Principles of Paying Zakat
Pay zakat as soon as possible
The foremost principle of zakat of sharia and zakat of dignity as well as other forms of sadaqah is that they must be paid as soon as possible and must not be delayed so that it may manifest the spirit of enthusiasm and urge to spend in the way of Allah. This is also to avoid satanic whispers to creep into one’s heart.
The disciple of Abu al-Hassan al-Bushanji narrates that once Abu al-Hassan al-Bushanji was in the toilet It suddenly came into his mind that a particular Fakir was in need of shirt. So, he immediately took off his own shirt and ordered his disciple to go and give that shirt to Fakir. Somebody inquired al-Bushanji that why he did not wait till he came out of the toilet. He replied that he feared that his intention might have changed till then. (Risala Qushayriyya/Al-Qushayri’s Epistle on Sufism)
Pay zakat secretly
It is better to give zakat secretly in order to maintain sincerity. Moreover, to save it from becoming an act of pretence and hypocrisy. Allah says in the Quran:
اِنْ تُبْدُوا الصَّدَقٰتِ فَنِعِمَّا ھِیَ ۚ وَاِنْ تُخْفُوْھَا وَتُؤْتُوْھَا الْفُقَرَآءَ فَھُوَ خَیْرٌ لَّکُمْ ؕ وَیُکَفِّرُ عَنْکُمْ مِّنْ سَیِّاٰتِکُمْ ؕ
Meaning: If you give sadaqah in public, then it is well (for it will persuade others). However, if you hide it and give it to the Fakirs secretly then it is better for you. And will atone for some of your ill-deeds.”(2:271)
According to a Hadith, the sadaqah which a person gives secretly cools down the wrath of Allah. Another quite notable Hadith is, “On doomsday, seven (kinds of) people would be under the shadow of Divine Throne. That is; a just ruler; a person who gives sadaqah and conceals it (to such an extent) that his right hand does not know what his left has given….”
If a person finds himself perfectly free from any sign of hypocrisy due to the beneficence of his spiritual guide, then it is encouraged that such a person should give sadaqah openly so that he becomes inspiration for others. Only such a person should give sadaqah openly because his desire would only be to find closeness of Allah and not to get praise, fame or publicity (even if he gets it).
Should be grateful to Allah not proud
After giving sadaqah and zakat, a person should not consider himself above others. Neither should he behave as if he has favoured anyone. He should, in fact, be grateful to Allah. As He bestowed him with so much that he could give part of it in charity as well. None of this would have been possible had Allah not provided him with that wealth and the opportunity to spend it in His way. Hence, it is the result of favour of Allah only. Allah says in the Quran;
لَا تُبۡطِلُوۡا صَدَقٰتِکُمۡ بِالۡمَنِّ وَ الۡاَذٰی
Meaning: Do not invalidate your sadaqat by making taunts of favour and hurting feelings. (2:264)
The giver of zakat must not think that its recipient is inferior to him in any way. Although it is said in a Hadith,
اَلْیَدُ الْعُلْیَا خَیْرٌ مِّنْ یَدِ السُّفْلٰی
Meaning: The upper hand is better than the lower hand.
Upper hand is the one which gives and the lower one which takes. However, it is purely Allah’s decision whose hand He chooses to make the upper one and whose the lower one.
Purity of intention
The Holy Prophet said, “Sadaqah of one dirham given with sincerity and pure intention becomes heavier than thousand dirhams given without pure intention.” While giving sadaqah, one should give the best part of one’s wealth. If a person deliberately gives inferior things as sadaqah, it means he is actually presenting inferior part of his provision to Allah. This is utter miserliness and an indication of selfishness. Hence, one should present the best part to Allah and keep the inferior for oneself. Any form of spending in the way of Allah should be with the pure intention of pleasing Him only.
Zakat is Obligatory on every Possession
It is good to understand that zakat is not only obligatory upon one’s wealth but on everything in possession. Although, it becomes obligatory only after possession of a certain quantity which varies for everything. For instance, zakat of health and well-being is that one’s body should be used in worship of one’s Lord and to serve His men. Prophet Mohammad said;
اِنَّ اللّٰہ تعالٰی فرض علیکم زکٰوۃ جاھکم کما فرض علیکم زکٰوۃ مَالکم
Meaning: Allah has made zakat of your status obligatory upon you. Just as He has made zakat of your wealth obligatory upon you.”
اِنَّ لِکُلِّ شَیْءٍ زَکٰوۃِ الدَّارِ بَیْتِ الْفِیَافَۃِ
Meaning: Indeed, there is zakat for everything and zakat of house is its guest-room.
Similarly, zakat for knowledge is to pass it on to others. Zakat for one’s status and power is that he forbids others to do wrong. Moreover, orders to do good and exhorts to acquire gnosis of Allah. Hence, zakat is basically to spend for betterment of other people, from what Allah has given, according to one’s affordability. It is gratitude to Allah for His countless provisions. Zakat is an act which benefits both the giver and the recipient. The giver gets rid of miserliness and covetousness and becomes grateful to Allah for all that he has. Whereas, the recipient finds ease in his financial difficulties. In this way, zakat is not only a means of spiritual purification but also a social benefit for all.