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Alms and Charity: Virtues of Zakat: Part 20

Alms and Charity: Virtues of Zakat: Part 20



Another group deserving zakat is those whose hearts are in the grip of reconciliation with Islam. Depending on the intention of the various approaches, this group can be classified as follows:

Those who, although Muslim, do not yet have faith entrenched in their hearts.

Those non-Muslims whose hearts are attempted to be reconciled with Islam.

Those non-Muslims who harbor hostilities towards Islam, but whose aggression or resentment may be preventable.

The Prophet (upon whom be peace) indeed allotted zakat for all of the people in the above categories. As for the likes of Abu Sufyan, who had become Muslim but was yet to develop maturity in his belief, the Messenger ultimately won his heart—and countless others—by virtue of granting zakat copiously, a practice of generosity which effectively established a positive belief in the hearts of the recipients. Abu Sufyan, once he became a Muslim, fervently desired to join his son, Iqrimah, at the fierce Battle of Yarmuk during the time of Caliph Umar—his courageous aspirations affirming a deeply ensconced faith whose seeds were initially sewn with the gift of such benevolence.

When the Messenger of God gave 100 sheep to Safwan ibn Umayya, he accepted Islam with an ardor worth the expense of perhaps 10,000 sheep, and this offering simultaneously hastened his realization of a great and precious degree of faith, as verified by his subsequent words; “Out of all men, the Prophet was the one I was most infuriated with. On the day of Hunayn, however, he gave so much that he suddenly became my most beloved.” The recipients were so much touched by the kindness and generosity of the Prophet and came to the understanding that he was divinely led. They soon joined him and their lasting faith soon made them exemplary figures in the service of God. Another group consisted of some Bedouins who had given in to Islam, although pure iman (faith) had not yet sunk into their hearts. To state it more explicitly in Qur’anic terms, they were saying, “we believe,” although they had only surrendered: The Bedouins say “We believe.” Say: “You do not; rather say ‘we profess Islam,’ for faith has not yet entered your hearts” (Hujurat 49:14).

This reference clearly accentuates the fact that iman, belief in God, is a divine gift, attained only through man’s investigation, identification, and application of his belief in the inextinguishable Celestial Flame. As far as the Bedouins were concerned, they had only resigned themselves to the splendor of Islam, as their hearts were not mature enough then to fully come to grips with the faith. Thus the Messenger of God was prudently allocating a share of zakat for them, in hope of decreasing their distance to the ideal faith. When Safwan ibn Umayya was given 100 sheep and 100 camels, for instance, he exclaimed to those around him, “By God! Hasten to submit to this man, for he has no fear of his wealth running out,” acknowledging the Prophet’s dependence on God, Whose treasures never cease. By receiving zakat, those on the border between belief and non-belief swiftly had their pendulum swung towards the most excellent direction, commencing to quench their hearts with the satiating fountain of faith.

Yet another group were the vanguards of polytheists reputed with sordid behaviors. Through offering these people zakat, the Messenger of God was effectively repelling their potential for harming the community, as well as laying the groundwork for their future acceptance of Islam. This is exemplified by the saying, “Do good to whom you fear evil from.” It is an important strategy to predict probable harm and deflect it with good, as man is inherently a servant of goodness. Such an approach, time and again, disperses possible damage and destruction before it even begins to form and creates a fresh breathing space for Muslims, whereby accumulated wealth is utilized to convert evil into good, as man earnestly acts upon the obligations of his servanthood to God.

In the words of the Qur’an, Vile women are for vile men, and vile men are for vile women” (Nur 24:26). Evidently, by virtue of integrating these muallafa al-qulub into the picture, the Messenger of God instigated a series of multi-faceted benefits. Through receiving zakat, these people providentially gained profoundness in their faith; those oscillating between belief and unbelief opted for the former; and the leaders among the unbelievers, influenced by the generous grant, laid down their guns, providing amnesty for Muslims living under their control. The issue additionally has a financial component. Although the Prophet granted wealth to the leaders of the community, this act of giving entailed returns of abundant proportions. Because they enjoyed the benefits of receiving zakat, unbelievers granted certain essential permissions and rights to the Muslims under their control, who were then better able to offer zakat themselves; thus, the relatively trivial amount given to the leaders afforded large populations of Muslims the means by which they could honor their obligation to give zakat flowing into the pockets of the destitute. By this means, Muslims still managed to guarantee the general welfare of any community of which they were apart. In addition, the practice proved to be advantageous for the Muslims in more ways: it gave them the opportunity of fulfilling their obligations as well as bestowing on them relative freedom and autonomy, in addition to enshrining basic values of righteousness in the name of Islam in whatever community, and whatever time, Muslims happened to be.

This situation lasted until the period of Caliph Abu Bakr. One day, certain people who used to receive a share of zakat at the time of the Prophet came to the Caliph asking for money. The Caliph consented to sign their document of eligibility, which they took to Umar, who was in charge of the treasury on that day. Who knows—perhaps Abu Bakr, an exemplary character filled with astounding mildness and compassion, simply wished to solve the matter without causing even the scantiest dissension within the caliphate. So he deferred the matter to Umar.

After receiving the document, Umar’s sharp gaze oscillated between the document and those who had brought it. Though it is impossible to illustrate exactly what went through his mind in that instant, looking at the ensuing events, it seems most likely that Umar ascertained that Islam had now fully realized its splendor and unbelief had been dashed against the rocks. In effect, Islam, increasingly consolidating its eternal impressions on the world, was now standing on its own two feet.

As Umar also knew very well, zakat depended on specific circumstances, namely the existence of a given situation and people who fit the criteria of “need” under such circumstances. Umar, evidently and rightly content that the Arabian Peninsula was now the strong domain of Islam, tore the document and responded to the letter-holders by saying, “This is unacceptable. Go and work! In the days when you were given Zakat, Islam was not standing on its own feet; but now, it is majestic and has no need of you!” As the Muslim community was firmly established, such a group of potential tormentors failed to meet the definition of a group whose hostilities to be prevented. Thus, it was no longer a necessity to pay zakat to those holding a sort of position of power.

Facing an unexpected situation, they promptly went to the Caliph, protesting, “Who is the Caliph, you or him? You sign the document and he tears it!” Abu Bakr simply replied, “If he liked, he would have been the Caliph,” delivering a deeply meaningful and concise response to a group who had made a habit of freeloading.

Consequentially, the practice of giving zakat to the muallafa al-qulub, ended by the matchless vision and intelligence of Umar, has since provided material for diverse interpretations. The truth is, the Companions, gathered soon after the event, reaching a consensus that a share no longer needed to be allotted to those whose hearts are attempted to be reconciled with Islam, owing to the simple fact that they need no longer existed. However, this was the reflection of the social structure in relation to that particular verdict, as the need to appease others in this way had apparently ceased.

Some have interpreted the above event as an abrogation or naskh of a verse by the ijma (consensus) of the Companions, which can only be labeled as a blatant misunderstanding. Although the abrogation of one verse by another, or a sunnah act by another, is acceptable, the abrogation of a sunnah act by a Qur’anic verse, or even vice-versa, has been an issue of dispute, where most scholars have maintained implausibility of either. Thus, even the Prophet’s words have no authority over the Qur’an, and it is thus utterly unthinkable for the Companions’ consensus to presume or exercise a similar authority. As a result, the Qur’an cannot be abrogated by methods of deduction such as ijma (consensus) or qiyas (analogy).

Debates as such reveal a lack of understanding of the intent of this decision. When arriving at their verdict, none of the Companions—including Abu Bakr or Umar—carried even the slightest desire to abrogate the Qur’an; rather, their verdict was simply an end shot of sincere and proper brainstorming, a discussion, much of which is strongly encouraged in Islam. It is worthy to note that among the eight groups of recipients, the muallafa al-qulub have no particular prerequisites; hence, whatever is applicable to them is also applicable for the other groups. In a society where the poor and the destitute cease to exist, for instance, the need to give these two groups zakat concomitantly ceases, as was the case during the era of Umar ibn Abdulaziz. During that time, nobody dared to claim, “Umar ibn Abdulaziz abrogated the Qur’an,” precisely because the events were unfolding exactly in concordance with the Prophet’s (upon whom be peace) glad tidings of many years before.

So, too, the issue of muallafa al-qulub, had unfolded along a natural course. As is the case today, however, many refer to Umar’s mentioned application when discussing those individuals and groups in various societies today who may nurture the intention of antagonizing the precepts of Islam. In fact, the new outcrop of such antagonists is entirely analogous to how the poor—who became increasingly hard to find during the caliphate of Umar ibn Abdulaziz — reemerged after the time of Umar ibn Abdulaziz. There were increases in debtors and even stranded traveler for that matter, individuals who only receive zakat provided that they exist. Therefore, those who claim that Umar abrogated a verse actually lack an adequate insight into the issue. Looking from the perspective of the Qur’an, the duty of zakat is not attached to certain individuals; rather, it is attached to certain needs, in so far as these reflected weaknesses of the heart. Once these needs are taken care of, then these needs obviously no longer exist. Logically put: the attachment of the verdict to a certain cause necessitates the existence of that cause for its validity; therefore, the solution is pre-empted if the cause disappears, and then simply comes back into effect upon the future re-emergence of the need. Umar’s verdict was clearly an appropriate jurisprudential response to the changing times and a further reflection of the comprehensive and vibrant nature of the Qur’anic message, which remains vital and eminently applicable under the most extensive variations in both temporal and physical circumstances.

The reason for the extended discussion of this issue is to emphasize the necessity of reviving this practice as a contingency given the current need which is arising in societies around the globe, and most particularly in the secular west. In this day and age, in fact, we suddenly find ourselves readily able to identify a great many people who can easily fit into the category of muallafa al-qulub. If we can successfully revive the practice of giving generously of zakat to mollify  potential aggressors  and avoid potential hostilities,  then we may perhaps appease volatile characters, effectively providing them the priceless opportunity to gain acquaintance with Islam—and thus allow Muslims all over the world greater freedom and safety to express the full dimensions of their faith. Moreover, by exercising an important point of jurisprudence in recognizing the existence of muallafa al-qulub in the present day, our aim to spread the Islamic message to the four corners of the world, to invite to Islam as we are strongly ordained to do, will be facilitated by the effective removal of possible impediments, personal or governmental, that stand in our way. This is an excellent opportunity, in fact, for so-called “modern man” to accomplish superb feats to inject the Islamic spirit into thirsty hearts. The view of Imam Qurtubi, a  scholar  of  the  Maliki school,  concords: “At other times, those who are bordered by non- believers should also offer this fund lest they transgress the border,” This critical idea certainly deserves a special emphasis as the optimal framework for a contemporary approach to the full and peaceful existence of practicing Muslims in predominantly non-Muslim regions of the world.

As for today, there are many distinguished people, in educational, political, or socio-cultural arenas, who daily face the invitation to become the mouthpiece of others. The proper application of zakat under such circumstances, in line with the argument presented above, would ensure that their invaluable energies and capabilities do not become channeled towards causes devoid of scruples and deterring from righteousness, oppressing those who choose to practice their faith, both privately and publicly. For tragically, while these individuals generally set out to serve humanity and uphold virtue, they all-too-often become mere representatives of detrimental factions.

This approach would simply be an expression of familiarity with the true intent of the consensus of the great Companions on this subject, as well as with the Qur’an. For resuscitating the practice of giving zakat to the muallafa al-qulub would only lead us in the footsteps of Umar, who demonstrated so unequivocally the vibrant and effective nature of Islamic jurisprudence.


Slaves constitute one of the eight possible groups of recipients. As a basic principle, Islam is against the notion of slavery, desiring human to be liberated from all kinds of restraints through an assertion that their servanthood is only to God. The principles Islam has put forth have constantly paved the way for freedom, a value confirmed by many hadith concerning slaves, as the following exemplifies: “Feed them what you feed yourselves, clothe them what you clothe yourselves, do not impose on them duties they cannot bear, and treat them humanely.”

The world, however, has never been home only to Muslims. At various stages of history, wars have been waged against those attempting to extinguish the light of Islam, and as an upshot and a primarily reciprocal procedure, there were many captives taken. This was really the prevalent practice of the warfare of the period, one equally upheld and perpetrated by all sides. Suddenly eliminating slavery on a global scale would involve innumerable intricacies and countless reforms; the best thing to do, insofar as Islam was concerned, was to treat captives with utmost kindness and consideration, in order to use the times of captivity as an opportunity not to exploit other human beings, but to warm hearts towards Islam.

Accordingly, and due to many benefits, a certain share of zakat was allocated to slaves and those in captivity. It will be of further benefit to lay special emphasis on the fact that slavery is not an institution inaugurated by Islam; in addition, from a global historical perspective, the birth of Islam coincided with a period wherein humans were sold as slaves and even free men were under the constant threat of enslavement as a result of sudden raids. Islam, always and ever religion of pragmatic, applicable, and comprehensive solutions, resorted to combating this problem gradually, imposing at every chance the very principles which would bestow the first inner, then outer, freedom to slaves. This is certainly in keeping with one of the most basic tenets of Islam, which is that everyone is as equal as the spikes on a comb and the only superiority which should be sought is in terms of piety. Here, then, are some of the key principles relating to slavery:

The emancipation of slaves in return for some work or their value (muqataba),

Emancipation by giving birth to the owner’s child (ummu walad),

Emancipating a slave to compensate for an unobserved vow,

Emancipating a slave as compensation for zihar (the forbidden practice whereby a husband draws a resemblance between his wife and his mother as a pretext for divorce), Emancipating a slave as compensation for unintentionally causing death.

Visibly and unequivocally, Islam opened the doors to freedom wide open, constantly reiterating the multitudes of rewards entailed by the act of emancipating a slave, an act incessantly encouraged by God. Today, slavery in its full sense of the term does not exist although this is not to say that it will never come back into existence. Similar to the cause of muallafa al-qulub, and applying the same standard of jurisprudence, the reemergence of slavery would automatically resuscitate the practice of offering them zakat. Perhaps in this day and age, the issue may have switched to another level or another forum. Even though physical slavery may have become obsolete, many people now have their feelings, thoughts, and intellects enslaved, and thus are in dire need of genuine emancipation. Providing them some zakat would presumably be a means of dispersing from their minds these ill thoughts, beneficially opening their mind to the reality of a relationship with their Creator.

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