Zakah is one of the five pillars of Islam. Zakah is mentioned together with Salah (prayer) in eighty two verses of the Glorious Qur’an. Almighty Allah says:
And establish prayer and give zakah. (Al-Baqarah 2:43)
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Islam is based on five pillars: “The testimony of Faith, the performance of Salah, the payment of Zakah, the performance of Hajj and the fasting of Ramadan.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Meaning of Zakah
The Arabic word “Zakah” literally means “Purity” and it is known that giving Zakah purifies excess wealth. The Islamic meaning of Zakah is that a certain percentage of excess wealth is taken from the rich and given to the poor. It bridges the gap between the rich and the poor Muslims, and fosters brotherly love among them. The importance of Zakah in Islam is undeniable and should not be underestimated.
Zakah is Obligatory
It is incumbent upon every Muslim who owns nisab (minimum zakatable amount) of wealth to pay its Zakah. The nisab and the percentage of Zakah to be taken from different types of excess wealth are clearly defined in the Glorious Qur’an and Sunnah. For example, when a quantity of 85 grams or more of gold or 595 grams of silver or their equivalent of cash is held in possession for one year, Zakah of 2½ percent becomes due upon it, once the nisab has been reached.
Who receives the Zakah?
The eligible recipients of Zakah are clearly mentioned in the Glorious Qur’an:
Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakah] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah . And Allah is Knowing and Wise. (At-Tawbah 9:60)
Why pay Zakah?
A man said to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) “Tell me about a deed which admits me to heaven.” He said: “Worship Allah ascribing no partner to Him, perform Salah, pay Zakah and maintain good relation with your kinfolk.” (At-Tabarani)
Warning against withholding Zakah
Allah Almighty says:
And let not those who [greedily] withhold what Allah has given them of His bounty ever think that it is better for them. Rather, it is worse for them. Their necks will be encircled by what they withheld on the Day of Resurrection. And to Allah belongs the heritage of the heavens and the earth. And Allah , with what you do, is [fully] Acquainted. (Aal `Imran 3:180)
This is a special kind of Zakah that is due at the end of the month of Ramadan. Allah, the Exalted, has instituted Zakah Al-Fitr as a means of purification from idle talk and deeds that one may have uttered during this month, as well as a food gift to the needy to save them the embarrassment of asking for it on the Day of `Eid, thus the poor may celebrate the joy of `Eid along with the rich.
Rulings of Zakah Al-Fitr
1. One of a “Sa`” (measure of about 2.5 kgs) of rice, wheat, dates or similar types of food should be given to the poor.
2. Zakah Al-Fitr should be given on `Eid day, and it can be paid a day or two before `Eid.
3. It is permissible to give Zakah Al-Fitr in the form of money, clothes, food or any other articles.
4. If Zakah Al-Fitr was given after the `Eid prayers it would be regarded as common charity not as Zakah Al-Fitr.
5. Zakah Al-Fitr should be given on behalf of every adult, minor, male or female Muslim.
Source: Taken from www.saudigazette.com with modifications.