Ramadhan is an interesting time. It has seen us all give up food and drink in the height of the summer, it seems many of us return to praying and encourages many of us to extend a hand of charity that we typically keep in our pocket. It seemingly a time where many of us find the light of Islam rekindle in our lives, as unquestionably Islam is founded on such spiritual experiences underpinned by the concept of selflessness. As your fasting and your prayer are for your unseen lord and your charity, typically for your unknown brothers and sisters. We see in the famous hadith of Gabrial, where he emerged in the form of a man in front of the finest of creation, the Prophet Mohammed, Upon Whom Be Peace, and said,
'Muhammad, tell me about Islam.'
The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said,
'Islam is that you witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and you establish the prayer, and you give the Zakat, and you fast Ramadan, and you perform the hajj of the House if you are able to take a way to it.'
And therefore we see so much more of these pillars of Islam lift the Muslim community in Ramadan. Now one of these pillars is one, which in the remaining few days of Ramadan many of us will be looking to fulfill, and that is the payment of the Zakah. A pillar of such magnitude that when it was not honored by some in the time of Abu Bakr As Siddique, he fought them until they paid it.
Unfortunately in our time this pillar has been affected by what I call, ‘three click syndrome’. This is the phenomenon by which we pay our Zakah. We just pick a big Islamic charity, click on ‘Zakah’, click an amount and then press the red button, ‘donate’, then we carry on our merry way. Now here is the problem. Should an act of worship be such a non-spiritual experience? Should an act of worship be such an act that it is difficult to differentiate it from buying a DVD online? I think not.
We need to take a step back and make our intention that we are seeking to move closer to our lord through reaching out to the most vulnerable in society the way the Lord of the Worlds intended. With the intention clear and the hope to win the pleasure of Allah then go about honoring this pillar with three things in mind:
The first thing is, it needs to be calculated with the due care and attention it requires. Just like we take care to honor the salah with its correct rackaat for the correct salah, and we need to ensure we calculate this figure correctly. We need to take consideration of all our qualifying assets!
The second thing is, we need to ensure it is given in line with which it was ordained. And this brothers and sisters means, quite clearly we need to try and give it locally.
RasulAllah sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam instructed Mu’adh when he sent him to Yemen, “let them know Allah has made obligatory upon them zakah in their wealth to be taken from their rich and to be given to their needy.” The use of the word “their” indicates the needy from within that community.
The wealth is of no use to Allah, and thus its purpose is for us to essentially prove our conviction and give from that which we love; our wealth. Furthermore, to help provide a cohesive Muslim society, to relinquish need from our locality and bring equity and justice.
If we look at whom Allah has made eligible for Zakah;
"The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to free the captives and the debtors, and for jihad in the path of Allah, and (for) the wayfarers; a duty imposed by Allah. Allah is knower, Wise."(The Holy Qur'an 9:60).
It is clearly for those who are vulnerable in society. Those who are in need are not to be left alone, as we know poverty and disbelief go hand in hand. Zakah seeks to not only purify your wealth but also the local community where it is invested. Zakah is not an emotional transaction; it is not something that should be governed by feelings, but rather by what is prescribed for that pillar of Islam.
The final thing is, Zakah should be given in a way that you feel the value of it, and this will inspire you to continue in giving. Islam comes only with honor, and peace for the society as well as for the individual. Hence the Prophet, Upon Whom be Peace, Said,
“A Muslim is a brother of another Muslim, he should not oppress him, nor should he hand him over to an oppressor. Whoever fulfilled the needs of his brother, Allâh will fulfil his needs; whoever brought his (Muslim) brother out of a discomfort, Allâh will bring him out of the discomforts of the Day of Resurrection….” [Bukhâri]
This hadith is amazing and provides some of the essential understanding we need to actually see brotherhood manifest amongst the Muslimeen. To see it move from something that is spoken about to something that is felt. When you give your Zakah, try and give it in a way where you will be able to see the value add of your intervention as this will strengthen your heart in what you gave and open your heart to give more.
Brothers and sisters, when you look at this issue of giving from your wealth locally, you will see how the impact of it brings genuine brotherhood into our community.
Many a people will say, and maybe I would have in the past, there is no one in need in the UK, and yet there are people dying in the horn of Africa as we speak.
We should be moved by those causes across the world, but why would we limit our support by 2.5% of our net wealth. If we truly care, why are we not overcome by a desire for voluntary giving?
I am sure many reading this grew up in the 1990s, and thus I say consider the example of the Bosnians who arrived here. What support did they find? What comfort was given to them from their brothers and sisters? I remember my masjid turned them away.
Then imagine the way the Muhajireen welcomed the ansaar? They split their wealth in two and their women removed their jewels, and we did not even open our masaajid? Now consider how many a Muslim refugee we have in the UK now, many of whom are in the Home Office’s infamous ‘limbo’ status; not allowed to work and not eligible for benefits?
I am not here to say forget the famine in Sudan, leave the suffering in Palestine ignore the unrest in Libya, but rather to say, put your money where your mouth is. As if those things are so important to us, why are we only willing to give from our Zakah? Why are we only willing to donate from the money that we have no choice but to give? If we care, we should spend and send forth as much as possible from our wealth and alleviate the need of the Muslimeen.
Finally, just take advantage of the few days that remain of this blessed month and give in charity and I think its important to remember when you give, the greatest benefactor is yourself. Abdullah ibn Mas’ood radi Allahu anhu said, “Store your wealth where no worms will eat it, where it cannot be reached by thieves. Store it in charity.” And the greatest way to feel that is, when you can see those you are helping benefit.
Head of Mercy Mission UK and founder of the UK’s National Zakat Foundation.