Revelation of Mystery (Kashf al Mahjub)

Alms (al-zakat الزَّكَاةَ)

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Chapter XX

The Uncovering of the Sixth Veil

Alms (al-zakat الزَّكَاةَ)


Allah hath said:

وَأَقِيمُواْ الصَّلاَةَ وَآتُواْ الزَّكَاةَ

“And be steadfast in prayers; practice regular charity;” (Q 2:43).

There are many Verses of Quran and Hadith about alms (zakat زكوٰة). It is one of the obligatory ordinances of the faith but on whom who is worthy of paying it and its disobedience is unlawful. It becomes due on the completion of a benefit; e.g., two hundred dirham constitutes a complete benefit, and anyone who is in possession of that sum ought to pay five dirham or if he possesses twenty dinars he ought to pay half a dinar after one year or if he possesses five camels he ought to pay one sheep after one year, and so forth. Like wealth zakat (alms) is also due on account of dignity, because that is also a complete benefit. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

ان الله فرض عليكم زكوة جاهكم كما فرض عليكم زكوة مالكم

“Allah has made it incumbent upon you to pay the alms of your dignity, as He has made it incumbent upon you to pay the alms of your property.”

And he also said,

لكل شيء زكوة و زكوة الداربيت الضيافة

"everything has its alms, and the alms of a house is the hospitality.”

Actually zakat (alms) is that thanks giving for a benefit received, which is to be paid in similar kind as the benefit. Health is a great blessing, for which every limb owes alms. Therefore man ought to occupy all his limbs with devotion and not yield them to pleasure and pastime, in order that the alms due for the blessing of health is fully paid. There are alms for every spiritual blessing also but their reality cannot be recounted, for it is not possible to count all the benefits. Zakat is incumbent on each person according to his own assessment. It is the name of the marifat (knowledge) of outwardly and inwardly blessings. When a man knows that the blessings bestowed upon him by Allah are in abundance, accordingly he would render thanks in abundance by way of alms.

The Sufis do not consider it praiseworthy to give alms on account of worldly blessings, because they disapprove of greed. What better example can be of a greedy person that he keeps two hundred dirham in his possession for a whole year and then gives away five dirham in alms? Since liberality is the custom of the generous and they are liberal in their generosity, how should alms giving be incumbent upon them? Some formal theologian, wishing to make trial of Shibli, asked him that on what amount or quantity alms is ought to be given. Shibli replied:

“Where greed is present and property exists, five dirham out of every two hundred dirham, and half a dinar out of every twenty dinars. That is according to thy doctrine; but according to mine, a man ought not to possess anything, in which case he will be saved from the trouble of giving alms.”

The divine asked him that whose authority he followed in that matter.

Shibli said:

“The authority of Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him)  the Veracious, who gave away all that he possessed, and on being asked by the  Prophet (peace be upon him) what he had left behind for his family, answered, Allah and His Prophet (peace be upon him).”

Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) said:

فما وجيت علي زكوة مال     وهل يجب الزكوة علي جواد

“Almsgiving is not incumbent on me,

For how can a generous man be required to give alms?”

The wealth of the generous is for charity and their blood is excused. Neither they are avarice in wealth nor they fight for their blood, for they don’t consider them as their property.

It is absurd for anyone to cultivate ignorance and say that since he has no property therefore, he needs not to be acquainted with the knowledge of almsgiving. To learn and obtain knowledge is an essential obligation, and to turn away from it is infidelity. It is one of the evils of the present age that many pretenders of piety and dervishhood reject knowledge in favor of ignorance. Once I was giving devotional instruction to some novices and was discussing the alms on camels and explaining the rules in regard to she-camels of different ages. An ignorant fellow, tired of listening, rose and said that since he had no camels therefore, the acquiring of that knowledge was of no use to him. I answered to him that as knowledge was necessary in giving alms, so it was also necessary in taking alms. If anyone should give you a she-camel in her third year and you should accept her, you ought to be in knowledge of it. No one is relieved from the obligation of knowledge even though he has no property and does not want to have any property.

Some of the Sufi Sheikhs have accepted alms, while others did not like to do so. Those who had voluntarily adopted faqr فقر (poverty) did not take alms and used to say, “we do not amass property, therefore we need not to give alms; nor will we accept alms from worldlings, lest they should have the upper hand and we the lower.”

But those who are rendered helpless in the hands of poverty accept alms, not for their own wants but with the purpose of relieving a brother Muslim of his obligation of almsgiving. With this intention the receiver of alms, not the giver, has the upper hand. If it is considered the other way that the upper hand is of the giver, it would be wrong, and words of Allah

وَيَأْخُذُ الصَّدَقَات

and He receives their gifts of charity,” (Q 9:104),

would become meaningless and the giver of alms must be superior to the receiver, a belief which is utterly false. The upper hand belongs to him who relieves his Muslim brother from a heavy responsibility. Dervishes are not worldly, but they keep an eye for the next world and if a dervish fails to relieve a worldling of his responsibility, the worldling will be held accountable and punished at the Resurrection for having neglected to fulfill his obligation. Therefore Allah afflicts the dervish with a slight want in order that worldlings may be able to perform what is incumbent upon them.

Necessarily, the upper hand is of the dervish who receives alms in accordance with the command of Allah because it behooves him to take that which is due to Allah. If the hand of the recipient of alms were the lower hand, as some of the Hashwiyya declare, then the hands of the Prophets, who often received alms due to Allah and delivered it to the proper authority, must have been lower (than the hands of those who gave the alms to them). This view is erroneous as its adherents do not see that the Prophets received alms in consequences of the Divine command. The religious Imams have acted in the same manner as the Prophets, for they have always received payments due to the public treasury. Those are absolutely wrong who assert that the hand of the receiver is the lower and that of the giver is the higher. These are the basics of Sufism and this topic which is closely related to liberality and generosity, therefore, now I will discuss about liberality and generosity.



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Zahid Javed Rana, Abid Javed Rana, Lahore, Pakistan

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