What is the philosophy behind paying Zakat?
It is obvious for three reasons that the role of the public treasury and zakat
(which is one of the sources of income for it), is of extreme importance.
Firstly, Islam did not manifest itself as an ethical, philosophical or
theological doctrine but rather, came forth as a comprehensive religion that
catered for all the material and spiritual needs of the people. Secondly, Islam,
from its very onset during the time of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w), had always
been associated with the establishment of a government, and thirdly, Islam pays
special attention to supporting the underprivileged ones and combating class
difference in the society.
Without any doubt, every society has its share of people who are incapacitated,
diseased, handicapped, orphans without guardians and the like, who need to be
cared and looked after.
In addition, in order to protect the society from the evil intentions of enemies
it is in need of an army, whose expenses are covered by the government.
Similarly, there is also the need for funds to be allocated for the employees of
the Islamic government, judges, religious centres and, advertising and
promotional equipments, which cannot be organized and regulated without an
assured and disciplined monetary support.
For this reason, the
issue of zakat, which in reality is regarded as a kind of 'tax on income and
production' and 'tax on stagnant wealth', acquires great significance in Islam,
to the extent that it is even placed at par with the most important acts of
worship - on numerous occasions it has been mentioned together with the prayers
and has even been regarded as a condition for the acceptance of the prayers!
In a tradition, Imam as-sadiq (a.s) states: “One, who withholds (even) one
carat of zakat, is neither a Mu'min nor a Muslim and possesses no esteem and
Interestingly, it can be concluded from the traditions that the measure of zakat
has been so meticulously evaluated in Islam that if all the Muslims were to pay
their zakat completely and correctly, not a single poor and destitute person
would exist in the entire Islamic nation!
Imam as-sadiq (a.s) says: If all the people were to pay the zakat of their
wealth, not a single Muslim would be left indigent and needy. People do not turn
needy, destitute, hungry and bare except due to the transgressions of the
From the traditions it can also be deduced that payment of zakat becomes a
reason for the protection of proprietorship and strengthening of its foundation,
such that should the people become heedless of this important Islamic principle,
divisions and schisms would erupt amongst the groups in such a great measure
that even the properties of the affluent ones would fall in jeopardy.
It has been narrated that Imam Musa b. Ja'far (a.s) said: “Protect your
possessions by means of zakat.”
The above meaning has also been conveyed in other traditions that have been
reported from the Noble Prophet (s.a.w) and the Commander of the Faithful (a.s)
-By Sheikh Naser Makarem
Translator: Sheikh Shahnawaz Mahdavi
Derived from al-islam.org