Zakāt is an important subject and we should, therefore, understand the underlying philosophy of this great injunction of the Holy Quran. The importance of this basic command in Islam could not be overstressed as it is one of the main sources of national progress and rapid advancement.
Before embarking on the subject proper, we would like to clear a couple of misunderstandings that are afloat in this connection
The Ahmadis positively believe that Zakāt is a very important command and to pay it regularly is their wont. The Founder of the Ahmadiyya Community had ascribed a great importance to it and had commanded that no member of his community should ever show any negligence in its payment. In the administration section of the Jama’at, there is a special branch for its collection. Every year a full statement of account, in this connection, is published and placed with the Annual Budget of the Jama’at.
It is, therefore, not correct to say that the Ahmadis do not pay the Zakāt. The Founder of the Community, Hazrat Ahmad, had said that he who falls short of even a single command from the seven hundred commands of the Holy Quran takes himself out of the pale of my Community. How could this possibly be attributed to us that we do not believe in Zakāt and do not pay it?
It is very well known that a great number of newcomers enter the Community either from the non-Ahmadi section of the Muslims or from the other faiths. They cannot be quickly trained into all their obligations. On account of their old habits, they do not quickly fall in line with the old Ahmadis and mistakenly begin to think that because they have contributed to the general funds of the Jama’at they have fulfilled all their monetary obligations. They fail to realize that Zakāt and the voluntary contributions are two separate responsibilities and both are very important, but Zakāt has precedence over the others. It must be remembered that no matter how big an amount one has paid into the voluntary funds, he has not acquitted himself of the Zakāt obligation.
Voluntary contributions are always made for the holy wars carried out either by sword or pen. lt is compulsory to participate in this as it is indeed a very important duty.
But Zakāt and other almsgivings are spent for the benefit of the poor and the needy. Books and other propaganda requirements are not paid from these funds. It must, therefore, be clearly understood that voluntary contributions, commonly known as ‘Chanda’ in the Urdu language, and Zakāt are two separate branches and must not be mixed together.
Zakāt is a part of devotion enjoined upon the Muslims by the Holy Ouran. In order to understand its proper aim and purpose one must bear in mind that whatever has been created on the earth is entirely for the benefit of mankind. God says in the Quran:
‘He it is Who created for you all that is in the earth.’ (2:30)
And again He says:
‘And He has subjected to you whatever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth; all this is from Him .. .’ (45:14)
It is, therefore, not at all difficult to understand that all that has been created in the whole of the universe is for the service and the benefit of entire mankind and is not confined or limited to any special persons or groups. These have neither been created for Tom, nor for Dick, nor for Harry and for that matter neither for the Pharaoh. Nay, these are created for everyone who is born in this world. Therefore, be it the governor or the governed, be he rich or poor, be he great or small or be he the king or one of his subjects, no single person could ever claim to be the sole inheritor and say that these were created only for him.
But in actual practice we see that, for various reasons, every man is not deriving equal benefit and there are some who are getting no benefit at all. God has, therefore, directed a special course, a special system under which even those who have no means to get their share may derive a certain benefit from what God has created for mankind and from which they have been totally denied their share.
The Holy Quran also guides us to the fact that God alone is the Supreme Master of everything and He alone owns the entire universe and all its contents. He says:
‘To Allah belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth.’ (2:285)
For the very simple reason that God is the Creator and the Sustainer of all the worlds and men and animals and all else have been created by Him, therefore, all His creatures have a right in all His creations.
The Holy Quran says:
‘And in their wealth was a share for one who asked for help and for one who could not.’ (51:20)
So long as the have-nots and their kind do not get their due share, they have a claim on the wealth and possessions of the rich. For this reason Islam has laid down rules under which the due share of the poor and the weak is taken from the wealth of the rich. This system under which the poor get their due share is known as the ‘ZAKĀT’.