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Aspects Of Islamic Faith - 84: When Regret Avails Nothing

Islamic Perspectives - Muslim Journals

Arab News & Information - By Adil Salahi

People everywhere try to reduce their tax payments. Whenever they have a chance to make some tax-free earnings, they would not hesitate to take it. This is due to the importance of money in our lives. Sometimes people translate zakat as ‘poor tax' or ‘charitable tax', etc.

This is a mistranslation because ‘tax' is universally viewed as a burden, while zakat is a payment that is conducive to growth. It is an investment placed with God and it yields rich returns, as God rewards every good action with at least ten times its worth. The very name, zakat, is derived from a root, zaka, which signifies growth. Yet people who do not have a strong sense of faith tend to look at it as tax and they try to withhold it, if they can.

The Prophet, peace be upon him, warned against withholding zakat, using different ways of expression and image drawing so that his meaning will get across to all people. He showed us that whoever withholds zakat will come to regret his action on the Day of Judgment, because zakat is a duty on the rich. At the same time, it is a rightful claim of the poor granted by God. Abu Hurayrah quotes the Prophet as saying: "Camels will surround their owner in their most splendid form if he did not give away their dues. They will trample with their feet all over him. Sheep will surround their owner in their most splendid way if he did not give away their dues. They will trample with their hoofs all over him and hit him with their horns. Part of their dues is that they should be milked close to water springs."

The Prophet also said: "Let none of you come on the Day of Judgment carrying on his shoulder a sheep making loud noises. He will appeal to me, but I will say to him: ‘I cannot do anything for you; I delivered my message to all.' Let none of you come on the Day of Judgment carrying on his shoulder a camel making noises. He will appeal to me and I will say to him: ‘I cannot do anything for you; I delivered my message to all.'" (Related by Al-Bukhari).

Here are two very graphic images. Those who withhold zakat want to increase their assets and enjoy their wealth. Those who engage in animal farming find great pleasure in looking at their cattle growing in number; looking healthy and giving them milk in plenty. If they do not pay the zakat due on such cattle, their very cattle will come to them in their best form and strength, but instead of giving them pleasure, the cattle will trample all over them. It is a horrible fate, but it is a punishment that is the opposite of what they tried hard to achieve. The Prophet adds that part of what is due to one's sheep is that they should be milked near water springs. This is because it is the place people come to get their water, and normally those who come are either servants or poor people. When a farmer sees such people nearby, he is likely to give them some milk. This will be voluntary charity that is certain to be richly rewarded by God.

The second image shows the punishment of a person who takes an animal unjustly. He has no right to it, but he nevertheless grabs it and is unwilling to give it back to its rightful owner. On the Day of Judgment, such a person will carry that animal, whether a sheep, a cow, a horse or a camel, on his shoulders. The animal will cry out so that everyone will see what is happening. In his misery, such a person may see Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He will appeal to him for help, but the Prophet will tell him that he cannot do anything to reduce his punishment. He had given his message and warned us against unlawful earnings. If some of us do not take heed, they will come to regret it on the Day of Judgment.

 

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