Zakah and Closeness
Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
This article is transcribed by a SeekersGuidance scholarship student and based on the lecture series “Hope and Closeness: The Way to Allah” by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani. This is the eighteenth session of the series.
The idea of living a good life in the modern world is reduced to the notion of serving the Self. Any effort to share the provision with fellow human beings seems to be dubbed as a mere waste of resources.
Amid this rising self-centeredness, finding meaning and contentment in sharing your resources is a sacred gift offered to the human race by Allah Most High.
Caring for Fellow Beings
To care for fellow human beings is given precedence in Islam and given so much importance that it is part of the five foundational pillars of Islam. This notion of sharing our resources with fellow human beings remains at the heart of our journey to seek closeness to Allah Most High.
It is inevitably essential to look at certain aspects of the institution of zakah and how it works as a medium to facilitate this sacred journey.
Meaning of Zakah
The very meaning of the word zakah in Arabic is one to purify, rectify or refine something. The second meaning is various forms of ‘increase’ in degrees. So, the question of ‘purification of’ and ‘increase in’ remains the critical aspect of zakah and is at the heart of this session.
Purification of Self
There are degrees to understand and unpack the institution of zakah that revolves around ‘purification’ and the various means of an ‘increase in’ wealth. zakah purifies one’s wealth and increases it because believers not only consider the worldly good but equally consider the good of the hereafter.
As the believer sees the world in the light of faith and guidance, which Allah Most High beautifully mentions in the Quran, “he gives increase to all acts of charity” [Quran, 2:276], which comes only through the commitment and clarity in the faith of Islam.
Allah’s Messenger echoes this in a hadith, “no person’s charity diminishes through charity” and “charity never diminishes anyone’s wealth.” [Muslim] It increases either materially or in its blessings; this is the idea behind the whole philosophy of spending in the way of Allah.
Closeness to Allah Most High
It equally purifies and increases one’s religion because we are not merely fleeting beings but exist spiritually on a journey toward Allah. The blameworthy traits within us and the impediments we encounter can be ignored through the designated modes of acts and actions to make this journey easier.
One such aspect is zakah which addresses one of the fundamental flaws of human beings, i.e., fixing our stinginess and weaknesses. Zakah instills in us the concern for the poor and needy and works as an opportunity to earn eternal reward. Above all, it is a means to closeness to Allah Most High.
Zakah and Removal of Stinginess of Self
In Drawing closer to Allah, Siraj al-Din talks about the merits of zakah. He mentions, “it removes the stinginess of the self (shuhh)—one of the core blameworthy traits among human beings. Echoing what Allah Most High says in the Quran, “whosoever is shielded from the stinginess of their self, it is those who are the victorious ones.” [Quran, 59:9]
One such hadith of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) mentions safeguarding oneself from stinginess by being part of those “who give zakah willingly in good spirit, feed their guests, and give in times of distress.” [Bukhari]
Protection from HellFire
Zakah is a means to offer glad tidings to those who spend in the way of Allah and protection from hellfire. Allah Most High warns in the Quran, “Those who hoard gold and silver and do not spend it in the way of Allah, give them tidings of intense punishment.” [Quran, 9:34]
Rights of the Underprivileged and Poor
Zakah is the right of the poor, the needy, and the deserving. To restrain from spending on the way of Allah Most High is infringing on the rights of the poor. Allah alludes to this fact in the Quran “in their wealth is the known right of the needy and the deprived” [Quran, 51:19], and this relates to our responsibility towards the Creator.
Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “be merciful to people in this world so Allah will be merciful to you on the day of judgment.” [Tirmidhi] It is also to recognize the source of rights and then actively concern ourselves with the sacred purpose of every act and action suggested in the teachings of the Quran and the ahadith of Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace).
Of the other meanings of zakah and charity, Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “charity is the proof” [Muslim] of our commitment to fulfilling the trust of our moral responsibility towards Allah Most High.
It is proof of seeking closeness to Allah, and the reality of his promise lies in believing that whatever we give will be replaced by much better. It is a means to understand the higher spiritual responsibility and as an opening toward Allah Most High.
Shaykh Faraz Rabbani spent ten years studying with some of the leading scholars of recent times, first in Damascus, and then in Amman, Jordan. His teachers include the foremost theologian of recent times in Damascus, the late Shaykh Adib al-Kallas (may Allah have mercy on him), as well as his student Shaykh Hassan al-Hindi, one of the leading Hanafi fuqaha of the present age. He returned to Canada in 2007, where he founded SeekersGuidance in order to meet the urgent need to spread Islamic knowledge–both online and on the ground–in a reliable, relevant, inspiring, and accessible manner. He is the author of: Absolute Essentials of Islam: Faith, Prayer, and the Path of Salvation According to the Hanafi School (White Thread Press, 2004.) Since 2011, Shaykh Faraz has been named one of the 500 most influential Muslims by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center.