant to embody as Muslims – both the visible and the invisible. Zakat, however, tests both sides as giving away a part of our wealth tests our love for worldly life and our ego in some respects.
Zakat or Sadaqah is inherently difficult for us as humans because of our internal struggles and love for worldly pleasures – and Allah is aware of that. For you to have given away even a small portion of your wealth requires the ability to continually purify your intentions and give wholeheartedly, to have trust in Allah and that He will place His Barakah in your wealth and life.