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Reflections on Zakat, the Third Pillar of Islam

We all want to talk and be listened to. I’m certainly no exception; if life were a stage, you’d have to drag me off with a hook!

There seems to be no shortage of opinion amongst the Ummah, on any wide number of issues. Most of it is just yapping.

Let’s be honest.

Having said that, I am humbled to have the opportunity to reach an audience of this magnitude through the team here at “About Islam”.

However, this article is not one I would’ve written on my own accord.

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I was asked to draft a piece on an oft neglected topic of discussion, yet a key and crucial component to living as a Muslim; that is “Zakat”.

I’m no scholar. I’m no jurist. I am certainly no Angel.

I am also certain that everyone reading this is not only a better Muslim than me, but probably even a better human being.

I mean that.

So, I hope I can make my intentions clear in that I am not here to admonish or anger, rule or ridicule…

I only want to remind and return to the Quran. May Allah protect us and allow us to understand.

As a revert to Islam, my brothers and sisters were quick and eager to help welcome me to Islam.

After my Shahadah was made, I was taught how to properly perform ablution and prayer.

The finer details of ghusl were discussed, as well as what to expect in Ramadan (which was, at that point, some 6 months away).

The trials and adventure of the Hajj were combed over, including how I should change my name if I wanted to be let into Makkah (nonsense!).

Reflections on Zakat, the Third Pillar of Islam - About Islam

Everyone shared gems from the Quran, the beauty of the character of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), the integrity of the companions and the triumphs of Islam over the past 1,400 years.

I remember everything that everyone ever said to me (I’m a sponge when it comes to this Islam of ours, Alhamdulillah!)… and I also remember what everyone didn’t say.

Nobody ever mentioned anything about “Zakat”. In Islam, it’s usually not put this way, but isn’t “Zakat” one of the “Five Pillars”? Isn’t it listed before “fasting” and “pilgrimage”?

It sure is.

After briefly looking into it on my own, I didn’t worry or think about it too much; I was struggling and striving to make ends meet… certainly offering a monetary contribution to anyone but myself at that time would be a hindrance to just merely scraping by.

After all, the jurisprudence surrounding this very important matter was very flexible and accommodating; in my circumstance I didn’t need to offer “charity”.

But now, years later, Alhamdulillah, I understand I’ve been neglecting and overlooking this outright. Certainly, most of us have. May Allah forgive us all.

In Islam, “Zakat” is more than “charity”. In the English language one may often translate and understand “charity” to be a voluntary act.

In Islam, there are different degrees and types of charity, some voluntary (sadaqah) and some mandatory (Zakat).

There are also forms of “charity” reserved for compensating certain sins.

The mandatory charity also shouldn’t be understood as a form and sort of “tax” either… again, the finer teachings and tunings of Islam can really only be understood by diving into the beauty and depth of the Arabic language.

The root of “Zakat” roughly means “cleanse” and “growth”; it is taught and thought to be a certain cleansing of sins, excess wealth, even “fortune”, amongst other points, as well as a means to “grow” your wealth and position in this world and the “world to come”.

Surah Al-Layl informs us that if we are charitable, Allah Almighty will facilitate ease for us, while those who are not will face a certain degree of hardship (92:5-11).

The Creator continues that offering an excess of your wealth for the Sake of Allah will act as a means of purification (92:17-21).

Islam is supposed to be an “easy Religion”, and what we find of “distributing excess wealth” should be seen and remembered as Allah “desiring ease rather than hardship”.

Allah has much more to say throughout the Quran about “Zakat” than I’ve mentioned (2:43, 2:83, 2:110, 2:177, 2:277, 4:77, 4:162, 5:12, 5:55, 7:156, 9:5, 9:11, 9:18, 9:71, 21:73, 22:41, 22:78, 23:4, 24:37, 24:56, 27:3, 30:39, 31:4, 33:33, 41:7, 58:13 – to cite a few!)

But again, I am not a scholar or jurist, so to know more yourself about how exactly to distribute, to whom, exactly how much and if it is something specifically mandatory upon you in consideration to your particular circumstances, I implore you to “ask those who know”; this article is not meant to comb the details of Fiqh (jurisprudence).

It is my understanding that even those who are “financially incapable” are still required to “give according to their means” (65:7).

It appears that a “monetary giving” is not necessarily completely binding if it is not something you can truly afford or part with.. .but again, “ask those who know”.

To come to an end, we can ALL certainly follow the advice left to us by Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and smile a bit more… after all, it is seen as a form of “charity”!

May Allah make our fasting this Ramadan an easy venture and our means of giving clear, pure and easy, and as always, may He guide us all closer to the Truth.

Andrew Morgan (5/10/19 [9/5/1440])

Reflections on Zakat, the Third Pillar of Islam - About Islam

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About Andrew
Andrew has been Muslim 8 years or so now. His wife is Muslim as well. He has 3 children & is a Massachusetts native who now lives in North Carolina.