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Aspects Of Islamic Faith — 85: Poisoned Money

Islamic Perspectives - Muslim Journals

Arab News & Information - By Adil Salahi

Islam makes clear that whatever money or property we own does not belong to us. It all belongs to God.

He is the Creator of the universe and all creation. Even our actions are created by God, as He is the One who gave us the ability to think, decide and implement. He has imposed on us a duty in respect to our wealth. This duty is zakat, which is an act of worship consisting of setting aside a portion of our property and giving it to the Islamic government which is required to spend it in helping eight categories of beneficiaries who are specified in the Qur'an. This is an annual duty required of every Muslim, man, woman or child.

Because people often try to avoid the payment of what is due of them, the Prophet, peace be upon him, used many ways to stress on his companions and all Muslims in all generations the importance of the payment of zakat on its due date. He describes the punishment the withholders of zakat will endure in the life to come in various vivid and graphic images that send shudders into anyone who contemplates them. One of these is outlined in the following Hadith:

Abu Hurayrah quotes the Prophet as saying: "Whoever is granted property by God but does not pay its zakat, his property will appear to him on the Day of Judgement as an extremely poisonous male snake, with two glands of poison on the sides of his mouth. It will hang around his neck. The man will hold the sides of the snake's mouth, but the snake will say to him: ‘I am your property which you withheld. The Prophet then read the Qur'anic verse: ‘Let not those who niggardly cling to all that God has bestowed on them of His bounty think that this is good for them. Indeed, it is bad for them. That to which they niggardly cling will hang around their necks on the Day of Resurrection.'" (3: 180)

The image the Prophet draws in this Hadith is a really horrifying one. He enhances its effect by showing the snake having these two poisonous glands, as if it is not enough that he hangs around the miser's neck. The man is terrified and tries to avert the snake's bite, but the snake tells him that he is only his property for which he paid no zakat. The man would wish to do anything to get rid of this snake and he regrets his miserly deed, but regret and remorse are of no avail then.

It should be pointed out that God could have made all people rich, with no one dependent on another. That was easy for God, as indeed everything else. Yet He chose to give us our present lot, so that the property given to a person is a means of testing that person and how strong his faith is. Also a poor person is tested by his poverty. We all have to get through the tests God has given us. Those of us who are in good means should remember the Hadith that says: "Property never decreases by the payment of zakat". This means either that God will compensate us for what we give to the poor, or that the reward He will give us will be much more than what we have. On the other hand it could mean that our property is what we hold after the deduction of zakat. As such, when we pay it, we are not giving away anything we own. It is God's property which we give away in accordance with His commandment.


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