Zakat is the fourth pillar of Islam and can also be called as poor tax. Zakat was made mandatory after the migration in Medina period and the Prophet (blessings of Allah be upon him and his family) prescribed the rules for the payment of Zakat. All Prophets of Allah have always stressed the need for the organisation of the institution for poor in order to bring prosperity and social good in the society.
“So establish regular salat, and give regular poor due; and obey the Prophet (PBUH) that you may receive mercy.” (Surah An-Nur 56)
According to the Arabic dictionary, Zakat means purity and cleanliness. The word Zakat is derived from word “Tazkia”. Zakat signifies purity as it purifies our hearts from greed, selfishness and miserliness. And cleans our wealth from the evils of this world, also, the wealth is multiplied by the blessings of Allah.
As per Allama Zamkhasr, the word of Zakat is common between subject and object which means that the subject indicates the quantity of wealth on which Zakat becomes payable, which the rich taxable person sets apart for payment to the Poor. By object is meant the act of paying Zakat and gain purification in return. (Kashaf Volume II Page 61)
Moreover, Zakat is an act of ibadah just like prayer. The difference is that prayer is an act of physical worship while poor due is an act of ibadah through expenditure of wealth. At most of the places in Quran, Zakat is mentioned along with Namaz, where pure faith has been discussed.
“Establish prayer and pay the poor due.” (Quran)
Zakat is an important basic principle of Islam and has been compulsory on Muslims in all ages. The importance of Zakat in Islam can be understood via following points;
Zakat is a fourth pillar of Islam that shows the significance of poor due in the religion of peace.
It was in the time of Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) when some people refused to pay the poor due and the first caliph of Islam declared jehad (war) against them. This shows the great significance of poor tax in Islam.
Zakat is a state institution as it is the duty of the state to calculate and collect poor due from the citizens and distribute it among the recipients of Zakat. Individuals are not free to manage the affairs of Zakat individually or personally. Holy Prophet (SAWW) made Zakat as a state institution that further shows its importance.
Zakat is very important for creating economic equality and social justice in society as it plays a major role in eradicating the poverty and preventing the accumulation of wealth in few hands.
From purification of soul and wealth to creating social justice and economic equality, Zakat is really important to run a state justly being the fourth pillar of Islam.