The Philosophy of legislating the Alms-Tax (Zakat)
By: Ayatullah al-Uzma Shaykh Husayn Vahid Khorasani
The prayer is the connection of man with the Creator, while the alms-tax is the connection of man with the creation.
Allah has joined alms-tax with the prayers in numerous verses. Abu Ja’far and Abu ‘Abd Allah (as) both have been reported saying: Allah has made alms-tax obligatory with the prayers.27 Human beings are social animals by nature. Whatever wealth, position, knowledge and perfection a man gains, is due to his social connections. Thus, the society he lives in has a right and share in his material and spiritual achievements. When a person adapts Islamic rulings in paying his religious dues then he has fulfilled his social right.
Indeed, the Islamic law of alms-tax and other voluntary charitable contributions are wise laws. If they are implemented then a single poor person will not remain in society, and a peaceful city free from oppression of the poor and needy will prevail.
Al-Sadiq (as) said: Certainly, Allah, the Mighty and High, has placed a share for the poor in the wealth of the rich with which they can spend their life. If He had known that this will not be enough then He would have increased this. The poor are in such a state due to the rich not paying their share not due to Allah, the Mighty and High. If the people had paid their rights then they would also be living an affluent life.28
Allah, the Exalted, describes the terrible consequences of not fulfilling the rights of the needy: 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.29
Due to the role of sacrifice and generosity in removing poverty from society and in the purification of the souls of the people from greed and miserliness, the Book of Allah and the Sunnah have urged us to pay alms and make sacrifice.30
The Virtues of Charity and Generosity
It has come in reports concerning ‘the care for the poor’ that feeding a poor family, providing clothing for them and saving them from the humility of pleading is better than seventy pilgrimages to Mecca.31
Islam has increased the circle of charity and the doing of good, and has included doing good to animals. Imam al-Baqir (as) has said: Surely, Allah, the Blessed and Exalted, likes the act of cooling a thirsty liver. Whoever quenches a thirsty liver of an animal or other than it, Allah will give him a shade on the day when there is no shade except His shade.32
Islam has not restricted charity to the giving of money. In fact, it considers any kind of help to the weak, like leading a blind person, as charity. Islam has made modesty in helping the needy a charity for rank and position. The charity of knowledge is teaching the ignorant. In brief, Islam has not limited charity to material things only but has said: And they spend out of what We have given them of subsistence.33
Subsistence is all that upon which human life depends on in any way. This is why Imam al-Sadiq (as) explains this verse as: And they spread of what We have taught them.34
27. Al-Kafi: vol. 3, pp 496.
28. Al-Kafi: vol. 3, pp 497; Wasa’il al-Shi’ah: vol. 9, pp 10, ch. 1, hadith no. 2.
29. Holy Qur’an, 9: 34.
30. Al-Kafi: vol. 4, pp 41.
31. Al-Kafi: vol. 4, pp 2.
32. Al-Kafi: vol. 4, pp 58.
33. Holy Qur’an, 2: 3.
34. Bihar al-Anwar: vol. 2, pp 17.