Give Zakah to the deserving ones and do not give it to those who are undeserving, for they will use it as a means of sustenance. (Muslim)
Indeed giving Zakat is one of the most critical aspects of Islam; as Allah (SWT) says:
“Take Sadaqah (alms) from their wealth to purify them and sanctify them with it, and invoke [Allah’s blessings] upon them. Verily, your invocations are a source of security for them; and Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower.” (Quran: 9/103)
The Prophet (PBUH) also said: “The best charity is that which leaves something remaining with the person.” The Companions asked: “What if there is nothing left with the person?” The Prophet replied: “Then, to help him get on his mount so that he can ride it or to give him a milch animal that he can use to till his land.” (Ahmad)
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He should be known for good character and morals. This requirement includes both kinds of Zakat because it is one of its objectives. Allah (SWT) says about Zakat Al-Fitr given in Ramadan: “…so whoever has collected this Sadaqah (alms), it is for parents and the nearest relatives…” (Quran 2/215). Here ‘the near relatives are those who are deserving of Zakat and those who are deserving of charity.
The Messenger (PBUH) said: “The best charity is when you give it to a relative.” This meaning has been mentioned in the following hadith: “…so whoever has collected this Sadaqah (alms), it is for parents….”
He should be free from the liability of Zakat. Some people think that they have fulfilled their responsibility by giving in Zaitulmal and that there is no harm if they do not pay in other money. They say, ‘If we do not pay the two kinds of Zakat, we will try to escape death.’ However, such thinking shows ignorance and negligence about Allah’s Laws and rules governing His bounties. Believers should be careful in this regard so that they accept the right of Allah by thinking little about it.
The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: “Whoever rejects the right bestowed upon him by Allah, He will cast him into destruction.” (Muslim)
He explains that whoever is exempted from Zakat has been freed from being under divine protection in another hadith. He tells us that Prophet Moosa implored Allah to be relieved of Zakat for forty days because his people gave everything in charity during his time. The Prophet (PBUH) added: “But when his people did not give alms anymore, he prayed again saying, ‘O my Lord! I beg you to keep me relieved from your punishment in this world and the Hereafter.’ So Allah granted him that request.” (Muslim)
In another hadith, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The pain of a needy person is not relieved by giving him a thousand pounds. (Fath al-Bari, Bayhaqi).” We may explain this hadith as follows: It shows that if one does not pay Zakat, he will be deprived of the help and protection of Allah. It is stated in hadith that whoever rejects or denies Zakat becomes deserving of punishment. The Messenger of Allah has told us about Zakat’s wisdom when He says:
“It is an easy reckoning for you; you just give two kinds of Sadaqah (alms), and Allah will purify you from all sins.” (Saheeh Muslim, quoted by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani in Fathul-Bari).
Obeying Allah’s commandments is the worship of Him; who knows what is hidden and what is open. He has revealed His commandments for our benefit with wisdom and kindness. We should obey Allah’s rules because they are for our good. The Lawgiver would not prescribe anything that does not benefit us or cause harm to us. If we do not pay Zakat, we sin; but if we act upon the order of Allah (SWT), our reward shall be multiplied till the Day of Resurrection. (Fath al-Qadir)
Muslim scholars unanimously agree that Zakat is a duty, in the sense that it is obligatory to pay it. However, they differ as to when this obligation became compulsory. There are three opinions on this matter:
The second opinion, which states that Zakat was prescribed in the year of Hijrah, has been reported by Imam Hanbali and Ibn Taymiyyah. In our view, it is closer to the truth. This view is based on hadiths related by ‘Umar bin al-Khattab and Zaid bin Thabit who were contemporaries of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).