By Muhammad Yunus, New Age Islam
30 September 2017
(Co-author (Jointly with Ashfaque Ullah Syed), Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, USA, 2009
Traditionally the word Zakat, which appears in the Qur’an repetitively in the expression ‘Aqimus Salata Wa Aatuz Zakata’ is translated as ‘mandatory charity’ or the institutional Zakat that is collected and disbursed by the Islamic state. The Qur’an, which largely pre-dates the formation of Islamic state under Caliph Umar, connotes this word with care and concern for humanity. Accordingly, the Meccan Muslims (23:4, 31:4), the ancient prophets (21:73) the wives of the Prophet (33:33)and the persecuted followers of Prophet Moses (2:83), who lived prior to the introduction of mandatory Zakat, were asked to exercise Zaka has the following renditions of the referenced verses clearly demonstrate:
“And when We took a pledge from the Children of Israel: ‘You shall worship none save God and be good to parents, and to the ‘Qurba’ (relatives, and those close to you), to the orphans, and the needy, and speak kindly to people; and keep up prayer, and exercise Zakah (Aatuz Zakata);but then you turned away except a few of you, for you were obstinate folk.;” (2:83)
“And We made them (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) leaders guiding (people) by Our command, and We inspired them to do good deeds, and to keep up prayer and exercise Zakah (Eeta Azzakati’); and they remained constantly devoted to Us” (21:73)
“Believers will indeed succeed (attain to Falah) (23:1): those who are humble in their prayer (23:2), who avoid foul talk (23:3), who are active in Zakah (liz zakati fa‘ilun)” (23:4).
“Ta Sin! These are the verses of the Quran - the Book that makes (things) clear (27:1) –a guidance and good tidings for the believers (27:2), who keep up prayer, exercise Zakah (yu’tunazzakata) and are certain of the hereafter (27:3).
“These are the verses of the Book of Wisdom (31:2), a guidance and mercy for the doers of good (31:3) who keep up prayer and exercise Zakah (yu’tunaz zakata) and are certain of the hereafter (31:4). It is they that are on true guidance from their Lord; and it is they who will succeed (attain Falah) (31:5)
“(O Wives of the Prophet) stay at your homes and do not go out flaunting your charms as (women used to do) in the former times of Ignorance. And keep up prayer and exercise Zakah (aatinaz zakata), and obey God and His Messenger. God only wishes to remove abominationfrom you, O members of the (Prophet’s) household, and to purify you to the utmost of purity.” (33:33)
The Qur’an also uses the word Zakah and its other roots with the connotation of ‘purifying ’a person’s inner self (Nafs) or thoughts by removing the defilements (sexual lust, hatred, greed, vengeance, etc.) that constantly stalk human mind. This is illustrated in the following verses that also bear out the different shades of connotation of ‘purification’:
“You who believe, do not enter houses, except your own homes, until you have taken permission, and invoke peace upon their occupants. This is better for you, that you may be mindful (24:27); and if you find no one at home, do not go in until you are given permission; and if you are told to go away, go away. This is conducive to the purity (azka) of your thoughts. (Remember,) God is Cognizant of what you do (24:28)
“Tell believing men to restrain their glances and guard their private parts. This is (conducive) to the purity of their thoughts (azka). Indeed God is Informed of whatever they contrive (in their minds)” (24:30).
“Those who avoid grave sins and abomination except for minor lapses (will) indeed (find) God Boundless in forgiveness. He knows you (well) as He caused you to grow from the earth and when you were hidden in your mothers’ wombs; so do not regard yourselves pure(tuzakku). God knows best who heeds” (53:32).
“He indeed succeeds who purifies (Tazakka) it (his inner self); and he fails who corrupts it (87:14, 91:9).
In sum, when the Qur’an says ‘Aqimus Salata Wa Aatuz Zakata’ to the believer - rich or poor, male or female, it not only commands him to be regular in prayer, but also commands him to show mercy and compassion to others, to purify his or her thoughts – that is repel all negative and evil thoughts from it. A person of means will be required to give generously in charity (Sadaqa) to fulfill his Zakah obligation (9:60) that became the basis of mandatory Zakat as we shall discuss separately.
God willing, this Reflection will help broaden the religious thoughts of Muslims – lay and Ulema, whose reductive interpretation of Zakat (plural form of Zaka) as charity overshadows the profoundly humanistic and universal dimension of this tenet, which is central to the din of Islam and bedrock of Islamic Humanism.
Part Ten of the Series:
Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.
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