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What is Zakat
Zakat - obligatory charity - is an act of worship while in its external form, it is the carrying out of social service. There is no disagreement among Muslims about the obligatory nature of Zakat; denying Zakat equals denying the Islamic faith. When a person gives Zakat, he is only giving the rightful share to deserving people out of the wealth of Allâh that he has been entrusted with. The giving of Zakat should not be considered as a sign of one’s generosity or bigheartedness. Yet, the Almighty has promised the greatest rewards for it. It is third most important pillar among the five pillars of Islam. The importance of giving Zakat can be understood by the fact that the Qurân treats it at par with the obligatory prayer. The importance of this ritual of worship can be understood from the fact that like the prayer, the Almighty has regarded it as a pre-requisite for a person to be a Muslim. The Qurân says: If they repent, become diligent in the prayer and pay Zakah, they are your brethren in religion. [9:11]

The word Zakat means both 'purification' and 'growth'. One’s wealth is purified by setting aside a portion for those in need, and, like the pruning of plants, this cutting invigorates, and encourages new growth. Zakah does not only purify the wealth of the contributor but also purifies his heart from selfishness and greed. It provides the key to open the chest of money as well as the heart. It also purifies the heart of the recipient from envy and jealousy, from hatred and uneasiness. Zakat is not a tax burden but serves as a socio-financial system of Islam by redistributing the wealth among poor and needy.

Those, who are negligent in paying Zakat, have been strongly warned. Allâh says: “By no means shall you attain righteousness unless you give (freely) of that which you love; and whatever you give, of a truth Allâh knows it well.” [3:92] Verses 34 & 35 of Chapter 9 of the Holy Qurân states: "Those who hoard up treasures of gold and silver and spend them not in the way of Allâh; give them the news of a painful punishment, on the Day when that (wealth) will be heated in the Fire of Hell and with it will be branded their forehead, their sides, and their backs, (and it will be said to them:) 'This is the treasure which you hoarded for yourselves. Now taste of what you used to hoard.'" Allâh also says: “And let not those who hoard up that which Allâh hath bestowed upon them of His bounty think that it is better for them. Rather, it is worse for them. That which they hoard will be their collar on the Day of Resurrection. Allâh’s is the heritage of the heavens and the earth, and Allâh is informed of what you do.” [3:180] Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings be upon him) said: “Allâh has enjoined upon rich Muslims a due to be taken from their wealth corresponding to the needs of the poor among them. The poor will never suffer from starvation or lack of clothes unless the rich neglect their due. If they do, Allâh will surely hold them accountable and punish them severely." (At-Tabarani in Al-'Aswat and as-Saghir) Allâh's Apostle also said: "Whoever is made wealthy by Allâh and does not pay the Zakat of his wealth, then on the Day of Resurrection, his wealth will be made like a bald-headed poisonous male snake with two black spots over the eyes. The snake will encircle his neck and bite his cheeks and say, 'I am your wealth, I am your treasure.'" (Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 24, No.486)
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