Zakat according to the Quran

Zakat according to the Quran is defined as a divine tax that must be deducted at source on all our incomes, whether a salary, an inheritance, or a donation. The word “Zakat” etymologically means “which purifies the most” and the Quran confirms this definition since it says that God takes alms from our riches as a purification for us.

And, others who have acknowledged their wrongs, and who have mixed both good and bad works, God may accept their repentance … surely, God is the Most Forgiving, Merciful. Take alms from their riches in order to purify both their body and spirit by this means, and pray for them, because your prayer gives them serenity… and, God hears everything and knows everything. S9:V102-103

And the pious shall avoid it (Hell) altogether, he who spends his wealth in order to be purified. S92:V17-18

The best way to purify ourselves is therefore to give of our own riches in alms, that is why God has imposed on us this obligatory charity that is Zakat. The purpose behind this practice of Zakat is to enjoy a permanent purification from God and fight against our own greed. Some think that because they already pay taxes, this exempts them from paying Zakat, but they’re wrong about that because our taxes just serve to give us the right to live in our country and to benefit from all the infrastructures and services it offers, such as education, health, culture, sport, the police, the army, etc. Even if part of our taxes is also used to help the needy, this does not replace Zakat. Indeed, Zakat is intended for those who cannot benefit from state aid or for whom this aid is not sufficient enough, and there are many people in this case, such as migrants, undocumented foreigners, and those who have just settled and whose situation is still precarious.

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The Quran confirms that Zakat applies to all our sources of income, by illustrating many different cases.

  • An inheritance :

And, when the close relatives, the orphans, and the needy attend the division, offer them a share of the inheritance, and speak to them appropriately. S4:V8

  • spoils :

And know that whatsoever you obtain of spoils , the fifth belongs to God, to the messenger, to close relatives, to orphans, to the poor, and to [precarious] people in transit, this, if you believe in God and in that which We sent down to our servant on the Day of Discernment: the day when the two groups met, and God is able to do all things. S8:V41

  • Everything that we receive in general, whether by means of money or goods:

Except those who are devoted to Salat, and who remain constant in their Salat, and those in whose riches there is a known right for the beggar and the one who has lost his property and wealth. S70:V22-25

Almsgiving or “Sadaqa” in Arabic, simply refers to the very act of giving of our riches to the needy, whereas Zakat rather refers to the share that is deducted on all our incomes to serve as alms. In short, Zakat is implemented by means of almsgiving or “Sadaqa”, and is intended for the needy, namely all those who ask for our help in general without exaggerating. Keep in mind that even when you have already spent all the planned amount allocated to Zakat for the current month, that does not prevent you from still helping the needy, whenever possible, should you be requested to do so.

And as to the beggar, repulse him not. S93:V10

He who gives to the poor shall not lack, but he who hides his eyes shall have many a curse. Proverbs 28:27

As for the beneficiaries of Zakat, this does not only concern poor people, but all those who need help in general, as in order of priority : parents, relatives, orphans, poor people, and precarious people in transit.

They ask you, “On who to spend ?” Say: “Whatever you spend of good is [in priority] for the father and mother, relatives, orphans, the poor, and [precarious] people in transit… and whatever good you do, God knows it perfectly”. S2:V215

As for the share that must be given in Zakat, there is no fixed rate as is the case in Islam, but everyone is free to set, at each new entry, on a case by case basis, the appropriate share of Zakat based on one’s current financial situation. In general, God recommends that we give the surplus, that is, what we can give without getting in trouble, and this, after setting aside what we need for our own expenses and savings.

[…] And, they ask you, “How much to spend ?” Say: “the surplus.” Thus God is clearly explaining his verses to you, maybe you would ponder. S2:V219

The first big difference between the real Zakat and its Islamic version is that the real Zakat, according to the Quran, must in fact be taken from one’s riches and given whenever any new income (money, inheritance, donation, whatever good) is received, and not at all paid in full, only once a year, as Muslims do. Such is the case because people need help all year round, and in most cases their precarious situation does not allow them to wait.

The other big difference lies in the rate, which is not supposed to be a fixed rate, but can sometimes be adjusted, depending on how much one is willing to give. Considering the current way Muslims do calculate Zakat and taking their average income into account, it often leads to paltry sums when compared to what most of them could spend on helping needy people.

Finally, the last big difference concerns recipients, who should primarily be parents, relatives, orphans, the poor, and precarious people in transit, whereas Zakat is not intended, for example, to finance mosques as is the case with Muslims, or to support the Church as is the case with the alms of Christians, or to finance the State of Israel in regard to the Jews.

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Automatically deducting a share from our incomes to give alms is what the Quran calls “granting a generous loan to God”. This consists in accepting to serve as a relay on behalf of God, by putting our own persons, as well as our goods, in the service of God. For the well-guided believers, this is completely natural since we, as well as our goods, belong entirely to God. Whoever has the intelligence to put his goods and his own person in the service of God invests in a trade that will never perish. Indeed, in such a trade, there is no loser : he who gives, receives more than he has given, both in this present life and even more in the hereafter, and obtains a healing and approval from God. The one who receives is miracously saved from his misery, and this represents an opportunity for him to turn to God and to change his attitude once for all. Finally, it is the pleasure of God to operate a healing on his servants and to reward them for their efforts, and to see them coming back to Him.

If you give God a generous loan, He will multiply it for you and He will forgive you… and God is extremely Grateful and Forgiving. S64:V17

Verily those who recite the Book of God and perform Salat and spend out of what We provided for them, secretly and openly, they hope for a trade that will never perish. [For He will pay them their full salary, nay, and give them (even) more, out of His Bounty. Verily He is Oft-Forgiving, extremely Grateful. S35:V29-30

Those who put themselves at the service of God, do not act for themselves but only for the cause of God, and therefore, never ask anything of anyone, except to be grateful to God. And, there is no better gift from God than to be among those chosen to accomplish His blessing, and spread His light on others.

They fulfill their vows, and they fear a day whose evil will be widespreading, and offer food, in spite their love for it, to the poor, the orphan and the captive, [saying]: “We feed you only for the Face of God. We desire not from you any recompense or thanks. Verily, we fear from our Lord a day of great calamity and great difficulty. “S76:V7-10

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