Az-Zakat (Obligatory Charity)
Zakat is quite often juxtaposed with the prayer in verses of the Qur'an and sayings of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) It is a social obligation through which the believer appreciates many of the higher aims of Islam ¬such as love, kindness, generosity, and cooperation among Muslims. But here is an important point: by paying Zakat, no one is doing a favor for another, because it is a compulsory duty. In reality it is Allah's wealth that He has bestowed upon us:
And give them something yourselves out of the wealth of Allah which He has bestowed upon you (Surah An-Nur 24:33)
And Allah Almighty says:
Believe in Allah and His Messenger, and spend of that whereof He has made you trustees. And such of you as believe and spend, theirs will be a great reward. (Surah Al-Hadid 57:7)
Because of the importance of Zakat, Abu Bakr (Radhi Allahu Anhu), fought certain Arab tribes when they refused to pay it. He (Radhi Allahu Anhu)said, "By Allah, I will indeed fight those who differentiate between prayer and Zakat." The Companions (Radhi Allahu Anhum) followed him in that Judgement.
Allah gives a severe warning to those who are miserly with their wealth:
And those who hoard up gold and silver, and spend it not in the way of Allah - announce to them a painful torment.
(Surah At-Taubah 9: 34)
For each of the different kinds of wealth, there is a minimum amount, that if one possesses that amount, he must give Zakat when the year ends. The exception is for grains and fruits, because Zakat for those items is due when they grow completely and become ripe, even if a year has not passed. The Zakat wealth is given to the deserving, and the categories of people who deserve Zakat are listed in the following verse:
As-Sadaqat are only for the Fuqara (poor), and Al-Masakin (the needy) and those employed to collect (the funds); and to attract the hearts of those who have been inclined (towards Islam); and to free the captives; and for those in debt; and for Allah's cause (for Jihad), and for the wayfarer (a traveller who is cut off from everything); a duty imposed by Allah. (Surah At-Taubah 9: 60)
Speaking about the duty of giving Zakat, Shaikh 'Abdul-'Aziz bin Baz (Rahimallullah) said: "I remind you of the obligation of giving Zakat, an obligation that many Muslims neglect. Though many may give, some do not give in a way that is legislated. The Zakat has a great significance, for it is one of the five pillars upon which one's Islam stands. The Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) said:
Islam is built on five: to bear witness that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, to establish the prayer, to give Zakat, to fast Ramadhan, and AI-Hajj to the House (the Ka'bah). (Its authenticity is agreed upon) The Benefits of Zakat
1. Making Zakat obligatory for Muslims is one of the most obvious merits of Islam, demonstrating its care for those who adopt it as a way of life.
2. The ties of love and brotherhood are strengthened between the rich and the poor - people innately love those who are good to them.
3. By paying Zakat, one purifies his own self, training it to stay away from the evil quality of miserliness; the Qur'an refers to this meaning in the following verse:
Take Sadaqah (alms) from their wealth in order to purify them and sanctify them with it (Surah At-Taubah 9: 103)
4. By always giving Zakat on time, one makes it his habit to be generous and to help the needy.
5. One who pays Zakat is blessed in his wealth, and is himself given more, for Allah Almighty says:
And (also) restricts (it) for him, and whatsoever you spend of anything (in Allah's cause), He will replace it. And He is the Best of providers. (Surah Saba’ 34:39)
In Hadith Qudsi, the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) related that Allah Almighty said:
O son of Adam, spend (in charity) and We will spend on you.
There are many other virtues regarding it. Allah’s Threat To Those Who Are Negligent In Paying Zakat
Allah Almighty says: O you who believe! Verily, many of the Jewish) rabbis and the (Christian) monks who devour the wealth of mankind in falsehood, and hinder (them) from the way of Allah. And those who hoard up gold and silver, and spend it not in the way of Allah - announce to them a painful torment. On the Day when that (wealth) will be heated in the fire of Hell, and with it will be branded their foreheads, their flanks, and their backs, (and it will be said unto them): "This is the treasure which you hoarded for yourselves. Now taste of what you used to hoard. (Surah At-Taubah 9: 34-35)
One will be punished on the Day of Judgement for hoarding what is called Kanz: any wealth, the Zakat of which has not been paid. In an authentic Hadith, the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) said: Any owner of gold or silver who does not pay their due will have plates of fire prepared for him on the Day of Judgement. They will be heated in the Hellfire, and then his side, his forehead, and his back will be ironed (by those plates). Each time they become cool again, the process is repeated on him in a day whose measure is equal to fifty thousand years, until finally judgments will have been passed among (Allah's) creatures, and each one sees his course: either to Paradise or to Hell.
Then the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) mentioned the owner of camels, cows, and sheep: if he too doesn't pay Zakat for them, he will be punished on the Day of Judgement.
In another authentic Hadith, the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) said: Whomsoever Allah gives wealth to but doesn't pay Zakat for it, a large snake with two black dots above its eyes will take form for him and squeeze him on the Day of Judgement. Then the snake will take him by the comers of his mouth and say, "I am your wealth, I am your Kanz."
Then the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) recited this verse: And let not those who covetously withhold of that which Allah has bestowed on them of His bounty(wealth) think that it is good for them. Nay, it will be worse for them; the things which they covetously withheld shall be tied to their necks like a collar on the Day of Resurrection. (Aal-Imran 3:180) Zakat is Obligatory on Four Types of Wealth
1) What comes out of the earth, such as grains and fruits.
2) (Grazing) livestock.
3) Gold and silver.
4) Merchandise that is meant for sale.
Each one of the above-mentioned categories has what is called a Nisab, or a minimum amount: one only has to pay Zakat in each respective category if he owns that minimum amount.
The Nisab for grains and fruits is measured in what is known as a Sa'; one Sa' is equal to four scoops of the average sized man, with both of his hands together.
The Nisab, or minimum amount required for Zakat to be obligatory on dates, raisins, wheat, rice, barley, and so on is three-hundred Sa'.
The Nisab for grazing livestock - camels, cows, and sheep - is mentioned in detail in certain authentic Ahadith; if one has questions regarding those details, one should ask the people of knowledge. Were not brevity intended here, we would have explained the details of this issue.