E-Book Share: A Concise Encyclopedia of Islam by Gordon Newby.

Consie Ency of IslamThis Concise Encyclopedia of Islam is meant to represent Islam’s diversity and offer the reader a short definition of major terms and introduce major figures. In writing this Encyclopedia, the writer has chosen to use the distinction that was made by the late M.G.S. Hodgson in his Venture of Islam, between those subjects that are “Islamic” and those that are, in his word, “Islamicate.” By “Islamic,” he meant those subjects that have to do with the religion, and by “Islamicate,” he meant those subjects that are products of the culture that Muslims, and Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Hindus, and others living under Islam, have produced.

We speak of “Islamic science,” meaning the scientific advances during the time of the Western Middle Ages, but those scientific advances were a product of the interaction of Jews and Christians as well as Muslims living in Islamic countries.

The reality is, the religion of Islam contributed to the development of that and other branches of learning because Muslim rulers chose to sponsor learning as part of their vision of themselves as Muslims. However, the writer has chosen to leave the political and cultural material to others.

Ramadhan: The Month of Fasting

God says in the Quran, the holy book of Islam (which means):

“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous”

Al-Quran, surah Al-Baqarah, verse 183

Islam teaches that Allah sent many prophets since the beginning of the human race, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad (peace be upon all of them). Hence, Islam shares core values such as belief in God as well as a commitment to justice and virtue with Christianity and Judaism; similarly, fasting in one form or another is common to all three Abrahamic faiths and, indeed, to the vast majority of religions across the world.

In Islam, fasting is one of the major acts of worship and a means of attaining God-consciousness. Along with the physical aspects of fasting, its spiritual dimensions purify the soul, instill self-reflection and inspire virtuous living.

Fasting is a common form of worship among the various religions across the world. Its spiritual benefits are widely recognised even though its frequency, practice and duration may differ from faith to faith. Islam places great importance on the act of fasting, calling it one of the pillars of worship, along with prayer, charity and pilgrimage.

Ramadhan: An Annual Retreat

Ramadhan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, which begins with the sighting of the new moon. During this month, Muslims worldwide are obligated to abstain completely from food, drink and sexual relations from dawn to dusk, culminating in a release of restrictions at sunset. The fast, as per the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, is broken with dates followed by a meal which varies from culture to culture.

However, fasting is not mandatory on those for whom it would constitute a difficulty. For instance, people who are sick or travelling can postpone their fast until their illness or journey is over. The elderly, the weak, the mentally ill and those who have a chronic illness that prevents them from fasting, are all exempted during Ramadhan. They may feed a needy person for every missed day if they can afford to do so.

Fasting is observed as an act of obedience to God, one for which He has reserved special blessings. The fasting person is rewarded manifold for all good deeds. In addition, according to a saying of Prophet Muhammad, whoever fasts and prays during Ramadhan with pure intentions will have their past sins forgiven.

At the same time, Prophet Muhammad taught his followers to remain conscious of the deeper significance behind their fast, saying, “Whoever does not abandon falsehood in word and action, then God has no need that they should leave their food and drink.” Therefore, fasting is multidimensional – along with the physical aspects of fasting, one must nurture the social and spiritual elements as well in order to fully benefit from fasting.

In essence, fasting in the month of Ramadhan is a yearly opportunity for Muslims to physically and spiritually revive themselves. Fasting redirects the heart away from worldly affairs and towards the remembrance of God. During Ramadhan, Muslims focus on strengthening their relationship with their Creator. The self-restraint practised in Ramadhan makes the heart and mind accustomed to the remembrance of God and to the obedience of His commandments.

Fasting during Ramadhan is, therefore, a spiritual regimen and a reorientation for the body and mind. It is a time for spiritual reflection, prayer and good deeds. The spiritual cleansing during the month of Ramadhan results in renewed determination to worship God throughout the year.

Benefits of Fasting

Fasting is intended to instil self-discipline, empathy and compassion in the individual. Muslims are motivated to increase their generosity during this month. They are encouraged to share the blessings that God has provided them by giving generously in charity because wealth is regarded as a trust from God.

Indeed, fasting makes people more aware of the many bounties of God. Experiencing hunger and thirst allows us to feel the desperation of hunger and leads us to empathise with those who don’t know when they will eat their next meal.

“Fasting allows us to experience once a year what many throughout the world experience almost daily. Hunger, for them, is not a choice; it is simply a fact of life”

Says Hamza Yusuf, a renowned Muslim leader based in California.

Fasting also reminds us of the importance of appreciating what we have and minimising waste. From His generosity, God continuously graces us with His favours, and fasting reinforces the concept that wasting the Creator’s bounties is a sign of ingratitude to Him.

Fasting builds endurance. As the lunar year continually shifts, Muslims encounter Ramadhan in varying seasons – from the sluggishly long summer days to the short, crisp wintry weeks. Muslims of all walks of life manage their work duties irrespective of the weather and the fast, although often on a shortened schedule; this includes professionals as well as manual workers such as paddlers and day labourers. In countries where Muslims are a minority, they maintain a full workload on empty stomachs, balancing their added worship in the early mornings, evenings and weekends along with their normal work routines.

When the month of Ramadhan arrives, it brings a heightened sense of community with it. Muslim families often wake up together before sunrise for an early breakfast. They also invite one another to break their fast together, which creates friendship and stronger ties among neighbours, families and friends. Many people also bring meals to mosques to share with the community, especially the poor, the needy, the travellers and those who do not have families. Together, they also make it a point to go to the mosque for the nightly Ramadhan prayers.

The Month of Quran

God began revealing the Quran to Prophet Muhammad during Ramadhan in the year 610 C.E. The Quran, the final revelation from God, is often read and memorised in its original Arabic language, preserving the divine order and structure of this book. In Ramadhan, Muslims are encouraged to focus as much time as possible on reading, listening and understanding the Quran as a means of coming closer to God.

One of the ways Muslims become nearer to the Quran during Ramadhan is through extended congregational prayers offered in the late evening after the breaking of the fast. Over the course of the month, the entire Quran is commonly recited in these night prayers. This is an opportunity for Muslims to become spiritually connected to God and reflect on His words of guidance.

As Abdul Wahid Hamid explains in his book, Islam, the Natural Way:

Ramadhan is a month of heightened devotion. In it, prayer is performed with greater intensity. There are extra prayers on Ramadhan nights… In the last ten days of Ramadhan, some retreat to the mosque to perform Itikaf (seclusion) at the local mosque, a period of intense reflection and devotion, seeking guidance and forgiveness, and reading the Quran. Ramadhan is a great opportunity to get closer to the blessed guidance of the Quran which was revealed in this month. Ramadhan is also called the month of the Quran.

Muslims believe that the last ten nights of Ramadhan are the holiest of all, and strive to increase their worship during that time even more. The most sacred night of all, the Night of Power, falls on one of the odd-numbered nights in the last third of Ramadhan. God mentions in the Quran that the Night of Power is better than one thousand months (97:3). In other words, the worship of this one night is worth more than the worship of a thousand months. As a result, Muslims seek this special night by staying awake in worship during the odd-numbered nights from the last ten days of Ramadhan.

Although fasting may seem severe and difficult, it is truly a gratifying time for Muslims. Every year, Muslims experience a unique excitement and jubilation as Ramadhan approaches. Homes are cleaned, groceries are stocked, children are prepped – and, above all, many resolutions are made.

Even as the day’s routine of work and home continue, Muslims make extra time for spiritual nourishment and self-introspection. Commitments ranging from the recitation and study of the Quran to increased charity to nightly attendance of additional prayers are commonly made to reap the rewards of the fasting month.

And, as the month draws to a close, a sense of sadness overcomes the worshippers, wistful at the departure of the blessed month which seemed to have flown by.

Eid-ul-Fitr Celebration

The end of Ramadhan is marked by the sighting of the new moon, which is followed by a day of celebration known as Eid-ul-Fitr. Families wake up early in the morning, put on their best clothes and go to the mosque for a brief Eid sermon and congregational prayer. They thank God for giving them the opportunity to experience the holy month of Ramadhan. The day is filled with celebration, socializing, festive meals and modest gift-giving, especially to children.

Before attending the Eid prayer, the head of the household or guardian gives a special charity on behalf of each dependent family member called Zakat-ul-Fitr. This is the giving of a meal to a needy person to make sure that none are excluded from this happy occasion and to encourage people to continue the spirit of generosity after Ramadhan as well.

The Eid celebration is not merely about feasting and socializing. There is a deep significance for those who truly observed the holy month with their fasting, abstaining from all bad habits and striving hard to earn the pleasure of God. Muslims feel a sense of happiness and a renewed energy to face the rest of the year with faith and determination – until next Ramadhan!

“The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.”

Al-Quran, surah Al-Baqarah, verse 185

Between Rights and Desires

Mankind is often confused when determining rights and desire. This is because they may deem a matter as being their rights, while in reality, it is their desire instead.

There are a plethora of movements and voices that claim to champion human rights, but the so-called rights that are sought after are not actually to be granted. They are merely desires and human desires that are unrestricted. For example, they would claim that consuming intoxicants is one’s rights in attaining tranquility while changing one’s gender is a right in the indulgence of one’s self-identity, and rejecting the Islamic Shari’ah is their freedom of speech.

However, all of these allegations are not truly rights as presumed, but instead purely human desires and yearning. If all human desires and lusts are to be fulfilled, then surely it will only cause destruction upon society. They would demand their wishes in the name of human rights. Allah had mentions (which means):

“And, [moreover], this is My path, which is straight, so follow it; and do not follow [other] ways, for you will be separated from His way. This has He instructed you that you may become righteous.”

[Al-Quran, surah al-An’am, verse 153]

To further divulge upon the claims mentioned earlier, I would like to clarify that alleging alcohol consumption as an individual right hence warranting the need to organize beer festival, is a purely deviated claim. This claim is not only rejected by Islam but also by Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and even not condoned by all religions. This evil habit would incur severe negative effects upon one’s health especially the intestines, stomach, heart, brain, and the human intellect. No one would rejoice when one of the family members return home while drunk because that person could potentially damage household items, injure others, and endangers himself. Claiming intoxication as individual rights are inaccurate for alcohol consumption is just personal desire. An intoxicant is a beverage that eliminates human sanity and causes multitudes of harm.

Similarly with the claim made by some quarters that changing one’s gender is a right. In fact, it is just a desire that is based upon ignorance, stemming from dissatisfaction upon the creation of Allah. It is purely the desire to have fun because changing gender is simply changing the genitalia, but the reality and identity of the person do not change.

While the ones rejecting the Islamic Shari’ah are actually those that failed to comprehend the reality of one’s very own creation as creatures created by al-Khaliq (The Creator). Allah has created mankind, hence it is wajib (obligatory) upon them to worship Allah and remain obedient upon all of His Shari’ah. ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr reported: I heard the Prophet as saying (which means):

“Allah ordained the measures (of quality) of the creation fifty thousand years before He created the heavens and the earth…”

[Narrated by Muslim]

This demand for freedom and basic human rights is a notion that is purely based on logical reasoning, devoid of divine revelation. Such thought utilizes human rights as its guise in attaining their intended objectives. Allah mentions (which means):

“It is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter, that they should [thereafter] have any choice about their affair. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has certainly strayed into clear error.”

[Al-Quran, surah al-Ahzab, verse 36]

Verily, Islam is a religion that provides the rules of life that manages human desires and yearnings that are according to its fitrah (natural disposition). Islam stipulates rulings pertaining to human life with perfection and completeness, from trivial matters such as eating, drinking, and purification, to major deeds such as social living, mu’amalat, and nationhood.

The uniqueness of Islam is that it originated from divine revelation, which spurred the creation of humans. In resolving the confusion when differentiating between rights and desires, mankind truly needs the guidance and guidelines from Allah. Mankind is incapable of differentiating them both because humans would often raise his claims as having greater importance over others’ claims. Therefore, as the creator of mankind, Allah truly knows the natural characteristics of His creations. Allah has provided the perfect guidance between rights and desires. For as long as the human desire does not encroach upon the wahyu (revelation) from Allah, then it is permissible. On the contrary, if it contradicts, then the wahyu from Allah is to be prioritized and taken as a firm belief.

Let us take valuable lessons from the story of Iblees, as told in al-Qur’an that when Allah commanded Iblees to prostrate to Adam, Iblees disobeyed the command because for him it is illogical that a greater creation is commanded to prostrate to Adam, an inferior creation. Iblees failed to distinguish between rights and desire, as well as his ego, that in the end he became among the disbelievers. Allah mentions (which means):

“And [mention] when We said to the angels, “Prostrate before Adam”; so they prostrated, except for Iblees. He refused and was arrogant and became of the disbelievers.”

[Al-Quran, surah al-Baqarah, verse 34]

To end this discussion, let us altogether ponder upon several lessons that can be derived, such as the following: 1. The Muslim Ummah must be cognizant that all decrees and commands from Allah are wajib to be obeyed by mankind, as a sign of belief in Allah; 2. The Muslim Ummah must ensure that its rights and desires do not contradict with the wahyu of Allah and the guidance of Rasulullah; 3. The Muslim Ummah must reject all lusts and desires masquerading under the banner of human rights or freedom of speech that contradicts the Shari’ah.

Kitab Al-Kasb Series (Part 39): Abomination of Seeking to Be Perpetually Satiated with Food.

Every Wednesday, I will share a part of the translation of the book Kitab Al-Kasb (the book of Earning a Livelihood) written by Muhammad Ibn Al-Hasan Al-Shaybani.

Part 39: Abomination of Seeking to Be Perpetually Satiated with Food.
And likewise, one should not seek to be perpetually satiated with food, for the better way is what was chosen and explained by the Messenger of Allah, “I go hungry one day, and I am satiated one day” [Refer Abu Ghuddah]. A’ishah wept over Allah’s Messenger when he was taken (when his soul was taken away by Allah), and said, “O one who opted for the mat over the bed; O one who slept not at night out of fear of inferno; O one who wore not silk, not ate his fill of barley bread” [Abu Ghuddah says he has not come across this hadith].

A’ishah used to say, “Sometimes a month or more would pass without us lighting a fire in our homes, while there were only these two black things, water and dates” [Narrated by al-Bukhari, Muslim, al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah and Ahmad].

And we have narrated that the Prophet said, “The longest starving of people on the day of resurrection are the most satiated of them in the world” [Refer Abu Ghuddah]. Because of this, it is better to safeguard oneself from seeking to be continuously sated all the time.


22 The Book of Earning-700x700

Zakat for Masajid and Public Welfare Programs?

In the Qur’an, Allah Almighty has mentioned 8 categories of people who can receive Zakat. Allah Almighty says (which means):

“Zakat expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakat] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah . And Allah is Knowing and Wise.” [Al-Quran, surah At-Tawbah, verse 60]

The expression “for the cause of Allah” or fi Sabil Allah was generally interpreted “Jihad fi Sabil Allah” and so many jurists restricted this Zakat expense for this purpose.

Muslim jurists also say that in the Qur’an Allah used the word “Lil fuqara’ wa Al-masakin or ‘for the poor and the needy’ and the ‘lam’ or (for)” here means ‘tamlik’ or possession. Thus they interpret the above verse to mean that the poor and needy should be made owners of this money or Tamlik Al-Zakat.

Since in public and social welfare projects, no one becomes the owner, so, according to their interpretation, the Zakat should not be used for this purpose. Thus you will find in the books of Fiqh statements emphasizing that the money should not be used to build the Masajid (mosque), schools, hospitals, hostels, etc. because this money belongs to poor and it should be given to them. There are some jurists who still hold this strict opinion concerning Zakat.

However, there are a number of jurists of this century, such as Sheikh Muhammad ‘Abduh, Rashid Rida, Maulana Mawdudi, Amin Ahsan Islahi, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, and some Fatwa organizations in Kuwait and Egypt, they are of the opinion that the phrase ‘in the cause of Allah’ covers a broad category. It is a general term and it should be applied in all those situations where there is a need to serve Islam and Muslims.

Those scholars consider it permissible to use the Zakat money to finance the Da’wah and public welfare programs. They say that the expression ‘for the poor and needy’ can also mean ‘for the benefit of the poor and needy’.

The modern jurists also argue that in the past Muslim governments used to build Mosques, schools and used to finance public welfare projects. Now many governments are negligent in this matter. Many Muslims are living in areas where there are no Muslim governments.

Furthermore, the financial needs of the people have become so enormous and diverse that earlier rules and restrictions cannot be fully applied and may not be very useful in every place.

In his famous book Fiqh Az-Zakat, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, has thoroughly discussed this subject. His Fatwa is that in non-Muslim countries it is permissible to use Zakat funds to build the Masajid, Schools, and hospitals.

Muslims from all over the world go to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, etc. to solicit funds for the building of their Mosques and schools. Most of the business people in those countries give their Zakat for this purpose. Many people from all over the world use this money for building projects without any question.

Now, there are many people who come to North America to solicit funds for their Mosques and schools in some poor countries. American Muslims are also giving their Zakat to build Masajid and schools in other countries.

It is the concept of ‘fi Sabil Allah’ and helping the Islamic cause in many lands where it has made it possible to establish Islamic institutions and Mosques.

Zakat is basically for the poor and needy and most of it should be used to take care of their needs. I believe that for the Mosque constructions Muslims should make extra charity and should give from funds other than Zakat. However, it is not forbidden for Muslims to give their Zakat money for the building of Mosques and schools, especially in non-Muslim countries.

Islamic centers should have a separate Zakat fund. Those who do not want their Zakat to be used in building projects should give their money to the Zakat fund. But those who want to give their Zakat for the Masjid construction they should donate directly to that project.”

Allah Almighty knows best.

This Q&A was taken with slight changes from https://www.islamicity.org

Prepare Your Ramadan

Have you ever wondered why it is difficult to concentrate on your prayer? Or why your faith throughout the year is not on a high like it is during Ramadan or through Hajj? Maybe it is because we usually jump straight from a phone conversation into Takbir or because we just go with the flow in Ramadan and are influenced by the environment around us and not our own ‘real’ feelings.

A lot of us usually live life and have our faith dependent on an upcoming major event i.e. “I’m going to start reading a page of Quran a day as soon as Ramadan starts; I’m going to start praying Qiyam every night when I come back from hajj; or, I’m going to stop smoking when my child is born.”  And because of this way of thinking we usually end up with an anticlimax; we don’t end up giving up smoking, we don’t end up praying Qiyam and we start reading Quran but then get back to our normal old self after a few days or weeks.

This is because these ‘statements’ or ‘feelings’ are based on impulse and not a real thought out plan. We usually don’t prepare for Ramadan or Hajj or have a plan for our faith to stay at the increase; we just go with the flow and expect it all to happen. Well, it doesn’t!

Wouldn’t you love to enter the month of Ramadan on a real high and have the effects of this beautiful month be a permanent impact on your life thereafter? How can this be done? Below are the 8 steps for a Legacy of a Ramadan.

Step 1 – Create a Ramadan Count Down (7 days left!)

Counting down for Ramadan (whether it is done mentally or by keeping physical signs around the home or office) will help create hype and buzz in your mind and amongst the people around you. When you and others are counting down to the same event, it becomes part of regular conversation and excitement spreads.

Step 2 – Seek knowledge about Ramadan (Read books!)

This will help you ensure you will do things correctly and perfectly for Ramadan, it will create a hype as there are many motivational aspects and events in the month to look forward to and finally it is a reward reaper.  The more you know about Ramadan the more you can apply, hence multiplying your rewards.

Step 3 – Make a Ramadan plan (Use an Islamic calendar)

Be it reading the entire Quran, ensuring you pray Taraweeh every night or inviting families over for iftaar; make a list of things you would like to achieve in the month and then how you plan on achieving these goals. It is important that goals are realistic and it is better that your life doesn’t need to entirely take a different road in this month (i.e. take the month off work or change work hours etc.) so that you may continue to do these deeds after Ramadan. Knowing what you want to achieve in the month will help you stay focused. Ensure you plan your day every night before you sleep when Ramadan starts (try to continue this even after Ramadan).

Step 4 – Know your life (by thinking deeply)

Be aware if Ramadan affects anything that is happening in the month or shortly after. Do you have exams during Ramadan? Or is there a major family wedding after Ramadan by a short time? Moving house? If so, plan for these events from now. Study now so that you are prepared for the exams before the month starts. Be packed and ready to go before Ramadan or plan that you do it after so that it doesn’t take time away from your worship. The last thing you want to do is spend Ramadan at the shopping centers. Buy any Eid presents and prepare for any wedding before the month starts.

Step 5 – Prepare spiritually

We all know that Ramadan is about Fasting, Praying, Reading Quran and giving in charity. Start these worships early; don’t expect to just click into it as soon as the first day of Ramadan starts. Start doing extra prayers from now, start revising and regularly reading the Quran now, get used to being generous and follow the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad and fast during Sha’baan.

Step 6 – Prepare your mind

Fasting is to refrain from more than just what we consume in our mouth. Start working on your patience; be extra vigilant with your conversations: ensure you are not backbiting, slandering or talking about useless things.

Step 7 – Say ‘goodbye’ to bad habits (make it stop!)

Know what bad habits you have and stop them from now, don’t wait until Ramadan begins. If you sleep late, start sleeping early, if you are a Facebook junky start cutting down, have a coffee craze, slow it down, etc. It might sound much easier said than done, but once you’ve committed yourself, purified your intentions – make sincere dua for guidance.  Insha’Allah, these bad habits will be easier done with than you ever expected.

Step 8 – Plan your life around your worship (and you will see the results!)

For instance; instead of working through your prayer or setting up a meeting, etc., at prayer times, plan that you have a break at prayer time. Don’t take your phone with you to the place you pray and forget the world as you stand between the hands of the Almighty Allah.

How about you?  What are you doing to prepare for Ramadan?  Let us know in the comments section!

Taken with slight changes from https://productivemuslim.com

E-Book Share: The Arts of Islamic Civilization by Isma’il Raji al Faruqi

english_the_arts_of_islamic_civilization.pngThis is a paper which was originally published as chapter eight of The Cultural Atlas of Islam by Isma’il Raji al Faruqi and Lois Lamya’ al al Faruqi (1986), and formed part of a monumental and authoritative work presenting the entire worldview of Islam, its beliefs, traditions, institutions, and place in the world. Aside from the map illustrations, all other images have been updated and are not those of the original unless specified. Where the text refers to chapters these are to be found in the original work.

Charitable Organizations Are Indispensable.

Charitable organizations are such organizations that foster charitable activities in an organized and voluntary way, with ethical and non-profit motives. These are the features and characteristics that distinguish charitable organizations from governmental institutions of social solidarity and other society-service organizations.

zakat-house-pride-for-kuwait-its-people-awqaf-ministerServices provided by charitable organizations aim at the general welfare of humanity. They provide help for the poor and the needy, healthcare for the sick, condolences for the aged, housing for the indigents, schools for the students of knowledge, and workshops for unemployed persons to work at or dedicate endowments to encourage scholars and scientific discoveries. These activities, in addition to the role of the governments, are indispensable in civilized societies to face the necessary needs of the society and its development.

This introduction is necessary to understand the role of charitable organizations in general. As for charitable organizations in Islam, they are inseparable parts of the Muslim community because they are deeply rooted in its heritage, values, and principles. Thus, charitable institutions are indispensable due to the reasons discussed herewith.

The Value of Charities
Muslims are committed individually and collectively by an explicit Quranic text to give part of their wealth in charity every year. This wealth may be in the form of trade, agriculture, animals, or metals. Almighty Allah says (which means):

“And those in whose wealth there is a known right, for the beggar who asks and for the unlucky who has lost his property and wealth.” [Al-Quran, surah Al-Ma’arij, verse 24-25]

As such, charitable giving is a duty, rather than just a voluntary act.

Zakat is the third pillar of Islam, after the testimony of the Oneness of Allah and the performance of Prayer. This is the first thing that those who question the role of these organizations have to understand. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his Companions applied this by establishing endowments for the benefit of the needy and wayfarers. Malik (may Allah have mercy with him) said: “These are their endowments (indicating to their endowments in Medina.)”

d27df689b14623e710ab181b20b583dfee3ee6a0Muslims have followed their example throughout history. There have been a variety of endowments thereafter; and with their funds, great universities and hospitals were established to take care of orphans, widows and the destitute. This is well-documented in Islamic history and Europeans knew of endowments through their contact with Muslims in the Middle Ages. Such a provision for the needy in Islam has created a relationship of solidarity between the rich and poor classes of society. This has historically driven away from the ghost of revolution, which continues to plague other societies that fail to give due attention to charitable activities.

Charitable deeds have deep roots in Islamic history and have been an element of stability and equilibrium in Islamic society. As charitable organizations work in full transparency and deal with the public, they can never deviate from their course; just as good cannot turn to evil. Such trustworthy organizations add value to a stable society.

Charitable organizations in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as well as in other countries, have undertaken promising services for the benefit of Muslims and non-Muslims. These services include curing the sick, teaching the ignorant, arranging workshops for the unemployed and cooperating with Western charitable organizations that attest to their success in the field of humanitarian work in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Africa.

It is worth mentioning here that such humanitarian services are still unfortunately subject to suspicion on the basis of racial prejudice. Arguably if an individual in society goes astray, it is that individual who should be held responsible for their actions. However, in the current climate, all Islamic organizations (charitable included), and indeed the whole Muslim nation or Islam itself, is being held responsible for the acts of the few. This ‘quick to generalize’ attitude cannot be anything but unjust, because it is not based on accurate information. It is just a form of conjecture and surmises that practices the habit of impugning Islam and Muslims, conducted by organizations that have unambiguous and identifiable goals and ends.

The Muslim response to such conjecture should not be to cut back in charitable activities or to shun goodness, but instead, we should form charitable institutions of obvious and constructive goals that benefit the society. Initiatives such as Prince Abdullah’s charitable institution for the provision of suitable housing and Prince Sultan’s city for humanitarian services give the practical response to the unjust campaign against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

We must ask, how can Islamic charitable activities be under such scrutiny and accusation from the West whose effective leader, the United States of America, itself brags about its pioneering role in charitable activity? In 1989 charitable institutions grew to over 32,000 institutions with assets of 137 billion dollars. Rockefeller 1902, Karnigy 1906, Ford 1936, and Johnson 1936 are just some of the ancient institutions that engage in different fields of humanitarian activities including education, health care, and preaching. The US federal government encourages these global institutions by exempting them from taxes, yet fails to place any basic trust in international Islamic charities.

imageIt cannot be denied that charitable activities and institutions are indispensable. Contrary to any rumors, they provide elements of stability and balance. Moreover, they are a kind of worship and a translation of the message of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that has come to worship the True God through the true religion and to establish mercy with people. Hence, these institutions should keep working actively in full transparency and unambiguous clarity so as to prove to the whole world the originality of charitable activities in these and other Muslim countries. We must remove ourselves from any doubts and false accusation of terrorism that sham propaganda perpetuates, not only against charitable institutions but also against Islam itself.

Taken with slight changes from http://binbayyah.net

Zakat: Connecting Humanity..

The Muslim contribution to life is open, without limits: he gives of his effort, his mind, his knowledge, his status, and his money. The Prophet (peace be on him) said:

“Every Muslim must perform a charity.” They asked, “Messenger of God, what if a person cannot find anything to give?” He answered, “He should work with his hands to benefit himself and give in charity.” “And what if he could not find that?” they asked again. “He should assist an aggrieved person in need.” “And what if he could not do that?” “Then he should do good and refrain from evil – that would be his charity.” [Related by al-Bukhari]

Zakat regulates the wealth contribution in its minimum, making it a religious obligation from which the individual cannot free himself or take concessions since it is the right of society to be devoted to the benefit of the needy and disabled individuals and classes.

In its proper sense, zakat is a practical manifestation of the brotherhood between the faithful and establishes mutual solidarity between them by the firm bond it creates between rich and poor, in a way that strengthens the individual’s sense of relation to the community and the community’s awareness of the value of the individual, and that it is strengthened by his strength and weakened by his weakness.

An analysis of zakat in the Islamic system reveals its various functions in a Muslim society:

(a) a religious function: In this respect zakat is a manifestation of the faith that affirms that God is the sole owner of everything in the universe, and what men hold is a trust in their hand over which God made them trustees to discharge it as He has laid down: “Believe in Allah and His Messenger and spend of that over which He made you trustees” [Al-Quran, Surah al-Hadid, verse 7]. It is also an expression of gratitude towards the Bestower Who said: “If you give thanks, I will give you more.” [Al-Quran, Surah Ibrahim, verse 7) In this respect zakat is an act of devotion which, like prayer, brings the believer nearer to his Lord, and being one of the pillars of religion, avoidance of payment is a manifestation of shirk (serving other gods besides God).

(b) an economic function: Its economic function is revealed in many ways: firstly, zakat gives a strong incentive for investing wealth for the benefit of society and makes us refrain from hoarding it. When the amount reaches the taxable minimum and has been possessed for a whole year, zakat falls due on it whether it has been invested or not. Those who do not invest their wealth expose it to the continuous reduction of at least 2.5% annually. Gradually it will be removed from their possession to be used for the benefit of society.

Apart from this, zakat is a means of compulsory redistribution of wealth in a way that reduces differences between classes and groups, thus preventing the many social disorders from which Communist and Western societies alike suffer, no less than contemporary Muslim societies that have neglected zakat. Moreover, zakat is a means of establishing justice indirectly. It rectifies whatever wrongs, injustices or means of exploitation in trading and industrial relations that have arisen. This may explain the fact that it is called a “right” rather than “charity”, or an act of beneficence. Zakat also facilitates the proper direction of purchasing power in society. It transfers part of the power of consumption, which may be used extravagantly to fulfill a proper function in the lives of those who need it.

(c) a social function: Zakat makes a fair contribution to social stability. By purging the soul of the rich of selfishness and the soul of the poor of envy and resentment against society, it stops up the channels leading to class hatred and makes it possible for the springs of brotherhood and solidarity to gush forth. Such stability is not merely based on the personal feelings of the rich: it stands on a firmly established right, which, if the rich denied it, would be exacted by force if necessary.

Zakat Solutions
Zakat is not used merely to meet the present needs of the poor and needy but serves other functions that deeply affect social life. As the Quran laid down, it solves the following problems:

(i) The problem of freedom, by assisting slaves seeking their freedom to attain it (slavery was an established system in the world at the time the Quran was revealed).

(ii) The problem of indebtedness which threatens an individual with bankruptcy, hardship, stress, humiliation or loss of good name, whether caused by the necessities of life or fluctuation in the market resulting in hardship to a good producer or an honest merchant. The Quran allows a portion of the zakat fund to solve such problems of indebtedness – a better solution than any contemporary system of insurance, as it is more positive and more in line with true cooperation and social solidarity.

(iii) The problem of defense and security of Muslim land against external threat and such matters as may be related to struggle in the cause of God.

(iv) The need of those who are away from their home seeking knowledge or a lawful livelihood and have not attained a settled life yet – the Quran devotes a portion of the zakat fund to meet their need.

All this is contained in the Quranic verse that specifies the items upon which zakat should be expended, and recipients of the fund:

“The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those employed in collecting them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to free the slaves and the debtors, and for the cause of Allah, and (for) the wayfarer, a duty enjoined by Allah; Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.” [Al-Quran, Surah At-Taubah, verse 60]

In its lexical definition zakat means “purity” and “growth”, in both of which we can perceive its religious connotations: it purges society of destructive afflictions and causes human and social virtues to grow, leading to sound social relations, peace, and stability.

In this light, we can understand the position taken by Abu Bakr, the first Khalifa (may God be pleased with him) in the face of the first attempt to suspend the payment of zakat by those who refused to pay it. He used the Muslim army to uphold this social right and compelled the recalcitrant faction to pay the community wealth tax, asserting a principle in which he was following the Prophet,

“I swear by God, if they refuse to pay to me even a small piece of robe which they used to pay to the Messenger of God, I would fight them for it.” [Related by al-Bukhari].

Taken with slight changes from https://www.islamicity.org