Charity is one of the Five Pillars of Islamic practice. Zakat is an obligation for those who have received their wealth from God to respond to those members of the community in need.
Islam encourages the sharing of wealth with others and helps people to stand on their own and become productive members of society. In Arabic, it is known as zakat which literally means “purification”, because zakat is considered to purify one’s heart of greed.
Zakat must be paid on different categories of property – gold, silver, money and business commodities – and is payable each year after one year’s possession.
It requires an annual contribution of 2.5% of an individual’s wealth and assets.
Like prayer, which is both an individual and communal responsibility, zakat expresses a Muslim’s worship of and thanksgiving to God by supporting those in need.
Islam teaches that people should acquire wealth with the intention of spending it on their own needs and the needs of others.
The whole concept of wealth is considered in Islam as a gift from God. God, who provided it to the person, made a portion of it for the poor, so the poor have a right over one’s wealth. Zakat reminds Muslims that everything they have belongs to God. People are given their wealth as a trust from God.
God, in His boundless mercy, promises rewards for helping those in need with one basic condition that zakat is paid in the name of God; one should not expect or demand any worldly gains from the beneficiaries nor aim at making one’s name as a philanthropist. The feelings of a beneficiary should not be hurt by making him feel inferior or reminding him of the assistance.
Money given as zakat can only be used for certain specific things. Islam stipulates that alms are to be used to support the poor and the needy.
The Quran emphasizes feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, helping those who are in need, and the more one helps, the more God helps the person, and the more one gives, the more God gives the person. One feels he is taking care of others and God is taking care of him.
This year we will be giving the collected Zakat to refugee families living in Cambridge in desperate need for many essentials.