Whoever is kind to the creatures of God is kind to himself
Hadith of Prophet Mohammed
Hunger in a world of plenty
Zakat is sometimes referred to as sadaqah and its plural, sadaqat. Generally, the sharing of wealth is called zakat, whereas sadqat can mean sharing wealth or sharing happiness among God’s creation, such as speaking kindly, smiling at someone, taking care of animals and the environment, etc.
Zakat or sadqah is therefore considered worship and is a means of spiritual purification. It is not seen as a tax burden but rather serves as socio-financial system of Islam by re-distributing the wealth among the poor and needy.
There is no disagreement among Muslims about the obligatory nature of zakat. It simply must be done. Throughout the Islamic history, denying Zakat equals denying the Islamic faith. However, the Muslim jurists differ on many details of zakat, each having their own opinion and arguments on matters such as frequency of distribution, exemptions, and the types of wealth that are zakatable. Some scholars consider all agricultural products zakatable, while others restrict zakat to specific kinds of products. Some consider debts zakatable while others don’t. Similar differences exist for business assets and women’s jewelry, as well as the disbursement of zakat.
Muslims fulfill this religious obligation by giving a fixed percentage of their surplus wealth. Zakat has been compared with such a high sense of righteousness that it is often placed on the same level of importance as offering Salat1. Muslims also see this act as a way of purifying themselves from greed and selfishness while protecting good business relationships. In addition, Zakat purifies recipients because it saves them from the humiliation of begging and prevents them from envying the rich. Because Zakat holds such a high level of importance in the culture, the punishment is severe for not practicing Zakat when possible. The 2nd edition of the Encyclopaedia of Islam states, “…the prayers of those who do not pay zakat will not be accepted.”
There are two categories of charity in Islam: obligatory and voluntary.
Who is entitled to receive Zakat?
The needy (Muslim or Non-Muslim)- Fuqara’
Extremely poor (Muslim or Non-Muslim—Al-Masakin
Those employed to collect—Aamileen
Those whose hearts are to be won—Muallafatul Quloob
To free the captives—Ar-Riqaab
Those in debt (Muslim or Non-Muslim—Al Ghaarimeen
In the way of Allah—Fi Sabeelillah
Wayfarers (Muslim or Non-Muslim)—Ibnus-Sabeel
Footnote: 1. Ritual prayer (salat) which is performed five times each day: at dawn (al-fajr), midday (al-zuhr), afternoon (al-‘asr), sunset (al-maghrib) and evening (al-‘isha).
SOURCE: FOOD YOGA – Nourishing Body, Mind & Soul
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