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09 August 2012

The Institution of Zakat

Zakat occupies an important position in Islamic law and the Islamic social system. It is not given as a favour nor as a gift but is rather as a duty where the amount is calculated in accordance with divine instruction. It is a major Islamic duty either given by the individual or collected by the state in order to fulfill a particular social service. The one who gives it does not hold favour for doing so, and the beneficiary does not have to beg for it; the Islamic social system could never be based on begging.

The institution of Zakat works to fulfill the basic needs of the Muslim community. It strikes a balance between the economics of socialism and its call for equal distribution, and that of capitalism and how it concentrates wealth into the hands of the elite.

Zakat is not simply regarded as a tax, it is an act of worship which may be described as financial worship. Failure to properly discharge the obligation is a sin that incurs Allah's wrath and is a cause for the loss of divine protection over one's assets. It is also regarded as a factor that may justify punishment in the afterlife.

For Muslims, this is part of the belief system that denies absolute capital accumulation in the portfolios of those at the pinnacle of economic life. Rejecting the order of Zakat was equated by the first Caliph, Abu Bakr, to be a violation that sanctioned the waging of war against those who either denied it or refrained from giving it.

"Take Zakah from their wealth to purify and cleanse them"- [Quran 9:103]

If the rich were to adhere to the concept of Zakat, absolute poverty would seize to exist and global poverty would be greatly reduced, and undeniably, due to the good conduct of man, Allah would place barakah in the nation's wealth, thus removing poverty. When Allah places barakah in a matter it increases in its capacity and outcome.

The Muslims witnessed such an era during the reign of Umar bin Abdul-Aziz, so much in fact that the Zakat collected was said to have been used to sponsor those who needed financial help in getting married, as the number of poor people willing to accept Zakat had diminished. It is unfortunate that this notion of divine blessing is often neglected in contemporary discourses on Islamic finance. Beyond the recipients of Zakat, Muslims are to assist each other with Sadaqah

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