Zakaat & Fitra
“And they have been commanded no more than this: To worship Allah, offering Him sincere devotion, being true (in faith); to establish regular prayer; and to practise regular charity; and that is the Religion Right and Straight.” (Al-Bayyinah:5)
What is Zakah?
The Arabic word ‘Zakah’ is generally translated as ‘poor due’ or ‘religious levy’ but literally it means purification, growth, blessing and appreciation. Islamically speaking, however, Zakah is the community’s share in the produced wealth. More specifically, according to M. Umer Chapra, the renowned Islamic economist, Zakah is the financial duty of a Muslim “to pay out of his net worth or agricultural output, if these are higher than the threshold of Zakah, a specified portion as an indispensable part of his religious duties.”
Although some writers mistakenly refer to Zakah as charity, it is not charity. Al-Sadaqah is charity as opposed to Zakah which is a compulsory religious duty conferred by God Almighty upon all Muslims whose wealth exceeds the prescribed limit. If a person’s wealth exceeds that limit, he/she is required to pay the rate of 2½% of total income or wealth to the Bait Al-Mal (the public treasury) annually for the upkeep of the poor and the needy. In the words of the Prophet (peace be on him): “Riches (i.e. Zakah) should be taken from the rich and returned to the poor.”
The main purpose of zakah is to help the poor and needy. When zakah is applied effectively, it goes a long way in eradicating poverty from the society–as it was demonstrated in the history of Islam. Although the primary recipients of zakah are the poor and needy, part of zakah can also be given to causes that are beneficial for the cause of Islam. In our time and age, this includes supporting institutions that provide essential services for the community in places where funds for such projects are not readily available.
There are two types of Zakah in Islam. The first is the regular, compulsory charity (levied on the rich), also referred to specifically as Zakatul mal; it is the third pillar of Islam. The other is Zakatul Fitr, also known sadaqatul Fitr. In this book, we are concerned only with Zakatul Fitr. Zakatul Fitr is due on every person who has sufficient means to maintain himself and his family beyond the day and night of Eid, and it must be paid on behalf of every member of one’s family including infants.
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