10 Nov Alms and Charity: Virtues of Zakat: Part 10
WHAT ARE THE EVIDENCE FOR THE OBLIGATION OF ZAKAT?
Zakat, with its specific nisab (required minimum wealth) and conditions, was decreed compulsory after the decree of fasting, in the second year of the Hijra, during the Medinan Period. Scores of verses pronounce, unambiguously, the obligation of zakat. Among these are the following examples:
Establish salat and pay zakat…
They establish salat and pay zakat.
…establishes salat and pays zakat.
If you establish salat, disburse zakat and believe in My Messengers…They spend from what We have bestowed on them.
Take alms ( sadaqa, zakat) of their wealth so that you may purify and sanctify them thereby, and pray for them; for you, prayers are a comfort for them. God is the Ultimate Seer and Hearer.
Alms are only for the poor and the needy, those who collect them and those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and for the ransom of captives and debtors and for the way of God. God is Knowing, Wise.
The number of verses of this kind in the Qur’an exceeds forty, and they are found in varied locations and contexts.
WHAT IS THE EVIDENCE FOR THE OBLIGATION OF ZAKAT IN THE SUNNAH (EXAMPLE OF THE PROPHET)?
In a lengthy and famous hadith; known as the Jibril (Gabriel) Hadith, found copiously in traditional hadith literature, the Messenger of God (upon whom be peace) was asked, “What is Islam?” upon which he gave the reply, “Islam is for you to worship God alone, to establish salat, to give the obligatory zakat and to fast during Ramadan,” asserting again the essential requirement of almsgiving.
A delegation of Abd al-Qays, a tribe which could only visit Medina during the months of Haram (mutual armistice between the tribes of Arabia) due to assaults by the hostile Mudar, had once requested on receiving edifying advice from the Messenger of God which they could convey to their tribe and through which they could all eventually be guided to Paradise. The Messenger advised them to hold fast to four deeds, precisely to bear witness to God and the prophethood of Muhammad (upon whom be peace); to establish salat; to pay zakat; and to fast during Ramadan. Similarly, the Messenger’s advice to Muadh ibn Jabal before his dispatch to Yemen was as such:
You are going to a land inhabited by the People of the Book (Christians and/or Jews). When you get there, invite them, firstly to bear witness that there is no deity but God, and Muhammad (upon whom be peace) is His Messenger. If they concur and accept, then inform them God has decreed five daily salats. If they accept this, then announce that God has made obligatory to take a portion of wealth possessed by the rich, to be handed out to the poor. If they acknowledge this, then abstain from seizing their (the rich) finest possessions (for zakat) and avoid the imprecation of the oppressed; for indeed, there is no curtain between their imprecations and God.
In the presence of the Messenger, the Companions usually steered clear of asking too many questions, as a result of their enormous and matchless respect for him. The following conversation did take place, in one of these instances, between a bedouin and the Messenger, concerning the issues of the Unity and Existence of God, daily prayers, fasting, hajj (pilgrimage) and zakat:
The man inquired, “Your incumbent zakat collector insists zakat is necessary. What do you say?” “He has told the truth,” responded the Messenger of God.
“Tell me for the love of Who has sent you, did God decree this?” the man asked. “Yes,” the Messenger replied.
When the bedouin proclaimed, “I swear by He Who has truthfully sent you that I will perform them (the five pillars of Islam) to their exact amount, never increasing nor decreasing them.”
Then the Messenger of God declared, “He is bound for Paradise if he keeps his word.”
In another narration of the same hadith in Sahih al-Bukhari, the following addition can be cited: “I declare my faith in entirety, to what you have brought. I am Dimam ibn Sa’laba, an ambassador of my tribe and brother of Sa’d ibn Bakr.” It is additionally renowned that zakat was one of the primary clauses included in the Companions’ Pledge of Allegiance to the Messenger of God.
The Holy Prophet elucidates the fundamental nature of alms in the succeeding hadith: “Islam is constructed on five foundations: bearing witness that there is no deity but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God, establishing salat, giving zakat, hajj and the fasting of Ramadan.”
The Messenger par-excellence explicates the Islamic credo in the next hadith, shedding a light for his Companions and scores of subsequent followers: “I have been commanded to strive against humankind until they concede that there is no deity but God and Muhammad is His Messenger, establish salat, and pay zakat. Once they perform accordingly, they will have salvaged from me their lives and properties, excluding the rights of Islam, and their judgment is with God.”
These words, delicately chosen by the Prophet in dealing with zakat, also vehemently emphasize its significance. Though many more proofs can be enumerated to bolster this argument, we will settle with this much for now, as more will be expressed in upcoming chapters.