R'11 Day Eighteen: The Great Zakat Debate
Yes sisters and brothers, it's that time again! The closer we get to Eid ul-Fitr (the day of celebration following the final day of fasting), the more we are thinking about who to give our 2.5% Zakat (i.e. alms/charity) to. And since Zakat is mandatory and MUST be given to someone in need prior to Eid prayers, time is a tickin'!!!
Organizations are taking advantage of this time to send a constant stream of emails with enticing tag lines to persuade their fellow Muslim brethren to donate to their cause!
"Donate and buy a plot of land for the NEW MOSQUE, and you're guaranteed a plot of land in Jannah (heaven)!!!" (in that case, can I get a corner plot, I tend to always attract noisy neighbours?!)
"Give generously to our charity and we will ensure that 100% of your Zakat reaches those in need, because OUR organization has no administration budget!"
To complicate things further, scholars have differing views on what is permissible for Zakat and what isn't, and depending on who is trying to persuade you to give them your money, they will use the various scholarly viewpoints to their advantage. It is all VERY confusing, and can sometimes deter one away from the true spiritual nature of giving alms to those in need. All of a sudden, your money is a hot commodity, and promises of heaven and all things related are enticing you. WHAT TO DO?!
In the Qur'an, Allah Almighty has mentioned 8 categories of people who can receive Zakat. Allah Almighty says: "Alms are for the poor and the needy, and those employed to administer the (funds); for those whose hearts have been (recently) reconciled (to the truth); for those in bondage and in debt; in the cause of Allah; and for the wayfarer: (thus is it) ordained by Allah, and Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom." (At-Tawbah :60)
So if we were to use this logic, then we would be unable to donate Zakat to social programs or charities, because our money does not reach one individual person. In the same light, we wouldn't be able to donate to projects building or maintaining mosques, Islamic schools, and Muslim-run organizations.
However, it wouldn’t be right if things were not more complicated! There are a few scholars who interpret the above Quran passage differently, and believe that the phrase “in the cause of Allah” can be interpreted more broadly than usual. In their minds and reasoning, this term applies to ALL situations where there is a need to serve Islam and Muslims.
Personally, I’ve always wanted to give zakat to someone I personally know who is struggling. It is a struggle for me to ignore this need and donate money solely to a fund to pay for a plot of land for a future mosque costing $1.7 million (by the way, the actual building will GUARANTEED cost at least double that amount!!) that shouldn’t have been bought without ensuring that the money was first there. BUT instead, immense pressure is being placed on the community to fill a HUGE void and if that money isn’t fundraised by October, then we lose a sizeable deposit, of which was our funds. But I digress…that’s a whole OTHER blog topic ;)
And we’ve all been moved by the situation in East Africa, especially Somalia, and how can ignore these peoples’ plights? With the government of Canada matching all donations until mid-September, the time to donate to these IMMEDIATE causes is now!! So it's not solely Zakat that is required during Ramadan, but there are many other very real and critical social causes that as Muslims, we feel torn to donate to. And we should be, as Allah inshallah does not decrease the wealth of those who donate out of a lack of selfishness!
So really, it depends on each individual person to determine what sits right with him or her in terms of giving Zakat and other forms of charity during this month of Ramadan. Ultimately, our intentions are what matters, and if we are justified in giving money to the cause we believe in, then Inshallah may our Zakat will be accepted.
“Those who spent their wealth (in Allah’s Cause) by night and day, in secret and public, they shall have their reward with their Lord. On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (Al Baqarah, 274)