Zakat, a pillar of Islamic faith, holds profound significance beyond its commonly understood charitable aspect. Rooted in the Arabic term “zakat” with multifaceted connotations, one of its primary meanings is “development.” This association between zakat and development underscores the inherent connection between economic growth, progress, and the holistic welfare of society. While often reduced to a narrow interpretation of obligatory charity, the true essence of zakat encompasses socio-economic development in all its dimensions. By delving into the various dimensions and implications of zakat, we can grasp its role as a transformative force, guiding believers towards collective prosperity and empowerment.
Zakat, also known as Zaka, is an Arabic term with multiple meanings and connotations. According to various Arabic dictionaries such as Lisan al-Arab and Lane’s Arabic-English Lexicon, Zakat carries several significations.
The primary meaning of Zakat is “increase,” encompassing ideas of augmentation, growth, development, progress, and prosperity. It reflects the concept of expansion and improvement (نمو،رَیْع). In a saying attributed to Ali (R.A.), it is stated that wealth diminishes through expenditure, but knowledge increases through investment (المَالُ تَنْقُصُهُ النَّفَقَةُ وَالعِلْمُ يَزْكُو عَلَى الإِنْفَاقِ ). The word يَزْكُو (derived from the root ز ک و) translates as “increases” in this context.
The phrase زَكَتِ الأَرْضُ means “the land thrived or yielded increase,” emphasizing the idea of growth. Similarly, زَكَا الغُلَامُ signifies the growth or thriving state of a boy, while زَکَی الزَرْعُ implies the growth of crops. زَکَی الرَجُلُ denotes the prosperity and progress of a man, indicating an abundance of goods, conveniences, and comforts in life.
Additional meanings of Zakat include purity, purification (تطھیر), good conduct, a thriving state (صلاح), financial contribution for Zakat purposes, praise, and the purest or best part of anything.
The primary significance of Zakat extends beyond mere “growth” and encompasses the concepts of progress, development, and prosperity.
Allah’s command, اٰتُوۡا الزَّكٰوةَ, is comprehensive, encompassing all forms of contribution for the socio-economic development of the community. However, unfortunately, the concept of Zakat has often been limited to giving a specific amount of charity to the poor. Allah, the All-wise, deliberately chose the term Zakat distinct from Sadaqa to emphasize its primary signification of growth, development, and prosperity. The word Zakat appears in the Quran at least 32 times. The concept of اٰتَى الزَّکٰوةَ (giving Zakat) is explicitly mentioned in comparison to اٰتَى الۡمَالَ (giving wealth) (Al-Quran 2:177). Working for the socio-economic development of the community is a key attribute of believers (وَالَّذِيۡنَ هُمۡ لِلزَّكٰوةِ فٰعِلُوۡنَۙ) (Al-Quran 23:4).
While Allah has made it obligatory for every believer to contribute to the socio-economic development of the community (اٰتُوۡا الزَّكٰوةَ) (Al-Quran 22:78), it is also obligatory for the Islamic state or authority to establish a Zakat system (Al-Quran 22:41). The Government’s Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) can be viewed within the context of Zakat. Both the public and the Government should consider it their Islamic duty to contribute to this program and other avenues of socio-economic development in the country. The concept of “development” is so fundamental in Zakat that it must never be ignored.