Zakat from language point of view is clean, pure, grow and prosper. Zakat can also be interpreted as an act of mercy, kindness, purification and improvement. Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam. Zakat is the 3rd pillar after prayers (Some say fasting is 3rd pillars of Islam, but according to the following hadith, zakat it is the 3rd pillar of Islam):
“Abu Abdul Rahman Abdullah ibn ‘Umar ibn al-Khatthab RA narrated: I heard the Messenger of Allah said: “Islam is built on five things: Take the witness admitted that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God, Established prayer, Zakat, pilgrimage to Mecca and perform fasting in Ramadhan”(Sahih Bukhari)
Obligations of Zakat has been repeated in noble Al-Quran for 30 times (Fiqh of Zakat, Dr. Yusuf Qaradhawi), with 27 times of prayer coupled with the order of Solah (Prayer). For example can be seen in Chapter Al-Baqarah verse 110 which has been translated:
“And establish prayer and give zakat, and whatever good you put forward for yourselves – you will find it with Allah. Indeed, Allah of what you do, is Seeing” [Al-Quran, Al-Baqarah (2):110]
also in Chapter Al-Baqarah verse 83:
“..”Do not worship except Allah ; and to parents do good and to relatives, orphans, and the needy. And speak to people good [words] and establish prayer and give zakat. Then you turned away, except a few of you, and you were refusing”[Al-Baqarah (2):83]
Based on the verse above, we should believed that Muslim must absolutely obey on zakat obligatory.
Though Zakat has a high place in Islam, unfortunately for what I seen, knowledge about zakat is the least known for common Muslim people (probably the least favorite subjects, even the rarely discussed in any lecture). Of course it was, when we been asked about the zakat, what keeps out the thinking is “zakat fitr” (Zakat fitrah is paid in the month of Ramadan, based by 1 bushel of local staple food, so little value in around of RM7.00 (about USD 2.50) in 2013 in Malaysia) While zakat is more than that. The evidence I heed first through the following hadith:
Ibn ‘Umar and ‘Aishah narrated that: “that from every twenty Dinar or more. The Prophet used to take half a Dinar and from forty Dinar, one Dinar” (Hadith Grade: Hasan. Narrated by Imam Ibn Majah)
So, according to the above hadith, it is referring to Zakat on wealth / property. Zakat on wealth mean zakat that is to be removed from the compilation of property and income. However, only a wealth / property of more than nisab (minimum level) are required to oblige to zakat .
If such is the meaning of Zakat, why there are still many people who do not know? Why I do not even know about this? Well, I think perhaps the discussion regarding about wealth is unpopular in the culture of Islam especially in Malaysia. Perhaps encouraged him/her to always ascetic and away from collecting property resulting society no longer has the wealth to pay Zakat thus not an important subject when compared with prayer and fasting.
Zakat and Tax in Malaysia
As a Malaysian, I do feel thankful to Allah SWT for flexibility given in the payment of taxes. So, every money that we spend on zakat, we are eligible for income tax deduction rebate!
In Income Tax Act (Malaysia) 1967, there is provision of personal income tax rebate for the payment of zakat (which is the first Year of Assessment).
Income Tax Act (ITA) 1967 Section 6A (3) states: “Rebate shall be given in the assessment for any payment of zakat, fitrah or any other Islamic religious requirements which required payment, and paid in the base year for the assessment year, and evidenced by a receipt issued by the relevant religious authority established by law.”
Based on the ITA 1967 above, each of individual zakat payment whether zakat on wealth or zakat fitrah/fitr can get the rebate or deduction of the individual income tax. Rebate is only available if the zakat payment made during the year of assessment of income tax.
However, zakat rebate on income tax does not usually happen in other countries. For example, in Indonesia that has no tax breaks for zakat (So they obliged to issue tax and Zakat as a duty as citizen and Muslim). So there’s was no reason for us for not give alms and zakat if our country already give us such benefits.