We all know that Islam is built on five pillars:
Shahadah Declaration of Faith
Salah Performing Prayers regularly
Zakah Paying Charity
Sawm Fasting during the month of Ramadan
Hajj Pilgrimage to the House of Allah (Kabah)
But did you know that it is most likely that the most neglected duty is Zakah?.
"And perform the Salat and give Zakat, and whatever of good (deeds that Allah loves) you send forth for yourselves before you, you shall find it with Allah. Certainly, Allah is All-Seer of what you do."
[Surah Baqarah; 2:110]
Zakat is mentioned many times in the Glorious Qur'an along with Salah. It is a compulsory obligation on every Muslim who owns the Nisab (an amount set by Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala and His Messenger (Sallallahu 'Alayhi waSalam)) in their wealth which was in his possession for one full year.
Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (radiAllahu anhu) fought against those who made a difference between Salah and Zakah during the early days of his Caliphate.
Lets look at the importance of Zakah.
"Take Sadaqah (charity) from their wealth in order to purify them and sanctify them with it and invoke Allah for them. Verily! Your invocations are a source of security for them and Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing"
[Surah At-Tawbah; 9:103]
The Arabic word Zakah means, purity, cleanness and growth. In Islamic terminology it means giving a certain amount of ones wealth to deserving Muslims. But Zakah has an even greater significance. It has humanitarian, social and political value.
Zakah purifies the heart of the giver from selfishness and greed and the heart of the recipient from envy, jealousy and hatred. Mutual love and respect and good feeling is created between both parties. If implemented as instructed by The Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) it plays a dynamic role in economics, social welfare and fair distribution of wealth.
So what is the Nisab for Zakah?
Nisab is the limit above which it is compulsory to pay Zakah. The Nisab for different type of property is different. The Nisab on Gold, Silver and Currencies is the value 85 grams of gold or 595 grams of silver valued at the current rate (the day of paying Zakah).
2.5 percent Zakah is to be paid on any amount over this Nisab. For merchandise and livestock, agricultural products etc. there are different rulings, which are detailed in books on Zakah.
Who gets our Zakah?
Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala tells us in Surah At Tawbah 9: 60 the eight classes of people to whom Zakah should be paid. There are the Poor (Faqir), the needy (Miskin), collectors of Zakah, to attract the heart of those who are inclined towards Islam, to free slaves (captive), those in debt, for the cause of Allah (Jihad, etc) and the traveler.
Now lets ask ourselves what happens when we defraud the government in our taxes? The answer is obvious. We go to prison or pay a heavy fine. But what happens when we defraud Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala? The Merciful answers this question in the following verse of the Glorious Qur'an:
"They who hoard up gold and sliver and spend it not in the way of Allah, announce to them (O Muhammad) a painful torment. On the day when it all will be heated in the Fire of Hell, and their foreheads and their flanks and their backs will be branded with it, (and it will said to them) This is the treasure which you hoarded for yourself, now taste of what you used to hoard."
[Surah At-Tawbah; 9: 34-35]
I pray to Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala to save us from this punishment.