The Meaning of Zakat:
Linguistically, the root of the word zakat implies purification, blessing and growth. Allah has stated in the Quran,
Another word used in the Quran and hadith for the zakat is sadaqa. This word is derived from sidq (the truth).
The Importance of Zakat:
There is no question that among the pillars of Islam, zakat ranks very close to that of prayer. They are often mentioned together in the Quran- in eighty two instances to be exact. The importance of zakat can also be seen in the following verse of the Quran where Allah orders the Companions to fight the mushrikeen (polytheists) wherever they can:
In this verse, Allah orders the Companions to fight them until they repent, establish the prayer and pay the zakat. Shortly afterwards in the same surah, following the same line of discussion, Allah says,
These two verses clearly prove the importance of zakat in Allah’s sight. The disbelievers will become a part of this religion when they repent, pray and give the zakat. Hence, the payment of zakat is a true sign that a person is a Muslim and submitting himself to Allah. One can also see from the Quran, that one of the keys to receiving Allah’s mercy in the Hereafter is the payment of zakat.
In surah al-Taubah, verse 71, Allah states,
The payment of zakat should purify a person. It also purifies his wealth. Allah said to the Prophet (peace be upon him),
Beyond that, it can purify a believer’s soul by cleansing him of the diseases of stinginess and miserliness. It also purifies the wealth of the person by removing any evil effect from it.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) once said,
Zakat also has a very important role to play for society as a whole. There are some obvious factors that may be stated here. For example, zakat helps the poor of society as they receive wealth that they need. This should also help to strengthen the ties of brotherhood within a Muslim society, as the poor know that the rich will come to their aid through zakat and other means of charity. Even for those who are not very rich, it makes them realize that they can afford to give for the sake of Allah. They may realize that they will not starve or die if they give some of their wealth for the sake of Allah. Furthermore, it can make those who possess wealth realize that such wealth has actually come as a blessing from Allah. Hence, the person must use it in the way that is pleasing to Allah. One of the most pleasing aspects is to fulfill one’s responsibility of paying zakat upon such wealth.
There are other important social aspects that can be deduced from the Quran and sunnah. For example, one of the keys to the establishment of a Muslim community and Muslim state is the giving of zakat. Allah says in the Quran,
Muslims who do not pay their zakat are not only harming themselves but they can actually harm the entire Muslim ummah.
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said,
The Prophet (peace be upon him) warned of the consequences of not paying such zakat. Note the following hadith from Sahih al-Bukhari:
In another verse that also includes those who do not pay zakat, Allah has said,