Shahadah (the testimony of faith), salat (praying five times a day), zakat (compulsory charity paid to the poor and the needy), sawm (fasting during Ramadan) and haj (pilgrimage to Mecca) are the five pillars that constitute the framework of Muslim life.
Zakat means “purification” and “growth.” Our possessions are purified by giving away a small portion of our property for those who are in need. It is like the pruning of plants: cutting encourages new growth.
As one of the five pillars of Islam, it is an obligation upon all believing Muslims.
“There are four benefits of paying zakat. First, it is a moral protection for the property; secondly, it assists the poor; thirdly, it protects from jealousy; and lastly, it is a way of expressing gratitude to Allah,” says Noorulhuda Karimi, an Islamic scholar in Kunduz.
“If you are a Muslim, over 14 years old, independent and sane, you have your own property and you have been holding the possession for one lunar year, you should fulfill your duty on zakat.” Karimi specifies.
It is compulsory for those who are in possession of nisab (a minimum amount of wealth: cash, jewellery, crop or cattle) prescribed by the Sharia. The percentage of Zakat varies, depending on the type of wealth. For example, two and a half per cent zakat should be paid on cash, gold or silver, if the wealth is equal or over the nisab.
Mohammad Sabir Yosufi, another Islamic scholar, says that zakat has a very positive impact on the society in alleviating poverty. Less poverty means less social unrest, such as theft, robbery and other social disorders in the community.
“Zakat means that poor people will have their share from the property of rich people. On the other hand, it indicates that wealth and riches are not owned by one person in an Islamic society,” says Yosufi. In other words zakat ensure the fair distribution of wealth in society.