Why it is important that we should ‘purify’ our wealth and what is the significance of zakat?
In Islam, all wealth belongs to Allah. It does not belong to the individual. Wealth is an amanah (trust that is entrusted to the individual) from Allah. We are but the administrator of it. We will have to account for the wealth that Allah has entrusted to us in the Hereafter.
Allah has made it obligatory on us that a very small part only 2.5 per cent of the wealth He entrusted us with must be paid as zakat.
This 2.5 per cent does not belong to us. It belongs to the poor and the needy and those who can receive it. The poor and the needy have the right to demand the due zakat from the wealthy.
When a Muslim gives the zakat, Allah, through His Love and Mercy, makes the rests of his wealth which is the remaining 97.5 per cent halal (lawful) for him to use as he pleases. Allah encourages him to spend a portion of his 97.5 per cent in charity (sadaqah) but He does not make it obligatory or compulsory.
In giving zakat, a person purifies his soul from the filth of miserliness, greed and selfishness. It cleanses his soul from feeling contempt for the poor. It stops him from behaving harsh-heartedly towards the poor. It nurtures in him feelings of spiritual goodness which include compassion, concern and understanding for the poor. It ensures that the giver will receive the Blessings of Allah in the Hereafter.
One of the main aims of zakat is to eradicate poverty (al-faqr). Allah, due to His all-encompassing Knowledge and Mercy, knows that it will be difficult for a person to perform his obligatory duties, personal, spiritual, social, political and otherwise when he is starved of food and deprived of a shelter. Thus performing zakat will help them.
Allah knows best!