“Of their goods, take zakat, so that you might purify and sanctify them.” (9:103, Qur’an)
This is a wonderful verse from the Quran, as it gives a window into the more spiritual dimension of the third pillar of Islam.
Zakat is often explored in a very technical manner. Its calculation process, the asset classes upon which it applies, even the differential rates that exist. These are all important in ensuring the right Zakat is paid, and the obligation honoured. However, there is something that we often forget when it comes to the payer, and this insightful verse from the chapter, entitled Repentance, is a wonderful basis for reflection for the believing soul.
In this short verse, we see a clear instruction for the Zakat to be collected. At the same time, we have a clear declaration of the purpose, the purification of the soul, and its sanctification. Why is this important? Undoubtedly this is important as it allows us to see that the believing soul is one that should be seeking purification and sanctification from God Almighty.
The question to the Zakat payer is, do we actually see this and yearn it? When making the transaction, does one genuinely seek purification? Does the payer feel that until they have paid, they are in a state of transgression? Consider if you have ever been late in establishing your Zakat and physically making the payment, has this made you feel sinful? Has it made you feel uneasy? Has it made you feel that you have transgressed? As the reality is, if this circumstance ever did pass, that is exactly what one should have felt. At the same time, when one has paid, be it on time, do we feel any better for it? Have we as per this verse, felt sanctified from the transaction?
Increasingly in a digital and automated Zakat ecosystem, we must love the spirit of the pillar, and this is something we have to be careful of. Sure, it makes sense to embrace the technologies which enable accurate and timely execution of the duty, at the same time, it is critical, we see the Zakat payment as more than a transaction. If its payment is intended to purify and sanctify our souls, then it surely means the soul needs to have not only felt in flux until it was honoured, but also on its honouring found elation, gratification and a sense of ease.
Zakat payers, ensure you calculate and pay, but ensure you reflect and consider the circumstances when your payments is made/ scheduled. Zakat is a pillar of Islam, the third of five, standing firm in the middle to honour and empower its stakeholders. Payers, you must seek purification in making the payment. You cannot be lost in emotional adverts or conspiracy theories of the shadowy creatures of the net, rather you must make good choices and do so sincerely and cognitively seeking purification. Zakat claimants, you must be proud of the Islamic tradition, take your divine dues, and be eager to have the capacity to also pay Zakat and empower your fellow brothers and sisters, while purifying your soul.
Zakat payers, claimants and agencies, we must work together and ensure the divine impact is achieved.
Zakat is a pillar truly unique in its personal requirements yet transformational community impact. As such it is essential, we do it right, and we learn together to do it better and better. It is critical we don’t fall into a malaise of trying to align to SDGs, poverty and climate change initiatives and meeting funding requirements of non-faith actors. It is essential first and foremost we seek God’s mercy, we look to be purified and find sanctification as our primary goal. Only upon this, we can find the true intended impact of Zakat emerge, first on our souls and then on our communities, and a natural impact on SDGs, and other initiatives trying to raise the integrity of our civil societies across the globe.
By Azim Kidwai, Chair and Executive Director