877 225 2251

Zakah: A Path of Purification

by Musa Bukhari

As humans, we all have attachments—things that preoccupy our hearts and minds. Things (or people) that we can’t live without. These attachments exist in relation to haram or halal things. For example, someone may love alcohol, and this is a haram attachment. Or a person may love their children, and this is a halal attachment. The thing with even halal attachments is that the stronger and more exclusive they become, they become the ilaah in our hearts: our objects of worship. The thing we cannot live without. The thing we think about the most. The person we are deathly afraid of displeasing or disappointing.

If something or someone becomes an ilaah in our hearts (a strong attachment) other than Allah, we will suffer. If we revolve our lives around something or someone other than Allah and fear losing it, then we will constantly be in a state of anxiety and stress. Some of us have this attachment to money. Money is a tool, a blessing from Allah to help us live in this world. But if we start to become obsessed with money, if we start to depend on money, then it becomes the very thing that leads to our downfall.

Having an ilaah in the heart other than Allah contradicts Tawheed. This corrodes our iman and leads to suffering in the dunya and Akhirah. Having strong and unhealthy attachments to things is a disease of the heart. And for every disease, there is a remedy. All the five pillars of Islam exist to break our unhealthy attachments and to purify our hearts.

Through salah, Allah breaks our attachment to dunya. We leave our school, work, family, and fun activities to remember Allah in a timely manner. This reminds us that Allah comes first. This reminds us that we have to return to Him one day. And through zakat, Allah breaks our attachment to money, to wealth, to the things we own of dunya. This reminds us of what we ought to really depend on, and who has a share in what Allah has given us. This reminds us that our wealth comes from Allah, and if we start to love the wealth more than the One who gave us that wealth, then that is the trait of a negligent heart, not an attentive and grateful heart.

Zakat and Tazkiyah

Tazkiyah is the Arabic word that means ‘purification,’ and in certain contexts, ‘purification of the heart.’ Tazkiyah is an Islamic science like other Islamic sciences and it is imperative that we all engage in tazkiyah of our heart and soul.

Allah says in Surah Ash-Shams: “Qad aflaha man zakkaaha. Wa qad khaaba man dassaaha.” “He has succeeded who purifies [his nafs]. And he has fails who covered it up [refusing to expose it to the purifying process].”

The word Zakat has the same root letters as the word Tazkiyah. “Zaka” means to thrive, to grow, to increase, to be just, to be righteous. “Zakka” means to purify.

The technical term “Zakat” refers to the obligatory alms/charity that we must give to the poor each year after calculating the nisab (the final amount to give will be different for each person depending on their assets and savings). Zakat is also the third pillar of Islam.

As we see from the etymology above, zakat and tazkiyah both share the same roots. This means they share similar meanings as well. Tazkiyah is to purify your heart. Zakat is the process of purifying your wealth. Zakat serves to spiritually purify your wealth, which makes it increase as well (and increase is also one of the meanings of the word “zakah”!), and it also serves to break your attachment to the wealth.

In the Qur’an, salah and zakat are frequently mentioned together which shows the grave importance of following through with it timely and properly. And salah and zakat are both essential elements of purifying the heart!

According to the Qur’an, there are eight categories of people who are eligible to receive zakat (9:60):

-The poor -The needy -Zakat collectors -Those who have converted to Islam and are in need -Those in slavery -Those in debt -In the way of Allah -The traveler

Abu Huraira reported: A man came to the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) and he complained about the hardness of his heart. The Prophet said, “If you want to soften your heart, then feed the poor and caress the head of the orphan.”

This hadith shows that there is a direct link between giving zakat and tazkiyah (purification) of the heart. If we feel a hardness in the heart, if we feel that we are becoming too attached to our material possessions, we should give from them.

Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) was never asked for anything for the sake of Islam except that he gave it. A person came to him and he (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) gave him a large flock (of sheep and goats). The person then went back to his people and said: My people, embrace Islam, for indeed Muhammad (saw) gives in charity as if he has no fear of poverty.

The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) was the most generous of people. He gave charity as if he did not fear poverty. This is an important point to internalize. The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) did not hold onto what he had. He did not hoard. He was not afraid to give. This is because he knew that wealth comes from Allah. Everything we have belongs to Allah and it comes from Allah, and it is to be spent in the way that He pleases. The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) also taught us that “sadaqah does not decrease from wealth.” If we give zakat and sadaqah, it only increases the barakah in our wealth, and it is also an investment in our Akhirah. Allah may multiply what we give however He wills, as He is Al-Kareem (the Most Generous).

Zakat also relates to tazkiyah (purification) of the heart because it provides the remedy for shuhh. Shuhh is miserliness, a greediness of the nafs. It is what makes people withhold instead of give. It is the internal drive that we have to acquire and amass wealth and to store it for ourselves. Allah says in the Qur’an that whoever is protected from the shuhh of his own nafs is the one who is successful.

“And [also for] those who were settled in Medina and [adopted] the faith before them. They love those who emigrated to them and find not any want in their chests of what the emigrants were given but give [them] preference over themselves, even though they are in need. And whoever is protected from the shuhh (internal miserliness of his soul) - it is those who will be the [truly] successful. (59:9)

This ayah is referring to when the Muhajiroon migrated from Makkah to Madinah. The Ansar gave them half of everything they had without hesitation even though they were in need. Allah commends their actions in this ayah and gives us a reminder to be like them in our giving: eager and ready to give and not greedy, knowing that Allah will take care of us.

The Station of Righteousness

Which one of us does not desire to be righteous? Which one of us does not want to attain higher levels of purification and closeness to Allah? In this ayah, Allah makes a direct connection between righteousness and giving.

“You will never attain the station of righteousness until you spend [in the way of Allah] from that which you love. And whatever you spend - indeed, Allah is Knowing of it.” (3:92)

“From that which you love” has two meanings: one, we give from our wealth, which we obviously love, and two, we give from the best of what we have. We give the best clothes, the best food, for the sake of Allah. When we give, we give no less than what we would have wanted for ourselves. This is the true station of righteousness.

The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Verily Allah, Exalted and Mighty, is Pure and loves that which is pure. [He] is Clean and loves cleanliness. [He] is Magnanimous and loves magnanimity. [He] is Generous and loves generosity.”

In order for us to purify our wealth, we must give it for the sake of Allah. And in order for us to give it, it must be pure as Allah does not accept the impure. So it is a cycle of giving and purification which we must live by. The hadith concludes by saying Allah is Generous and loves generosity. When giving, me must not think too highly of ourselves nor think that we are doing the poor a favor. Rather, it is Allah who shows us His Generosity by giving us repeatedly, whether it’s money or other types of rizq such as peace, security, family, health, or knowledge. We should always turn to Allah for help when we are facing the stinginess of our own soul. When it stings to give, we should give a little more. When it hurts to help, we should help a little more.

May Allah allow us to break our unhealthy attachments and establish Him as the only ilaah in our hearts through everything that we do. May Allah make us those who give like the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) gave, without fear of poverty. May Allah purify us gently and grant us the best and give us the ability to give from the best of what we have. Ameen.

Back to news