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Is Zakah the Tax of the Government?

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Ahmed Mateen

Joined: 21 Dec 2006
Posts: 144

PostPosted: Sun Feb 25, 2007 12:01 pm    Post subject: Is Zakah the Tax of the Government? Reply with quote

What does Zakah mean?
by G. A. Parwez
translated by Dr. Manzoor-ul-Haque
Is Zakah the Tax of the Government?


Out of the five elements of Islam, Zakah is held to be the most importance. It is generally said if the owning continues to be owned for one year, paying 2.5 % on the amount of this owning, on the name of Allah, is Zakah. If this is the Zakah, then what is the difference between this and charity? And if Zakah was paid to the government, then “what is the difference between it and the government tax?” Kindly elaborate this issue so that ‘this’ canker stuck deep is removed.


The root of the word Zakah is Z-K-O, which means ‘to grow,’ ‘to flourish, ‘to bloom,’ ‘to blossom,’ ‘to develop’. So Zakah means ‘development,’ ‘nourishment,’ ‘growth,’ ‘flourishing’, ‘blooming and blossoming,’ ‘augmenting.’ The words – aqamoo alssalata and waatawoo alzzakata – have repetitively come in the Quran, and have come with stress. Hence the meaning of the word – waatawoo alzzakata – became ‘to pay Zakah’.

Think in the light of the aforementioned meanings of the word Zakah: What would ‘paying Zakah’ mean? – It is nothing else but ‘ to provide for the nourishment, development – and growth of the others’. It means providing subsistence for the nourishment and development of the humans is the fundamental duty of the party of Momineen (the followers of Allah’s Laws). It may so be organized that the humans may attain the development of their potentialities. This development also encompasses the capacities, the potentialities of their physical life. In other words, it means the growth of the human body as well as the development and evolution of the human personality. On behalf of the party of Momineen, it is the System of the Government that discharges this duty. That is why it is given in the Quran. 22/41

Allatheena in makkannahum fee al-ardi aqamoo alssalata waatawoo alzzakata

There are the people who, when make establishment in the country, will establish the system of Salaat and arrange for the system of Zakah.

You observed meticulously that the Quran has made the Islamic Government responsible for establishing the system of Zakah.

It makes this clear that Zakah is not the name of charity. Individually we can pay charity on our own. For this purpose the establishment of our own governance is not a necessary condition. We used to pay charity during the Birth Government. Now the Indian Muslims can pay charity in the Hindu Government - and they are paying it at present. The necessary condition of establishing our own governance for arranging the system of Zakah, makes the reality of Zakah clear.

Now the question is this. How will the Islamic Government perform this honored duty (i.e. the duty of providing subsistence of development to the humans)? It is obviously necessary that firstly the means of production should remain under the control of the Government so that it may spend this production (subsistence) for the development of the needy. Secondly, whatsoever the members of the society may earn, be kept open in such a way that (after meeting their own needs) the State may take (as much as it may deem necessary) for arranging the system of Zakah (the nourishment of others). For this purpose, the Quran has neither fixed any rate, or any amount. It is the question of meeting the needs only. As such, it has said to the extent that after meeting the needs of the individuals, what ever becomes surplus can all be handed over to the State so that it may be able to arrange for others’ nourishment (Zakah) with it. (Consult 2: 219)

But it is evident that such type of State System will be established gradually. In the mean time when such a System is still in the process of being, (in today’s terminology) contributions and gifts from the party of Momineen will be accepted. The Quran has used the term Sadaqah for it.

This was the exposition of Zakah in the Islamic System of Governance. But when that System remained no longer in vogue, dualism crept in Deen and politics. The Quranic exposition of Zakah (i.e. arranging for the development of the humans) went out of sight – The Government started levying its own tax and the religious priesthood burgeoned its own tax under the nomenclature of “Zakah”. So far as were the destitute and the needy, it was made incumbent upon the well off to give charity to them. This process is still continuing. The people pay government tax and Zakah separately – and the charity is kept as a distinct separate entity from these two. It is so much so that whatever the Quran had ordained for the Sadaqah were thought of related to Zakah. For example, it is usually said that the Quran has given eight expenses of Zakah although these very expenses are of “Sadaqah,”and are not of Zakah (6: 60)

From the aforementioned particulars, it would have become evident that at present, there are either the Government Taxes or the charity – whether it is determinably named as Zakah or indeterminately as Sadaqah or charity. Zakah (i.e. providing subsistence of nourishment to the members of the society) is neither considered the duty of the Government nor of the public. But “Paying Zakah” will be the duty of the government in the Islamic System of governance. And for this purpose, the members of the party of Momineen will keep whatever-is-surplus-to-their-needs open for others so that as-much-is-deemed-necessary is spent over the nourishment of others. Then there will be no need of charity on individual basis. At present the honor of the one who accepts charity is crushed. But when arranging for the system of Zakah becomes the responsibility of the Islamic System of governance, everyone takes it as of ones own right and no one feels indebted to anyone. The Quran suggests charity as the emergent and the timely cure for meeting the needs during the interim period and takes Zakah as the basic duty and compulsory mode of the Islamic System. This is, in real sense, the reality of Zakah from the Quranic point of view.

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