Friday, March 30, 2007

Some Notes on the Beauties of Zakat

Bi-smillahi r-rahman r-rahim al-hamdu li-llah wa-s-salatu wa-s-salamu `ala rasulihi’l-mustafa wa-ala alihi wa-sahbihi wa-man walahu

1. Introduction

These are some notes from a short piece on the alms-tax (zakat al-mal) that I wrote a year or so ago and entitled Helping Students and Facilitating Inviters to Know Some of the Shari`a's Beauties in the Alms-Tax. (`Awn al-Tullab wa-Taysir al-Du`at fi Ma’rifat Ba`d Mahasin al-Shari`a fi’l-Zakat). In it, I briefly review some of the aims (maqasid) and beneficial wisdoms (hikam) that one finds the ethico-legal values (ahkam, sing. hukm) and etiquettes of the the shari`a that are related to zakat. May Allah accept the piece and these notes as a deeds done for Him alone and magnify it on my account on the Day of Reckoning. May Allah benefit in this world (al-dunya) and the after-life (al-akhira) whomever listens to it or reads it.

2. Definition

The term maqasid is a plural related to the noun maqsud ("aim, objective, goal") which in turn is the past participle (ism al-maf`ul) of the verb qasada ("he aimed for, he set out for").

The shari`a, lexically, "the path leading to the watering hole." It is the path taken by human beings whom Allah grants sucess in complying with the Divine Address (i.e. revelation), i.e. by doing what Allah encourages people to do and avoiding what He discourages people from doing.

Maqasid al-shari`a is a construct (idafa) that signifies "the aims of the path taken by human beings whom Allah grants sucess in complying with the Divine Address," i.e. the aims of the sacred law.

Imam Abu Ma`ali al-Haramayn al-Juwayni (d. 478/1085), Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d. 505/1111), Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d. 606/1209), Imam `Izz al-Din Ibn `Abd al-Salam (d. 660/1262)--along with other imams before and after them--explained that Allah established the shari`a such that those who conform to it achieve certain aims in this life (al-dunya) and the after life (al-akhira). The legists (fuqaha’) have written about the aims of the shari`a inreference text in the sciences of jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh) and ethics and law (furu` al-fiqh) as well as in monographs (t: dedicated works).

The primary principle (qa`ida) on which the entire shari`a is based, as stated by Imam `Izz al-Din Ibn `Abd al-Salam, is achieving interests and deflecting detriments (jalb al-masalih wa-dar’ al-mafasid). He mentions in his opus, al-Qawa`id al-Kubra, that the benefit of knowing the aims associated with any act of worship is that one will thereafter perform it better because he will be mindful of the aim associated with it while performing it.

Some maqasid are comprehensive (kulliyat) applying to all areas of the shari`a while others are particular (juz'iyyat).

There are aims associated with zakat.

Hikma pl. hikma is a noun related to the idea of making something fast or firm. It is associated with various meaning in religious technical terminology.

Hikma is wisdom. Allah is al-Hakim (the Wise).

The exegetes (mufassirun) say that the term hikma means sunna.

The fuqaha' use the term hikma as a synonym or near synonym for maqsud.

3. Maqasid al-Zakat

Some maqasid are associated with the payer (muzakki) while others are associated with the deserving receipting of (mustahiqq) of zakat.

Imam Hafiz Abu Abdullah al-Tirmidhi said: “The fruit of zakat is purification of wealth.”

Allah sayd: "Khud man amwalihm sadaqatan tutahhirhim bi-ha wa-tuzakkihim" i.e. “Take from their wealth charity (sadaqah) by which you purify them and cleanse them.”

3. Wisdoms (Hikam)

There are wisdoms associated with paying zakat. Among the wisdoms associated with zakat are the following:

3.1 Knowing who the poor and needy are.

3.2 Training oneself to be generous

3.3 Reducing attachment to wealth.

3.4 Reducing ill-feeling and resentment towards the wealthy.

3.5 Breaking the circulation of wealth among the wealthy.

4. Etiquttes (Adab)

Shaykh Wahba al-Zuhayli has mentioned several etiquettes associated with collecting, giving and receiving zakat monies (zakawat). He relates them from Ibn Juzayy al-Maliki (al-Qawanin al-Fiqhiyya, 99f as cited al-Fiqh al-Islami wa-Adillahtuh, 2:896) who compiled a similar list.

4.1. To not nullify one's zakat by reminding the receipient of the "favor" that one has shown him by giving him zakat and offending him (al-manna wa l-adha) because doing so forfeits the reward for paying zakat.

4.1.1 To not consider the amount given in zakah to be a lot (t: i.e. a big deal).

4.2. To pay zakat with ease of heart (tayyibatan nafsuhu).

4.3. To select one's zakah from the best and choicest of his earnings. Allah says: "Lan tanalu l-birra hatta tunfiqu mimma tuhibbun" i.e. "You will not achieve piety until you spend of that which you love."

4.4. Our fuqaha' differ as to whether it is better to conceal one paying zakat or to conceal it.

4.4.1 Shafi`is, Hanbalis: It is better to do so openly.

4.4.2 Maliki, Hanifi: It is better to conceal the giving of zakah. Rationale: By concealing it, one distances oneself more effectively from ostentation (riya’). Doing so it less demeaning to the poor.

Exception: If one is rich then paying zakat openly is preferably so it encourages other people to emulate him.

4.5. To engage someone to perform it on one's behalf.

4.6. To make du’a when paying: "Allahumma j`alha maghnam(an) wa-la taj`alha maghram(an)" i.e. "O Allah, make it something to be taken advantage of; do not make it a fine!" The recipient says: "Ajaraka llahu fima a`tayta wa-baraka laka fima abqayta wa-ja`alahu laka tuhura [tahura?]" i.e. May Allah reward you in what you have given, bless you in what remains (with you) and make it a purification for you!"

Among the etiquettes are the following.

4.7. That there is no need to tell the recipient that what one is giving him is zakat. (al-Fiqh al-Islami wa-Adillatuh, 2:896-899)

5. Conclusion

Zakat is one of the foundation practices of Islam. It is characterized by maqasid and hikam, as are all or most of the ahkam of the shari`a.


`Umar b. Salih Ibn `Umar. Maqasid al-Shari`a `inda al-Imam al-`Izz Ibn `Abd al-Salam, Jordan 1423/2003.

`Imad al-Din Abu Hijleh. Al-Qawl al-`Atir fi Masarif al-Zakat wa Sadaqat al-Fitr. Everett, Massachusetts, 1422/2001.

Wahba al-Zuhayli. Al-Fiqh al-Islami wa-Adillatuhu. Vol 2. Dar al-Fikr, 1404/1984.

`Izz al-Din Ibn Abd al-Salam. Al-Qawa`id al-Kubra. Dar al-Fikr, n.d.

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