What are the Inner Dimensions of Zakat?

The Inner Dimensions of Zakat

Imam Ghazali1

Certain inward attitudes and duties are incumbent on those who seek, through the payment of Zakat, that which leads to good in the Hereafter:

Knowing Zakat’s purpose and significance

To understand the necessity of paying Zakat, how it represents a test of character, and why it has been made one of the fundamentals of Islam, even though it is a financial transaction and not a physical act of worship.

Three points deserve consideration here:

Testing the degree of love for Allah

To pronounce the two sentences of the Confession of Faith (Shahada) (“There is no God but Allah-Mohammad is God’s Messenger”) is obligatory as affirmation of the Divine Unity and testimony to the singleness of the One to Whom all worship is due.

Complete fulfillment of this obligation requires that he who affirms the Divine Unity should direct his love to none but the One, the Unique.

There is little value in mere verbal affirmation.The degree of love is tested only by separating the lover from other things he loves.

Worldly goods are an object of love in everybody’s eyes, being the means by which they enjoy the benefits of this world. Because of them, we become attached to life and shy away from death, even though death leads us to meet the Beloved (Allah).

The truth of our claim to love God is therefore put to the test, and we are asked to give up the wealth which is the apple our eye.

That is why Allah said: “God has bought from the believers their persons and their goods, Paradise being theirs for the price “ (Quran: 9:111).

Allah also says that true piety means giving away one’s wealth, in spite of love for it, to close relatives, orphans, the wayfarer and beggars, and for the emancipation of slaves.2

The elimination of miserliness

The Divine decree by which Allah bids His servants to spend their wealth, is also significant in purging the habit of miserliness, which is a deadly sin.

“And whosoever is saved from his own covetousness, such are they who will be the successful” (Quran 59:9).

The habit of miserliness is only eliminated by making oneself accustomed to spending money, for to break an attachment one must force oneself away till a new habit is found.

The purity he acquires is in proportion to his expenditure, to his delight in giving away and to his joy in spending for the sake of Allah.

Expression of gratitude

The third factor is gratitude for benefits received, for the servant is indebted to Allah for personal and material bounties

Payment of Zakat at the proper time

The second duty with regards to Zakat concerns the time of payment .

A good practice is to anticipate the moment when payment is due.

This demonstrates a willingness to comply by bringing joy to the hearts of poor, forestalling the obstacles time might place in the way of charitable action, being aware that there are dangers in delaying payment, as the servant runs the risk of disobedience should he or she postpone beyond the appointed moment.

Whenever the impulse to good arises from within,the opportunity must be grasped at once as the believers heart lies between the two fingers of the All-Merciful. Yet how fickle is the heart! The devil threatens poverty and bids us to commit atrocious and abominable deeds.

Demonic suggestion follows hard on the heels of angelic inspiration. One should therefore seize the opportunity and fix a definite month for giving Zakat (if one is used to paying it all at once.)

One should endeavor to choose one of the most opportune times to pay Zakat, resulting in more closeness to Allah and compounding the value of the Zakat.

One such favorable time would be month of Muharram, since it is the first month of the Islamic year and one of the sacred months. Another is Ramadan.

Give In Secret

The third duty is secrecy, for this is farthest removed from hypocritical display and reputation-seeking.

Allah says, “If you disclose your Sadaqat (alms giving), it is well, but if you conceal it, and give it to the poor, that is better for you. (Allah) will forgive you some of your sins. And Allah is Well-Acquainted with what you do” (Quran 2:271).

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