Zakaat, Riba and the love of wealth

By Sheikh Abdul Hamid Lachporia

Al-Hamdu Lillahi Rabbil ‘Aalameen was Salatu was
Salaamu ‘alaa Ashrafil Anbiyaa’e wal Mursaleen. 
Wa Ba’d:
The truth that everything belongs to Almighty Allah Subhanahu Wata’ala and that He is the Absolute Owner of all that exists had permeated the lives of the Muslim’s of the first century of the Islamic era so completely that they considered themselves merely to be the trustees of their wealth and did not make use of their material possessions as they wished. There was not a semblance of pettiness or vainglory in their manner of spending.
The Most Holy and Noble Qur’an had perfected their faith in the doctrine of Khalifa of Almighty Allah and Trusteeship and convinced them about their worldly goods that thought they had been earned by them with the sweat of their brow they had returned to Almighty Allah by virtue of the covenant of Islam.

This is what a Muslim affirms when he recites the Shahadah (the Confessional Formula) and enters into the fold of Islam. He avows that and declares, plainly and unequivocally, that he has surrendered his rights to Almighty Allah Tabaraqa Wata’ala Who is now entitled to take back what He has given. He has purchased their wealth from the believers and can claim it whenever he wants. We learn from verse 111 of Suratul Al-Tawbah:

“Allah hath bought from the Believers their life and their wealth, 
and the Gardens (of Eternity) will be theirs in return”.

The Most Holy and Noble Qur’an warns those of a dreadful sequel who yield blindly to the love of wealth and to whom their desires and comforts are dearer than striving in the Path of Allah and fulfilling other obligations to Him, and to imagine that they are free to hoard up wealth or to spend it as they please. When the conviction that their worldly possessions belonged in fact, to Almighty Allah and they were only holding them in trust was firmly embedded in the hearts of the Muslims they were enjoined to spend in the Way of Almighty Allah what was left after meeting their needs. Verse 219 of Suratul Al-Baqara was then revealed to our Beloved Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam:

 “And they ask thee (O Muhammad) what they ought to spend 
(in the Way of Allah), Say: That which is left after meeting your needs”.

The early Muslims unreservedly complied with this injunction. After the affirmation that Almighty Allah Tabaraqa Wata’ala was the real Owner of all wealth and that they were only its administrators, trustees or caretakers every sacrifice had become easy for them. They suppressed their own needs and gave away what they had to others. A greedy man’s heart will remain attached to worldly possessions even during the last moments of his life and, because of it, he will be a loser and will suffer severely in the Aghirah. But if he was accustomed to paying Zakah his infatuation for wealth will be softened and it will be a source of advantage to him in the end.

In the Hereafter (Aghirah) the most superior moral virtue, after the love and fear of Almighty Allah Subhanahu Wata’ala, is generosity and kindness. Just as devoutness, Ibadat, supplication and repentance are instrumental in forging an identity with the Celestial World, generosity goes a very long way to demolish the narrow, mean and debased patterns of worldly existence for it is the very antithesis of vulgarity and beastliness. It must be made very clear that Zakah is not a tax. I repeat, not a tax but an act of worship and, like other acts of worship, it is solely for the Pleasure of Almighty Allah. Soundness of intention is a necessity at the time of the payment of Zakah for it is a major act of Ibadat.  Like all other acts of Ibadat, it is solely for Almighty Allah.

The most outstanding characteristic of Zakah is the spirit of Imaan and Ihtisab that makes it a unique institution of its kind. None of the traditional taxes or economic systems can lay a claim to it. For reasons known only to Almighty Allah, Zakah has invariably been mentioned in the Holy Qur’an and the Traditions either with its virtues and benefits in this world and the next, like increase in wealth and Divine reward and recompense, or with the warning of a dreadful chastisement to those who willfully ignore its payment when due.  Almighty Allah declares in verse 262 of Suratul Al-Baqara:

“Those who spend their wealth for the Cause of Allah and afterwards make 
not reproach or injury to follow that which they have spent; their reward is 
with Allah, and there shall be no fear come upon them nor shall they grieve”.
 And in verse 274 of Suratul Al-Baqara:
“Those who spend their wealth (in Allah’s Way)
by night and day, by stealth and openly, verily
their reward is with their Rabb, and there shall 
be no fear come upon them nor shall they grieve”.

And in verse 39 of Suratul Al Rum:

 “That which you give in charity, seeking
Allah’s countenance, has increased manifold”.

Side by side with these joyful tidings, the Most Holy and Noble Qur’an administers severe warnings to the hoarders of wealth who violate the rights of Almighty Allah and encroach upon the rights of the poor and needy and accumulate gold and silver for the love of it. Almighty Allah informs us in verses 34 & 35 of Suratul Al-Tawbah:

 “And there are those who hoard gold and silver and spend not
 in the Way of Allah. Announce unto them a most painful doom.”
“On that Day when it will be heated in the Fire of Jahannum, 
and their foreheads and their flanks and their backs will be branded 
therewith and it will be said to them: Here is that which you
hoarded for yourselves. Not taste what you used to hoard”.

The Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam admonished those who did not pay Zakah in the strongest terms and warned them of a deplorable end in this world and a dreadful sequel in the Aghirah [Hereafter]. It is related that he said: “Him on whom Allah has bestowed wealth and who did not pay Zakah, his wealth will be brought on the Day of Judgment in a form of a serpent which will have two tongues, and will be thrown around his neck. It will say: I am your wealth! I am your treasure! The Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam then recited the verse:

“And let not those who hoard up that which Allah hath bestowed 
upon them of His Bounty think that it is better for them…..”

Zakah and Usury (Riba) Interest.

Zakah is just the reverse of usury (Riba). In origin and design and nature and purpose the two are inimical to one another and the fruits they bear and the effects they produce, both for the society and for the individual, are also widely different.  While the fear of Almighty Allah, the doing of one’s duty to Him, the seeking of His good pleasure, the concern for His needy and destitute bondsmen and kindness, compassion and self-denial form the essence of Zakah.

The entire system of usury (Riba) is reared upon defiance of Almighty Allah, callousness, excessive greed and heartless exploitation of the needs of others. The Most Holy and Noble Qur’an employs the same method in dealing with usury (Riba) as it does in case of lewdness and other mortal sins. We learn from verse 130 of Suratul Al-i-Imran:

   “O you who believe!
Do not devour usury, doubling and Quadrupling (the sum lent)
Observe your duty to Allah, that you may be successful”.

Consequently, Zakah leads to the promotion of Imaan and the development of the spirit brotherhood and togetherness.  Visible signs of economic well-being become manifest in society, goods are visited with prosperity and love in generated in the hearts because of it. The practice of lending money on interest, conversely, breeds egotism, covetousness, parsimony, and mistrust. It fosters the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few.

Usury (Riba) sustains and promotes conditions that give rise to class hatred. The poor, the needy and the less fortunate masses are always at a loss. The society gets divided into two distinct groups of haves and have-nots. The Most Holy Qur’an has therefore condemned usury in the strongest terms as haraam (forbidden). It has used much greater force to denounce it than to extol charity. The revolting picture of the usurer drawn by the Most Holy Qur’an is enough to fill the heart of a Muh’min with repugnance as we learn from verse 161 of Suratul Al-Nisa:

“And of their taking usury when they were forbidden it,
and of their devouring people’s wealth by false pretences.
We have prepared for those of them who disbelieve
A painful doom.”
 And in verse 275 of Suratul Al-Baqara:
“Those who swallow usury, cannot rise up save as he
rises whom Shaytaan has prostrated by his touch.”
And yet again we are reminded in verse 39 of Suratul Al-Rum:
“That which you give in usury in order that it may increase
on (other) people’s property has no increase with 
Whether you call it Riba, usury, or interest, it is Haraam in Islam for the principle is that any profit which we should seek should be through our own exertions and at our own expense, not through exploiting other people or at their expense, however we may wrap up the process in the spacious phraseology of high finances or City jargon. But we are asked to go beyond this negative precept of avoiding what is haraam.  As Muslims we should show our active love for our neighbourhood by spending our own substance or resources or the utilization of our own talents and opportunities in the service of those who need them.
Then our reward or recompense will not be merely what we deserve. It will be multiplied to many times more than our strict account. According to the Commentators of verse 39 of Suratul Al-Rum, this verse specially applies to those who give to others , whether gifts or services, in order to receive from them greater benefits in return. Such seemingly good acts are void of any merit and deserve no reward from Almighty Allah Subhanahu Wata’ala since He knows the real intention behind such ostensibly good acts.
Anyone who examines the history of the Islamic society, in particular its moral aspect, i.e. from the point of view of the enforcement of the Divine Commands, the sanctioning of what is allowed in Islam and the prevalence of blessedness, peace, and prosperity which flowed from the enforcement of the Holy Shari’ah, and compares it with the spectacle of backwardness, poverty and distress the Muslim world presents today owing to the disregard of Islamic values and violation of duties prescribed by the Divine Law will be convinced of the Truth of the Traditions we have just seen. Almighty Allah informs us in verse 97 of Suratul Al-Nahl:
 “Whoever works righteousness, man or woman,
and has faith, verily, to him or her will We give
a new Life, and life that is good and pure,
and We will bestow on such their reward
according to the best of their actions”.

Like the other fundamental duties of faith, such as Salaat, fasting, and Hajj, in  Zakah too, Islam has played a reforming role of redoubtable significance. The reforms it has introduced satisfy all the individual and collective requirements of charity and are also free from pollution through distortion or misinterpretation which has been the bane of earlier faiths.

“O Beloved Month of  Ramadan! 
We do not know whether you will return to us (in our lifetime) or 
whether death will overpower us. 
O Month of Ramadan! 
How fortunate is the person, to whom you will return with 
blessings of Almighty Allah, and how fortunate is the one, 
against whose misdeeds you will be a witness 
(on the Day of Judgment!)”. 
And Almighty Allah knows best.

And Peace be upon those who follow the Guidance.

The Truth is from Almighty Allah. The errors are all mine and
I stand to be corrected.

Baarak Allaahu Feekum wa-sal-Allaahu wa-Sallam ‘alaa
Nabiyyinaa Muhammad Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam.

Was Salamualaykum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuhu
Abdul Hamid Lachporia
Please be advised that you are more that welcomed to use and share
my Khutbah’s for propagational purposes without my prior consent. 

جَزَاكُمُ اللَّهُ خَيْرًا