Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam. [Picture: Al-Ehsaan]
Zakat is one of the five main pillars of Islam, without which a Muslim’s faith cannot be fulfilled. It also serves as a tool for delivering social justice. To understand where zakah fits in the Islamic finance system, we spoke to the South African National Zakah Fund (SANZAF).
Presenting a Zakah Seminar on Salaamedia, SANZAF CEO Yasmina Francke unpacked the functions and importance of zakah under the theme ‘Contextualising Zakah within Islamic Finance’.
Zakat is an annual amount of money paid by those Muslims upon whom it is obligatory, to those who satisfy minimum requirements. Francke said it plays a dual role.
“There is the satisfying of the individual’s [religious] needs, but there is also the satisfying of the needs of society. That is done through the effective circulation of wealth primarily in terms of obeying Allah (SWT).”
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Zakat within the Islamic financial ecosystem
Francke carefully unpacked the role of zakat within the broader Islamic finance system, whereby she explained that zakat was not a “standalone model”, but that “it fits into a broader ecosystem”.
She said you had Islamic commercial finance and then social finance. Within the complex web of the Islamic financial ecosystem, Francke placed zakat in the second of two aspects of Islamic finance.
Part of this element were the different forms of charity, among them zakah. “All of these that form part of the Islamic social finance have a common objective of solving societal challenges,” she said.
“We have what we know to be traditional charity and philanthropy, which is zakat, sadaqah [and] waqf. We also have cooperative agreement, which is loans without collateral, loans where the borrower is bound to repay an equivalent replacement.”
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Zakah as a pillar of Islam
The core beliefs and practices of Islam are often grouped as the Five Pillars of Islam, among which zakat is a fundamental aspect.
The first pillar is shahada (profession of faith, followed by salaah (prayer) and in third place is zakat. The remaining two pillars are sawm (fasting) and hajj (pilgrimage).
Speaking of the importance of zakat as a Pillar, Francke said, “We need to treat every single pillar of our deen (faith) with equal importance, so that we can be firm in our faith. Zakat is one of those pillars and it lives alongside our salah. It is often mentioned next to salah in the Qur’an, to express the importance that the two work in hand.”
She further suggested that Zakat was also an expression of gratitude. “We’re expressing our appreciation and our contentment to Allah (SWT) for His blessings, for his mercy and for granting us that which we have in our possession.”
She said it was primarily about demonstrating obedience to Allah (SWT), then to affirm unity and finally to deliver social justice and dignity to the marginalised.
“Do it in a way that we show obedience to the Almighty and also in a way that we encourage that sense of brotherhood, that sense of unity within Islam. The secondary motive is economic reform that feeds into the notion of social justice and dignity for all Muslims.”