By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, New Age Islam
31 August 2019
Zakat is one of the pillars of Islam, imposed by God Almighty upon every Muslim, male or female, under special conditions of Islamic Sharia; namely freedom, full possession of such estate or effect as are termed in the jurisprudential terminology a Nisab, and possession of the same Nisab for the space of one complete Hijri year. Zakat is a right of the poor and needy; which is imposed on all the Muslims who meet the afore-mentioned conditions. God Almighty says, “And from their properties is [given] the right [share] of the beggar and the deprived”. (51:19)
Of the Sharia Ahkam (Sharia rules) there are some which are not related to interests of God’s slaves and are between the servant and his God, such as fasting, prayer etc. There are others which are related to human interests such as Zakat.
The importance of Zakat lies in the economic aspect of Muslim community because it helps the poor, sick people, orphans and so forth. So if people stop from paying Zakat and the Muslim government commits negligence in its collection, it will lead to disruption of an Islamic law and also to a great economic corruption in the community. The reason for this is that if these needy people do not find those helping them, they will either die of hunger or go astray. And this is a corruption that Islam forbids us from indulging in. Therefore the law maker of Sharia made it compulsory upon the Muslim government to collect Zakat so that this corruption does not occur. First the Muslim government is bound to ask the rejecters of Zakat to seek repentance; so if they repent and pay Zakat, then there is no issue for them, but if they insist on rejecting Zakat, the government has right to take necessary legal steps against them.
As for divine punishment in the Hereafter for those who do not pay Zakat, Allah Almighty has mentioned it in the Quran, “O you who have believed, indeed many of the scholars and the monks devour the wealth of people unjustly and avert [them] from the way of Allah. And those who hoard gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah - give them tidings of a painful punishment.” (9:34) “The Day when it will be heated in the fire of Hell and seared therewith will be their foreheads, their flanks, and their backs, [it will be said], "This is what you hoarded for yourselves, so taste what you used to hoard.” (9:35)
We find that what Hazrat Abu Bakr (May Allah be pleased with him) did in fighting against the rejecters of Zakat is not unusual because most governments fight or take their legal steps against those who violate or disrupt their laws related to their lives and those who try to sabotage them. That is why Hazrat Abu Bakr fought against the apostates who not only refused to pay Zakat but also rebelled against and intended to sabotage the Muslim State.
A well-known classical scholar, Allama Badr al-Din al-Aini (1360-1453) writes in his commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari, “Hazrat Abu Bakr al-Siddiq fought those who refused to pay Zakat because they had taken up the sword and started a war against the Muslim community…Hazrat Abu Hanifa took the ground that he who refuses to pay Zakat must neither be killed nor even fought. However, he must be forced to pay it without the use of the sword, and must only be killed if he rose up to attack. This is exactly what Hazrat Abu Bakr did with those who refused to pay Zakat during his caliphate. He did not fight them until they rose up to attack him” (Badr al-Din al-Aini, Umdatul Qari Sharh al-Bukhari, vol.11, 12, page 236 (The Development of Apostasy And Punishment Law in Islam- A research thesis submitted to the faculty of Divinity of Glasgow University in Complete Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, 2002, by Samuel Hosain, Lamarti page 131-132)
Even today if someone fails to pay taxes to his government across the world, he is sentenced to prison. In America Patrick J. Belzner was sentenced to 15 years-imprisonment for tax evasion. China killed tax evaders in 2001, as reported by A New York Times articles 11 Mar. 2001. (See details here: https://bit.ly/2Le1YdA)
To sum up, Hazrat Abu Bakr and his army fought against the rejecters of Zakat who were also known as apostates, not because they simply refused to pay Zakat but also that they denied the rights of the poor and needy by their refusal, actively rebelled and took up arms against the Muslim State. Hence it can’t be justified merely on some reports that Hazrat Abu Bakr fought against apostates merely on the basis of their apostasy. The main reason for his waging fight against these apostates was to protect the rights of the poor and needy in society and lives of other civilians living under his State.
A regular Columnist with NewAgeIslam.com, Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi Dehlvi is an Alim and Fazil (Classical Islamic scholar), with a Sufi-Sunni background and English-Arabic-Urdu Translator. He has also done B.A (Hons.) in Arabic, M.A. in Arabic and M.A in English from JMI, New Delhi. He is Interested in Islamic Sciences; Theology, Jurisprudence, Tafsir, Hadith and Islamic mysticism (Tasawwuf).
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