The meaning of Zakat is “growth and purification.” It is growth which is the result of God’s blessing. The giving of “zakat” out of one’s money or property causes. It’s growth. It also causes one’s inner or spiritual purification.
The meaning of Ushr is “tenth part.” It is in fact “zakat” which is to be given out of the produce of agricultural lands.
According to the Holy Quran, every Muslim who is able to pay zakat must pay it. Paying zakat is an economic duty in Islam. It is the most important obligation (duty) after namaz or prayer.
Who can and must pay “zakat”? Anyone who, among other things, is a Muslim, is an adult, has enough money or trade goods whose value increases with time, must pay zakat at the end of the year. Ushr must be paid, even by a minor and even more than once a year, whenever he gets the produce.
How much “zakat” is to be paid?
2.5 percent of the total assets like profit-giving bank accounts, government certificates, insurance policies, etc. is “zakat”. In addition to this, different rates of “ushr” for different kinds of agricultural produce, animal wealth, etc. are there.
To whom “zakat” is to be given?
Zakat is to be given to really poor people, beggars, debtors (those who have to pay back loans), travelers, and so on.
The advantages of the zakat system are quite obvious (clear). Firstly, rich and well-to-do people help the poor and needy and satisfy their needs. Secondly, they provide help to hospitals, schools, libraries and different institutions for the progress and welfare of needy people and the growth of society in different fields of life. Thirdly, when all or most people participate (take part) in “zakat” they have a common İslamic feeling of doing their duty together. This promotes national and social unity. Fourthly, when we please God and do our religious economic duty honestly, He blesses us and increases (adds to) our wealth.
“Zakat” can prove to be a real blessing if it is used for productive and constructive purposes to the permanent benefit of the poor. Then only will it encourage investment and savings. Distributing money or commodities (useful things or articles of trade) among the poor and needy directly after taking them from the rich is not enough at all.
Let us make “zakat” and “ushr” the basis of our economy. If we make use of this Islamic institution in an intelligent way, do away with the old feudal system and wipe out corruption, the country can be changed into a true welfare state.