Non–Payment of Zakat is a Great Sin
By: Shaheed Ayatullah Abdul Husain Dastghaib Shirazi
Non-payment of Wajib Zakat is a greater sin.. The traditions of Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s.), Imam ‘Ali Riďa (a.s.), Imam Mūsa Kadhim (a.s.) and Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) to this effect are mentioned by Abdul Azīm. The Holy Qur’an describes the punishment for this greater sin in the following verse:
“And (as for) those who hoard up gold and silver and do not spend it in Allah’s way announce to them a painful chastisement.
On the day when it shall be heated in the fire of hell, then their foreheads and their sides and their backs shall be branded with it, this is that you hoarded up for yourselves, therefore taste what you hoarded.” (Surah at-Tawba 9: 34-35)
Traditions mention that the word “Kanz” (hoard) in this ayat implies any wealth on which Zakat has not been paid and other rights have not been discharged.
The Almighty Allah (S.w.T.) says in Surah Āli- ‘Imran,
“And let not those deem, who are niggardly in giving away that which Allah has granted them out of His grace, that it is good for them; nay it is worse for them; they shall have that whereof they were niggardly made to cleave to their necks on the resurrection day; and Allah’s is the heritage of the heavens and the earth; and Allah is aware of what you do.” (Surah Āli-‘Imran 3: 180)
Whatever a person possesses, is due to Allah (S.w.T.)’s grace and favours. He himself has no control over gain or loss. It is therefore incumbent on him to spend the bounties he has received from Allah (S.w.T.) in a manner that Allah (S.w.T.) has commanded, failing which the punishment will be severe.
Tafsīr Minhajus Sadiqīn mentions that traditional reports testify to the fact that the wealth of those who due to their miserliness avoid paying Zakat, will be made into a serpent by Allah (S.w.T.) on the day of Qiyāma. This serpent will be extraordinarily poisonous and vicious with two spots below the eyes, which is the characteristic of the most dangerous snakes. This snake shall be put around the neck of this person like a collar and the two ends will envelop his face and chastise him saying, “I am the same wealth regarding which you prided over others in the world.”
Hazrat Imam Baqir (a.s.) said, “Whosoever does not pay Zakat on his wealth, the wealth shall assume the shape of a Python on the judgement day and will be around his neck and till his accounting is complete it (the serpent) will be chewing at his flesh.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia Vol. 6 page 11)
The Imam (a.s.) has also been reported to have stated, “If the relative of person who is bestowed wealth by Almighty comes to ask for something and the wealthy person acts like a miser, the Almighty Allah (S.w.T.) takes out a python from hell which turns it tongue around its mouth so that when the person comes it will become his iron collar.” (Tafsīr Minhajus Sadiqīn)
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says, “If a person owning gold and silver does not pay obligatory Zakat (or obligatory Khums as mentioned in Tafsīr of Qummi) on it, on the day of Qiyāma the Almighty Allah (S.w.T.) will imprison him in a fertile and lighted forest and appoint for him a python which has lost its hair due to its venom and when it will move to catch this person he will try to run away. But when he would become helpless and know that he cannot escape he would take his hands near the serpent and it will begin to chew his hands like a male camel and it would wrap itself around his neck like a necklace.”
If a person owning sheep, cows and camels does not pay the Zakat due to him, Allah (S.w.T.) the High and Mighty will imprison him in an illuminated wilderness on the day of Qiyāma. And every hoofed animal will trample upon him and every animal with pointed fangs will tear him up. One who does not pay Zakat due on his date palms, grapes or his agricultural products will on the day of Qiyāma have that portion of his land around his neck like a huge iron collar. (Wasa’il ul-Shia Vol. 6, page 11, al-Kāfi)
Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) says, “The Almighty Allah has appointed Zakat with Prayer, and said, ‘Establish prayer and pay Zakat.’ Then one who recites prayer but does not pay Zakat (it is as if) he has not performed prayer also, because the two of them are connected.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia)
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) remarks, “One who does not pay the Zakat of his wealth, at the time of death he will desire to be sent back to the world once more so that he may pay Zakat.”
As Allah (S.w.T.) says: “Until when death overtakes one of them he says: Send me back, my Lord, send me back; Haply I may do good in that which I have left.” (Surah al-Mum’inūn 23: 99-100) (Wasa’il ul-Shia vol. 6 page 14)
Thus implying that if he is sent back he will pay Zakat that was due on him and also spend his wealth in charity. He shall be told: “By no means! It is a (mere) word that he speaks.” (Surah al-Mum’inūn 23: 100)
Furthermore Imam (a.s.) comments on the following verse of Qur’an.
“Thus will Allah show them their deeds to be intense regret to them and they shall not come forth from the fire.” (Surah al-Baqarah 2: 167)
Imam (a.s.) says, “A person who guards his wealth and acts miserly in spending it in the way of Allah (S.w.T.) dies leaving his wealth to people who either spend it in Allah (S.w.T.)’s obedience or in sinful activities. If his wealth is spent in the way of Allah (S.w.T.) the reward is written in the scroll of deeds of someone else and this person now regrets for actually it was his wealth. And if it is spent in disobedience to Allah (S.w.T.). That is the sinner’s hands were strengthened with the help of his wealth, this also causes regret to him.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia Vol. 6 page 21)
Traditions from Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) and Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) on this subject have been recorded by Ayyashi, Mufid, Sadūq and Tabarsi in their respective books: The Holy Prophet (S) says, “Nothing destroys Islam like miserliness. Then he says. “The way of miserliness is like the paths of ants. It is apparently invisible and it is of many types like polytheism.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia vol. 6 page 21)
Hazrat Amir ul-Mu’minīn ‘Ali (a.s.) says, “When people do not pay Zakat the prosperity of their agricultural lands and mines will be lifted from the earth.” (Safinat’ul-Bihār)
The Messenger of Allah (S) says, “Cure your sick ones through Sadaqah, deflect the storms of calamities through supplication and guard your wealth through Zakat.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia)
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says, “There are some houses on this earth that belong to Allah and they are called, ‘the revengers? So when Allah bestows wealth to a person and he acts miserly in fulfilling the duties prescribed for him by Allah, the Almighty appoints one of these houses for him and destroys his wealth at this very place. And after that the person continues to reside in this house and leaves his wealth for others.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia Vol. 6 page 63)
Numerous traditions mention that one who acts miserly in charity will have to spend much more in corrupt ways. A great many traditions are recorded in the chapter of Zakat but these are sufficient for our discussion here.