10 Nov Alms and Charity: Virtues of Zakat: Part 5
ZAKAT PREVENTS HOARDING WEALTH
Stockpiling, through stowing accumulated wealth, is virtually an economic menace to the greater part of society; thus, Islam’s negative view of it is no surprise. The unethical process of stocking away certain goods by certain people causes an abnormal plummeting in prices; hence, the avarice of the minority deprives the majority. This is blatantly unjust and its insidious effects on society are amply evident and ominous. Islam, through zakat and other cures, relentlessly seeks to purge from society even the minor existence of such a notion. “…those who hoard up gold and silver and do not spend it in the way of God, give them the glad tidings of a painful punishment” (Tawba 9:34). Stockpiling, namely the process in which certain cunning steps are taken in an insatiable quest to hoard greater wealth indoctrinates its culprit with spurious illusions of profit and thus he excitedly anticipates the realization of it. The Qur’anic reproach, from this perspective, is quite ironic, heralding stashers a rather different result than what they expect: “…give the glad tidings unto them of a painful punishment.” The delicate use of words in the Qur’an, as perhaps epitomized in this instance, accentuates its matchless rhetorical prowess.
The Messenger of God has, in fact, described how gold and silver on which zakat was not paid will be instruments of torment for its hoarder in the afterlife, used to brand the owners after it is heated in a fire. Again, livestock such as camel, cattle, sheep, horse and etc. that have been deliberately excluded in the calculation of zakat, in the hereafter, will become enlarged, agonizing their owners through fierce sessions of biting, chewing and gnawing. This could only be regarded as a just outcome, as the perpetrators will reap what they have sowed, thereby paying the ultimate price for their socially inconsiderate postures.
In another hadith, the Prophet illustrates the following image: “If a person financially eligible for zakat refuses, then his wealth, in the hereafter, will embody the appearance of snake, bold from excessive poison. The man will flee, only to find that each time the snake is relentlessly breathing down his neck; and it will be exclaimed to him, ‘This is your wealth which you were so stingy over!’ Finally, realizing there is no chance of escaping, the man will helplessly insert his hand into the snake’s mouth, hereby the snake will commence torturing him by gnawing his hand like a camel chewing crop.”
The same hadith, as cited in al-Bukhari, includes the following addition:
The snake will bite on the person’s Adam’s apple and repetitiously state, “I am your wealth, I am your treasure,” and then recite the subsequent verse:
And let not those who hoard up that which God has bestowed upon them of His bounty think that it is better for them. It is worse for them. That which they hoard will be their collar on the Day of Resurrection. The inheritance of the heavens and the earth is God’s, and He is aware of what you do. (Al Imran 3:180)
All this must not be conceived as discouragement or dissuasion from attaining wealth; on the contrary, it is just a reminder to a Muslim of the pivotal responsibilities ascribed to moneymaking—responsibilities that must strike firm root in a Muslim’s heart. Besides, zakat purifies the wealth of property, however great it may be, as underlined by the Noble Prophet:
Even if it is buried, wealth on which zakat is offered is not a treasure; the wealth on which zakat is not paid for is a treasure, even if it is exposed. After reaching the minimum amount, wealth out of which zakat is offered is no treasure. The payer of zakat has paid his debt. To give more is of more virtue.
ZAKAT ETERNALIZES WEALTH
The Earth is mortal and so are its inhabitants. Just as nothing on Earth is immortal, the Earth itself is destined for nothingness, firmly locked in the hands of mortality. Even more certain is the fact that wealth, along with its accumulators, are sooner or later, bound to say farewell. Thus the Earth is merely like an inn, found on a highway that takes the traveler to the pre-planned abode. However great a person’s wealth may be, the time allocated for benefiting from it is extremely small. Human’s lust for eternity and riches are feelings, cultivated to encourage and prepare them for their ultimate abode, the afterlife; this innate lust is so powerful that even all the world’s riches would be inadequate in satiating it.
By no means does this pose a dead end for humanity. Investing their temporal possessions in the afterlife gives them a precious opportunity to channel this lust towards a place that is bound to offer profits of unthinkable magnitude. There are two essentials in this investment of possession: first, life and wealth are utilized in the way of God; and second, they are sacrificed when and if required. This remains the only method to endow the soul with the riches of eternity
and to procure magnificent rewards in the process. It is quite appropriate, at this point, to recall the Qur’anic words in the relation, “Yet if they repent and establish the salat and pay the zakat, then they shall become your brothers in religion. Thus We explain the revelations in detail for those who know” (Tawba 9:11).
During the Aqaba Pledge where the Medinan Muslims swore allegiance to the Prophet (upon whom be peace) when the Companions had inquired what was in store for them upon acceptance, the Noble Prophet responded, “Paradise!” Sadaqaand zakat, then, swiftly commences in this world a process of eternalizing property in preparation for the hereafter, as stressed by the Messenger (upon whom be peace): “My wealth, my wealth” cries the Children of Adam but alas O Children of Adam! Have you really any wealth except for what you have consumed, what you have worn and what you have donated as sadaqa.” In a sense, the wealth that is spent on Earth through sadaqa and zakat evolve into prosperous assets for the afterlife.