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Non–Payment of Zakat is a greater Sin

By: Ayatullah Abdul Husayn Dastaghaib Shirazi
The Greater Sin is non-payment of Wajib Zakat. 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.

One who does not pay Zakat is a Kafir
A person who accepts that Zakat is obligatory but does not pay due to niggardliness, is a transgressor and will face the consequences accordingly. But if he does not believe that Zakat is obligatory, he is a kafir and Najis (ritually impure). Zakat, like prayers is an article of faith. Whoever denies a single article of faith goes beyond the pale of Islam and is an infidel. Quoted below are some of the relevant traditions.
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says, “Doubtlessly, the Almighty Allah has necessitated a portion for the destitute in the wealth of the rich people. It is such an obligation that is praised if fulfilled by the affluent people. It is Zakat and one who pays it, his blood is Harām. (It is Harām to kill him). And those who pay it are called Muslims.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia Vol. 6 page 18)
It implies that those who do not pay Zakat and do not even regard it obligatory, are not Muslims; they could even be executed in an Islamic government.
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says, “One who avoids paying Zakat equal to one carat (four grains of barley) is neither a believer nor a Muslim. He is the same whose condition at the time of death is mentioned by Allah that he shall say, “Send me back my Lord, send me back, haply I may do good in that which I left.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia Vol. 6 pg18)
“One who does not pay Zakat even if it is equal to one carat, he is expelled from belief and dies as a Jew or a Christian.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia Vol. 6 page 18)
Imam (a.s.) elaborates further, Death penalty is permissible in Islam for two kinds of sinners. And no one will issue a decree regarding the two until the advent of the Qaem of the progeny of Mohammed (a.t.f.s.), Then Imam Mahdi (a.s.) will issue decree on the basis of divine laws. One of the two is the adulterer who fornicated despite having a wife. He shall be stoned to death . The second is the one who does not pay Zakat. He shall be beheaded.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia vol.6 page 19, al-Kāfi)
Imam (a.s.) also remarked, “Monetary loss in desert or seas is only due to the non payment of Zakat. And when the Qaem of the progeny of Mohammed (a.t.f.s) reappears he shall arrest and execute those who do not pay Zakat,” (Wasa’il ul-Shia Vol.6, page.20)
The Almighty Allah says, “And woe to the polytheist, (To) those who do not give poor rate and they are unbelievers in the hereafter.” (Surah Fussilat 41: 6-7)
The Messenger of Allah (S) says, “By Allah in whose hands is the life of Mohammed (S), No one does Khayanat with Allah except the polytheist who does not pay any Zakat from his wealth.” (Mustadrak ul-Wasa’il)
The Messenger of Allah (S) says, “O ‘Ali! There are ten deniers of Almighty Allah in this Ummah; Tale-tellers, the magicians, the gigolos, those who have anal intercourse with non-mahram women, those who have intercourse with animals, those who commit incest, those who try to spread mischief, those who supply weapons to disbelievers (which shall be used against Muslims), those who do not pay Zakat and those who in spite of being capable do not perform Hajj and meet their death.” (Khisāl of Sadūq, Chapter Ten)
It is clear from the above traditions that those who deny the obligations of Prayer, Hajj and Zakat are infidel. They will be deprived of the benefits of faith which saves one from Hell in Qiyāma and they will be denied the rights of Muslims in this world. They are Najis (ritually impure), they cannot inherit Muslims and Muslims cannot marry them. However, if they do not belie the obligatory nature of these laws and they fail to perform these duties due to sloth or niggardliness, they are apparently Muslims. But actually from the internal aspects they are a kind of deniers and polytheists. Even if they depart from this world with belief they shall have to undergo the promised punishment.

Why does Zakat become Wajib?
There is hidden wisdom in making Zakat and other charities obligatory. Some of them are mentioned in traditions. For example such duties are a kind of test for wealthy people, that whether Allah (S.w.T.) is more dear to them or these temporal worldly riches; whether they have sincere faith in heavenly rewards, paradise and divine recompense. Whether they are true to their claim of being the slaves of Allah (S.w.T.), High and Mighty. The second benefit is that through this arrangement the financial problems of the poor are solved. Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says, describing the benefits of Zakat.
“Indeed, Zakat is made obligatory to test the wealthy and to fulfil the needs of poor. And certainly if everyone had paid Zakat (honestly) there would not have been a single poor or destitute among Muslims. And neither one had been in need of other. And neither had anyone remained hungry and naked. But the poor are inflicted with problems due to the sins of wealthy and their failure to fulfil their rights. In these circumstances it is incumbent on Allah (S.w.T.) to deprive them from this Mercy those who do not fulfil the monetary rights. I swear by the one who created all the creatures and increased their sustenance, indeed no loss occurs on dry land and at sea/river except for those who do not pay Zakat. The third benefit is the purification of the self from a base quality like niggardliness and the cure of this debilating and mortal disease. Thus, the Almighty Allah (S.w.T.) tells His Messenger in Qur’an, “Take alms out of their property, you would cleanse them and purify them thereby.” (Surah at-Tawba 9: 103)
And in Surah al-Hashr, Allah (S.w.T.) says, “And whoever is preserved from the niggardliness of his soul, these it is that are the successful ones.” (Surah al-Hashr 59: 9)
The cure for niggardliness is to practice charity. Charity should be given time and again till it becomes a habit. And as far as possible one should keep in mind the rules and regulations laid down for charity, observing which can cure one of the malady of miserliness.

Zakat and Sadaqah Increase Wealth
In the following Qur’anic ayats Allah (S.w.T.) promises that anything spent in Allah (S.w.T.)’s way will be amply rewarded both in this world and the hereafter, “…and He causes Charitable deeds to prosper.” (Surah al-Baqarah 2: 276)
“…and whatever thing you spend, He exceeds it in reward, and He is the best of Sustainers.” (Surah Saba 34: 39)
“…and whatever you give in charity, desiring Allah’s pleasure it is these (persons) that shall get manifold.” (Surah ar-Rūm 30: 39)
Paying Zakat and spending it in the prescribed manner increases one’s wealth. The stingy and the niggardly believe that they will be impoverished if they spend in Allah (S.w.T.)’s ways, in direct contradiction to what Allah (S.w.T.) has promised in His holy Qur’an and the traditions of Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.), some of which are mentioned below. In the sermon of Fadak, Janabe Fatimah Zahra (S) says, “Allah has appointed faith for purifying you from polytheism and made prayer Wajib to cleanse you from pride and arrogance. Made Zakat obligatory to purify you from miserliness and parsimony. (so that man is imbued with the goodly quality of charitableness and is purified of the impurity of sinful deeds). And this is also the cause for increasing your sustenance.”
It is related from Hazrat Amir ul-Mu’minīn ‘Ali (a.s.): “One who spends for a good cause is recompensed by Allah in this world and there is also an increase in his reward of the hereafter.” (al-Kāfi)
‘Ali (a.s.) also said, “Seek the sustenance through Sadaqah” (Wasa’il ul-Shia Vol. 6 page 259)
It is mentioned in the book Oddatud Dai that Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) asked his son, “How much amount is there for household expenses?”
“Forty Dinars,” replied the son.
Imam (a.s.) told him give in charity all the forty Dinars. The son said that there was nothing else apart from the forty Dinars. Imam (a.s.) said, “You donate all of it in charity, the Almighty Allah will recompense it. Don’t you know that there is a key to everything? And the key to sustenance is Sadaqah.” His son Muhammad gave away the forty Dinars in charity, Ten days had hardly passed when Imam (a.s.) received four thousand Dinars. He told his son, “O Son! We had given forty Dinars and Allah gave us four thousand in return.”
Amir ul-Mu’minīn ‘Ali (a.s.) says in Nahjul Balagha that whenever poverty strikes, you must trade with Allah by giving Sadaqah.
Imam Riďa (a.s.) asked his slave, “Have you given anything in the way of Allah today?”
“No! By Allah,” replied the slave.
“Then how would Allah give us anything in return?” said Imam (a.s.).
Explaining the Qur’anic Verse, “…and whatever thing you spend, He exceeds it in reward and He is the best of sustainers.” (Surah Saba 34: 39)
Imam Sadiq (a.s.) said, “Do you think Allah goes back on His word?”
“No!” replied the narrator, “Then why do you not receive the recompense of your charity?”
“I don’t know”, said the narrator.
Imam (a.s.) said, “If one of you acquires Halāl sustenance and spends even a Dirham from it, he is certainly recompensed for it.” (al-Kāfi Vol. 2 page 595)
It means that if he is not recompensed, either the money was acquired unlawfully or it was spent in an illegal way.
There are numerous Qur’anic Verses and traditions on this subject also but we shall be content with those quoted so far. The late Agha Nūri has illustrated the importance of Sadaqah with forty incidents in his book Kalematul Tayyaba. One of the incidents mentioned therein is quoted by the great scholar, Akhund Mulla al-Fath ‘Ali from his trustworthy relative. He relates that in a particular year when prices had soared high I had sown barley on a piece of land that belonged to me. By chance my crop matured earlier than other people’s crop and soon the grain was ready for consumption. Since at that time all classes of people were facing shortage and hunger, I decided not to make any profit on my produce and went to the mosque and announced that any needy person may take barley from that farm till the other crops are ready. But even a beggar must take only as much as needed by his dependants. So people went to my farm and carried away barley according to their requirements. After the other crops had matured I ordered my agents to have a look at that farm also, in case some grain still remained in the pods. When the grain from this farm was collected I was astonished that it exceeded the sum total that I had grown on other pieces of land. In spite of the needy people taking barley from this farm there was no decrease in its crop. Ordinarily it would not have been possible to find a single stalk on this land. Subsequently all the lands that were used for barley cultivation remain barren for the rest of the year as they are only cultivable once a year. However, in the case of this land it continued to thrive even without sowing any seeds or nurturing it. At last spring arrived and it stopped snowing. The farm was still laden with crops and more fertile than other lands.
I was so astonished that I began to doubt if it is some other land. When the accounts were balanced it was found that the output of this farm was many times that of all other pieces of land.
Also related from the late gentleman is that he had a grape orchard by the roadside. When for the first time the orchard was laden with fruits the owner told the caretaker not to pluck the grapes from the trees lining the boundary wall along the road. These were left for those who passed by the orchard. Thus till the time grapes were ripe the wayfarers plucked grapes from these peripheral creepers. At the end of the grape season he ordered his farm workers to check if any grapes remained near the boundary walls. May be some were hidden behind the leaves and overlooked by passers by. However, it was found that the grapes obtained from this area exceeded the total yield of the rest of the orchard. In spite of the fact that passers by had taken grapes to their heart’s content there was no decrease in them.
The same worthy person has also narrated that every year after wheat was reaped and the grain brought to his residence, he used to calculate Zakat on it and pay to the deserving people. One year before the grain was brought home he thought delay in paying Zakat was uncalled for. And immediately distributed the prescribed share to those who were qualified to receive it. Later the remaining grain was taken home, cleaned and put in huge containers. When the quantity was computed it was found that the amount paid as Zakat had not reduced from the sum total. The quantity was the same as before Zakat was deducted.
In the same above-mentioned book it is narrated from Haji Mahdi Sultanabadi: One year after the wheat season when all the grain was cut I weighed it and paid Zakat at that very place.
After this the grain remained there for a month. Animals and even rats continued to feed upon it. Later when I weighed it again the quantity was the same as before. The quantity that I had paid as Zakat and all that the animals had consumed did not decrease the quantity.

Types of Zakat and its Quantity
Zakat is of two types, Obligatory and recommended. Obligatory Zakat is again of two types. The Zakat of wealth and the Zakat of body (Fitra). The Zakat of wealth is for nine items: Four food grains (Wheat, barley, dates and dried grapes); Three quadrupeds, (Sheep or goats, cows and camels) and two types of coins, (gold and silver).
Zakat of food grains becomes obligatory when wheat, barley, dates or resins reach a particular quantity (Nisāb). The Nisāb (taxable limit) is fixed at 40 mithqal less than 280 Tabrizi mounds approximately equal to 847 Kilograms. If the cultivation of wheat, barley, dates or resins was carried out by rain water, stream/river or from the moisture of the earth (like the lands of Egypt etc.) the Zakat payable is one-tenth of the total yield. But if it was cultivated with well-water etc. the Zakat is 1/20 (twentieth part / 5.

Nisāb of Three types of Quadrupeds

1. Five types of Nisābs apply to Sheep/goats
First Nisāb is forty. From every forty animals one is to be given away as Zakat. No Zakat is payable if Sheep/goats are less than forty in number.
Second Nisāb is one hundred and twenty-one. If one has 121 Sheep or goats he has to give two of them in Zakat.
Third Nisāb is 201 animals. Zakat payable on them is Three sheep/goats.
Fourth Nisāb is 301 sheep/goats. Zakat payable is four animals.
Fifth Nisāb is four hundred sheep/goat or more than this. In this case one part of hundred is payable. In other words from every hundred sheep/goat one is to be given as Zakat.

2. Two Nisābs of Cows
The first Nisāb is thirty. The Zakat for this is a calf which has entered the 2nd year of its life. There is no Zakat if one has less than thirty cows.
The second Nisāb is forty and its Zakat is a female calf which has entered the 3rd year of its life. For example, if a person has 39 Cows, he should pay Zakat on 30 Cows only. Furthermore, if he possesses more than 40 Cows but their number does not reach 60, he should pay Zakat on 40 cows only. And when their number reaches 60 which is twice as much as the first Nisāb (taxable limit), he should give as Zakat 2 calves, which have entered the 2nd year of their life. And similarly, as the number of the cows increases, he should calculate either in thirties or in forties, or from 30 and 40 and not at the rate of multiple of thirty cows as that would have a remainder of 10 cows.

3. Minimum Taxable Limit of Camels
Camels have 12 taxable limits:
(i) 5 camels, the Zakat is one sheep. As long as the number of camels does not reach five, no Zakat is payable on them.
(ii) 10 camels, the Zakat is 2 sheep.
(iii) 15 camels, the Zakat is 3 sheep.
(iv) 20 camels, the Zakat is 4 sheep.
(v) 25 camels, the Zakat is 5 sheep.
(vi) 26 camels, the Zakat is a camel which has entered the 2nd year of its life.
(vii) 36 camels, the Zakat is a camel which has entered the 3rd year of its life.
(viii) 46 camels, the Zakat is a camel which has entered the 4th year of its life.
(ix) 61 camels, the Zakat is a camel which has entered the 5th year of its life.
(x) 76 camels, the Zakat is 2 camels which has entered the 3rd year of their life.
(xi) 91 camels, the Zakat is 2 camels which has entered the 4th year of their life.
(xii) 121 camels and above. In this case, the person concerned should either calculate the camels in groups of 40 each, and give for each set of forty camels, a camel, which has entered the third year of its life; or calculate them in groups of 50 each and give as Zakat, for every 50 camels, a camel which has entered the 4th year of its life, or he may calculate them in the groups of forty and fifty. However, in every case he should calculate in such a way that there should be no balance and even if there is a balance, it should not exceed nine. For example, if he has 140 camels he should give for 100 camels, two such camels as have entered the fourth year of their life and for the remaining forty camels, he should pay one camel which has entered the third year of its life. And the camel to be give in Zakat should be female.

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