Zakat – the Lost Pillar

What is Zakat?

  1. Third Pillar. Zakat is an essential part of the system of Islam. In the five pillars of Islam, it is number three. It comes immediately after belief and prayer and before both fasting Ramadhan and pilgrimage to Makka. It is a pure act of worship and obedience to Allah.
  2. Financial Worship. At the same time, it involves actions which are financial, legal, social and interpersonal. The concept of worship in Islam is quite broad.
  3. Administered. It is administered and enforced if necessary by the ruler.
  4. Wealth Redistribution. If anyone asks you if Islam advocates government-mandated and managed redistribution of wealth (a hot-button political issue in the west), the answer is, “Yes! It does.” Zakat is a huge part of that.
  5. Ownership and Rights. It is a right against the property of those required to pay it, meaning those having more than about $1000 continuously for the whole year, for example in the case of zakat on money. They have no ownership rights to the portion of their wealth which is due as zakat. It rightfully belongs to the deserving parties according to the Law. If it is not taken and put in its proper place, that would constitute a mis-allocation of wealth and a violation of rights and should be treated just as seriously as highway robbers taking the wealth of travelers or employees embezzling the wealth of businesses or government.
  6. Local First. Zakat must first be used to cover the local needs where it is collected. Then, if there is excess, it is to be transferred to the capital of the nation and from there taken to where there is ongoing need or kept in reserve.
  7. Modern Boundaries Void. Zakat is a nationwide (i.e., “Ummah-wide” if you will) obligation and system over all the Muslims in the world. So, the previous item (collection, needs assessment and distribution) needs to be executed on that level. At present, we are fragmented in small nation-states. This division is not as matters should be and it has no standing in the Law. Therefore the above procedures for redistribution according to need must happen across the Muslim world without regard for these national boundaries.
  8. Not an Individual Act. One of the many aspects of this glorious deen becoming degraded into a “religion” is that in the absence of Muslim rulers – or Muslim rulers properly implementing this third pillar of Islam, we have transformed zakat into an individual act and a voluntary charity. Even if it is still regarded as “mandatory”, without administration and enforcement the effect isn’t much different. It also doesn’t and can’t work effectively. People giving zakat individually have only limited ability to know where their funds are put to best use. This is a disaster.
  9. Current Reality not Correct. Continuing to give zakat as individuals in the absence of its correct implementation is of course correct and we must in this way make the best of a BAD situation and attempt to keep ourselves innocent before Allah as Muslim individuals. However, this must not be confused with correctly implementing the zakat which Allah ordained and his Messenger illustrated for us, which must continue to be our objective.

What is a Pillar in Islamic Terminology?

Islam is built on five pillars or fundamental supports. These are essential to Islam. They include spiritual, physical and financial action. They include acts which are individual, collective and social (interpersonal). The Prophet (sas) mentioned them in this hadith:

Islam is constructed on a foundation of five: 1) witnessing that there is no deity but Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger, 2) maintaining the prayer, 3) rendering the zakat, 4) pilgrimage and 5) fasting Ramadhan بُنِيَ الإِسْلاَمُ عَلَى خَمْسٍ: شَهَادَةِ أَنْ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلَّا الله وَأَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ الله ، وَإِقَامِ الصَّلاَةِ، وَإِيتَاءِ الزَّكَاةِ، وَالحَجِّ، وَصَوْمِ رَمَضَانَ

The precise definition of “pillar” or rukn in Islamic terminology is: something which is an essential part of something else such that its absence negates the existence of that of which it is a part.

Thus, standing at Arafat is a “pillar” of the pilgrimage. Whoever omitted this part has not made the pilgrimage. Similarly, Islam is not complete if any of its essential parts – pillars – are missing.

The Prophet (sas) is the Example

The next thing we must know is that exactly how we fulfill our obligations in Islam is according to the teachings and example of Allah’s Messenger. This is as he (sas) said about the prayer: “Pray in the manner in which you see me pray.”

When there is discordance between the reality we find ourselves in and Allah’s rulings, what is upon us is to strive our utmost to rectify that reality, not attempt the change Allah’s ruling or invent exceptions and special cases to match it instead. The practice of individual Muslims looking for recipients for their zakat and distributing it themselves is not anything brought to us by the Prophet Muhammad (sas). It may be the best we can do at a particular time, but it must not be mistaken for the zakat with which Allah and His Messenger commanded us.

Zakat in the time of the Messenger of Allah and during the righteous successors was centrally administered. There were administrators, custodians and collectors. In fact, these very workers constitute the third of the eight avenues in which Allah declared zakat funds are to be spent, meaning on their salaries. See Qur’an, At-Tauba: Verse 60.

The Prophet (sas) sent collectors locally and to outlying areas to determine what was owed by people and collect it from them. These workers have various names in the hadith such as:

jubaah (جباة): collectors
su’aah (سعاة):  agents
musaddiqeen (مصدقين):  receivers of sadaqa (charity, here referring to zakat)

We see clearly from this that zakat is to be collected, administered and distributed by those in authority in the land.

Zakat is a Right of the Recipients

Zakat is not a “charity” and it is not voluntary.  It is not left to the individual to do it, rather, the zakat of the Prophet (sas) and his righteous successors was a centrally administered system for redistribution of wealth for the good of society at large.

Furthermore, it is a RIGHT of those who need and deserve it. Allah said, speaking about the believers:

And those in whose property there is a defined right. (24) For the needy – those who ask and those who don’t.   وَالَّذِينَ فِي أَمْوَالِهِمْ حَقٌّ مَعْلُومٌ (24) لِلسَّائِلِ وَالْمَحْرُومِ

Allah mentioned the great sin of those who hoard away money, referring to that hoarded money as “kanz“.

 … And [as for] those who hoard gold and silver and don’t spend it in Allah’s way, then inform them of a painful punishment.  (وَالَّذِينَ يَكْنِزُونَ الذَّهَبَ وَالْفِضَّةَ وَلَا يُنْفِقُونَهَا فِي سَبِيلِ الله فَبَشِّرْهُمْ بِعَذَابٍ أَلِيمٍ (34

(The verb for “hoard” in the above verse is derived from the same root as “kanz“.)

So, the Companions became very concerned about having any saved wealth for fear that it may fall under this threat. This was cleared up soon thereafter by the Prophet (sas) who informed them that any wealth no matter large or small, the zakat of which has been paid, is never considered “kanz“.

We understand from these two taken together that anyone who saves wealth and fails to render its zakat falls under the threat in this verse, even if the amount of wealth is not that large – as long as it is large enough to make zakat obligatory. The prophet told them:

 Once you have paid the zakat of your wealth, you have fulfilled what is upon you regarding it. And if anyone gains wealth in an illicit manner and then gives sadaqa from it, he will not have any reward in that and the sin remains. “إِذَا أَدَّيْتَ زَكَاةَ مَالِكَ، فَقَدْ قَضَيْتَ مَا عَلَيْكَ فِيهِ، وَمَنْ جَمَعَ مَالًا حَرَامًا، ثُمَّ تَصَدَّقَ بِهِ، لَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُ فِيهِ أَجْرٌ، وَكَانَ إِصْرُهُ عليه”

This hadith is hassan (valid) and was reported by Ibn Hibban who titled the chapter: Anything the zakat of which has been paid is not kanz. This same statement is found in many other narrations attributed to the Prophet (sas).

Although we now use sadaqa to mean voluntary giving exclusively in order to distinguish it from zakat, this is not so in the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Sadaqa can in fact mean either one and is frequently used to mean the obligatory zakat.

… to be continued

 

The Deen is not a Religion

Islam is a religion, a spiritual path, a code of ethics, a political system, an economic system, a social system, a body of foundational law or “constitution” and much, much more. As such, it is very different from those things we casually know as “religions”.

Most Muslims themselves are quite confused about this issue, especially since the era of European colonialism and the final fall of what remained of the Islamic nation in the form of the Ottoman Caliphate which ceased to exist about 100 years ago.

Islam contains the solutions to all of the ills which afflict mankind – including those afflicting the Muslims themselves in the lands in which they live. And yet, most of the lands of the Muslims suffer from darkness, ignorance and oppression. This is not a surprise to any Muslim who has been paying attention to the teachings of the Prophet (sas). The problem is first and foremost the rulers in power over the Muslims.

The Prophet (sas) said:

 Imam Ahmad reported that An-Nu’man ibn Basheer (ra) said: We were sitting in the Masjid when Abu Tha’laba Al-Khushani came and said: O Basheer ibn Saad, do you know from memory the statement of the Prophet (sas) about the rulers? Hudhaifa said: I have that khutba memorized. And so, Abu Tha’laba sat down. فقد روى الإمام أحمد عن النعمان بن بشير رضي الله عنه الله، قال: كنا جلوساً في المسجد فجاء أبو ثعلبة الخشني فقال: يا بشير بن سعد أتحفظ حديث رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم في الأمراء، فقال حذيفة: أنا أحفظ خطبته. فجلس أبو ثعلبة.
 Hudhaifa said: Allah’s Messenger (sas) said: Prophethood will be with you as long as Allah wills it to be and then He will remove it when He wishes to do so. Then, there will be Succession upon the path of the Prophethood. It will be for as long as Allah wills it to be and then He will remove it when He wishes to do so. Then, there will be predatory and oppressive kings and it will be for as long as Allah wills it to be and then He will remove it when He wishes to do so. Then, there will be tyrannical and dictatorial kings and it will be for as long as Allah wills it to be and then He will remove it when He wishes to do so. Then, there will be succession upon the program of Prophethood. Then, the Prophet (sas) was quiet. فقال حذيفة: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: تكون النبوة فيكم ما شاء الله أن تكون، ثم يرفعها الله إذا شاء أن يرفعها، ثم تكون خلافة على منهاج النبوة فتكون ما شاء الله أن تكون، ثم يرفعها الله إذا شاء أن يرفعها، ثم تكون ملكًا عاضًا فيكون ما شاء الله أن يكون، ثم يرفعها إذا شاء الله أن يرفعها، ثم تكون ملكًا جبرية فتكون ما شاء الله أن تكون، ثم يرفعها الله إذا شاء أن يرفعها، ثم تكون خلافة على منهاج النبوة، ثم سكت.

The above narration is sahih according to Al-Albani.

So, Islam as a system bringing its immense benefits of justice, equity and righteous leadership, lasted only between 3 and 4 decades. Then, it “stopped”. Its teachings were intact. They are protected by Allah. They continue to be available to all who seek them and we can (and will) return to the divine system which the example of the Prophet (sas) plus these thirty-some years of righteous succession manifested as an example for us.

This is further supported by the following hadith:

 Abdullah ibn Masood reported from the Prophet (sas) that he said: The millstone of Islam will turn for 35, 36 or 37 (years). If they go to destruction, it will be the same as similar ones who came before, but if they establish the deen it will flourish for seventy years.  عَنْ عَبْدِ اللهُ بْنِ مَسْعُودٍ، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ: تَدُورُ رَحَى الْإِسْلَامِ لِخَمْسٍ وَثَلَاثِينَ، أَوْ سِتٍّ وَثَلَاثِينَ، أَوْ سَبْعٍ وَثَلَاثِينَ، فَإِنْ يَهْلَكُوا فَسَبِيلُ مَنْ هَلَكَ، وَإِنْ يَقُمْ لَهُمْ دِينُهُمْ، يَقُمْ لَهُمْ سَبْعِينَ عَامًا

The above hadith is sahih according to Al-Albani.

Islam established a comprehensive system and a just state unlike any other before or since. The millstone represents this working system. It moves, it works and it produces, supplying the needs of the people.

But, it was not Allah’s decision that this would continue. The complete system of Islam continued less than 4 decades. The knowledge, however, is with us and under divine protection. Before the end of this world, it will again be manifested on this earth for all to see.

Through the centuries, Islam, or at least the “religion” part of it has survived all kinds of difficulties, but the rest of Islam has all but disappeared from the face of the earth.

The scholars of this nation have survived centuries of oppressive and tyrannical rulers. From this they learned the need to prevent “fitnah” (chaos and disorder). Great patience and wisdom was required to prevent the situation from becoming even worse. The scholars of the sunnah provided this through the ages. Unfortunately, this caution has all but squashed any real efforts in problem-solving and working through exactly HOW the foundational teachings of Islam can be applied to solve these problems. Even if the rulings of Islam in their complete form cannot be achieved at present, we must never abandon or lose the knowledge of what they are nor the desire to see them brought back to life one day.

The main obstacle to such progress is the rulers and governments. Ahlus-sunnah wal-jamaa are in agreement that rebellion against established authority is to be avoided in all but the most extreme circumstances. This is because the consequences of chaos are likely to be more extreme than the consequences of things as they are. Unjust rulers either obliterate the Law, or they filter it and apply only what doesn’t go against their interests as tyrants. Using the Shari’a only on the poor, weak or those outside of the ruling elite is not Islam, far from it, and is a sure path to destruction of a nation.

O people! What destroyed those who came before you was that when a noble person stole they left him alone, but when a weak person stole they implemented the punishment. By Allah! If Fatimah the daughter of Muhammad stole, I would cut off her hand!  أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ، إِنَّمَا أَهْلَكَ الَّذِينَ قَبْلَكُمْ أَنَّهُمْ كَانُوا إِذَا سَرَقَ فِيهِمِ الشَّرِيفُ تَرَكُوهُ، وَإِذَا سَرَقَ فِيهِمِ الضَّعِيفُ أَقَامُوا عَلَيْهِ الْحَدَّ، وَايْمُ اللهِ لَوْ أَنَّ فَاطِمَةَ بِنْتَ مُحَمَّدٍ سَرَقَتْ لَقَطَعْتُ يَدَهَا

(Reported by Muslim and Bukhari)

But even this dire circumstance we find ourselves in is no justification for completely eliminating even DISCUSSION of these principles as appears to currently be the case. If we don’t analyze and understand what is upon us, how will we ever be able to implement it?

If Islamic scholars cannot even investigate, speak and debate these ideas freely in their current situation then it is a fardh kifaya on those who can to migrate to wherever then can engage in such for the betterment of this Nation.

Reviving true Islam is not about empty claims and raising banners. An oppressor in the name of Islam is no better than an oppressor in the name of Nationalism or any other forms of “jahiliya” current in our world today.

Rather it is about looking at real problems we face and the many ways our social, political and economic structure have deteriorated since those glorious decades with the Prophet and the 30 years following his departure (sas) when Islam was still working.

 Safina (ra) narrated: Allah’s Messenger (sas) said: Succession in my nation will be for 30 years, then kingdoms after that. Then, Safina said: Count the times of Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali. And we found that to be 30 years.Narrated by Ahmad and Al-Arua’oot rated it hassan (valid). عن سَفِينَةُ رضي الله عنه، قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: الْخِلاَفَةُ فِي أُمّتِي ثَلاَثُونَ سَنَةً، ثُمّ مُلْكٌ بَعْدَ ذَلِكَ. ثُمّ قَالَ سَفِينَةُ: امْسِكْ عَلَيْكَ خِلاَفَةَ أَبي بَكْرٍ، ثُمّ قَالَ: وَخِلاَفةَ عُمَرَ وَخِلاَفَةَ عُثْمانَ، ثُمّ قَالَ لي: امسِكْ خِلاَفَةَ عَلِيّ قال: فَوَجَدْنَاهَا ثَلاَثِينَ سَنَةً. رواه أحمد وحسنه الأرناؤوط

This blog is dedicated to looking into the ways in which Islam really does contain the solutions to all of our problems as a nation, but how we have failed to recognize and act upon them.

I ask Allah that this may represent some contribution to the betterment of this Ummah, to keep my intention sincere and to overlook any mistakes I may make in the process. And only Allah can bring success.

Qur’an Translation/Tafsir Now On-Line

My book which includes a new translation of Al-Fatiha and Al-Baqarah along with precise tafsir also in English, recently published by Dar Al-Maiman Publications, is now available. It is under the three links on the main menu:

Introduction
Al-Fatiha
Al-Baqarah

Notice that the footnote numbers are highlighted in blue. Click on the number to read the footnote. At the bottom of each footnote, there is a blue “up arrow”. Click on that to return to where you were in the main text.

Please provide feedback citing Sura and verse number via comments to this post.

Jazaakum Allahu khairan