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Zakat - the Third of the Five Basic Pillars of Islamic Faith

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Zakat is the third of the five basic pillars of Islamic faith. In Quran, Zakat's level of importance is the same as offering prayer (Magda Ismail A. Mohsin, January 2011). This has been highlighted by other scholar (Rahman, Jan 2007), who supported and also suggested that Zakat is the third pillar of Islam. Another scholar (Qardhawi, 1999) also supported this and defined Zakat as an act of worship to Allah. The term zakat has three different suggestions. First is linguistic, the next one is theological, and the third one is legal (Muhamad, 1980). Linguistically, Zakat represents cleansing or purification of something from bad or unclean. It also means honor, development, and growth. Theologically, it means spiritual purification resulting from paying Zakat. Legally, Zakat means move of rights of specific assets to specific group of individual under specific terms and condition (Rahman, Jan 2007).

In addition to that, Zakat is also known as a term that is derived from an Arabic word that brings the significance of "that which purifies" and "that which fosters" (Mannan, 1986). Another researcher (Qardhawi, 1999) also mentioned that Zakat is the portion of one's wealth that will be distributed among the lawful beneficiaries that are entitled for the wealth as prescribed by Allah in the Holy Quran. Meanwhile, from Fiqh perspective, Zakat is refers to 'a payment of certain portion of certain type of wealth for the benefits of certain groups that have been specified by Allah' (Mahmud Zuhdi, 2003). However, Mohd Daud (1998) views Zakat as an act of 'monetary worship' to Allah.

Zakat is also mentioned in other terms in the Holy Quran such as sadaqat (donation), which also carries the meaning of providing charity. The payment of Zakat means the Muslim has obeyed Allah, which gives the individual spiritual satisfaction (Sabiq, 1985). Some scholars also argued that Zakat helps Muslims to overcome the unwelcome trait of greed (Al-Fanjari, 1982). Nevertheless, despite the above evidences, there are a number of scholars who argued that income is not liable for Zakat. The scholar mentioned not all part of an individual's income is available for Zakat and some even suggested that it is the earnings based on their effort and therefore there are solely responsible for it. Among them who supported this opinion are Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik and Imam Syafie (Al-Qardawi, 1999). At present, Zakat on earned income is still considered as a contemporary issue and still debatable among Muslim scholars (Kamil, 2005).

From the economic perspective, Zakat is also considered as part of a social system of Islam as Zakat indicates that Allah has given the poor right in the wealth of the rich. Thus, Zakat acts as a medium for the distribution of wealth, which helps closing the gap between the poor and the rich (Kahf, 1997). There are eight groups of people that is entitled to receive the Zakat funds which are the poor, the needy, workers for Zakat fund, those whose hearts are to be reconciled to Islam, freeing the slaves, to help the debtors, those who strive in the path of God, and Wayfarers. This is in line with Syara that states Zakat as a means of spending some particular property to be given to the Asnaf. Asnaf are entitled to receive the zakat funds, according to the conditions stipulated by Syara (Lembaga Zakat Selangor, 2010).

Next is the collection and distribution of Zakat funds. Collection and distribution of Zakat funds is also viewed as extremely important as it reflects the trustworthy and the credibility of the institutions. The effectiveness of Zakat collection and distribution mainly depends on the good governance of Zakat institution (Kader, 2010). These institutions are solely responsible to collect the funds and at the same time ensure the fund is properly distributed to all qualified recipients. In brief, the roles of Zakat institutions can be divided into two categories, which are collecting Zakat payments and distributing Zakat funds (Muharman Lubis, 2011). According to Yusuf (2000), the government should be accountable in collecting and distributing Zakat funds for a few reasons. This is because if the Zakat funds are distributed by the government then this will uphold and maintain the dignity of needy and poor people (Muharman Lubis, 2011). Currently



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