“giving the zakat”
Linguistically, ‘zakat‘ implies purification, blessing and growth. The Prophet Muhammad (s) mentioned the giving of zakat, a portion of one’s wealth in charity, as the third pillar of Islam, in the hadith relating that Islam has been built on five pillars, which you can find listed in full here.
There is no question that among the pillars of Islam, zakat ranks very close to that of prayer. They are mentioned together in the Qur’an on more than eighty occasions, like in the following example:
“But if they repent, offer prayer and give zakat, then they are your bretheren in religion. And We expound the signs for a people who know.” (Surah al-Taubah:11)
We can see here that zakat is ranked with prayer as distinguishing a believer from the disbelievers. The payment of zakat is a sign that a person has submitted themselves to Allah (swt) and He (swt) tells us that paying zakat is one of the keys to receiving His Mercy in the Hereafter:
“The believers, men and women, are helpers and supporters of one another, they enjoin what is right and forbid what is evil, they offer their prayers perfectly, they give the zakat and they obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah will bestow His mercy on them. Surely, Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.” (Surah al-Taubah:71)
The payment of zakat should purify us by cleansing us of the diseases of stinginess and miserliness, and it should purify our wealth by removing any evil effects from it. It is also one of the keys to establishing the Muslim community and the Muslim State. Zakat plays an important role in the wider society by helping the poor and strengthening the ties of brotherhood and sisterhood. It also shows the believers that all that they have comes from Allah (swt) and they will not suffer if they give wealth for His (swt) sake. In fact, Allah promises to increase them in reward:
“The likeness of those who spend in the way of Allah is like a seed [of grain], which grows seven spikes, in each spike is a hundred grains, and Allah multiples [His reward] for whom He wills. And Allah is All Encompassing, All Knowing.” (Surah al-Baqarah:261)
Allah makes it clear in the Qur’an that withholding the payment of zakat is displeasing to Him (swt):
“And let not those who covetously withhold of that which Allah has bestowed on them of His Bounty (wealth) think that it is good for them. Nay, it will be worse for them. The things which they covetously withheld shall be tied to their necks like a collar on the Day of Resurrection. And to Allah belongs the heritage of the heavens and the earth, and Allah is Well-Aquainted with all that you do.” (Surah ali-Imraan:180)
“[There are] those who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah – announce to them a painful torment. On the Day when that wealth will be heated in the fire of hell and it will brand their foreheads, flanks and backs. [It will be said to them], ‘This is the treasure which you hoarded for yourselves. Now taste of what you used to hoard.'” (Surah al-Taubah:34-35)
What can we learn from this? We are just as obligated to pay zakat as we are to pray. We should ensure that we understand how to calculate how much zakat we need to pay, and that we pay it once every lunar year. Many people use Ramadan as the reminder and pay it in this time in the hope of seeking extra reward, but it can be paid at any time. It is important to give it with the intention of pleasing Allah and to seek to use it as a means to purify ourselves of the ills of greed and miserliness. And with Allah (swt) lies the highest reward.