The Holy Quran also warns those who do not pay Zakāt that they shall be punished. Zakāt is so important an injunction that its defaulter earns, without the least doubt, the displeasure of Allah Who has warned all in the Quran:
‘. .. And woe to idolators who do not pay the Zakāt, and they it is who deny the hereafter.’
Those who do not pay the Zakāt are called ‘idolators’ in the above verse and they have been warned in the following verse of the Holy Quran:
‘And let not those, who are niggardly with respect to what Allah has given them of His bounty, think that it is good for them; nay, it is evil for them. That with respect to which they were niggardly shall be put as a collar round their necks on the day of Resurrection.’ (3:181)
And in the Chapter Al-Tauba He says:
‘. .. And those who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah — give to them the tidings of a painful punishment. On the day when it shall be made hot in the fire of Hell, and their foreheads and their sides and their backs shall be branded therewith and it shall be said to them: “This is what you treasured up for yourselves; so now taste what you used to treasure up.’ (9:34-35)
In the above verses a warning of punishment in the hereafter has been given. (For a detailed discussion on the state of man in the life hereafter see The Philosophy and Teachings of Islam by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad)
In the Traditions also warning has been given of a dreadful punishment. The Holy Prophet, peace be on him, said, ‘He who has been blessed by Allah with affluence, but does not pay Zakāt on his assessable assets, shall, on the Day of Resurrection, accost his wealth in the shape of a serpent who will catch hold both his jaws and bite him saying “I am your wealth”‘ and then the Holy Prophet recited this verse: ‘And let not those who are niggardly … on the Day of Resurrection.’ (3:181)
It is mentioned in another Tradition that the Holy Prophet saw two women wearing bangles of gold on their hands and he asked them whether they paid Zakāt on them. They both replied in the negative. He then said, ‘Do you wish that you be wearing bangles of fire instead of these?’ They said, ‘No.’ He then said that they should pay Zakāt for them (Tirmidhi).
In another Tradition of ‘Sahih Bukhari’ it is mentioned that the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, will refuse to intercede for those who do not pay the Zakāt (Bukhari).
But this also is a fact so often proved that whenever the assessable portion of Zakāt remains intact with one’s possessions, he has to suffer loss here in this world over and above the retribution in the hereafter: Hazrat ‘Ayesha, the Holy Prophet’s spouse, said, ‘I have heard the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, saying “If the Zakāt portion remains unpaid from anyone’s assets, that portion causes the ruin of the whole.”‘ (Mishkat: the Book of Zakāt)
An Ansar of Medina, named Th’alabah, once came to the Holy Prophet and entreated for supplication on his behalf that he may become rich. The Holy Prophet did as he was requested. The man had promised that he would always pay the due Zakāt. God Almighty accepted the supplications of the Holy Prophet on behalf of Th’alabah and made him affluent. He got so engrossed in tending his goats that he began to neglect his Prayers and gradually completely stopped coming to the mosque for Prayers. Once the Holy Prophet enquired from his companions about Th’alabah, what had happened to him and why he did not come for Prayers? Someone told him that he was busy looking after his flocks. The Holy Prophet sadly said, ‘How pitiable for Th’alabab’, and he repeated this three times.
When the command for Zakāt was revealed from Allah to the Holy Prophet he sent some men for collecting Zakāt from him. But Th’alabah refused, saying what is this penalty for? He asked them to come some other time. But when they went to him again, he refused again, complaining why he was being penalized for no reason at all. The men came back to the Holy Prophet and reported what Th’alabah had said. The Holy Prophet said, ‘How sad for Th’alabah’, and there and then the following verse was revealed to him:
‘And among them there are those who made a covenant with Allah, saying, “If He gives us of His bounty, we would most surely give alms and be of the virtuous.” But when He gave them of His bounty, they became niggardly of it, and they turned away in aversion. So He requited them with hypocrisy which shall last in their hearts until the day when they shall meet Him, because they broke their promise to Allah, and because they lied.’ (9:75-77)
Someone went to Th’a labah and told him that some verses had been received concerning him. Th’alabah at once came running to the Holy Prophet and offered to pay the Zakāt. But the Holy Prophet refused to accept from him anything and said, ‘Allah has commanded me not to accept any alms from you as you have been guilty of breaking your words.’
After the demise of the Holy Prophet, Th’alabah brought the due Zakāt portion to Abu Bakr, to Umar and to Othman every year. But each of these Caliphs refused to accept anything from him. The man died during the caliphate of Hazrat Othman.
Haritha bin Wahab reports that he heard the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, say: ‘Spend in the way of Allah because a time will come on you when man shall take his alms to give and we’ll find no one to give it to. Another will say: Had you brought it yesterday, I would have accepted but today I do not need it.’ (Bukhari)
Precisely according to these prophetic words, there came a time during the middle and later Khilafat when the Muslims had become so rich that no one accepted alms. That is the economic revolution that Zakāt weaves into our lives.
One can easily deduce from the above how important it is to pay the Zakāt and also how beneficially it is disbursed. The Reformer of this age, the Promised Messiah, has made it very clear to all his followers that:
‘O ye all, who consider themselves members of my Community, you shall be considered, in heaven, the members of my Community only when you will really and truly walk in the paths of righteousness. Observe, therefore, your five daily prayers with the fear of God in your hearts and with such an attention as if you are actually seeing Him with your own eyes. And also observe your fasts with all sincerity and everyone … from among you who is liable to pay the Zakāt must pay it and must go for the Hajj on whom it is due and for whom there are no impediments.’