Zakat and the war fought for it |
Saudi Gazette - 15 August, 2012
Author: DR. Ali Alghamdy
Wars are fought and armies are mobilized for the sake of realizing regional ambitions and gaining worldly benefits. They are also fought for fulfilling imperial motives and settling political scores. But the wars against apostasy were fought for the cause of the poor and to restore their right to benefit from Zakat that was made compulsory by God on the wealth of the rich, and these wars took place when some people tried to rob the poor of their rights.
After the death of the Prophet (peace be upon him), some Arab tribes declined to pay Zakat by saying: "We used to give Zakat to Muhammad. But now Muhammad is no more, and hence we are not obliged to give Zakat." Some of them renounced Islam while others did not but refused to pay Zakat. Some senior companions of the Prophet (pbuh), including Umar Bin Khattab, were against being tough on this matter so as not to cause Islamic society to disintegrate and lose its strength. But the Caliph Abu Bakr was firm and tough on this issue.
He considered those who refused to pay Zakat as apostates, and in this respect, there was a famous saying of Abu Bakr: “By Allah, if they withhold the rope of a camel they used to give in Zakat to Allah’s Messenger, I will fight them for it.”
Abu Bakr mobilized armies to fight apostates and those who refused to pay Zakat, in addition to those who made undue claims to prophethood like Musailama, the liar, of Yamama. This man arrived in Madinah and embraced Islam during the period of the Prophet (pbuh). After returning to his people of Bani Hanifa, he told them: “I had reached agreement with Muhammad to divide the prophethood between me and him.” Musailama informed his people that he had annulled the obligatory prayer, permitted adultery, and the drinking of liquor. He also sent a message to the Prophet (pbuh) in which he said: “From Musailama, the messenger of Allah to Muhammad, the messenger of Allah: I share the authority with you now: you have half of the earth and it is for me the remaining half. But the Quraish are oppressors.”
The Prophet (pbuh) sent a reply message saying: “From Muhammad, the messenger of Allah, to Musailama, the liar. Peace be upon those who followed the righteous path. After all, the earth belongs to Allah. He gives this to be inherited by those whom He wishes from among His subjects, and the ultimate reward is for those who are pious.”
Musailama was one of the apostates with whom Abu Bakr decided to fight.
Accordingly, he mobilized an army under the command of Khaled Bin Al-Waleed who was able to kill Musailama and return his people to Islam by encouraging them to observe the pillars of Islam, including the payment of Zakat.
As we know, Zakat is the third pillar of Islam. The Qur’an mentions it on several occasions together with performing obligatory prayer. A Hadith, reported by Ibn Umar from the Prophet (pbuh), says: “I was ordered to fight the people until they say there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, as well as to perform prayer and give Zakat.” – Bukhari and Muslim.
Zakat prescribes payment of fixed proportions of a Muslim’s possessions to a certain group of people. There are eight categories of people who qualify to receive Zakat funds. The Qur’an states: “As-sadaqaat (here means zakat) are only for the fuqara (poor), and al-masaakin (the needy) and those employed to collect (the funds) and to attract the hearts of those who have been inclined (toward Islam), and (to free) captives, and for those in debt, and for Allah’s cause (i.e. for those fighting in a holy battle) and for the wayfarer (a traveler who is cut off from everything); a duty imposed by Allah. “ (Taubah; 9/60)
Faqir is the one who lives in absolute poverty and needs other people’s help to survive. Miskeen is the one who has some means to survive but they are not sufficient to meet his basic needs. The third is one who is engaged in collecting and administering Zakat funds while the fourth is the non-Muslim who is sympathetic to Islam and wishes to convert to Islam or the new convert whose faith is yet to be strengthened. Another category consists of those whom one is attempting to free from slavery. Those who have incurred overwhelming debts while attempting to satisfy their basic needs are also included in this category. The remaining two categories include those working in God’s way and voluntary warriors, and travelers who have no means to reach their homeland.
Zakat should be payable for livestock, such as camels, cows and sheep. Similarly, there is Zakat for agricultural produce, such as grain and fruit, as well as for gold and silver and their equivalent currency. Zakat should also be payable for commercial wealth but it is not required for production machinery. Zakat becomes obligatory after holding an asset for a period of one year.
But it is unfortunate that Zakat is not being paid in accordance with the commands of Allah. Had it been paid in accordance with the order of Allah, there would not be any poor Muslim people. It was reported that during the period of the Umayyad Caliph Omar Bin Abdul Aziz, officials complained that there was no one who deserved to receive Zakat funds because there were no poor and needy in Islamic society.
The local media recently carried a statement from the prominent businessman Sheikh Saleh Kamel, Chairman of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, saying that the volume of Zakat funds in Saudi Arabia had reached SR1 trillion and that if this wealth were distributed in the proper way, there would not be any poor people in the Kingdom.
I hope that anyone who has wealth, however little it is, will pay Zakat when the one-year holding period (nisab) is reached, for that will have a great impact and positive results. Let me conclude with a famous quote from the fourth Islamic Caliph Ali Bin Abi Taleb: “There are no poor men without being sustained by rich people.” – Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdy is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs.