Charity and Its Methods – Zakat

Human beings are the most distinguished among creation. The diversity among the members of the society like strong and weak, healthy and sick, learned and ignorant, rich and poor are matters which ensure harmony and congruity in the society.

Wealth and poverty represent the two very important and opposite economic levels of social categories. The state of being wealthy or impoverished is actually a means of trial in this world. Wealth per se does not mean excellence, and poverty is not a reason of abjection. Their states are judged according to the rich’s and the poor’s will and behavior. Wealth and poverty are just Divine will based on Divine wisdom. Allah states:

“Will they distribute the mercy of your Lord? We distribute among them their livelihood in the life of this world, and We have exalted some of them above others in degrees, that some of them may take others in subjection; and the mercy of your Lord is better than what they amass.” (43; 32)

As it is stated in this verse, Divine distribution of the wealth manifested itself differently for each person. On the other hand each person’s liability is in the extent of the blessings bestowed upon him. In this way social balance and Divine Justice are established in their perfect sense.

Zakāt, which prevents the rich from possible unruliness as a result of yielding themselves to wealth and prevents the poor from hating and being jealous of the rich, is an obligation upon Muslims. It contains several benefits. It ensures peace and tranquility in the society and binds the members of the society to each other. By minimizing the economic differences between the rich and poor, the Islamic economic and social order aims to prevent these differences from becoming a social conflict. Hence great emphasis has been laid on zakāt and charity in Islam.

The rich will be questioned before Allah the Almighty about  how one earned and spent his wealth, whether he earned it through licit or illicit means, and whether he had paid his duty of zakāt and charity. He is being tested with his wealth. Only when this test is passed, along with others, can the Divine pleasure and blessings of Paradise be attained.

And the poor will be questioned on impatience, complaints, being a burden on others, unnecessary wishes, grudges, envy, mutiny, and whether he/she has conserved the obligatory morals of an impoverished being. If the consequences deserve Allah’s pleasure, one’s suffering in this world will turn into eternal blessings in the Hereafter.

Zakāt is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an twenty seven times together with prayer, which is enough to show it’s significance. In chapter Mu’minun verses 2 and 4, in which prayer is mentioned separately, it is stated that praying Muslims are also those who pay their zakāts. This is because prayer is the primal physical act of worship, while zakāt is the primal monetary act of worship. Although each acts of worship will be questioned separately, in other words not performing one of them will not affect the other, the Prophet (pbuh) says:

“There is no benefit in the prayers of those who pray without paying their zakāt” (Haythsami, Majma’ al-Zawaid, III, 62). Without doubt this hadith encourages Muslims to pay their zakāt and shows them its significance.

Because of its great significance, commander of the faithful Abu Bakr (r.a.) considered those who denied its obligatoriness amounts to unbelief, even though they were performing their prayers, and declared war at them. Because zakāt is the rich’s debt to the needy determined by Allah the Almighty. It is mentioned in the Qur’an:

وَفِي أَمْوَالِهِمْ حَقٌّ لِّلسَّائِلِ وَالْمَحْرُومِ

“And in their property was a portion due to him who begs and to him who is denied (good).” (51; 19)

Messenger of Allah (pbuh) says:

“When you pay your zakāt, you fulfill your due share (or right of the poor upon you).”

In this respect, zakāt means giving a part of one’s possessions to specified recipients, determined by the Shariah, if a person’s wealth exceeds a specified amount. By paying zakāt the rest of the possessions become licit. The money or property collected as zakāt is distributed to the needy of the society according to their level of need, creating equality, justice, and social harmony, and purification of the wealth of the rich.

If the property is earned through lawful ways, then it becomes lawful for the owner. However, if zakāt, which is the right of the poor, is not paid out of it, then it will not be completely lawful. On the other hand, if property is earned through an unlawful way, then even paying its zakāt does not make it licit. For instance winning money from gambling or from any other illicit means does not transform the winnings into licit earnings.

Individual and social wisdom of zakāt

Benefits of zakāt for those who pay it are much more than its benefits for the needy of the society. In fact zakāt, which means “cleanness” and “purity”, consists of very important benefits such as healing some diseases of the heart and purifying it from evil and cleaning the property. Purifying the souls is also one of the wisdoms behind sending Prophets.

When analyzing the meanings of the terms “zakāt and infāq”, we understand that the underlying wisdom in this act of worship is to prevail over the material world and save the human soul from becoming its slave.

It also strengthens the ties of love and sincerity between the donor and the recipient. Zakāt is the minimum amount given to the needy. In addition, Muslims who have perfected their faith adorn their wealth with charity, infāq and altruism.

Conflict between the rich and the poor has existed throughout history, mainly with the poor hating and begrudging the rich, and the rich  despising the poor because of their misery. This has not been the case when characteristics, such as altruism, mercy, compassion and brotherhood, have been reflected in the social life through different ways of charity. From the perspective of Islam, the poor are not considered a class to be despised, but a class who needs and deserves love and respect.  They are even thought to be a source of blessing and prosperity. Allah the Almighty commands to the Prophet (pbuh) to be together with the poor Companions and to look after them in the following verse:

And withhold yourself with those who call on their Lord morning and evening desiring His goodwill, and let not your eyes pass from them, desiring the beauties of this world’s life; and do not follow him whose heart We have made unmindful to Our remembrance, and he follows his low desires and his case is one in which due bounds are exceeded.” (18; 28)

It is also mentioned that they are sources of blessings and prosperity in the following tradition of the Prophet (pbuh):

Abu al-Darda (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Prophet (pbuh) said: “Call for me the weak! Because you will only be sustained and helped by (the prayers and blessings of) your weak.” (Bukhari,Jihad, 76)

The Prophet (pbuh) says:

“Allah helps this nation for the invocations, the prayers, and sincerity of their weak.” (Nasai, Jihad, 43)

According to the narration of Umayya b. Khalid (r.a.), the Prophet (pbuh) used to ask from Allah the Almighty to bestow victory to Muslims for the sake of the weak. (See Tabarani, Mujam al-Kabir, I, 292)

If everybody paid their zakāt fully, it is obvious that the number of poor and destitute people in the society would decrease considerably. In fact governors during the ruling of caliph Omar b. Abd al-Aziz informed the caliph that “they could not find anybody to give zakāt”, and asked his advice for what to do. It was because the rich were fully paying their zakāt. This state of the society was the manifestation of giving lives and possessions for the sake of Allah the Almighty.

Again Omar b. Abd al-Aziz hired town criers to announce:

“Where are the debtors? Where are the needy, the orphan, the poor who want to get married, where are the destitute? O holders of a right and the needy! Come and get your rights.” Spiritual power affecting the success of Omar b. Abd al-Aziz should not be forgotten. In fact, following assessments about his spiritual world, in a way, displays the causes of great achievement during his ruling.

His wife Fatimah narrates:

“One day I went into the presence of Omar b. Abd al-Aziz. He was sitting in the mosque, crying, and tears wererolling down his cheeks. I asked him what the problem was, and he said:

“Fatimah! I carry the weight of the nation on my shoulders. The hungry, the poor, the sick who cannot find medicine, the needy who do not have clothing to wear, the orphan, the widow who were left alone, the destitute who cannot seek their rights, captives and Muslims who have to live in the lands of unbelievers, the old who do not have the strength to work for their needs, poor heads of families who are responsible for many family members… I feel overwhelmed under my burden when I think of my brothers and sisters in near and far away lands. Tomorrow what if my Lord questions me about them? What if the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) reprimands me, how am I going to respond?” (Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, IX, 201)

Sayings narrated by Omar b. Abd al-Aziz’s wife Fatimah should be in the minds and hearts of every believing Muslims.The way to adorn a believer’s heart with mercy, sympathy, tenderness and compassion is through giving life and possessions for the sake of Allah. The Prophet (pbuh) advised a Companion who had complained about hardness in his heart:

“If you would like to soften your heart, feed the poor, caress the heads of the orphan…”(Ahmad b. Hanbal,Musnad, II, 263)

Mawlana (q.s.) says in respect to the spiritual gains achieved by caring for the poor and the needy:

“Souls drown in poverty and need look like a house filled with smoke. Open a window to that smoke filled house by hearing their needs and finding a remedy for them, so its smoke clears away, and your heart and soul get soften…”

While Islam has demonstrated a way to reconcile issues between the rich and the poor in such a delicate way, un-Islamic systems have not been able to achieve this goal, and they have exaggerated it one way or another. In fact some systems forbade completely asking from others, and others allowed it completely. Islam, on the other hand, has wisely approached this social problem and offered the most proper remedy through zakāt and infāq.

Zakāt is one of the most important values that Islam has given humanity. With the help of zakāt, needs of the poor, the wayfarer, the orphan and the widows are taken care of. Islam is the religion that removed the chains of slavery from the neck of the humanity. Without a doubt, another solution offered by Islam to emancipate and to bestow upon slaves is its command to provide similar life standards to the life standards of their masters. As a result, instead of providing benefits, owning a slave became a burden on their masters. Islam encouraged the masters who still want to own slaves to emancipate them for different reasons. Sometimes Islam primarily states emancipation as an atonement for sins.

Islam aids people who are in need without expecting anything in return and ameliorates the wounds. Islam also forbids usury which when looked at outwardly appears as a convenience, but in reality it is just abusing people who are in desperate need. For a usurer wants others to be in trouble and benefit from their despair.  Permission to give zakāt to debtors is one of the precautions protecting people in debt to fall into the swamp of usury. People who pay zakāt share the problems of the deprived. His only wish is to help those in need for the sake of Allah the Almighty.

Regardless of the amount of possessions one owns, it is in the nature of human beings to want more, executing greed and ambition. However Muslims who are accustomed to paying their zakāt have generous hearts. They are content with little possession, whereas the usurer seeks to increase his wealth at the risk and devastation of others. It is possible to see similar cases in almost every trade center in the world. It is stated in a verse:

يَمْحَقُ اللّٰهُ الرِّبَا وَيُرْبِي الصَّدَقَاتِ

Allah does not bless usury, and He causes charitable deeds to prosper…” (2; 276)

In other words, Allah the Almighty removes blessings from the usurer’s wealth. This unblessed state of the usurer means bankruptcy in Hereafter. This bankruptcy may sometimes occur in this world, and huge amounts of unearned wealth might be lost after an illness or a disaster; or it might fall into the hands of an extravagant heir.

Another secret hidden in zakāt and infāq is to prevent the accumulation of the wealth in the hands of a few, and to prevent the poor from exploitation, therefore avoiding grudge towards the affluent. If wealth becomes a means of pride and arrogance, the fate of the rich would really be pitiful. It should not be forgotten that all the members of the society, whether rich or poor, are in need of each other spiritually as well as materially. This Divine order contains numerous lessons and wisdom.

In Islam, all wealth belongs to Allah the Almighty. Owning possessions in this world is like a timeshare.  At a certain point in time, every human being must turn over his/her possessions to others before departing from this world.

This fact is stated in the following verse:

يَا اَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اَنْتُمُ الْفُقَرَاءُ اِلىَ اللّٰهِ
وَاللّٰهُ هُوَ الْغَنِىُّ الْحَمِيدُ

O men! You are they who stand in need of Allah, and Allah is He Who is the Self-sufficient, the Praised One.” (35; 15)

وَلِلّٰهِ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ
وَاللّٰهُ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ

And Allah’s is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth, and Allah has power over all things.” (3; 189)

As it is understood from the verses above, wealth neither belongs to individuals nor to society. Property actually belongs to Allah the Almighty. For humans live in the sovereignty of Allah the Almighty, and are fed by His sustenance. The only thing given to humans is the right to use the property for a temporary period of time.

A poet expresses this as follows:

Entire humanity are passengers; world is a guesthouse

No residents can be found; such an amazing palace

Final possession will be a shroud for the shah and the poor

Now what are those who are conceited with that, if they aren’t insane

Property, possession and status in the society are among the the most difficult tests for human beings. The time came for the legendary reign of Solomon (pbuh) to be taken out of his hands, and it was returned to him only after he had repented. One of the friends of Allah, who learned from this and similar occurrences, said:

“Do not run behind the sustenance, but run behind the Sustainer!”

The tragic end for those who neglect the duties of zakāt

As we mentioned before, wealth has been entrusted to his servants by Allah the Almighty. If wealth is used against Divine commands, it is prone to easily spoil humans, and to drag them into pride, tyranny, and injustice. Love of possession settles into the hearts of those who were exposed to this catastrophe. The reason for Allah the Almighty to call only possession and progeny as “fitnah (sedition)” is based upon the danger that they may penetrate the hearts and become idols. Allah the Almighty warns those who fall into this misfortune:

O you who believe! most surely many of the doctors of law and the monks eat away the property of men falsely, and turn (them) from Allah’s way; and (as for) those who hoard up gold and silver and do not spend it in Allah’s way, announce to them a painful chastisement, On the day when it shall be heated in the fire of hell, then their foreheads and their sides and their backs shall be branded with it; this is what you hoarded up for yourselves, therefore taste what you hoarded.(9; 34-35)

Messenger of Allah (pbuh) says:

“There is never a day wherein servants (of Allah) get up at morn, but are not visited by two angels. One of them says: O Allah, give him more who spends (for the sake of Allah), and the other says: O Allah, bring destruction to one who withholds.”

In another tradition, the Prophet (pbuh) heralds those who pay their zakāt, tithe, and give in charity, while he gives an engrossing warning about those who show heedlessness by being stingy:

Generosity is a heavenly tree, with its roots in Paradise and its branches in this world. Those of you who have generosity will adhere to one of those branches, and that branch will carry him to Paradise. As for stinginess, that is a tree with its roots in Hell and its branches in this world. Whoever clings to one of those branches by being thrifty, it will carry him to Hell.(Bayhaki, Shuab al-Iman, VII, 435).

In other words, in the verses from the Qur’an and in the traditions of the Prophet (pbuh), it is stated that when love for property invades the heart and when the rights of the needy are usurped, there will be a sorrowful end awaiting. Believers should think about this Divine warning and they should make every effort to give charity, in addition to the obligatory 2.5 percent of one’s income offered in zakāt. In this regard, Allah the Almighty guides His Servants as follows:

وَيَسْئَلوُنَكَ مَاذَا يُنْفِقُونَ قُلِ الْعَفْوَ

…And they ask you as to what they should spend. Say: What you can spare…” (2:219)

The Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) were always campaigning for charity. Omar (r.a.) donated half of his property for the battle of Tabuk while Abu Bakr (r.a.) donated all of his property. When the Prophet (pbuh) asked him:

“What have you left for your family and children?”

He responded “Allah and His Messenger” (Abu Dawud, Zakāt, 40)

The following event between Sheikh Shibli and a jurist is very educating.

A jurist asked Sheikh Shibli (q.s.) how much of the property should be given in charity, just to test him. Sheikh Shibli said:

“Would you like me to answer according to jurists or according to the friends of Allah?”

The jurists said:

“According to both” Shibli answered:

“According to the jurists, one needs to give 5 dirhams for 200 dirhams after a year passes over the possession of it. According to the way of the friends of Allah, one needs to give the whole 200 dirhams and then he should thank Allah for saving him.”

The jurists said:

“We have learned the rule of our school (to give 2.5 percent of the property) from our scholars.”

Shibli responded:

“We have learned our way from Abu Bakr, the truthful. He gave everything he owned to the Messenger of Allah.

The Messenger of Allah, who indoctrinated his Companions with the love of charity for the sake of Allah the Almighty, provided the best example of philanthropy.

On one occasion the Prophet’s family slaughtered a sheep and distributed its meat. The Prophet (pbuh) asked: “Is there anything left from the meat?”

Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her) said:

“Just a shoulder bone is left to us”

“So then all of it became ours except that shoulder bone!” (Tirmidhi, Sifat al-Qiyamah, 35)

The Prophet (pbuh) could not feel comfortable when he had some gold pieces at home, and he would immediately donate them. However, he would not expect everybody to do the same; he would advise and direct his Companions to do their best. For instance while he accepted Abu Bakr’s entire wealth as charity, he said to another Companion:

“Keep some of your wealth for yourself, as it will be better for you”

In other words Islam leaves the amount of voluntary charity in addition to the obligatory and fixed sum of zakāt to the discretion of the wealthy. Acting upon this principle, Abu Dhar (r.a.) didn’t approve to leave the excess amount of his wealth to the next day, while Abdurrahman b. Awf (r.a.) considered it appropriate to save some wealth, in consideration of the future needs. He on the one hand worked hard to earn more and on the other hand did everything he could to ease the problems of other Muslims. While he was wandering around hungry, he would feed the others. Because, he and other Companions like him were people who adorned their souls by being conscious of that they were just trustees of their wealth.

All the wealthy who seek the eternal salvation need to live in this world with consciousness that they are trustees and they will be questioned by the real owner of the wealth, or Allah the Almighty. In a verse:

ثُمَّ لَتُسْأَلُنَّ يَوْمَئِذٍ عَنِ النَّعِيمِ

Then on that day you shall most certainly be questioned about the boons.” (102; 8)

Because of this fact, wise servants of Allah never forget that “there will be questioning for the licit, and there will be punishment for the illicit.”

That is why the rich who are slaves of their endless desires and who do not give charity are like carriers of fuel to the bathhouse furnace.

Working and acquiring wealth through licit ways is something that Islam promotes and encourages. As long as wealth does not transform into a form of idolatry in the hearts and it is spent for the sake of Allah. Otherwise, wealth becomes a burden in this world and a reason for a severe punishment in the Hereafter.

The right goal for the wealth is to realize the meaning of the tradition “the best among you are those who are most useful to other people.” (Suyuti, al-Jami’ al-Saghir, II, 8) The place for money should be the wallets, not the hearts. A wise poet’s following lines eloquently states the heedlessness of the humans:

Lowly world is a guesthouse

In it, palaces and ruins are the same

I am in a desperate love for this world

I built a house in the guesthouse

It should be known that prayers of the weak and the poor are sources of peace for the strong and the affluent. Their prayers are also spiritual help for the wealthy. It should also be known that poverty and indigence do not mean abasement and degradation, maybe just a manifestation of a blessing and wisdom in the Hereafter.

Thankful rich and patient and self-respecting poor are together in human dignity and Divine contentment. Islam disparages both arrogant and stingy rich and conceited poor. The Prophet (pbuh) prayed:

“Dear Lord! I seek refuge in Thee from the evil of the trial of the affluence and from the evil of the trial of poverty”(Muslim, Dhikr, 49)

Then whoever has nice attributes, such as contentment, trust in Allah, and submission becomes the real affluent.

That is why every servant who would like to attain Divine grace and conduct has to share the blessings bestowed upon him with the needy and the bereft. The goal is to attain Allah’s contentment by being a Muslim from whom everybody benefits and everybody is safe from the harm of his tongue and hand.Zakāt is the practical manifestation of the gratitude for property and wealth. Allah the Almighty promises that gratitude will multiply His blessings:

“…If you are grateful, I would certainly give to you more, and if you are ungrateful, My chastisement is truly severe.” (14; 7)

Our beloved Prophet loved charity and he encouraged his Companions to be charitable. In a Hadith Qudsi (sacred tradition where the Prophet (pbuh) directly quotes God saying), it is stated that:

“Spend (in charity), for then I will compensate you (generously).”(Bukhari, Tawhid, 35).

Instead of repenting for what they have done, If those who are negligent about zakāt and charity say “I have worked and earned” and despise the needy, they will certainly face the same sorrowful end as Qarun.

Qarun, who had once been a poor but a righteous person, got very rich by the science of alchemy that Moses (pbuh) had taught him. However, because he could not protect his heart from mundane desires and tendencies, he lost his kind and decent attributes. He became arrogant because of his wealth. According to the Qur’an he became one of the insolents, and Divine ruling about him was as follows:

“Surely Qarun was of the people of Musa, but he rebelled against them, and We had given him of the treasures, so much so that his hoards of wealth would certainly weigh down a company of men possessed of great strength. When his people said to him: Do not exult, surely Allah does not love the exultant;” (28; 76)

However, Qarun closed his ears both to these and other warnings of Moses (pbuh). When Moses (pbuh) asked him to pay his zakāt, although he owed his wealth to Moses, he even said: “Do you have an eye on my wealth? I earned it!”

This incident is narrated in the Qur’an as follows:

“And seek by means of what Allah has given you the future abode, and do not neglect your portion of this world, and do good (to others) as Allah has done good to you, and do not seek to make mischief in the land, surely Allah does not love the mischief-makers.”

“He said: I have been given this only on account of the knowledge I have. Did he not know that Allah had destroyed before him of the generations those who were mightier in strength than he and greater in assemblage? And the guilty shall not be asked about their faults.”

“So he went forth to his people in his finery. Those who desire this world’s life said: O would that we had the like of what Qarun is given; most surely he is possessed of mighty good fortune.”

“And those who were given the knowledge said: Woe to you! Allah’s reward is better for him who believes and does good, and none is made to receive this except the patient”

“Thus We made the earth to swallow up him and his abode; so he had no body of helpers to assist him against Allah nor was he of those who can defend themselves.”

“And those who yearned for his place only the day before began to say: Ah! (know) that Allah amplifies and straitens the means of subsistence for whom He pleases of His servants; had not Allah been gracious to us, He would most surely have abased us; ah! (know) that the ungrateful are never successful.” (28; 77-82)

The aforementioned story is a great example exhibiting the fate for those whose hearts are inclined towards wealth, and forget the Hereafter. For Qarun, who lost Divine richness and blessings, is now a beggar in the Hereafter. Because, the abode of the Hereafter belongs to the pious who live the life of a righteous and sincere servant. It is stated in a verse:

“(As for) that future abode, We assign it to those who have no desire to exalt themselves in the earth nor to make mischief and the good end is for those who guard (against evil).” (28; 83)

Astonished by their state, Mawlana Jalaladdin Rumi (q.s.) talks about those who desire worldly gains and bankrupt in the Hereafter:

“What is happening to the humans as they become slaves of gold and property? What is wealth if it is not spent in the path of Allah? What does it represent? What could being a slave of the world and derogation of crawling like a snake in front of its gate be, if it is not a reason for misery sending man to the heavens empty handed?”

Just like Qarun, who was a slave of wealth, the story of Sa’labah is a thought provoking and exemplary one. Sa’labah, a Medinan Muslim, had great ambition for wealth. He wanted to be rich, and he asked the Prophet (pbuh) to pray for him to become rich. The Prophet (pbuh) responded: “Little wealth which you can be grateful is better than plentiful one which you cannot be thankful…”

Upon the Prophet’s words, he gave up his wish for a while but later his desire recurred and he returned to the Prophet (pbuh) with the same request:

“O Messenger of Allah! Pray for me to become rich.”

This time the Prophet (pbuh) said:

“Am I not a good enough example for you? By Allah, If I had asked, those mountains would have transformed into gold and silver and follow me, but I didn’t ask.”

Sa’labah changed his mind again. But his desires did not cease. He was saying to himself: “If I get rich, I could help the poor and I could get more reward from Allah Almighty.” Then he went to the Prophet for a third time and said:

“I swear by the name of the One who sent you as His messenger, if I get rich, I will protect the poor and the needy, and I will give everybody whatever their right is.”

In response to Sa’labah’s constant requests, the Prophet (pbuh) prayed for him:

“Dear Lord! Bestow upon Sa’labah the worldly wealth he asks.”

Not much later after the Prophet’s prayer, Allah the Almighty bestowed upon Sa’labah great wealth. His herds filled the meadows. But Sa’labah who was hitherto called “mosque bird” began slacking off when it came time for the congregational prayers. He began only attending the  Friday prayer, and finally he left the congregational prayers altogether.

On one occasion when the Prophet (pbuh) learned what had happened to Sa’labah, he  said:

“What a pity what had happened to Sa’labah!”

This was not all of Sa’labah’s heedlessness and ignorance.  He even told the clerks who came to collectzakāt:

“What you are trying to do is clear extortion.” Let alone giving the charity he had promised, he even refused to pay the obligatory rights of the poor, and so he became a hypocrite. This kind of behavior of hypocrites is stated in a verse as follows:

“And there are those of them who made a covenant with Allah: If He give us out of His grace, we will certainly give alms and we will certainly be of the good.”

“But when He gave them out of His grace, they became niggardly of it and they turned back and they withdrew.” (9; 75-76)

Because of his own idiocy, he didn’t listen to the Prophet’s (pbuh) warnings and deserved to be afflicted with a pitiful fate. Deceived by the temporary pleasures of this world, Sa’labah lost the eternal blessings of the Hereafter. When he was dying in regret, the Prophet’s (pbuh) words: “Little wealth which you can be grateful for is better than plentiful wealth which you cannot be thankful for…” were resonating in his ears.

As it is observed, human beings, by nature, are inclined to the material world. Those who are deceived by its glamor are impossible to satisfy. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) expresses this reality:

“If the son of Adam (the human being) had two valleys of gold, he would wish for a third, for nothing can fill the belly of Adam’s son except dust. And Allah forgives he who repents.”(Bukhari, Riqāq, 10)

Human beings are the only creatures given free will, as opposed to the flora and fauna whose nature it is to submit to the will of God. Humans can choose between right and wrong, they can make decisions and essentially choose to deny God or worship Him. It is important to understand the nature of human beings in its most mundane form – the carnal appetite, the ego or nāfs. Islam promotes everything in moderation, because anything in its extremity can be disasterous. Therefore, as one’s wealth accumulates, there is a tendency to become greedy. Individuals who are filled with greed naturally lose their compassion and mercy towards others. They may even fool themselves with empty promises about donating to the poor after becoming rich. Yet, they are sick and suffer from diseased hearts. They will be included among the miserable mentioned in the saying “those who say ‘I will do it tomorrow’ are perished.”

The aforementioned story about Sa’labah is an excellent example for us to comprehend the grievous end not only of those who are deceived by worldly wealth, but also of those who force the fate and don’t observe the manners of praying. Our responsibility is to ask from Allah to accept our prayers if it is beneficial for us, instead of insisting and putting too much trust in our intellect and asking things that we don’t know whether are good or bad for us. Otherwise we might cause ourselves problems that will prevent us from seeing the blessings burried under our charity does. However, it is impossible to figure out just by our weak minds how exactly prayer works. Prayer is Allah’s permission, his blessing and even his order for us. It is a religious fact that prayer drives away the troubles, however we cannot know what is good and what is bad for us; thus we should not insist in our prayers that something is in our advantage instead we need to say in our prayers that:

“O Lord! Bestow it upon us if it is good for us.”

As it can be observed in order to transform our wealth into benefits we have to use it in accordance with Divine commands. This is essential for the welfare and salvation of the individuals and the society both in this world and in the Hereafter.

Wealth itself is not decried in Islam. On the contrary, if specified guidelines are followed, it is even something to be praised. Our beloved Prophet (pbuh) encourages getting rich in the following saying:

“What a beautiful thing is the lawful and useful wealth in the hands of the righteous servants.”(Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, 202)

Asking for help from other people while having the strength to work is also among the behavior condemned by Islam.

In fact according to the narration by Anas b. Malik, a man of the Ansar came to the Prophet (pbuh) and begged from him.

He (the Prophet) asked: Have you nothing in your house? He replied: Yes, a piece of cloth, a part of which we wear and a part of which we spread (on the ground), and a wooden bowl from which we drink water.

He said: Bring them to me. He then brought these articles to him and he (the Prophet) took them in his hands and asked: Who will buy these? A man said: I shall buy them for one dirham. He said twice or thrice: Who will offer more than one dirham? A man said: I shall buy them for two dirhams.

He gave these to him and took the two dirhams and, giving them to the Ansari, he said: Buy food with one of them and hand it to your family, and buy an axe and bring it to me. He then brought it to him. The Apostle of Allah (pbuh) fixed a handle on it with his own hands and said: Go, gather firewood and sell it, and do not let me see you for a fortnight. The man went away and gathered firewood and sold it. When he had earned ten dirhams, he came to him and bought a garment with some of them and food with the others.

The Apostle of Allah (pbuh) then said:

“This is better for you than that begging should come as a spot on your face on the Day of Judgment. Begging is right only for three people: one who is in grinding poverty, one who is seriously in debt, or one who is responsible for compensation and finds it difficult to pay.”[1]

Even though Islam does not prohibit begging on the whole, it observes it ethically inappropriate. The Prophet (pbuh) told a man who made begging a habit:

“Allah the Almighty did not leave the division of the zakāt revenues to anybody, not even to the will and desires of His messengers. He pointed out eight groups for its distribution. If you belong to one of these eight groups, then we can give you your share from it.”(Bayhaki, Sunan al-Kubra, VII, 6)

Here is very delicate fastidiousness in regards to distribution of zakāt to its appropriate beneficiaries. For zakāt can be given only to the groups mentioned in the verse. These groups are stated in the following verse:

“Alms are only for the poor and the needy, and the officials(appointed) over them, and those whose hearts are made to incline (to truth) and the (ransoming of) captives and those in debt and in the way of Allah and the wayfarer; an ordinance from Allah; And Allah is full of knowledge And wisdom.”(9; 60)

Charity given to people other than these eight groups can be done by donations outside the scope ofzakāt called khayrāt.  The Prophet (pbuh) did not give zakāt money to those who did not belong to the aforementioned eight-group, and refused their requests. But he did not follow the same principle about the charity other than zakāt. In those cases he acted in accordance with the verse “And as for him who asks, do not chide (him),” (93; 10), and he said:

“It is your good manner that not to drive away a beggar empty handed, but to give him even if all you can give is a single date. O Aisha! do not send a poor man away empty handed, give even if all you can give is half a date.”(Tirmidhi, Kitab al-Zuhd, 37)

In accordance with the meaning of this hadith, Musa Topbas (may Allah bless his soul) used to give charity to beggars, and say:

“In order that we do not become accustomed to refusing the needy, we should give even if it is a small amount”

It should also be known that Islam approves begging only under extreme circumstances; because, begging is a very humiliating and degrading action. That is why the Prophet (pbuh) asked from those who wanted to pledge allegiance not beg people of anything.[2]

In this way we should distinguish those who ask money from anybody they met and the needy who are too bashful to tell their needs to others. In this respect the Prophet (pbuh) says:

“The poor man (miskin) is not the one who goes round to the people and is dismissed with one or two morsels, and one or two dates. They (the Prophet’s Companions) said: Messenger of Allah, then who is a miskin? He said: He who does not get enough to satisfy him, and he is not considered so (as to elicit the attention of the benevolent people), so that charity way be given to him, and he does not beg anything from people.” (Muslim,Kitab al-zakāt, 102)

By this hadith, the Prophet (pbuh) wanted to say that those who ask from anybody they met would eventually get what they need. The real needy ones are those who hide their state, be patient and endure the hardship of poverty. The significance of helping this kind of needy is stated in the Qur’an:

(Alms are) for the poor who are confined in the way of Allah– they cannot go about in the land; the ignorant man thinks them to be rich on account of (their) abstaining (from begging);you can recognize them by their mark; they do not beg from men importunately; and whatever good thing you spend, surely Allah knows it.” (2; 273)

Zakāt on Agricultural Produces: ‘Ushr (Tithe)

‘Ushr which is among the monetary acts of worship that has a tendency to be forgotten. It is the type ofzakāt paid with crops. Those who do not pay their ‘ushr are as guilty as the usurper. They seize the right of the poor, the needy and those who fight for the sake of Allah the Almighty.

According to a narration, a generous man from Yemen owned vineyards, date gardens and grain fields near Sana’a. This man used to reserve a generous share for the poor and the needy during harvest time. When he passed away, his children became absorbed in their greed and said to each other:

“We have a large family and our property is little. Let’s not give anything to the poor, and reap the harvest before they come and ask.”

In response to their evil intentions, Allah the Almighty burned their gardens down and transformed them into ruins. This big garden was unrecognizable. When the stingy owners saw this scene, they were shocked. They thought that they had entered the wrong place.

However, it was because of the prayers of the poor for their father, their father’s garden had been receiving abundant blessings. All poor and all people in need had been benefiting from that garden. But the ‘ushr paid to the poor looked like too much to the children of the generous man, and they didn’t want to pay it. They were not aware of where their garden’s substances were coming from, because heedlessness had blinded their eyes.

That is why Allah the Almighty says: “…and be not thou of those who are unheedful.” (7; 205). The incident known as the story of the Companions of Darwan is stated in the Qur’an as follows:

“Surely We will try them as We tried the owners of the garden, when they swore that they would certainly cut off the produce in the morning,”

“And were not willing to set aside a portion (for the poor).”

“Then there encompassed it a visitation from your Lord while they were sleeping.”

“So it became as black, barren land.”

“And they called out to each other in the morning,”

“Saying: Go early to your tilth if you would cut (the produce).”

“So they went, while they consulted together secretly,”

“Saying: No poor man shall enter it today upon you.”

“And in the morning they went, having the power to prevent.”

“But when they saw it, they said: Most surely we have gone astray”

“Nay! we are made to suffer privation.” (68; 17-27)

What a wonderful manifestation of the pitiful states of those who forget Allah the Almighty and those who forget to give the rights of the poor out of substances bestowed by Allah the Almighty. It should not be forgotten that all the intentions in the hearts are known by Allah the Almighty. His Greatness overwhelms everything.

Mawlana Jalaladdin Rumi (May Allah bless his soul) says:

“Life in this world is just a dream. To become wealthy in this world is like finding a treasure in a dream. Worldly possessions pass from one generation to the other and stay in this world.”

“Angel of death awakens the unwary from his sleep. That person groans for the troubles he had to go through for something that he did not actually own. He regrets greatly, but it is too late and it is all over…”

How nicely stated by Ali (may Allah be pleased with him):

“Human beings are in a sleep; they wake up when they die.”

Allah the Almighty also explains the regretful state of a person who wakes up at the time of his death:

رَبِّ لَوْلآَ أَخَّرْتَنِيۤ إِلَى أَجَلٍ قَرِيبٍ
فَأَصَّدَّقَ وَأَكُنْ مِّنَ الصَّالِحِينَ

“…he should say: My Lord! why didst Thou not respite me to a near term, so that I should have given alms and been of the doers of good deeds? (63; 10)

But it will be too late, and his request will not be accepted. That is why Allah the Almighty orders His servants to give charity out of the substance bestowed upon them before encountering such a sorrowful end.

In short every believer should be careful not to neglect their acts ofmonetary worship. Otherwise he should know that he will be among the heedless who don not know whose wealth they withhold from whom.

O Lord! Bless us by making us among those faithful who excitedly perform their financial services and give the rights of the poor who can or cannot disclose their needs out of their modesty, and bless us by bestowing upon us your contentment.

Amin!

[1].      See Abu Dawud, Kitab al-Zakat, 26

[2].      See Muslim, Kitab al-Zakat, 108.

Osman Nuri Topbas

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