Zakâh is one of the pillars of Islam. Allah often mentions prayer and Zakâh together in the Qur’ân.
For instance, Allah says: “Establish prayer and pay Zakâh”
He also says: “And they were but commanded to worship Allah sincerely and exclusively with purity of faith; to establish prayer and pay Zakâh. This is the correct religion.”
Zakâh is a small, fixed percentage of wealth taken from those who are affluent and distributed among those who are poor as a means of purification.
It purifies the character of the wealthy individual from the stain of selfishness that, if left unchecked, can bring ruin to the social fabric by making society constricted and egotistical. It also purifies the wealth by taking from it the right of the poor. If this right were not taken from it, the wealth would become bereft of all blessings.
Zakâh purifies all the members of society, rich and poor, by removing the causes of social strife and discord.
Zakâh brings about an increase of wealth.
It elevates the social standing of the wealthy. It cultivates within the wealthy person a sense of tranquility and a kindness of heart. Indeed, engaging in good deeds is one of the greatest reasons for contentment of the heart. It also develops the personality of the poor person by providing for him a sense of solidarity with others in society.
It also increases the tangible wealth of society. The apparent decrease in the wealth of the affluent is more than offset by the social stability and security that circulating this wealth provides for society.
Zakâh is an important means of providing social security.
Islam refuses to allow individual members of society to be denied the basic needs of life, like food, clothing, and shelter. It is necessary that these things are available to all members of society. Allah says: "In their wealth is a clear right for the beggar and the destitute."
Zakâh narrows the gap between the rich and the poor. Islam recognizes that people have a natural desire to possess things and that, because of their different circumstances and abilities, they will not possess things equally. Islam seeks to minimize the harm caused by this discrepancy by placing regulations on the acquisition of wealth to keep the wealthy from going to excess and to prevent the poor from becoming ruined by their poverty or forced by jealousy and hatred into deviant, destructive behavior.
Zakâh is an important way of realizing this objective. Allah says: “What Allah has bestowed upon His Messenger from the people of the towns is for Allah, His Messenger, the kindred, the orphans, the needy, and the wayfarer so that it may not merely circulate between the wealthy among you.”
Zakâh provides a minimum limit for charitable spending. It is by far not the maximum. It is the absolute minimum that is required as a religious duty from those who possess wealth. Islam encourages everyone to give in charity as much as they can. Allah says: “You will never attain piety until you spend of what you love.”