A Systematic Study of the Holy Qur’an — Fundamental Duties
(Literally, “the purifier”, indicates regular charity or poor tax, )
Charity is an act of utmost importance in all the religions of the world. All religions including Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Judaism and Zoroastrianism promote charity in a big way. In Islam it again assumes a much more methodical and organised shape.
- Charity is included as one of the pillars of Islam and is a fundamental duty on every Muslim who has wealth beyond a specified value. Zakah literally means purifier. Muslims have been told that it deterges not only their wealth but their soul as well. Those paying their dues regularly have been promised huge reward in Hereafter; a grievous punishment awaits those who fail. Muslims living in an Islamic state have to pay Zakah in accordance with the guidelines provided by the government, failing which law will take its course of action.
- Zakah is paid every year at the time of the choosing of a person in a non-Islamic country and that of government in an Islamic country. Normally, it is paid during the month of Ramadhan.
- A minimum percentage of 2.5% of all the wealth that one has at the time of assessment is to be paid. This percentage as well as other rules can be readjusted in accordance with the needs of the hour in an Islamic country.
- There are eight recipients of Zakah:
(5) Apart from Zakah, there are other forms of compulsory taxes as well. These include Ushr, which is the tenth of the produce of the land, Khhums, which is the fifth of spoils (and possibly other unexpected incomes) and Fitra, which is an amount to be given on the occasion of Eid to fellow poor Muslims. Besides these compulsory forms of charity, a Muslim is regularly encouraged to be as generous as possible. Sadqa and Khairaat are non-compulsory kinds of charity, which God describes as “loan to God” that He will repay multifold in Hereafter.
(6) Unlike other religions, Islam is also a socio-political system as well, which provides clear guidelines for the state. As will be discussed later in the book, in the chapter on socio-economic system, the regime of charity in Islam if formally applied to the tax structure of a country will result in a much better mode of the generation of revenue and promotion of economic parity. It will suffice here to say that Islam envisages a tax structure based primarily on Assets and Production taxes in contradistinction with the currently popular one dominated by income and consumption Taxes. The importance of Zakah and Ushr in the economic system and the extraordinary role of Islamic economic system in social peace will be dealt with later.
Zakah in Quran
.. and give the Clearance-Due (Zakah); (2: 43)
They ask you how much they are to spend. State: “Whatever you can afford.” This is how God clarifies His arguments to you; in order that you can have a clear thinking. (2: 219)
People with Commitment! Expend what you have earned through clean efforts and what We have produced from the Earth for you; and do not try to purify what you have got hold of through wrongful means by expending it (in a rightful manner); and you are not going to get hold of anything wrong except if you close your eyes. And know that God is Self-Sufficient-Acknowledged Lord.(2: 267)
Consume its produce when it ripens but take care to pay the dues against it right in the period of the harvest. (6: 141)
Note that alms are only meant for the poor, the needy, the persons employed for the administration, for the persons with hearts softened (towards Islam), for ransoming the captives and for the travellers. (9: 60)
Virtuousness is not simply in that you turn your faces eastwards or westwards; on the contrary, the true virtuousness is that they honestly commit themselves to God, the Last Day, the Executives (Angels), the Book, and the Ambassadors; expend wealth, out of His love, for the nears, the orphans, the needy, the wayfarer, the seekers of help and for ransoming; organise Blessing, and regularly give clearance-dues (Zakah), fulfil the agreements they have made, and remain patient in times of sufferings and losses and disaster. They are the people who conduct rightly; and they are the People with Dutifulness. (2: 177)
(Charity is) for the needy, the people bound by a cause of God that makes them unable to engage in other works on the earth, making uninformed people think that they do not require anything; and you will recognise their real condition only by certain indications; as otherwise they do not normally beg; and whatever you give in a good cause, God certainly takes notice of it. (2: 273)
If you openly give charities, it is alright; and if you secretly give to the needy, it is better for you: It will alleviate from you some of your weaknesses. And God has complete knowledge about whatever you do. (2: 271)
(Note: Zakat is two and a half percent (according to the popular fiqh rulings) of the accumulated wealth including the precious metals like gold and silver to be paid at the end of each year. Ushr is the ten per cent of the produce for the naturally watered fields and five percent for the artificially watered fields. This again is the popular fiqh position, which I think can be re-evaluated in accordance with the situations prevailing at a particular time in specific societies. Charities include the mandatory dues as well as other alms.)