Synonyms of Zakah in the Bible
In the bible, Zakah is mentioned under the meaning of benevolence:
“Blessed are those who have regard for the weak; the LORD delivers them in times of trouble.” (Psalms, 41-1)
“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink”.(Proverbs, 25-21).
It is also mentioned under the meaning of “Charity”:
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,”( Matthew 6/1-3)
“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys”. (Luke 12:33).
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”.(2 Corinthians 9:7)
In Old-Testament, It is also mentioned as the due tribute :
“36,000 cattle, of which the tribute for the LORD was 72; 30,500 donkeys, of which the tribute for the LORD was 61; 16,000 people, of whom the tribute for the LORD was 32”. (Numbers, 31/38-40).
“From the soldiers who fought in the battle, set apart as tribute for the LORD one out of every five hundred, whether people, cattle, donkeys or sheep”.( Numbers, 31/37).
“Moses gave the tribute to Eleazar the priest as the LORD’s part, as the LORD commanded Moses”. (Numbers, 31:41).
“And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand. Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything”(Genesis, 19:14).
“Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always. ” (Deuteronomy 14:23).
Modern Christian Stand on Zakah
In the New-Testament the word Zakah is also mentioned under the meanings of benevolence, charity and due tribute is mentioned
As Jesus says,
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them”. (Matthew, 5:17), the law of the tribute should proceed:
“The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector”.(18:11)
“But now as for what is inside you–be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you”.(Luke, 11:41)
The Concept of Tenth-Tribute as Understood by the Church
The concept of tenth-tribute has been distorted by the church who maintained the right of having such amount of wealth. When the Church felt embarrassed, it claimed that it is up to individuals to pay the amount they wish.
A Christian thinker says, ” the new Testament did not set a certain amount from one’s income for charity. It rather leaves it to one’s choice according to his/her ability. The Christian Church took the Old Testament’s law of giving 10% of one’s income and applied it as “the least required percentage. But Christians should not always feel compelled to offer their tithes. They should pay according to their ability; the amount may be more or less than tenth. This depends on the ability of the Christian and the needs of the Church. ‘Every Christian should pray and ask for the wisdom of God in the offering of tithes and how much should be given’ (James 5: 1). The Bible says, ‘Every one, as he intends with his heart, without grief or distress, because the giver who is keen with his charity is loved by God.” (Corinthians II 7: 9)”.
A question arises as to the reason the Church imposed such amount to be paid to it, citing texts which are explanatory and not conclusive in this regard, including:
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” (Malachi 3:10), while the Old-Testament laws order paying it to ‘the widows and the poor’?:
“When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.” (Deuteronomy, 24:19).
the church exaggerated in collecting such tithes enabling even authorities in Christian countries to get it! The Church insists on receiving such tithes inside the church and insists on its existence side by side with the charity to the needy outside the church?! Thus, it is clear the human intervention in such ritual and the priestly-domination in it!
The Concept of Zakat in Islam
As for Zakat in Islam, it is an educational means for the rehabilitation of the human soul to train it to get accustomed to virtues. Its main objective is to clean the rich’s soul from the dirt of stinginess and the poor’s soul from the feelings of grudge and oppression.
The Qur’an refers to the existence of Zakah in previous-nations’ laws:
“And Allah had already taken a covenant from the Children of Israel, and We delegated from among them twelve leaders. And Allah said, “I am with you. If you establish prayer and give zakah and believe in My messengers and support them and loan Allah a goodly loan, I will surely remove from you your misdeeds and admit you to gardens beneath which rivers flow”.(5/12)
About Prophet Jesus, it says
“And He has made me blessed wherever I am and has enjoined upon me prayer and zakah (Charity) as long as I remain alive” (19/29)
And about all of the Prophets, it says:
“And We made them leaders guiding by Our command. And We inspired to them the doing of good deeds, establishment of prayer, and giving of zakah; and they were worshippers of Us”.(21/73).
In Islam, the one receiving Zakah (charity) should be deserving it. Therefore, the Qur’an defines only eight types of people who deserve Zakah:
“Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakah] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah. And Allah is Knowing and Wise”(9/60)
The Islamic concept of zakah is characterized by being clear, disciplined and dynamic. It is different from the Christian one which is sometimes indefinite. Priests expanded in the types of tithes and the seizure of the money of the common people in the name of religion and charity. The Islamic concept of zakah is comprehensive, practical which tackles all the affairs of society and achieves true social solidarity. There are many kinds of zakah in Islam which are only to be paid by those having a certain amount of wealth. There is zakah on wealth (Money, gold and silver), zakah on the land, zakah on trade, and zakah on cattle.
As regards to its collection, Islam enjoins the imam (i.e. leader) of the Muslims, not the clergy, to collect them and pay them to those who are entitled to them because zakah is the right of the poor and the needy. Worker collecting it may be given from zakah in compensation to his effort only in collecting it.
Islam confirmed some of the teachings of the Bible regarding zakah and added more invaluable concepts. Just as Jesus instructed his followers not to show off in charity (Matthew 6: 2-4), Islam orders sincerity while giving charity and forbids to show-off while paying it:
“And whatever you give for interest to increase within the wealth of people will not increase with Allah. But what you give in zakah, desiring the countenance of Allah – those are the multipliers”.(30/39)
Islam also agrees with the Bible (Romans,12:8) in giving charity with benevolence and generosity:
“The example of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is like a seed [of grain] which grows seven spikes; in each spike is a hundred grains. And Allah multiplies [His reward] for whom He wills. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.”(2/261)