10 Nov Alms and Charity: Virtues of Zakat: Part 4
ZAKAT LIBERATES FROM MATERIAL SLAVERY
Zakat unfetters from the shackles of excessive love for material things. Islam, in fact, insists that a person be free from all sinister fetters and turn his heart purely in the direction of God, so to speak.
For man, becoming a slave for something that he is the master of is an awful digression from the purpose of his creation. Everything has been created for mankind, who should make use of this privilege in utilizing it in the way outlined by Islam, in natural conformity with the divine will. Otherwise, this could well end in the material universe being unduly elevated to a virtual object of worship, causing a detrimental sway in feelings, thoughts, and actions. The Noble Prophet (upon whom be peace) has emphasized this most unfortunate digression: “Woe to the slaves of gold, silver, linen, and silk! If they are granted these, they celebrate, but they cannot digest when deprived of them.”
The most effective cure for this disease is, again, zakat, an eternal investment that is an excellent means of orienting the heart of the benefactor towards the Hereafter.
ZAKAT IS SECURITY
Having expressed excruciating anxiety soon after the First Revelation, the nervousness of the Noble Prophet (upon whom be peace) was appeased by the soothing words of his wife, Khadija: “No, no…I swear, God will never forsake you; for you always visit your relatives, speak the truth, help others (physically and financially), treat your guests well and be of assistance in everything pertaining to the Truth.”
Abu Bakr had come across ibn Daginna, on his attempted migration to Abyssinia, who asked, “Where are you going?” Abu Bakr replied, “My tribe has tormented me, making life hell and has finally driven me out.” Ibn Daginnah, a socially influential man, retorted “No way! Return, for you are a man who does righteous deeds and lends physical and financial help to others. From now on, you are under my protection.” All this alludes to how acts like zakat, sadaqa and giving general assistance provide the security and protection of God, as well as gaining the trust of the public.
ZAKAT IS A COMPENSATION FOR SINS
As an outcome of His unlimited mercy, God accepts good deeds as a means of granting the servant proximity with Him as well as compensation for prior sins. The Noble Prophet (upon whom be peace) has personally emphasized how acts such as ablution for prayers, the daily prescribed prayers, the Friday prayer, Ramadan fasting and even walking to the mosque compensate for sins that were committed beforehand. Indeed, zakat is no different, as enunciated in the Qur’an:
God said: “I am with you; if you establish salat and pay the zakat, and believe in My Messengers and support them, and lend to God a goodly loan, surely I shall remit your sins, and surely I shall admit you into gardens beneath which rivers flow.” (Maida 5:12)
The Messenger of God had made use of the subsequent words in accentuating the compensatory facet of zakat among other deeds: “Salat, zakat, enjoining good and forbidding evil is compensation for a person’s shortcomings towards his/her home, family and neighbors.”
The Hadith “Protect yourselves from hellfire, even it be with half a date,” underlines the importance of sadaqa and zakat, even if these be a tiny portion, in making amends for a person’s wrongs, along with providing a shield against the torment of punishment.
ZAKAT IS A MEANS OF “DUA” (i.e. PRAYER OR GOOD WISHES)
Zakat, through various ways, acquires dua or good wishes for the giver. As stated in the Qur’an, it attracts the precious dua of the Messenger of God (upon whom be peace), not to mention the sincere wishes of the recipient. Angels join the person in offering these good wishes for the rich, from whom he has received a helping hand. The Qur’an’s advice to the Prophet (upon whom be peace) is, in fact, as such: “Take alms of their wealth so that you may purify and sanctify them thereby, and pray for them for your prayers are a comfort for them” (Tawba 9:103). The Prophet’s well-wishes for people desiring to offer zakat was, and is, renowned, as exemplified here: “O God! Treat them with Your mercy and accept their dua.” From time to time, the Prophet personally uttered the name of a Companion, such as Abdullah ibn Awf, for whom he prayed as such: “O Lord! Have mercy on his family and accept his duas.”
To wish benefits from God upon providers of sadaqa or zakat is what comes naturally, as cursing such people is horrendously against human nature. Therefore pronouncing the wish “May God be pleased with you!” towards such people is virtually translating the feelings embedded in the heart. As noted before, the hadith, “Two angels descend each day; one of them praying ‘O God! Bestow prosperity on the wealth of those who are charitable,’ and the other invoking, ‘O God! Destroy the wealth of the miser,’” amplifies the attitude of angels during such circumstances.
ZAKAT HINDERS INSATIABLE DESIRES
Human has been created as a candidate for eternal pleasure, a fact attested to by his eternal desires. When human lacks the transcendental dimension of eternity, all his engrained desires become augmented here on Earth alone, causing an exaggerated terrestrial bond. The Prophet of God expands this aspect in the following words:
If the Children of Adam possessed a valley of gold, they would desire a second (valley of gold). Only soil will quench their greed (i.e their greed will only cease when they are dead and subsequently buried).
As the Children of Adam grows, two characteristics concomitantly grow with them: the love of riches and endless desires.
The existence of love, inhuman, for the world and attachment to it as well as his endless desires are for the cultivation of the world. If a delicate balance is not established, however, the outcome is either excessive or recessive, vis-à-vis, insatiable love for the world or a complete abandoning of it. In actual fact, Islam condones neither of these perceptions, promulgating the establishment of that perfect balance between the two. Undoubtedly, zakat is a major catalyst in procuring ideal moderation in terms of keeping wealth versus sharing it—and between the rich and the poor. Thus, it is an ultimate reminder of the hereafter for human, in whom the seeds of worldly love and never-ending desires perennially exist, though through zakat, we grow in accordance with the divine will, incessantly facing the eternal abode with the unshakeable belief in the receipt of an enormous reward for even the most trivial deeds. This can be deemed, in a sense, to allow transcending the shallow walls erected by worldliness, and submitting to the boundless domain of spirituality.
Zakat reiterates the utter impossibility of eternal life on earth, ameliorating the feelings of separation by virtue of preparing the person for an inescapable resurrection and thus encouraging us towards the afterlife. And this is, by no means, a small gain for human. For many concealed purposes, the Almighty has rendered earth and its contents alluring, but at the same time, desires humankind to comprehend the test and take heed accordingly:
Made beautiful for humankind is the love of desires, for women and offspring, of hoarded treasures of gold and silver, of branded horses, cattle and plantations. These are the comforts of this life, yet with God is the best of all goals. (Al Imran 3:14)
The above-mentioned verse delineates the aspects of human’s innate inclination but in addition, displays the correct approach to be adopted. The potentially destructive intrinsic feelings of worldly love and endless desires are powerfully hindered by the acceptance of others’ rights in property and the acknowledgment of God, the Ultimate Possessor of property and riches, through zakat. Otherwise, the iniquities of greed and avarice lead to an elusive quest for luxury that further opens the door to what is called “the waste economy.” As expected, illegitimate methods may also be resorted to in this senseless hunt for riches. It is these destructive contingencies that zakat combats and successfully eradicates.