People often assume Islam to be a religion that is bound by blind faith in Allah and following His orders, but little do they know that Islam is actually a lifestyle which we all should adopt for a peaceful life in this world and hereafter.
Understanding the religion itself would make you realize that it has proper guidance for all its believers and non-believers on how to live.
It facilitates and encourages the promotion of peace, love, social harmony and forgiveness which were also the primary principles that Muhammad (SAW) adopted, in order to introduce Islam to the world.
The religion is overall based on five important pillars, one of which is Zakat.
Before we get into the deeper purpose of this, it is worth mentioning that most of the followers of Islam often mix Zakat with Sadqa which is not an acceptable thing to do.
Sadqa is a voluntary choice of helping the needy. You can give as much Sadqa as you want, to according to your will; whereas Zakat is an obligation that has to be paid annually, based on your nisab.
There is of course an objective behind every obligation set in Islam and therefore Zakat has a purpose too. In fact, Zakat is a wider approach to make people realize social justice, brotherhood and equality in a society.
It was ordered to create and maintain economic balance while eradicating the discrimination of wealth. By giving money in the name of Allah, money starts circulating from rich to the poor of the society which makes life easier for everyone.
On the other hand it is also taken as a promise that all of our wealth belongs to Allah and there is nothing more important than following the right path that Allah has advised us.
Our wealth remains purified and with the blessings of Almighty it even doubles by giving more. It also helps us to set ourselves free of greed and personal desires.
Poverty has been there as one of the biggest problems in the modern civilization. It is increasing rapidly across the world especially in under developing nations and the Muslim world.
Predicting about this thousands of years ago, Allah recommended several ways to reduce this suffering and grief in society, through Zakat.
The parameters of the obligation depend upon personal wealth and savings above a minimum amount of every individual, which is also known as nisab.
This compulsion also extends to possessing a specific amount of gold, silver and other tangible properties having a certain value. However, Nisab of different items also vary significantly here.
As per estimates, nisab of gold is raised when someone is in possession of 87.48 grams of gold for a lunar year. Whereas, Zakat on silver is raised when someone is in possession of 612.36 grams of silver for a lunar year.
The payable amount is then equivalent to 2.5% of either weight of silver and gold or equivalent to the value of silver and gold.
But yes, it is necessary to keep in mind that Zakat is only applicable on those possessions which have been owned by the person for more than one lunar year (354 days).
The vital importance of Zakat is reflected as the law of Allah as He says in Quran:
“…My mercy encompasses all things, but I will specify it for the righteous who give Zakat.” (7:156)
In majority of the Muslim countries, unfortunately there is no proper system of collection of Zakat and therefore it is paid voluntarily in mosques or charity organizations.
But there are also countries which collect it through state designated officials, employed for the very purpose. Where it is important to know the purpose of Zakat and its eligibility details, one must also take care of the fact that while giving charity one has to be humble and respectful.
Pride can diminish every good deed in Islam. So, we should be extremely careful about giving alms with utmost respect. In the end, it is our belief and actions that will help us get through various tests in this life and the Hereafter.