20th August 1999
Establish the prayer and pay zakat and obey the Messenger so that perhaps you may gain mercy. (24:56)
Zakat is for: the poor, the destitute, those who collect it, reconciling
people's hearts, freeing slaves,
those in debt, spending in the way of Allah, and travellers. An obligation imposed by Allah.
Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.(9:60)
Ibn 'Umar reported that the Messenger of Allah may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "I have been commanded to fight people until they testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah and establish the prayer and pay the zakat. If they do that, their lives and property are protected from me except for the right of Islam; and their reckoning is up to Allah."
Last week we looked at salat as the primary pillar of Allah's deen, whose proper establishment is indispensible to the establishment of Islam as a whole, but as Allah's Book and several hadiths of the Messenger of Allah, salla'Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam, make clear to us salat does not and cannot stand by itself; it has a necessary and inseparable adjunct zakat. Salat and zakat are coupled together by Allah ta'ala in His Book nearly thirty times and because of this many mufassirun have gone as far as saying that the two are interdependent, meaning by that that our salat is not acceptable unless our payment of zakat has been properly discharged and vice versa. Salat is the affirmation of the unbreakable bond between each Muslim and their Lord, but it has an essential social and political dimension. Zakat is the affirmation of the unbreakable political and social bond between all the Muslims, but it has an essential spiritual dimension. It was the combination of these two elements which generated that dynamic energy which permeated the first few generations of Muslims and turned them into that unstoppable force which established Allah's deen across most of the known world in a single lifetime.
Everywhere in the world where there are significant populations of Muslims, including here in Britain, there is no lack of mosques and attendance in them is also, generally speaking, very healthy so it would seem that the salat element of the deen is, al-hamdu lillah, largely in place. Yet Islam is nowhere established as a living reality and nowhere can the Muslims as Muslims be described as a significant political force. It must follow that we as Muslims are failing to follow Allah's guidance in some fundamental way. What we find when we really investigate is that the indispensible zakat element of our deen is all but completely missing.
There are many Muslims who never really think of zakat at all and, if they do, think of it as a small sum they give to the mosque at the end of Ramadan but there are many others, however, who are aware of their obligation to pay zakat on their wealth and they may well feel affronted when they hear this. 'We are very scrupulous about calculating two and a half percent of our savings every year and giving it away,' they will indignantly reply. But the truth is that what they do has very little to do with zakat as it was understood and practised by the first community and those who followed them. Two absolutely essential elements are missing.
The first is political. In Surat at-Tawba Allah ta'ala orders His Messenger, salla'Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam, to take zakat from the people when He says, "Take zakat." He could have ordered people to give it, as He does in other places order people, in a general sense, to give from what they have, but in this specific instance where zakat is intended He orders it to be taken. And the first Khalifa of the Muslims, Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, radiya'llahu 'anhu, staked the very existence of the fledgling Muslim umma on the upholding of this principle when he insisted upon fighting the tribes who wanted to withhold zakat from him with the memorable words: 'By Allah, I will fight anyone who makes a distinction between the prayer and zakat. Zakat is the right which is due on wealth. By Allah, if they refuse me a hobbling rope which they used to pay to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, I will fight them for it!'
Because of this, the integral connection between zakat and the political governance of the Muslims was affirmed by the Imams of all the schools of fiqh and the scholars who have followed them throughout the centuries. From its origins the collection and distribution of zakat was an integral and inseparable function of Muslim governance. It is not that zakat merely may be collected and distributed by the Muslim authorities, it is that from the very beginning it has been in the very nature of zakat that that is the case. Yet the organic connection between zakat and Muslim governance has been all but completely lost. Once the vital link between zakat and governance has been severed it means that the pillar of zakat, as it has always been understood by all the Muslims throughout the whole history of Islam, has, to all intents and purposes, been done away with. Any pretence at the payment and distribution of zakat in the present circumstances can only be precisely that nothing more than a well-intentioned pretence. Denial of the integral connection between zakat and central Muslim government necessarily means that the nature of zakat has been altered beyond any recognition from its original function and practice.
The second essential missing element concerns the means of payment of zakat. It is clear from all the sources and all the great texts of fiqh that zakat must be paid on certain kinds of animals and crops and on gold and silver and trade goods. In respect of gold and silver the texts specify the exact weight of each on which zakat is due and make it clear that it is the metal itself which is being taxed since it does not matter whether it takes the form of coins, bullion, nuggets or dust.
The great changes, which have taken place in the nature of financial wealth over the last few centuries and which have been due to the introduction of riba into financial practices and institutions on a scale unprecedented throughout the whole of human history, have resulted in a seismic change in the nature of money itself. Monetary wealth now takes the form of bank balances, share certificates, insurance policies and other financial instruments, with frequently no more real existence than that of flickering figures passing electronically from one computer screen to another and money itself has turned from being gold and silver coins to being paper representing gold and silver coins to being simply paper tokens whose value is dependent on the whims of international speculators.
Although some modernist Muslims have tried to adapt and compromise the shari'a to make it fit in with this totally unacceptable state of affairs, the truth is, as many other 'ulama have made indisputably plain, that the deen cannot be fudged in this way. The shari'a on this matter is clear: zakat on monetary wealth and trade goods may only be paid in actual gold or silver. The present world dominating kafir economic system of banking capitalism has, therefore, completely undermined the pillar of zakat, indirectly by displacing all economic transactions into the arena of the haram by involving them inextricably in a usurious web which it is at present virtually impossible to escape, and directly by changing the nature of money in a way which prevents Muslims from paying their zakat in gold and silver as laid down by the shari'a.
The net result of this is that, notwithstanding the undoubtedly sincere intentions of many millions of Muslims throughout the world who do their best to put aside an amount of their wealth every year to fulfill their obligation to Allah of paying zakat and Allah best knows our hearts and will reward us according to our intentions the truth is that the obligation of zakat, as it has always been understood by the Muslims, is not being fulfilled as it should be. This is because the necessary connection between zakat and Muslim governance has been severed and because the zakat of money and merchandise, is not being paid in the only acceptable form in which it is permitted to be paid gold and silver. Unless and until this situation is remedied, a factor indispensible to the re-establishment of Islam will remain unapplied and our dream of seeing the reality of Islam once more flourishing on the earth will inevitably remain just that an unrealisable dream.
The men and women of the believers are friends of one another. They command
and forbid the wrong, and establish the prayer and pay zakat, and obey Allah and His Messenger.
They are the people Allah will have mercy on. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise.(9:72)
If we are serious in our professed desire to see Allah's deen re-established and indeed our success and happiness in both the worlds depends on the fact that we are the pillar of zakat must first be restored to its pivotal position at the very core of Muslim political and social life. As we have seen, for this to occur two main factors must be radically addressed: the necessary link between zakat and Muslim governance must be re-insituted and gold and silver coinage must be re-introduced as a medium of exchange among the Muslims to enable the zakat of monetary wealth to be correctly paid.
Our responsibility as Muslims is the same wherever and whoever we are and in some ways becomes more clear-cut when we are under non-Muslim rule: we must either emigrate to a place where Islam is established and the rule of the shari'a is in place which is not an option because there is nowhere in the world where this is the case or we must strive to the utmost and do everything in our power to see Islam fully implemented where we are.
Most communities have managed to establish the prayer and the increasing number of mosques in most places is evidence of that. Most Muslims observe the fast and go on hajj but, as we have seen, zakat is not now in place and cannot be unless the kind of Muslim leadership which is neccessary to ensure its proper collection and distribution is re-instituted. So our inescapable duty to properly implement this fundamental obligation of our deen automatically involves us in re-establishing among ourselves the political structure which makes it possible.
Inasmuch as the Muslims have a political identity, it is everywhere expressed in kafir political terms which here, for instance, expressly precludes the coming into existence of a specifically Muslim political identity among the Muslims of Britain. The political structure demanded by zakat will immediately rectify this situation, because in order for zakat to be collected and distributed according to the shari'a there must be an openly acknowledged and accepted leader in every Muslim community. Not only will this enable zakat to be implemented correctly for the first time in living memory but it will also radically and instaneously politicise the Muslims as Muslims, giving them a political identity which accords with the Book and the Sunna and by that token giving them the possibility of that real political power which can only come about when Allah's laws are properly put into practice.
When local Muslim leadership is established in this way and, as we have seen, our obligation to properly fulfill the pillar of zakat means that it is also obligatory on us to ensure that it is and zakat is collected and distributed according to the shari'a on a local basis, then each individual muslim community will be able to stand on its own feet in the face of the kafir power structure and we as Muslims will at last gain a measure of independence from our present position of total dependence on the kafir state. We will also gain cohesion and political strength both on a local and national level and as a consequence the Muslim community will begin to see itself in its true light as a dynamic and transformative human force rather than as a beleaguered immigrant minority.
The situation regarding our need for gold and silver to pay zakat with is well on the way to being remedied. On a national level the need to return to gold and silver is beginning to be recognised in Muslim lands at a governmental level. During his recent prime ministership of Turkey, Nejmettin Erbakan held up a gold dinar in the mosque and declared it to be the currency of the Muslims. Gold and silver coinage have been proclaimed the official medium of exchange in one of the states of Malaysia. And as we know in recent years there have been several mintings of gold dinars and silver dirhams to the exact specifications of the prophetically endorsed coinage of the early Muslims and these coins can be made available to any Muslim community anywhere in the world who are determined to see zakat once again discharged as Allah has commanded. What is needed is for Muslim leaders to establish agencies within their communities from which these halal coins can be acquired and where they can, if necessary, be exchanged. At the same time it will be necessary to encourage Muslim shops and businesses to accept gold and silver currency so that the recipients of zakat and others who wish to benefit from it will be able to use it to fulfill their daily needs.
However, as with every kind of obedience to Allah and His Messenger there are benefits in re-introducing gold and silver coinage which extend far beyond the immediate obligation of using it to pay zakat. The destruction of Dar al-Islam was largely achieved through financial instruments which removed gold and silver from the hands of the Muslims and it is by means of these same usurious instruments that the whole world, including all the Muslims, is still held thrall. As long as we are enmeshed in the present economic system, it will be impossible to establish and implement Allah's deen. We have to free ourselves from it and that will only be possible by reversing what was done to us and turning the techniques of the usurers back on themselves. The readoption of the use of gold and silver currency in the present economic environment will achieve this by bursting the grotesquely overinflated balloon of usurious finance and putting power back into the hands of those who worship Allah and follow His Messenger.
Allah gives us an illustrative example of this in His Book in the story of Musa, peace be upon him, and the magicians, which is repeated several times. Using their magic, the magicians create an appearance of reality which fools the people into believing that there is really something there, but when Musa throws down his staff, which is real, the sorcery of the magicians is shown to be a mere illusion and evaporates into thin air. The parallel is exact. The financiers have created the appearance of value in paper money but when it is faced with the reality of true value in the form of gold coinage it will be shown up as the illusion it is nothing but worthless pieces of paper and evanescent numbers in cyberspace. The gold dinar is truly a mighty weapon in the hands of the Muslims.
The re-instatement of these two fundamental elements true Islamic leadership and gold and silver currency will restore zakat to its proper place in Muslim society by ensuring that Allah's deen is once more based on its original unshakeable foundations, and this will in turn, by Allah's permission, enable the rest of the House of Islam to be established as a functioning reality. The activated deen will then be for the Muslims of this age what the ark of the Prophet Nuh, 'alayhi salam, was for his time. When the usurious bubble bursts, as burst it will, and the ensuing flood engulfs the world, the Muslims will be enabled to float free and, when the flood-waters subside, we will, insha'a'Llah, be ready with Allah's deen to give a fresh start to humanity so that the Book of Allah and the sunna of His Messenger will regain their rightful place at the head of all human affairs.
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