Whatever a person possesses, is due to Allah (S.W.T)’s grace and favours. He himself has no control over gain or loss. It is therefore incumbent on him to spend the bounties he has received from Allah (S.w.T.) in a manner that Allah (S.w.T.) has commanded, failing which the punishment will be severe.
Hazrat Imam Baqir (a.s.) said,
“Whosoever does not pay Zakat on his wealth, the wealth shall assume the shape of a Python on the judgement day and will be around his neck and till his accounting is complete it (the serpent) will be chewing at his flesh.”1
Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) says,
“The Almighty Allah has appointed Zakat with Prayer, and said, ‘Establish prayer and pay Zakat.’ Then one who recites prayer but does not pay Zakat (it is as if) he has not performed prayer also, because the two of them are connected.”4
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) remarks,
“One who does not pay the Zakat of his wealth, at the time of death he will desire to be sent back to the world once more so that he may pay Zakat.”
As Allah (S.w.T.) says:
“Until when death overtakes one of them he says: Send me back, my Lord, send me back; Haply I may do good in that which I have left.”(Surah al-Mum’inūn 23: 99-100) 5
A person who accepts that Zakat is obligatory but does not pay due to niggardliness, is a transgressor and will face the consequences accordingly. But if he does not believe that Zakat is obligatory, he is a kafir and Najis (ritually impure). Zakat, like prayers is an article of faith. Whoever denies a single article of faith goes beyond the pale of Islam and is an infidel.
There is hidden wisdom in making Zakat and other charities obligatory. Some of them are mentioned in traditions. For example such duties are a kind of test for wealthy people, that whether Allah (S.w.T.) is more dear to them or these temporal worldly riches; whether they have sincere faith in heavenly rewards, paradise and divine recompense. Whether they are true to their claim of being the slaves of Allah (S.w.T.), High and Mighty. The second benefit is that through this arrangement the financial problems of the poor are solved.
Types of Zakat and its Quantity
Zakat is of two types,
Obligatory Zakat is again of two types.
The Zakat of wealth and the Zakat of body (Fitra).
The Zakat of wealth is for nine items: Four food grains (Wheat, barley, dates and dried grapes); Three quadrupeds, (Sheep or goats, cows and camels) and two types of coins, (gold and silver).
Zakat of Fitra
At the time of sunset on Eid ul Fitr night (i.e. the night preceding Eid day), whoever is adult and sane and is neither unconscious, nor poor, nor the slave of another, he should give, on his own behalf as well as on behalf of all those who are his dependents, about Three kilos per head of wheat or barley or dates or raisins or rice or millet etc. It is also sufficient if he pays the price of one of these items in cash. As per obligatory precaution, he should not give from that food which is not staple in his place, even if it be wheat, barley, dates or raisins.
We must remember that the immediate benefit of Zakat of Fitra is that one shall be safe from accidental or destined death the following year. It is related from Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) that he told his financial secretary to pay the Zakatul Fitra of all his family members and not to overlook any of them. “Because if his Zakat is not paid I would be in constant fear of his demise.”
“What do you mean by ‘demise’?” asked the secretary.
“Death”, replied Imam (a.s.), “And its reward is the acceptance of a month of fasting.”
Muhammad b. al-Qa’sim b. al-Fadl reported, saying: “I wrote to Abu’ al-Hasan al-Ridha’, peace be on him, to ask him: Does the guardian payZaka’t al-Fitra 48 on behalf of the orphans who have wealth? So he wrote: ‘There is no zaka’t(imposed) on the orphan.’49”
As for Zaka’t al-Fitra, it is not obligatory on the orphan nor on his guardian, who has no right to take it out of the orphan’s wealth, as it is indicated by the narration through which the jurists have given a religious edict, for there is no religious duty on the orphan until he or she reaches ritual puberty (15 years in the case of boys and 9 years in the case of girls).
More Traditions on Zakat
Ahmed b. Muhammad b. Abu’ Nasr reported from al-Ridha’, saying: “I asked him about alms (zaka’t): Is it lawful for the Hashimites to take alms (zaka’t)? ‘No,’ he replied, ‘but it is lawful for them to take alms from each other.’53”
‘Abd al-Rahma’n b. al-Hajja’jj narrated, saying: “I asked Abu’ al-Hasan al-Ridha’, peace be on him, about the man who spends on a man who does not belong to his own family, but he finds difficulty in spending on him and his clothing, is his fitraobligatory on him? ‘No,’ he answered, ‘the fitra of his family is obligatory as alms on him apart from him (i.e. the man who does not belong to the family.’ Then he said: ‘The family are: the child, the slave, and the wife who is the mother of the child.’55”
The Messenger of Allah (S) says,
“By Allah in whose hands is the life of Mohammed (S), No one does Khayanat with Allah except the polytheist who does not pay any Zakat from his wealth.”16
The Messenger of Allah (S) says,
“O ‘Ali! There are ten deniers of Almighty Allah in this Ummah; Tale-tellers, the magicians, the gigolos, those who have anal intercourse with non-mahram women, those who have intercourse with animals, those who commit incest, those who try to spread mischief, those who supply weapons to disbelievers (which shall be used against Muslims), those who do not pay Zakat and those who in spite of being capable do not perform Hajj and meet their death.”17
Zakat can be spent in eight ways as mentioned in the Holy Qur’an.
Disposal of Zakat
Holy Qur’an says:
“Alms are only for the poor and the needy and the officials (appointed) over them, and those whose hearts are made to incline (to truth) and the (ransoming of) captives and those in debts and in the way of Allah and the wayfarer.”(Surah at-Tawba 9: 60)
Zakat can be spent for the following eight purposes:
(1) It may be given to a poor person, who does not posses actual or potential means to meet his own expenses, as well as that of his family for a period of one year. However, a person who has an art or possesses property or capital to meet his expenses, is not classified as poor.
(2) It may be paid to a miskin (a destitute person) who leads a harder life than a Faqir (a poor person).
(3) It can be given to a person who is a Wakil of Holy Imam (a.s.) or his representative to collect Zakat, to keep it in safe custody, to maintain its accounts and to deliver it to the Imam or his representative or to the poor.
(4) It can be given to those non-Muslims who may, as a result, be inclined to Islam, or may assist the Muslims for fighting against the enemies, or for other justified purposes. It can be given to those Muslims also whose faith in the Prophet or in the Wilāyat of Amir ul-Mu’minīn in unstable and weak, provided that, as a result of giving, their faith is reinforced.
(5) It can be spent to purchase the slaves to set them free, the details of which have been given in its relevant Chapter.
(6) It can be given to an indebted person who is unable to repay his debt.
(7) It may be spent in the way of Allah (S.w.T.) for things which have common benefit to the Muslims; for example, to construct a mosque, or a school for religious education or to keep the city clean, or to widen or build tar roads.
(8) It may be given to a stranded traveller.
These are the situations in which Zakat can be spent. But in situation number 3 and 4, the owner cannot spend without the permission of Imam (a.s.) or his representative; and the same applies to the 7th situation, as per obligatory precaution.