How much can Zakah help the poor people of the world? Let’s find out.
I’m sure you’ve heard of Bill Gates. Most likely, you are currently using at least one of the products his company, Microsoft has produced. He is one of the richest men in the world, currently worth $58 billion. Now, just imagine if he gave away 2.5% of his money to the poor people of America. How many people could that help?
Time to do some quick math. And let’s assume the average American family can get by with $30000 per year. So, if 2.5% of $58 billion is $1.45 billion, how many families could be housed, fed, and educated for one year? That’s 48333 families! Not individuals.
Continuing with the above scenario, assuming each family consisted of 2 children and 2 adults. That brings to total number of people to 193333. That’s more people than the entire population of Orlando. This is amazing! One man could literally care for an entire city of poor people.
You can probably imagine how much good would come to the world if the wealthy gave part of their fortune to the poor. This generosity would improve national economies, reduce crime, and bring better opportunities for all.
And that’s the beauty of Zakah. From the example above, you can see that Zakah is more than just a tax. And it’s more than charity. Zakah is a tool that fosters social harmony and justice.
For the wealthy, Zakah purifies their wealth and brings humility and gratitude. For the poor, Zakah brings hope and satisfaction, and removes enmity for the rich.
There are two types of Zakah. The first type, the one most people are familiar with and the example used above, is called Zakat al Mal.
Zakat al Mal is paid on accumulated wealth over a year. So it’s not based on earnings like income tax. Instead, the amount to be paid is based on whatever amount of wealth a person has in their possession. This would usually entail savings, gold and silver jewelry, stocks, produce, cash, livestock, etc.
Muslims then must pay 2.5% of this accumulated wealth as Zakaat. But not all Muslims are required to pay Zakah. Those people that fall below a certain wealth threshold, called Nisab, are excused.
The other type of Zakah is Zakat al Fitr. This must be paid by all Muslims with enough food for one day. The amount to be paid for Zakat al Fitr is much lower than Zakat al Mal. Zakat al Fitr is paid by the head of the household on behalf of all family members, both young and old. The amount for Zakat al Fitr varies, but in the United States it usually ranges between $5 to $8 per person.
There is profound wisdom in these two types of mandatory charity. Zakat al Mal is paid by the wealthy to the poor and needy. But Zakat al Fitr as paid by all, both rich and poor. Because of this, even the poor earn reward for giving in charity, and they also have a chance to help those who are even more in need.
Zakah cannot be paid to just any charitable cause. The recipients of Zakah are made clear in both the Quran and the statements of Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him.
Zakah can be given to people in the following categories:
Of course, it is permissible to give charity to causes or organizations beyond those listed above. Muslims are encouraged to give voluntary charity, or sadaqah, whenever they can. But only those who fit into the above categories can actually receive the yearly Zakah payments.
Finally, I must make it clear that Zakah is an obligation. Those who can pay the Zakah, and deliberately neglect it, are committing a major sin and may fall out of Islam.
In fact, Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, was the first Caliph of the Muslim world after the death of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). However, some of the tribes that were originally aligned with the Muslims refused to pay the Zakah when Abu Bakr became the leader. Abu Bakr gathered his army and went to war with these tribes until they submitted and resumed paying Zakah.
This story should make it clear how important the Zakah is in Islam. How about calculating how much Zakah would have to give to the poor and needy?
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