In 2015 the World Bank estimated that the annual global Zakat contribution was worth over £700 billion. In 2020, UK Muslims donated a record breaking £150 million.
What is it about Islam that encourages such financial generosity year after year.
Zakat – the third pillar of Islam
Islam is split into five pillars – Shahaadah (the profession of faith), Salaat (Prayer), Zakat (almsgiving), Sawm (fasting and Hajj (pilgrimage). While fasting and the Hajj pilgrimage are common knowledge for many non Muslims, Zakat is lesser known as an integral part of Muslim charity, yet as we see from the above figures is responsible for a significant contribution back into society.
What is Zakat and what does it mean
The belief is that charity for a Muslim takes them closer to Allah. It is not about looking good in front of your friends and family, but is a deeply personal and spiritual act that purifies you, removing your sins and inviting in the mercy and blessings of Allah.
A Muslim is obliged to give 2.5 per cent of their expendable wealth to be distributed to the poor, needy and vulnerable. The amount is calculated according to your nisab threshold, which is the point at which your income becomes liable to Zakat.
While Zakat is an obligatory donation, there are other forms of charity donation that can be made. Sadaqah is a optional form of giving which is over and above what an individual gives as Zakat. During Sawm, the holy act of fasting, should someone miss or break their fast then they are liable to pay fidya or kaffarah in recompense.
Adherence as a commitment of your faith
The prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: Give charity and without delay, for it stands in the way of calamity.” As a Muslim, making charitable donations is an important way of atoning for past sins and starting from a clean slate again. Putting money back into society so that it can be used to help those who are poor and vulnerable is an important act which purifies your wealth and refocuses your faith.
How is Zakat calculated?
Zakat is not just calculated on the basis of your income, but on your wealth as a whole. It takes into account the amount of cash you have in your accounts, investments in gold and silver (including jewelry), an investments and share portfolios you may have, including crypto currencies, the value of any pensions and savings, and finally any land, property and agriculture you may own. If you have any debt then that is also deducted from asset value of your wealth. Zakat is calculated as 2.5 per cent of the final amount.
Who receives the Zakat?
The distribution of Zakat is incredibly important. It is not a fund that can be used in other projects, no matter how important, such as building schools, or mosques. Rather it is specifically to be used for the poor and needy, for those who are hungry, and vulnerable.
The Qu’ran identifies eight key categories of people who are eligible to receive Zakat to help them in their lives. The Qu’ran reads that: “Zakat is for the poor, and the needy and those who are employed to administer and collect it, and the new converts, and for those who are in bondage, and in debt and service of the cause of Allah, and for the wayfarers, a duty ordained by Allah, and Allah is the All-Knowing, the Wise.”
As most Zakat are carried out during the holy month of Ramadan, it is important to remember that there are millions of poverty stricken Muslims around the world who are receiving good food and nourishment as the result of the generosity of their Muslim brothers and sisters – a generosity that continues throughout the year, every year.