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  • 10/4/2008

What Is The Philosophy Behind (The Payment) Of Zakaat?


 In view of the fact that Islam did not manifest itself as an ethical, philosophical or theological doctrine but rather, came forth as a comprehensive religion that catered to all the material and spiritual needs of the people, and bearing in mind that Islam, from its very onset during the time of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny), had always been associated with the establishment of a government, and also, given that Islam pays special attention to supporting the underprivileged ones and combating class difference in the society, it becomes obvious that the role of the public treasury and zakaat, which is one of the sources of income for it, is one of extreme significance.

Without any doubt, every society has its share of people, who are incapacitated, diseased, handicapped, orphans without guardians and the like, who need to be cared and looked after.


In addition, in order to protect itself from the evil intentions of enemies it is in need of an army, whose expenses are covered by the government.  Similarly, there is also the need for funds to be allocated for the employees of the Islamic government, judges, religious centers and, advertising and promotional equipments, which, without an assured and disciplined monetary support, cannot be organized and regulated. 


And it is for this reason that the issue of zakaat, which, in reality, is regarded as a kind of ‘tax on income and production’ and ‘tax on stagnant wealth’, possesses such great significance in Islam, to the extent that it is even placed at par with the most important acts of worship -

on numerous occasions it has been mentioned together with the prayers and has even been regarded as a condition for the acceptance of the prayers!

We even read in the Islamic traditions that if an Islamic government seeks zakaat from some individuals and they stand up against the government and refuse to pay it, they shall be regarded as apostates.  And if, in spite of repeated counseling, they refuse to back down from their stubborn stance, it is permissible to use military force against them.  The incident of the People of Raddah (the group, who refused to pay their zakaat after the demise of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny), whereupon the Caliph of the time initiated a military campaign against them.  Even Imam A"li (peace be upon him) had endorsed this expedition and had been one of the commanders on the battle-field, himself) is very well known in the Islamic history.

poor population


In a tradition, Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) states:

مَنْ مَنَعَ قِيرَاطاً مِنَ الزَّكَاةِ فَلَيْسَ بِمُؤْمِنٍ وَ لَا مُسْلِمٍ وَ لَا كَرَامَةَ 

(One, who withholds (even) one carat of zakaat, is neither a Mu"min nor a Muslim and possesses no esteem and value!) 1

Interestingly, it can be concluded from the traditions that the measure of zakaat has been so meticulously evaluated in Islam that if all the Muslims were to pay their zakaat completely and correctly, not a single poor and destitute person would exist in the entire Islamic nation!


Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) says:

If all the people were to pay the zakaat of their wealth, not a single Muslim would be left indigent and needy.  People do not turn needy, destitute, hungry and bare except due to the transgressions of the affluent ones! 2

From the traditions it can also be deduced that payment of zakaat becomes reason for the protection of proprietorship and strengthening of its foundation, such that should the people become heedless of this important Islamic principle, divisions and schisms would erupt amongst the groups in such a great measure that even the properties of the affluent ones would fall in jeopardy.


It has been narrated that Imam Musa Ibn Ja’far (peace be upon him) said:

حَصِّنوا أَمْوَالَكُمْ بِالزَّكَاةِ

 (Protect your possessions by means of zakaat) 3

The above meaning has also been conveyed in other traditions that have been reported from the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) and Amirul Mu"mineen (peace be upon him).4


  1.Wasaail al-Shia"h, vol. 6, pg. 20, chapter 4, tr. 9.

  2.Ibid, vol. 6, pg. 4 (Chapter 1 of the Chapters of Zakaat, tr. 6).

  3.Ibid, vol. 6, pg. 6 (tr. 11).

  4.Tafseer-e-Namunah, vol. 8, pg. 10.

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