Source: Religion & Ethics Newsweekly:"Belief and Practice:Zakaat"
The Muslim practice of "zakaat," or almsgiving, is one of the five pillars of Islam -- part of the framework of Muslim life and required of all able adult adherents. While they may give zakaat at any time of the year, many Muslims contribute specifically during the month of Ramadan. In this video from Religion & Ethics Newsweekly , Imam Mohamad Bashar Arafat of Baltimore, Maryland, describes this important Islamic practice.
The five pillars of Islam are basic acts or duties that are required of every observant Muslim. The five pillars of Islam are Shahadah, stated belief in one God and the prophethood of Muhammad; Salah, prayer offered five times a day; Sawm, fasting during the month of Ramadan; Hajj, pilgrimage to Mecca; and Zakaat.
Zakaat, or almsgiving, is an act of worship that is compulsory for Muslims with wealth beyond their basic needs. Each year, Muslims are taxed about 2.5% of their accumulated wealth which goes to benefit the poor and needy. At present, no centralized authority collects Zakaat funds. Local masjids and institutions collect these funds for distribution or Muslims may distribute them on their own.
The word Zakaat literally means "purification." Muslims believe that when they have completed the act of Zakaat they have purified their wealth and income which has been entrusted to them by God.
According to the Qur’an, the divinely revealed holy book of Islam, it is the responsibility of Muslims to create a civil and just society. Zakaat provides guidelines for the distribution of wealth and helps establish an economic structure that provides for the poor and less fortunate members of society.
In addition to helping the poor, Zakaat helps instill values that allow Muslims to obey their Lord and achieve greater spiritual fulfillment. Mandatory almsgiving teaches Muslims that the possessions of this world are transient and that it is only their faith and good deeds that will follow them from this life into the hereafter. Not only does this enable Muslims to let go of any selfish desires and excesses which may be hurtful to themselves and society, it also helps Muslims to place their faith and moral duties foremost in their lives.
BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: This month of Ramadan, another kind of charity is on display at mosques all over the country. It's called zakat, and it's one of the five basic requirements, or pillars, of Islam -- giving to the poor at least two-and-a half percent of whatever is left over each year after you take care of your household's basic needs.
Our guide to zakat is Imam Mohammad Bashar Arafat, a scholar, chaplain, and interfaith leader in Baltimore, Maryland.
Imam MOHAMMAD BASHAR ARAFAT: Zakaat is obligatory on the Muslim, each Muslim, who is earning income.
They have to give from the savings of what they have from last year to this year -- they calculate and they give two and a half percent of what they earn. But that's the minimum.
The whole concept of money is considered in Islam as a gift from Almighty. As he gave it to you, he made a portion of it belong to the poor. So the poor has right in your money.
Always the Qur'an emphasizing on the issue of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, helping those who are in need, and the more you help, the more God helps you. And the more you give, the more God gives you.
Since the month of Ramadan is the month of blessings, the month of forgiveness, the month of doing all the good deeds, and the good deeds are multiplied during that month, so the people try to give their zakat in the month of Ramadan to get more and more blessings.
Zakaat is always connected in the Qur'an with prayer. As Allah says, "Establish prayer and give zakat. Give in charity." And it's mentioned 82 times in the Qur'an, that connection, to show the relation between prayer, salaat, and giving. You cannot claim that you are a true believer without helping others. The whole religion of Islam is based on helping others.
When you give, you feel a special gift from the Almighty in your heart. You feel that you are taking care of others as God is taking care of you.
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