10 Nov Alms and Charity: Virtues of Zakat: Part 8
ZAKAT BRINGS ONE CLOSER TO GOD
The minimum amount of zakat and its specific places of disbursement have unequivocally been delineated in the Qur’an. The person, through zakat, enters a perennially blissful path, attaining proximity to God, an aspect eloquently illustrated in the following Hadith Qudsi (the wording is the Prophet’s, but the meaning belongs to God):
My servant cannot draw near Me with a more pleasant act than performing obligatory deeds. With supererogatory deeds, he will come so close to Me that I will become fond of him. And once I become fond of him, I will be his ears that hear, eyes that see, hands that seize and feet that walk. If he beseeches Me, I will grant his wish. If he seeks refuge in Me, I will protect him.
Zakat, a deed of distinguished virtue, elevates a person spiritually to a position of closer proximity to God, through the development of admirable traits, mainly generosity, and benevolence. As understood from several hadiths of the Noble Prophet (upon whom be peace), generosity carries a person away from vices, thus taking him closer to God. “The generous is close to God, to paradise, and to society and distant from hell. The miser is remote from God and from society and close to hell. A generous ignorant is closer to God than an educated miser.”
Generosity is essentially a reverberation of Jawad, one of the Beautiful Names of God, which means “The Ultimate Generous.” The degree of one’s success in imitating these Divine Names determines the degree of benefit attained on his behalf. It is precisely mentioned in one hadith, “God is Jawadand loves generosity; and as much as He is fond of morality, He equally despises immorality.”
TOTALITY IN WORSHIP
Islam, as a system, is an undividable whole, and it is founded on five principles of which an absence of any renders Islam obsolete. Only in the greater part of the Meccan Period, which was rather a time of transition, were the followers exempt from performing certain deeds; however, one must recall the pervasive characteristic of this period where believers were granted time for the pillars of faith to profoundly sink in their hearts. In other words, there was a psychological training in preparation for the major tasks to come. Nevertheless, after a firmly ensconced belief in God was successfully achieved, true adherents—whose numbers grew steadily at an astounding rate—considered not even a trivial compromise with regards to upholding and observing all of these pillars.
These five cornerstones of Islam are enunciated by the Prophet (upon whom be peace) in the following manner:
Islam is constructed on five foundations: “Bearing witness that there is no deity but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God, establishing salat, giving zakat, hajj and the fasting of Ramadan.
In another Hadith, the Messenger of God unequivocally declares:
I have been commanded to strive against humankind until they concede that there is no deity but God and Muhammad is His Messenger, establish salat, pay zakat. Once they perform accordingly, they will have salvaged, from me, their lives and properties, excluding the rights of Islam, and their judgment is with God.
A sharp contrast emerges when the precepts of this hadith are compared with the events that took place during the era of Abu Bakr—hence the source of inspiration for Abu Bakr’s uncompromising attitude against those who denied zakat as their obligation even so soon after the death of the Prophet (upon whom be peace).
All of these five pillars are inextricably intertwined with one another and the full, intended benefits of Islam are only received upon the application, if strength permits, of all of them. Once they are known and understood, the denial of one or more of these essential principles divulges, in fact, a problem in faith.
WHAT IS THE GENERAL VALUE GIVEN TO ZAKAT IN ISLAM?
The Qur’an advises us to perform salat, the zakat of our bodies, with utmost gracefulness, elegance, and precision, while we are instructed to offer zakat from that which God has benevolently bestowed on us in order to achieve social peace and bliss. To spend what God has given us, as commanded by Him, constitutes full acceptance of the ethic of God. Indubitably, God will spare those who have fully embraced Him, and ultimately will reward them accordingly.
Zakat is one of the five pillars upon which Islam is built. Without the presence of these pillars, it is impossible to even describe Islam. The Noble Messenger, as narrated, had forbidden his commanders to launch military campaigns in territories where the Adhan (the call for prayer) is heard, a practice confirming their religious status as believers. The subsequent policy of the first caliph Abu Bakr, in taking arms against whoever denied zakat, regardless of their submissiveness of other pillars like salat and sawm (fasting), is entirely in concordance with the spirit of Islam and further emphasizes the enormous magnitude and importance of zakat.
In the Qur’an, zakat is incessantly mentioned alongside with salat, as an explicit reference to the miraculous spiritual ascension achieved by humankind through prayer, which is further completed with a marvelous blessing that springs forth from almsgiving. In this way, the material is granted eternity in a world of mortality, an aspect highlighted in the Qur’an:
Establish salat and pay zakat. Whatever good you send beforehand for yourselves you will find it with God. (Baqara 2:110)