ZAKAAT AND TAXES
Zakaat, by definition, is an ordained right for specific wealth from a specific group at a specific time in order to achieve Allah’s Pleasure and purify the self one, one’s wealth and the society-at-large. Whereas a tax, by definition, is a burden determined by an authority (civil or otherwise). This authority collects it through compulsion and uses the revenue for general expenses and to achieve some economical, social or political objective of the state.
Comparison between the Zakaat and Taxes
1. Both zakah and taxes are mandatory. However, zakah is paid with the intention of pleasing Allah, whereas a tax is a mere civil obligation.
2. The rate of zakah is determined by the Shar’iah, however, the tax rate is determined by the civil authority.
3. Both zakah and taxes aim to achieve economical, social and political objectives, however, zakah must be given to specific recipients as determined by the Qur’an. Taxes are spent on whatever is deemed necessary by the civil authority.
For us living in the West, taxes are a way of life, and we may feel that they should be enough, but taxes can never replace zakah. Zakah is an obligation from Allah and is given by the believers with the intention of getting closer to Him. It is spent on those whom Allah has ordained and in a manner put forth and established by the Qur’an and Sunnah. Confusing this divine obligation with any taxation system ordained by a civil authority is a serious matter, which may lead to the eradication of the obligation of zakah from the lives of Muslims.
THE SCHOLARS SAY
* Ibn Hajar Al-Haytami said, “Scholars condemned those who are ignorant and claim that paying taxes to the tax collector with the intention of zakah is valid. They argued vigorously in refuting this claim in detail. So contemplate on this and act accordingly, you will succeed by Allah’s Will.”
* Ibn Abdeen said, “If one intends to pay zakah by paying taxes, then the sound opinion is that it is not considered zakah, as stated by Imam Sarakhsi.”
* Ibn Taymiyyah said, “Whatever the authority takes of others as zakah, is not considered zakah.”
* Dr. Mohammad Al-Husaini – in his book, “A summary of the Fiqh of Zakah” said, “Taxes don’t forgo the Zakat or replace it because the zakah should be spent in certain manners and to specific recipients. There are special conditions and requirements in collecting it, its rate, and who should pay it.”
So it becomes clear that taxes that are collected by any civil authority cannot in any manner be considered zakah or replace it. The question now is, can zakah replace taxes? Zakah has been shown in the past as a great economical system. When it was properly applied within the Islamic society, it sustained a secure and splendid life for all its members. It solved the problems of poverty and misery to a point that there was, at various times, no poor or needy within the society. Allah says, “And if the people of the towns had believed and had the piety, certainly, We should have opened for them blessings from the heaven and the earth.” [7:96] There is no doubt, because of this, that zakah is sufficient and there is no need for taxation. Unlike taxes, however, zakah comes with certain prerequisites and conditions ordained by Allah.
As the third pillar of Islam, zakah is a financial obligation that is required of all Muslims, according to certain conditions. Allah says, “And offer prayers (perfectly) and give zakah and make rukoo’a along with those who make rukoo’a.” [2:43] Allah also says, “And offer the prayers (perfectly) and give zakah, and lend to Allah a goodly loan.” [74:20] And in the Sunnah: Ibn Abbas (Radhiallaahu Anhu) narrated that when the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhi wasallam, sent Mu’adh Bin Jabal (Radhiallaahu Anhu) to Yemen, he said, “Invite them to accept the shahadah: that there is no deity worthy of worship save Allah and I am His Messenger. If they accept and affirm that, tell them that Allah has enjoined upon them five prayers during the day and night. If they accept that, tell them also that He has enjoined sadaqah upon their property which will be taken from the rich among them and distributed to the poor.” (Bukhari) Also, the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhi wasallam, said, “Islam is based on five principles: to testify that there is no deity worthy of worship save Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, to establish salah, to give zakah, to fast the month of Ramadhan, and to perform pilgrimage when you can afford it.” (Bukhari)
In general, zakah maintains social solidarity amongst the Muslims. This is one of the commands of Allah, which serves to organize the lives of people, by which they become friends and support one another. They help one another and benefit together from Allah’s sustenance, which He has bestowed upon them. As a result, those who receive abundant sustenance give to those whose resources are restricted. However, every member of the community is obligated to work according to their capabilities.
Allah has made zakah an obligation on wealth and has made it a financial system that maintains the solidarity of the individuals within a community. Besides zakah, Allah incites people to spend for His Cause whenever the need arises. He also prohibits extravagance and wastefulness. This giving system leads to a community infused with love and kindness. Zakah is also a social system, because it insures the members of the community against weaknesses and disasters. It lessens the disparity between the wealthy and the poor, and it removes envy and hatred between the strong and weak.
So as we fast this month, let us remember those who are in need. By executing this duty that Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, has placed on us, with earnestness and deliberation, we fulfill our duty to those whom we are accountable to. For those who are still not convinced, and still regard this as a small thing, bring to mind the words of Allah. He says, “Let not those who covetously withhold of the gift which Allah has given from His Grace think that it is good for them. Nay, it will be worse for them. Soon shall the things, which they covetously withheld, be tied to their necks like a twisted collar on the Day of Judgement. To Allah belongs the heritage of the heaven and the earth, and Allah is acquainted with all that you do.” [3:180]
As for those who heed the warnings of their Lord, and obey His command, know that your reward is guaranteed. For Allah says, “Verily those who believe and do good deeds and establish salah and pay zakah, their reward is with their Sustainer, and no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve.” [2:277]