Zakat is a system of Social Welfare..
In Islam, Zakat is known a tax-like mechanism to distribute wealth to the poor. Zakat accounts for as 2.5 percent of the wealth and savings which have remained constant for one full year. In Arabic, the term Zakat is derived from the phrase Zaka which means growth, pure and blessed. Therefore the concept of Zakat in Islam means the purification of wealth and a good deed which helps the needy in the society and strengthening social bonds in the community.
Zakat is one of the pillars of Islam and it is a must for every Muslim who satisfies the conditions necessary for payment of Zakat. Muslims do not view their wealth as their personal property, but it is the property of god which he has given to Muslims and instructed them to use their wealth for constructive and legitimate causes.
Zakat is one of the earliest systems used to do social justice and satisfy the needs of the poor and needy, it is based on taking a portion of the wealth of the wealthy and giving it to the poor and those in need, Zakat can also be viewed as a purification for the Muslims of greed and other worldly desires and it also builds a sense of responsibility towards those who are in need. Zakat is also a mechanism to eradicate poverty and sustain good quality lives for people.
Shaikh Hassan Abdullah, under secretary in the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, said Zakat should be paid out to the governor or the government agency in charge of Zakat, unless the agency has given up the right to collect Zakat and allows the payment of Zakat to be paid out in accordance to the payee’s judgment, he also added that there should be a legal authority to collect Zakat which is the ‘Agency of duties’ affiliated to local councils and the Ministry of Local Adminstration, and this agency should collect Zakat and make a fund for investment in order to develop resources replacing the current direct payout of Zakat to the needy with projects and money-generating investments that would eventually aid the needy in the long term and eradicate poverty as a result.
He also added that the demands of modern life necessitates that Zakat should have plans and programs to regulate it all year long and not only be managed in holy months. Zakat should be managed in such a way that would sustain some sort of steady a steady income for the needy while it should also be used in employment-generating activity and investment projects that should result in developing the disadvantaged and providing them with jobs and wages that would improve their standards of living.
Islam says Zakat should be collected by the governor or concerned government agency for this purpose, in order to regulate the affairs of Zakat and plan how it should be paid out during the short-term as well as the long term in order to eradicate poverty and uplift the disadvantaged segments of the society as well as the needy to become Zakat givers instead of recipients of Zakat.
Therefore, Zakat is an Islamic concept that proved to be very efficient at eradicating poverty during the age of Islamic Kalifas reaching a point that Zakat was collected but no recipients worthy of collecting Zakat were to be found.
Recipients of Zakat:
Allah Almighty has specified eight categories of people who have a right to receive Zakat, these are the needy; the detained; those who administer Zakat; new converts to Islam; the Bankrupt; those in dispute; the Volunteers; travelers in seek of refuge.
The Needy: The needy in this context are people whose income is insufficient in covering their living expenses for a full year, therefore they are given Zakat to cover the reminder part of their living expenses for a full year or paying for exceptional circumstances that might affect them such as costs associated with illness.
The Deprived: Those are the people who are in most need for means to cover their basic living requirements and do not have any means of income generation whatsoever, and therefore Zakat equal to a full year’s expenses should be given to such deprived people, such people might include the elderly, physically disabled and orphans.
Zakat Administrators: Those are the people whose job is to collect the Zakat, safeguarding it, managing it and distributing it to the needy. They should be given a part of Zakat in a fair manner as an equivalent of their wages provided that they do not receive wages or salaries from other sources for administering Zakat.
Converts to Islam: Zakat is paid to new or prospected converts to Islam in order to strengthen the sense of belonging to the Islamic faith in the converts, however this Zakat is paid out only in times when the governor sees necessary. Sometimes this sort of Zakat is given out to non-Muslims in order to avoid conflicting with them and also to bring them closer to understanding a prime concept of Islam, which is peace.
The Detained: In this context the detained refers to a person who is unable to pay his dues and therefore losses his freedom (or put in jail). Zakat should be paid out to such people in order to regain their freedoms and rights. Similarly, this Zakat should be paid out to support people who under all sorts of imperialism was it military, social and economic such as the current circumstances in Palestine.
Those under debt or in dispute: The first part in this category is that Zakat should be paid to relatively poor people who are under debt while pursuing a necessity such as to build a house or a shelter for his family or those who suffer as a result of a fire or a catastrophic event, therefore Zakat ought to help them in meeting some of these costs. While the other part is that Zakat should be used in solving disputes between parties such as claims of compensation for damages which the parties involved are unable to reach an agreement on the satisfactory amount of compensation, therefore interference become necessary and the additional amount for compensation which is disputes is to be paid out from Zakat to solve the dispute. In other cases when the first party agrees to compensate the other party(s) but is unable to compensate due to financial hardship then that compensation is given out from Zakat.
Volunteers: This refers that Zakat should be given to volunteers who have no official salaries, volunteering either for spreading Islam, fighting enemies or undertaking social welfare such as in times of natural disasters as well as in times of prosperity in building social interests and community development.
Travelers in seek of refuge: Zakat should also be given out to the travelers who are in need of refuge either because they have lost their way or means of transportation, therefore they should be given the exact amount they need to reach their destination.
Islam is a religion and is a way of life, it has provided the solution for social injustice and for poverty in its pillars as we have seen through the Zakat pillar, god Almighty said in the Quran “All the believers are brothers,” and therefore such mechanism such as Zakat ensure that the bonds of the community are strong especially when it comes to economic hardships and social welfare of the people.