الحمد لله، الحمد لله الذي طهر أموالَ عباده بالركن الثالث من الدين، وجعل في تطبيقه الصحيح سر صحة الأمة والمسلمين، نحمده تعالى ونستعينه، ونشكره تعالى ونستغفره ونستغيثه، نعوذ بالله من شرور أنفسنا ومن سيئات أعمالنا، من يهد الله فهو المهتد ومن يضلل فلن تجد له وليا مرشدا، ونشهد أن لا إله إلا الله وحده لا شريك له، له الملك و له الحمد، يحيي ويميت، بيده الخير، وهو على كل شيء قدير، ونشهد أن سيدنا و مولانا محمداً عبده ورسوله، وحبيبه وصفيه، بلغ الرسالة وأدٌى الأمانة ونصح الأمة، النبي الأمي الذي أرسله الله بالهدى والدين الحق، بشيرا ونذيرا بين يدي الساعة، صلى الله عليه وسلم وعلى آله وأصحابه ومن تبعهم بإحسان إلى يوم الدين.
أما بعد! فيا عباد الله اتقوا الله حق تقاته ولا تموتن إلا وأنتم مسلمون. يأيها الذين ءامنوا اتقوا الله وقولوا قولا سديدا يصلح لكم أعمالكم ويغفر لكم ذنوبكم. ومن يطع الله ورسوله فقد فاز فوزا عظيما. اتقوا الله فيما أمر وانتهوا عما نها عنه وزجر.
We spoke last week about discrimination and how it is a core quality of the Muslim to be able to distinguish right from wrong. But another part of that is to be able to distinguish between the degrees of right and the degrees of wrong. Or, to put it another way, what is most beloved to our Lord of His commands and what is most hated by Him of His prohibitions? We need to learn this in order to prioritise our actions and get the most out of our time. To this end, the fuqaha developed a system or, to put it another way, a grading of aḥkām: Obligatory, Sunna mu‘akadda, Sunna, strongly recommended, recommended, permissible, disliked, strongly disliked, forbidden. The starting point is doing the obligatory and avoiding the forbidden and then we move inward from there. Allah says in a hadith qudsi,
وما تقرب إليّ عبدي بشيء أحب إليّ مما افترضته عليه
“My slave does not get near to Me with anything more beloved to Me than that which I have made obligatory upon Him.” The obligations of the deen are its core. They are what determine our acceptability to our Lord. If their conditions and causes are met they take precedence. Without them we have nothing no matter how many nawāfil we do or how many other good actions we stack up.
The first of the obligations – for among them there are also degrees of importance – is belief, or perhaps I should say certainty. Ibn Ashir says,
أوَّلُ واجبٍ على من كُلِّفا ممكَّنا من نطر أن يعرفا اللهَ والرسْلَ بالصفات
“The first obligation on those who are legally responsible and capable of reflection is to know Allah and the Messengers by their attributes.” For that is the key that unlocks everything and from there it moves to the prayer for that is the ‘imādu-d-dīn – the central support of the deen. The Prophet said,
الصلاة عمادُ الدين فمن تركها فقد هدَم الدين
“Prayer is the central support of the deen. Whoever leaves it destroys his deen.” It is upon this prayer that everything else depends for acceptance. It has been narrated that the Prophet said,
إن أول ما ينظر فيه من عمل العبد يوم القيامة الصلاة فإن وجدت تامة قبلت منه وسائر عمله وإن وجدت ناقصة ردت عليه وسائر عمله
“The first action of the slave that is looked at on the Day of Qiyama is the prayer. If it is there and complete then it – and all his actions – are accepted from him, but if it is found to be lacking then it and all his actions are rejected.”
But there is an action upon which the prayer itself depends for acceptance. Its sister action, one might say, the action with which it is paired again and again and again. More than thirty times in the Book of Allah. That action is zakat. Allah says, for example,
وَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآَتُوا الزَّكَاةَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ
the translation of which is, “Establish the prayer and pay the zakat and obey the Messenger so that hopefully mercy will be shown to you.” This marriage between these two acts is not just one of convenience, it is not just coincidental, they are bonded together in the Unseen. They are lost without each other, neither one acceptable. Ibn Abbas famously said,
ثلاثة لا تقبل إلا بثلاثة، قال تعالى: “وَأَطِيعُواْ اللهَ وَأَطِيعُواْ الرَّسُولَ”، فمن أطاع الله ولم يطع الرسول لم يقبل الله طاعته، وقال: “أَنِ اشْكُرْ لِي وَلِوَالِدَيْكَ”، فمن شكر لله ولم يشكر لوالديه لا يقبل الله شكره، وقال: “وَأَقِيمُواْ الصَّلاَةَ وَآتُواْ الزَّكَاةَ”، فمن أقام الصلاة ولم يؤت الزكاة لا تقبل له صلاة
“There are three things that are not accepted until three other things are in place: Allah says, ‘Obey Allah and obey the Messenger’, so if anyone obeys Allah without obeying the Messenger, Allah will not accept his obedience; Allah says, ‘Thank Me and thank your parents’, so if anyone thanks Allah without thanking his parents, Allah will not accept his thanks; and Allah says, ‘Establish the prayer and pay the zakat’, so if anyone establishes the prayer without paying the zakat (that he owes), Allah will not accept his prayer.” And without the acceptance of the prayer, nothing is accepted. So, zakat is far more important than most realise, not just some optional act of social welfare, but an absolutely fundamental and core part of our deen, a pillar upon which this great edifice is built.
But, in the modern secular era, where wealth and power are considered to be separate entirely from religion, zakat is often misunderstood or misrepresented. Its importance has diminished in the eyes of many Muslims. It is almost an afterthought. Many view it as a tax, in an era where tax avoidance has almost become the duty of the wealthy, or as an obligatory act of charity, a private act of worship where the payment is left to the conscience of the individual. It is neither of those things as will be made clear in due course.
Before we deal with the question of what zakat actually is and how it is has been misunderstood, let us first look at its benefits. There is such anxiety around money in this day and age, with so many bills and taxes, that we have become wary of anything that appears to diminish it. Zakat can appear to some to be just one more drain on our resources, something which eats away at our savings. But it is in fact the opposite. It is the secret to your wealth’s increase, both in numerical terms and in terms of the degree of benefit it brings you. For the knowledge that you will pay zakat on your wealth actually causes you to invest it and make use of it, rather than simply storing it away and leaving it to stagnate and depreciate. It ensures that the lifeblood of a society circulates in a healthy manner, and does not clot up and gather in a single place causing it to grind to a halt and die, which is exactly what riba does. Allah says,
وَمَا آتَيْتُمْ مِنْ رِبًا لِتُرْبُو فِي أَمْوَالِ النَّاسِ فَلَا يَرْبُو عِنْدَ اللَّهِ، وَمَا آتَيْتُمْ مِنْ زَكَاةٍ تُرِيدُونَ وَجْهَ اللَّهِ فَأُولَئِكَ هُمُ الْمُضْعِفُونَ
the translation of which is, “What you give with usurious intent, aiming to get back a greater amount from people’s wealth, does not become greater with Allah. But anything you give as zakat, seeking the Face of Allah – all who do that will get back twice as much.”
Zakat is not a tax and must never be viewed as such. It goes against the grain to give taxes because you are giving the hard-earned fruits of your labour to someone else who has done nothing to merit or deserve it. It is unjust, and so it is natural to begrudge it. But zakat is not that. It is not giving something which is yours to someone who has never done anything to deserve it. Quite the opposite in fact. Zakat is giving something back to those to whom it belongs. Whatever you have, you have been given by Allah, your knowledge, your strength, your talent, your wealth, and in His tremendous generosity He allows you to keep it and make use of it. It is part of the rizq assigned to you by Him. All of it, apart from one small portion. That portion was never given to you to use, it is simply in your hands as an amana, a trust. That portion was intended for a different recipient. If you keep it, you are taking what does not and never did belong to you, you are stealing and misappropriating, doing a great injustice to others. When we give zakat, we are not giving charity at all, we are simply fulfilling our amanāt and returning to others what is rightly their due. Allah says,
إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَامُرُكُمْ أَنْ تُؤَدُّوا الْأَمَانَاتِ إِلَى أَهْلِهَا
the translation of which is, “Allah commands you to return to their owners the things you hold on trust.”
Fulfil your trust, and your Lord will fulfil His promise to you. He will reward you in this world and the Next, He will give you increase in this world and the Next. No taint will be attached your wealth and no stink. It will be a tool for bringing you good, not a weight about your neck, dragging you down and away from your Lord’s good graces. The Prophet said,
من أدَّى زكاة مالِه ذهب عنه شرُّه
“When someone pays zakat on his wealth, whatever bad there is in it is removed.”
Zakat uplifts the poor and purifies and enriches the rich. There is no shame in giving it, no shame in taking it and no shame in receiving it. It is an honour of the highest order. We ask our Lord to restore it to pride of place in all our societies and communities.
أقول قولي هذا وأستغفر الله لي ولكم ولسائر المسلمين من كل ذنب فاستغفروه إنه هو الغفور الرَّحيم
الحمد لله الحمد لله رب العالمين، وأشهد أن لا إله إلا الله وحده لا شريك له وأشهد أن محمداً عبده ورسوله، صلى الله وسلم وبارك عليه وعلى آله وصحبه، والتابعين وتابعي التابعين ومن تبعهم بإحسان إلى يوم الدين.
أما بعد! فيأيها الذين ءامنوا اتقوا الله ما استطعتم واسمعوا وأطيعوا وأنفقوا خيرا لأنفسكم. يا عباد الله أوصيكم وإياي بتقوى الله وطاعته وأحذركم وإياي عن معصيته ومخالفته.
Zakat is the missing pillar of the deen. Some may question this statement, some may get indignant at what they may perceive to be an attack on the integrity of their deen. “How can he say that?” “Is there not a proliferation of institutions that collect and distribute zakat? Do I not carefully ensure that my accountant calculates how much I owe and then ensure that I give it to the most deserving cause?” In their eyes, zakat appears alive and well.
But it is not, but before I explain why I say this, I would like to preface this by saying that Allah does not place a burden on a slave that is more than he can bear, and that he is only charged with doing what he is able. Allah says, as we say every week in the khutba,
اتَّقُواْ اللهَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُمْ
the translation of which is, “Have taqwa of Allah to the extent that you are able.” What I say here is in no way an attack on any individual’s sincere attempts to obey the Commands of his Lord, it is just a recognition of where we are lacking as an umma in this day and age. And there is no doubt that we are lacking as an umma, for Islam is nowhere uppermost in the Land, and where it claims to be, is so far removed from the actual teachings of the deen that it is as if it were not present at all.
We have mentioned before that Islam is a complete all-encompassing system, one that governs all aspects of our lives. It is not just a religion, it is not just the individual’s private and personal relationship with his Lord, his ibadat, it is also his relationship with everything else he encounters and comes into contact with in the course of his life, his mu’amalat.
The bane of the modern age is that it has separated these two aspects of life, what is called secularism. Religion should be limited to the mosque or church or temple and should not show its face in public in any shape or form. The most extreme examples of this are seen in China and France, but it is also true in almost every country of the world, even those who claim their legal system is based on the Commands of Allah. Nationality and race, even sexuality and profession, have supplanted religion – for want of a better word – as the central core of a person’s identity. Religion is an optional extra, a lifestyle choice. This way of viewing things can only work if Islam is relegated to being just about ibadat and the most personal and unobtrusive forms of mu‘amalat – i.e. marriage, death and birth. As soon as the rest of the mu‘amalat are brought back in to the picture, a secularist mindset becomes impossible. This is where zakat comes in. Zakat is the bridge between ibadat and mu‘amalat, the glue that binds them together. For while it is an obligation on the individual, it cannot properly be established or implemented without a correctly functioning society using a real and usury-free form of currency to transact.
For zakat is a function of amirate, a function of governance. For zakat to truly be fulfilled in the way that Allah intends it to be fulfilled, there must be a leader who collects it and distributes it. It must be taken. In surat at-Tawba, Allah says,
خُذْ مِنْ أَمْوَالِهِمْ صَدَقَةً تُطَهِّرُهُمْ وَتُزَكِّيهِمْ بِهَا
the translation of which is, “Take sadaqa from their wealth to purify and cleanse them.”
According to the mufassirun, the word sadaqa in this aya refers specifically to zakat.
Zakat is not a matter for personal conscience and the decision to give or withhold it has never been historically left up to the people. It is important to realise this and until this is realised, it will never be what it is supposed to be – the glue that holds together the umma. It will simply be an act of philanthropy, the wealthy condescending to help out the poor from their largesse, seeing it as their generosity not their duty. They do not have to help out the less well-off but they do. It will become, like charity, a tool of oppression, or at least a means to make people feel beholden and feel in their debt. It helps buttress their position at the top of society and the position of the poor and needy at the bottom. It some ways, it accentuates the divide rather than alleviating it, it emphasises the divisions in society rather than healing them. And because it is the wealthy themselves who are choosing where their zakat will be distributed, the poor come to them, cap in hand, desperate and begging. Instead of being uplifted them, they are humiliated and made to feel low. All because zakat is being given and not taken. All because the Quranic command of ‘take’ is being disregarded and considered inessential.
The great khulafa and fuqaha of the Muslims did not see it like that. Sayyidina Abu Bakr did not let it slide when the tribes who had paid zakat to the Prophet refused to pay it to him. No, instead, he said,
والله لأقاتلن من فرق بين الصلاة والزكاة فإن الزكاة حق المال والله لو منعوني عناقاً كانوا يؤدونها إلى رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم لقاتلتهم على منعها
“By Allah, I will fight anyone who makes a distinction between the prayer and zakat. Zakat is the right which is due on wealth. By Allah, if they refuse me so much as a single goat which they used to pay to the Messenger of Allah, I will fight them for it!” And he immediately made preparations to fight, despite the vast majority of the Muslim warriors having already left for Syria. He saw a correct understanding and implementation of zakat as being so vital to the wellbeing of the Muslim umma that he was prepared to risk its destruction to restore it.
The word ‘take’ is fundamental to a correct understanding and implementation of zakat, but it is also important to understand to whom it is directed. The command in this aya is addressed to the Messenger of Allah in his role as leader of the Muslims. Thus, zakat collection, and by extension distribution, is a function of amirate, of leadership. Only he and his representatives can take it from the rich and distribute it among the poor. This was the ijma of the four imams and of all the major fuqaha from their madhahib. Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal said, “The khalifa alone has the authority and responsibility to collect and distribute zakat, whether by himself or through those he appoints, and he has the authority and responsibility to fight those who refuse to pay it.” And the Hanafi jurist, Ibn Abi Sahl as-Sarakhsi, took it a step further and said, “If someone pays his zakat to other than the ruler, he has not met his obligation of zakat and still owes it.”
This is not a matter of disagreement – it is a matter of consensus. All scholars agree on this point that zakat is inextricably tied to leadership. So what does that mean for the people of this time where proper leadership is lacking. It means that is a fard kifaya upon us to put it into place, for the preconditions of an act of worship are as vital as it is. The fuqaha say,
مالا يتم الواجب إلا به فهو واجب
“Whatever is required by an obligatory act for it to be fully put into place is itself obligatory.” wudu is not optional for the prayer, it is obligatory. And similarly, leadership for zakat.
The current model of zakat is not fit for purpose and is not benefitting and strengthening our umma in the manner that it might. It is but a pale shadow of what it might be. The organisations that collect it may be well-meaning and good-intentioned, but they have taken on something which they have no right to take on and turned it into something which it is not – another category of charity. In the absence of leadership, zakat is given straight to the eight categories of recipient, not to some body that consumes a large portion of it to continue to exist. And they cannot claim that they are zakat collectors for who appointed them as such. Instead of such organisations, and in the absence of leadership at an umma-wide level, local leadership must be restored for this purpose. This deen was established organically and will be restored organically, community by community. Let us be, let us continue to be, one such community. Let us take the lead in restoring this great pillar, let us be among the sābiqūn of our time. Do not wait for others before you act, rather plant the seed that is in your hand and watch it grow.
We ask Allah to give this community success, to give this umma success, and give us the means, the knowledge, the wisdom, the togetherness and the strength to put back in place what is missing and make our deen whole once again.
إِنَّ اللهَ وَمَلَائِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ، يَا أَيُهَا الذِينَ آمَنُواْ صَلُّواْ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُواْ تَسْلِيماً.
اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ وَسَلِّمْ وَبَارِكْ عَلَيْهِ وَعَلَى آلِهِ وَصَحْبِهِ أَجْمَعِينَ. وَارْضَ اللَّهُمَّ عَنِ الْخُلَفَاءِ الرَّاشِدِينَ أَبِي بَكْرٍ وَعُمَرَ وَعُثْمَانَ وَعَلِيٍّ، وعن أم المومنين عائشة التي أمرنا الله في سورة النور أن ندافع عنها، وَعَنْ سَائِرِ الصَّحَابَةِ أَجْمَعِينَ، خُصُوصاً اِلأَنْصَارَ مِنْهُمْ وَالمُهَاجِرِينَ، وَعَنِ التَّابِعِينَ وَتَابِعِي التَّابِعِينَ وَمَنْ تَبِعَهُمْ بِإِحْسَانٍ إِلَى يَوْمِ الدِّينِ.
اللَّهُمَّ اهْدِ وُلَاةَ أُمُورِ المُسْلِمِينَ لِمَا يُرْضِيكَ وَلِاتِّبَاعِ سُنَّةِ نَبِيِّكَ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، وَثَبِّتْ أَقْدَامَهُمْ عَلَى الصِّرَاطِ المُسْتَقِيمِ، وَأَصْلِحْهُمْ يَا رَبَّ الْعَالَمِينَ.
اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ عَلَى شَيْخِنَا، وَعَلَى أَمِيرِنَا، وَعَلَى جَمِيعِ أُمَرَاءِ وَزُعَمَاءِ المُسْلِمِينَ.
اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ عَلَى المُسْلِمِينَ فِي هَذِهِ المَدِينَةِ، وَوَفِّقْهُمْ لِمَا تُحِبُّهُ وَتَرْضَاهُ يَا أَكْرَمَ الأَكْرَمِينَ.
اللَّهُمَّ أَعِزَّ الإِسْلَامَ وَالمُسِْلمِينَ، وَاخْذُلِ الْكُفْرَ وَالْكَافِرِينَ، وَانْصُرِ المُجَاهِدِينَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللهِ. وَاجْعَلْ كَلِمََتَكَ هِيَ العُلْيَا وَكَلِمَةَ الْكُفْرِ هِيَ السُّفْلَى.
رَبَّنَا ءَاتِنَا فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِي الآخِرَةِ حَسَنَةً وَقَِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ.
إِنَّ اللهَ يَامُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَى، وَيَنْهَى عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ، يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَّكَّرُونَ، وَلَذِكْرُ اللهِ أَكْبَرُ وَاللهُ يَعْلَمُ مَا تَصْنَعُونَ. وَقُومُواْ إِلَى صَلاتِكُمْ يَرْحَمُكُمُ اللهُ.