ALMS vs. INTEREST  / SADAQAH vs. RIBA

Alms versus Interest

Sadaqah (صدقة) versus Rib’a (ربا)

Financial aids provided without expecting anything in return are counted as alms (sadaqah) in Islam. On the other hand, interest is the income obtained out of loaned money. Nobody takes a loan on interest unless they are in need of the money. Charity relieves the needy, brings the social strata closer to each other and fills in the gaps between them, whereas interest only aggravates the situation of the needy and disturbs the social order.

When we say “alms” the first thing that comes to mind is “donations given to the poor”; mostly simple things, such as money or food. However, the poor are only one of the eight classes of people to whom alms (sadaqah) can be given. In this article, the word “sadaqah” refers to the tax that the government collects. Whatever is collected from Muslims, the same is collected from non-Muslims. The Almighty God has decreed to Muhammad (a.s.) who was the head of the state as follows:

خُذْ مِنْ أَمْوَالِهِمْ صَدَقَةً تُطَهِّرُهُمْ وَتُزَكِّيهِم بِهَا وَصَلِّ عَلَيْهِمْ إِنَّ صَلاَتَكَ سَكَنٌ لَّهُمْ وَاللّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ

“Take alms of their wealth; so that you purify them and improve them. Constantly support them; your support is [a source of] relief for them. God listens to all, knows all.” (at-Tawbah 9:103)

Before and after this verse sincere believers are mentioned, as well as ignorers and the hypocrites who constantly played tricks on Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The alms to be taken from them would only be the sign of their loyalty to the state. They feel safe because of the support to be given and they get the opportunity to improve themselves by means of it.

 

The alms to be taken from Muslims is called “zakat” because it is the sign of their loyalty to God. In conclusion, the word “alms = sadaqah =  صَدَقَةً” mentioned in this verse is the tax the state collects. The same ratio of tax applies to both Muslims and non-Muslims[1]. In verse 60 of Surah at-Tawbah below, the items of spending for the tax that is collected by the state are listed.

I- ALMS AND LOAN

Loan is a sum of money lent at interest. Since it urgently meets the need of the person who takes the loan, it is an enticing choice, but most of the time, it cannot be paid back on time; thus requiring new loans. The debtors even lose the money they used to own because of the increasing debt at every cycle. So they are eliminated from the market.

In the past, money was issued out of gold and silver. It used to be evaluated according to its weight and carat. Since the amount of money was limited, the means of lending was also limited. In the last few centuries, money is issued out of paper and it is put into circulation having the face value arbitrarily written on it. When $1 and $100 is printed respectively on two pieces of paper having almost the same size, the second one becomes worth 100 times the first one. Moreover, digital coins which only exist in digital records but are transferred between accounts have been invented. Now that the money whose value increases upon additional “zero”s on the screens is in circulation with interest, allowing the whole globe to be exploited. First small businesses, and then large-scale corporations and governments were left inoperable this way. Afterwards, large-scale corporations and governments have been brought under the control of powerful elites.

Powerful elites have thus established dominion over the resources of the world without bearing any difficulties. While extortionately consuming the resources, they even enjoy annihilating the real resource owners. According to statistics, all of the states including Turkey, USA, China, Russia and Great Britain, and almost all well-established families are in debt. These elites bankrupt any country they would like and replace the governors.

The only way to end this dominion is completely avoiding interest. Interest is one of the main prohibitions that all of the Messengers of God have communicated to their people. The following verses are about Jews:

فَبِظُلْمٍ مِّنَ الَّذِينَ هَادُواْ حَرَّمْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ طَيِّبَاتٍ أُحِلَّتْ لَهُمْ وَبِصَدِّهِمْ عَن سَبِيلِ اللّهِ كَثِيرًا.  وَأَخْذِهِمُ الرِّبَا وَقَدْ نُهُواْ عَنْهُ وَأَكْلِهِمْ أَمْوَالَ النَّاسِ بِالْبَاطِلِ وَأَعْتَدْنَا لِلْكَافِرِينَ مِنْهُمْ عَذَابًا أَلِيمًا.

“For the wrongdoings done by the Jews, We forbade them certain good things that had been permitted to them before; for having frequently prevented others from God’s path; for taking interest while they had been forbidden to do so; and for wrongfully consuming other people’s property. For those of them that ignore the truth we have prepared a painful torment.” (an-Nisa 4:160-161)

The following verse declares the evil of interest and emphasizes that zakat/sadaqah improves the economy:

وَمَا آتَيْتُم مِّن رِّبًا لِّيَرْبُوَ فِي أَمْوَالِ النَّاسِ فَلَا يَرْبُو عِندَ اللَّهِ وَمَا آتَيْتُم مِّن زَكَاةٍ تُرِيدُونَ وَجْهَ اللَّهِ فَأُوْلَئِكَ هُمُ الْمُضْعِفُونَ

“Whatever you lend out with interest to gain value through other people’s possessions will not increase in God’s sight, but whatever you give as zakat by desiring God’s approval: it is they who increase (their possessions) multiple times.” (ar-Rum 30:39)

The expression “Whatever you lend out with interest to gain value through other people’s wealth” denotes that this money is lent to those who already have possessions. This is because no money is lent with interest unless its repayment is guaranteed.

In this day and age, people and institutions that moneylenders have exploited must be freed from their shackles. As you shall see below, alms is the indispensable of the economy. Alms does not only meet the needs but also allows the actors who were pushed out of the market to return to the world of economy. It leads up to improvement and growth through the environment of safety and satisfaction it provides. This is why all of the verses about prohibition of interest mention zakat and alms. Let us study the following verses carefully:

 

ٱلَّذِينَيُنفِقُونَ أَمْوَٰلَهُمبِٱلَّيْلِوَٱلنَّهَارِ سِرًّا وَعَلَانِيَةً فَلَهُمْ أَجْرُهُمْ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ وَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ  .ٱلَّذِينَ يَأْكُلُونَ ٱلرِّبَوٰا۟ لَا يَقُومُونَ إِلَّا كَمَا يَقُومُ ٱلَّذِى يَتَخَبَّطُهُ ٱلشَّيْطَٰنُ مِنَ ٱلْمَسِّ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ قَالُوٓا۟ إِنَّمَا ٱلْبَيْعُ مِثْلُ ٱلرِّبَوٰا۟ ۗ وَأَحَلَّ ٱللَّهُٱلْبَيْعَ وَحَرَّمَ ٱلرِّبَوٰا۟ ۚ فَمَن جَآءَهُۥ مَوْعِظَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِۦفَٱنتَهَىٰفَلَهُۥ مَا سَلَفَ وَأَمْرُهُۥٓ إِلَى ٱللَّهِ ۖ وَمَنْ عَادَ فَأُو۟لَٰٓئِكَأَصْحَٰبُٱلنَّارِ ۖ هُمْ فِيهَا خَٰلِدُونَ  . يَمْحَقُ ٱللَّهُٱلرِّبَوٰا۟ وَيُرْبِى ٱلصَّدَقَٰتِۗ وَٱللَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ كُلَّ كَفَّارٍ أَثِيمٍ.  إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ وَعَمِلُوا۟ ٱلصَّٰلِحَٰتِ وَأَقَامُوا۟ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَوَءَاتَوُا۟ ٱلزَّكَوٰةَلَهُمْ أَجْرُهُمْ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ وَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ  يَٰٓأَيُّهَاٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ ٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ وَذَرُوا۟ مَا بَقِىَ مِنَ ٱلرِّبَوٰٓا۟ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ . فَإِن لَّمْ تَفْعَلُوا۟ فَأْذَنُوا۟ بِحَرْبٍ مِّنَ ٱللَّهِوَرَسُولِهِۦ ۖ وَإِن تُبْتُمْ فَلَكُمْ رُءُوسُ أَمْوَٰلِكُمْ لَا تَظْلِمُونَ وَلَا تُظْلَمُونَ . وَإِن كَانَ ذُو عُسْرَةٍ فَنَظِرَةٌ إِلَىٰ مَيْسَرَةٍ ۚ وَأَن تَصَدَّقُوا۟ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ ۖ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ

 

“Those who spend their possessions (in a cause encouraged by God) by night and day, in secret and in public will have their reward in the presence of their Master. They neither fear, nor grieve.

Those who consume interest behave no differently than they who the Devil has confounded with his touch. That is because they say, “trade is equivalent to (gaining) interest.” God has made trade lawful and has forbidden transactions with interest. So, whoever has received an admonition from his Master and desists from (dealing with) interest, what was received in the past belongs to them. God undertakes their affair (about the past interest income), but whoever resumes (dealing with interest) is a resident of the Fire. Therein they will abide as immortal.

God causes the (economy) interest to depress and causes (the economy practicing) the zakat/the alms to grow. God does not love any of the sinners who are obstinate about ignoring (the verses).

Those who believe and do righteous deeds, keep up the prayer and give the zakat deserve the reward in the presence of their Master. They neither fear, nor grieve.

 Oh, you who believe! Protect yourselves by being mindful of God. Give up what is left of interest receivables if you really trust Him.

 If you do not give it up, then take notice that you are in a war against God and against His Book. If you turn around, you are entitled only to your principals. This way, you neither do wrong or are wronged.

If the debtor is in difficulty then you must wait until a time of ease. If only you knew that it is better for you to remit it (your receivable) as alms/zakat!” (al-Baqarah 2:274-280)

 

It is not in vain that the verses about interest are so strong. Loaning is not an economic activity. Economic activity begins when the lent money is used. It is not guaranteed for economic activities either to come to a conclusion until the end of loaning duration or to make profit. The income obtained through loaning is an unearned income that ruins the system.

 

II- DONATING SOME OF THE EXCESS

Human loves possessions very much. This is why the Qur’an does not ordain collecting but charity[2]. In Arabic,  “tunnel” means “nafaq (النفق)”, and “getting something through a tunnel” is “infaq (انفاق)”. “Infaq” can be translated into English as “spending something”. Income and wealth circulate among the people through various types of expenditure, just the way blood circulates in the body through the vessels. The following verse was sent down upon a question asked to Nabi Muhammad (pbuh):

 

وَيَسْـَٔلُونَكَ مَاذَا يُنفِقُونَ قُلِ ٱلْعَفْوَ ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ ٱللَّهُ لَكُمُ ٱلْءَايَٰتِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَفَكَّرُونَ

“They ask you what they should spend (on others). Say, “The surplus[3]”. Thus, God explains the verses to you, so that you may reflect.” (al-Baqarah 2:219)

The Arabic word translated as “the surplus” is (al-afw/العفو)”. In Arabic it has two meanings; that which exceeds the basic needs[4] and that which increases[5].

The house, house goods, the sustenance, mount, workplace, tools, etc. of a person’s own and of the people he is responsible to take care of are basic needs. These can not be subject to tax (sadaqah).

In the verse below, the word “al-afw =العفو” refers to the increase in wealth, that is, becoming rich:

ثُمَّ بَدَّلْنَا مَكَانَ السَّيِّئَةِ الْحَسَنَةَ حَتَّى عَفَواْ وَّقَالُواْ قَدْ مَسَّ آبَاءنَا الضَّرَّاء وَالسَّرَّاء فَأَخَذْنَاهُم بَغْتَةً وَهُمْ لاَ يَشْعُرُونَ

“After that, we changed the evil plight to good, so that they got rich (afaw = عَفَوا) and said: “This affliction and prosperity had befallen our fathers, too!” We overtake them suddenly while they can not even perceive.”  (al-A’raf 7:95)

According to this verse, a person whose wealth is not more than the amount which can meet the basic needs would not be responsible to pay tax. Salary, fees, house, car, shop, factory, etc. would be exempted from tax.

God does not demand all of the surplus after basic needs are met. In His system, He accepts those who donate a certain ratio of the surplus as if they have donated it all.

According to the verse below, human earns ten times of reward for every good deed they do:

مَنْ جَاءَ بِالْحَسَنَةِ فَلَهُ عَشْرُ أَمْثَالِهَا وَمَنْ جَاءَ بِالسَّيِّئَةِ فَلَا يُجْزَى إِلَّا مِثْلَهَا وَهُمْ لَا يُظْلَمُونَ

“Whoever comes with a goodness will gain ten times its equivalent. Whoever comes with an evil will be requited with its equivalent[6]. No one will be wronged.” (al-An’am 6:160).

That means, if a person who owns $1000 spends $100 of it as alms, he is considered as if he has given all of the $1000. Then, no more than $100 is demanded from him. Most of the taxes that cause depression to businesses today have no room in God’s system.

 

III- THE RATIO OF ALMS IN CROPS

Below are the examples about  ratio of alms in crops and commodities.

 

A- CROPS

Allah the Almighty decrees as follows about :

وَهُوَ الَّذِي أَنْشَأَ جَنَّاتٍ مَعْرُوشَاتٍ وَغَيْرَ مَعْرُوشَاتٍ وَالنَّخْلَ وَالزَّرْعَ مُخْتَلِفًا أُكُلُهُ وَالزَّيْتُونَ وَالرُّمَّانَ مُتَشَابِهًا وَغَيْرَ مُتَشَابِهٍ كُلُوا مِنْ ثَمَرِهِ إِذَا أَثْمَرَ وَآتُوا حَقَّهُ يَوْمَ حَصَادِهِ وَلَا تُسْرِفُوا إِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُسْرِفِينَ

“It is He who produces both trellised and untrellised gardens, date palms and crops of diverse flavours, the olive and the pomegranate alike yet different. So when they bear fruit, eat some of it giving away its due right on the day of harvest, but do not be wasteful: God does not like the wasteful.” (Al-An’am 6:141)

This verse was sent down in Makkah. “The due right of the harvest” mentioned in the verse is  the sadaqah/alms/tax that is taken of the crop on the day of harvest. Giving away 1/10th of the crop would be sufficient to be considered as if all of the crop was given away. Therefore, the alms that is collected of the crop is called “tithe” in European languages, meaning one-tenth. It is called “al-ushr = ال عُشْر” in Arabic.

If production requires extra costs, this ratio decreases to 1/20th. The spendings that are made at the risk of suffering a loss can increase the produce. This tax discount is a type of incentive to take this risk. It is narrated that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:

«فِيمَا سَقَتِ الْأَنْهَارُ، وَالْغَيْمُ الْعُشُورُ، وَفِيمَا سُقِيَ بِالسَّانِيَةِ نِصْفُ الْعُشْرِ»

“For that which is watered by the sky, rivers and springs, one-tenth. For whatever is irrigated by animals, one-half of one-tenth.” [7]

The payment made on the day of harvest would be on the field, thus not causing any cost of transportation. From the moment that crop is bought by a merchant on, it becomes a commodity.

B- MONEY AND COMMODITIES

Commerce is exchanging a commodity in return for another type of commodity or money, either spot or on-credit. Interest also includes exchange: a person who lends $10 in order to pay back $11 after a period of time exchanges a $10 banknote with another $10 banknote and pays $1 more. Those who deal with interest, although they know that they exploit people and cause the economy to digress, take the advantage of this similarity and say:

“Buying a commodity for $11 on credit while the spot price is $10 is the same as paying back $11 on credit while the principal debt is $10.”

The Almighty God decrees:

الَّذِينَ يَأْكُلُونَ الرِّبَا لاَ يَقُومُونَ إِلاَّ كَمَا يَقُومُ الَّذِي يَتَخَبَّطُهُ الشَّيْطَانُ مِنَ الْمَسِّ ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ قَالُواْ إِنَّمَا الْبَيْعُ مِثْلُ الرِّبَا وَأَحَلَّ اللّهُ الْبَيْعَ وَحَرَّمَ الرِّبَا فَمَن جَاءهُ مَوْعِظَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِ فَانتَهَىَ فَلَهُ مَا سَلَفَ وَأَمْرُهُ إِلَى اللّهِ وَمَنْ عَادَ فَأُوْلَـئِكَ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ.

“Those who consume interest behave no differently than they who the Devil has confounded with his touch[8]. That is because they say, “trade is equivalent to (gaining) interest.” God has made trade lawful and has forbidden transactions with interest. So, whoever has received an admonition from his Master and desists from (dealing with) interest, what was received in the past belongs to them. God undertakes their affair (about the past interest income), but whoever resumes (dealing with interest) is a resident of the Fire. Therein they will abide as immortal.” (al-Baqarah 2:275)

 

There is similarity between interest and trade. Yet, what distinguishes them from each other is the difference between them. Wine also has common points with grape juice, but nobody can say “grape juice is the equivalent of wine”.

Then, let us study the differences between interest and trade:

When a commodity with a spot price of $10 is sold for $11 on credit, all of the 11 dollars would be the price of the commodity. Since the sold commodity is a distinct type of entity than money, we cannot talk about an increment. On the due date of payment, the price of the commodity may increase to $12 as well as decreasing to $9. In this sales, both the customer and the seller take the risk of suffering a financial loss, but they contribute to the consumption and the circulation of commodities and money. Thus, creating need for further production of commodities.

When a person loans $10 in order to receive $11, the 10 dollars he shall receive is the equivalent of the 10 dollars he had lent. Remaining 1 dollar has no tangible match in real world. We can see here that dealing with interest is not an economic activity. Economic activity begins when borrowed money is used to buy commodities or services. Dealers of interest do not deserve a reward since they do not help to invigorate economic activities. The consumers of interest neither mind the troubles of the debtors nor take any risk. If the payment is delayed, additional payment called “late payment interest” is demanded from the debtor. The aim of the interest-dealer is increasing his income, as in 10%, 20%, 40% etc. The Almighty God decrees:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا لَا تَأْكُلُوا الرِّبَا أَضْعَافًا مُضَاعَفَةً وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ

“Oh, you who believe! Do not consume interest that increases several-fold[9]. Be mindful of God and protect yourselves, so that you may attain what you hope for.” (Al-e Imran 3:130)

 

The word “أَضْعَافًا= “ad’afen” in the verse, translated as “several-fold”, expresses the state/quality of “interest” (“الرِّبَا= riba”) according to the rules of Arabic grammar. The expression “ad’afan muda’afatan” means “multiples of two”[10], the least of them being four.

To be increasing several-fold is the permanent quality of interest. This verse cannot be assigned another meaning, because all types of interest is prohibited, whatever the ratio is. The almighty God decrees:

يَٰٓأَيُّهَاٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ ٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ وَذَرُوا۟ مَا بَقِىَ مِنَ ٱلرِّبَوٰٓا۟ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ. فَإِن لَّمْ تَفْعَلُوا۟ فَأْذَنُوا۟ بِحَرْبٍ مِّنَ ٱللَّهِوَرَسُولِهِۦ ۖ وَإِن تُبْتُمْ فَلَكُمْ رُءُوسُ أَمْوَٰلِكُمْ لَا تَظْلِمُونَ وَلَا تُظْلَمُونَ.

“Oh, you who believe! Protect yourselves by being mindful of God. Give up what is left of interest receivables if you really trust Him.[11] If you do not give it up, then take notice that you are in a war against God and against His Book[12]. If you turn around (from dealing with interest), you are entitled to your principals[13]. This way, you neither do wrong or are wronged.” (al-Baqarah 2:278-279)

 

These verses clearly express that any increment on the principal (receivable) would be interest and therefore prohibited.

In the verse below, it is recommended that the debts of those who have difficulty in paying back are counted as alms (sadaqah) of the loaner:

وَإِن كَانَ ذُو عُسْرَةٍ فَنَظِرَةٌ إِلَىٰ مَيْسَرَةٍ ۚ وَأَن تَصَدَّقُوا۟ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ ۖ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ

“If the debtor is in difficulty then you must wait until a time of ease. If only you knew that it is better for you to remit it (your receivable) as alms/zakat![14]!  (Bakara 2/280)

The verse below manifests the difference between the interest-dealer and the zakat-giver:

وَمَا آَتَيْتُمْ مِنْ رِبًا لِيَرْبُوَ فِي أَمْوَالِ النَّاسِ فَلَا يَرْبُو عِنْدَ اللَّهِ وَمَا آَتَيْتُمْ مِنْ زَكَاةٍ تُرِيدُونَ وَجْهَ اللَّهِ فَأُولَئِكَ هُمُ الْمُضْعِفُونَ

“Whatever you lend at interest to increase within the wealth of people will not increase in the sight of God, whereas all that you give out as zakat (alms) by seeking God’s approval (does); it is they who increase several-fold” (Ar-Rum 30:39)

The interest-dealer may increase his income several folds, but God does not consider it to be an increase. The word translated as “who increase several folds” is “al-mud’ifoon = الْمُضْعِفُونَ”. The prefix “al” denotes that “mud’ifoon” is a definite (known) noun. The definition of this word was given in the verse Al-e Imran 3:130 as “ad’afan muda’afatan”. In this case, the end of the verse reads:

“Who increase their income at least four times is those who give zakat.”

The giver of zakat could have the chance to exploit the needy just as the dealer of interest does. Yet, zakat-givers prefer the approval of God over this worldly benefit.  Therefore, God considers the $1 they give at least as $4. We had seen in verse al-An’am 6:160 that God rewards every good deed with ten times of its equivalent. Then, a person who has given $1 of zakat out of money or commodities is considered by God as if he/she has given $40. This is why the ratio of zakat due for money and commodities is 1/40th. Nabi Muhammad (pbuh) said:

“If you had 200 dirhams and one year has elapsed, then the zakat as much as 5 dirhams. Zakat is not obligatory upon you (gold) unless you have a 20 dinar, if you have 20 dinars and one year has elapsed, then the zakat half a dinar.[15]

Merchants take serious risk of loss. This discount in their ratio of alms (sadaqah/tax) is an incentive for trade. Moreover, when these alms are spent on the eight mentioned categories of people, an atmosphere of safety and satisfaction prevails the society. This is contrary to the atmosphere of anxiety and insecurity created by interest. Alms improves the financial market in real sense, which dramatically increases the level of welfare.

IV- THE ITEMS OF SPENDING FOR ALMS

 

We learn the items of spending for alms from the following verse:

إِنَّمَا الصَّدَقَاتُ لِلْفُقَرَاء وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَالْعَامِلِينَ عَلَيْهَا وَالْمُؤَلَّفَةِ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَالْغَارِمِينَ وَفِي سَبِيلِ اللّهِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ فَرِيضَةً مِّنَ اللّهِ وَاللّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ

The obligatory charities are for the poor, the desperate (masakeen), those employed to collect the obligatory charity (zakat) and those to warm their hearts (to Islam); and are used for (freeing) the captives, for the indebted, for the cause of God and for the travelers. This is an obligation enjoined by God. God is All-Knowing and He judges correctly.” (At-Tawbah 9:60)

 

The structure of the sentence requires the mentioned eight classes to be divided into two categories. The Arabic letter  “lâm= ل” of ownership comes before the classes “the poor, the desperate (masakeen), those employed to collect the obligatory charity (zakat) and those to warm their hearts (to Islam)”. Some of the zakat is donated to these people.

The other four classes have the Arabic letter “fî = فِي” before them, which denotes the meaning “enclosure/inclusion”. This part of the verse commands that some of the alms is to be collected in order to raise funds for these four classes, namely: the captives, the indebted, the cause of God and the travelers.

The last two sentences of the verse are highly important:

This is an obligation enjoined by God. God is All-Knowing and He judges correctly.

 

If this is an obligation ordained by God, the only thing a Muslim ruler would do is obeying the command.

Narrated Ziyad ibn al-Harith as-Suda’i:

I came to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) and swore allegiance to him, and after telling a long story he said: Then a man came to him and said: Give me some of the sadaqah (alms). The Messenger of Allah () said: Allah is not pleased with a Prophet’s or anyone else’s decision about sadaqah till He has given a decision about them Himself. He has divided those entitled to them into eight categories, so if you come within those categories, I shall give you what you desire[16].”

 

By the verse and the hadith above, we clearly understand that the items of spending for alms have been determined by God, and that nobody else has authority on this matter.

Let us discuss the eight items of spending for alms in two categories:

 

A- THOSE TO BE DONATED IN PERSON

1. THE POOR

Poor is a person who is needy. This meaning of the word can be seen in the two verses below:

“Wed the singles among you, and those who are fit (for marriage) among your male and female captives. If they are poor, God fulfills their needs out of His favor. God has ample means, He is all-knowing.” (Al-Noor 24:32)

“Do the spending especially for those who confine themselves to service for God’s cause. They can not travel the land and work. Those who are ignorant of their situation suppose them to be rich due to their dignity. You recognize them by their faces. They do not ask of people importunately. Whatever you spend of your possessions, God knows it.”  (al-Baqarah 2:273)

The poor in the first verse are those who need to marry but cannot afford to it. The poor in the second verse are the people who spend all of their time for the cause of Islam but cannot earn any money out of his works.

Helping the poor must be in a way that shall not hurt their feelings or disgrace them.The relevant verse is:

“ If you give the zakat/the alms[17] openly, it is good; but if you keep it secret[18] while giving to the needy, that is better for you and covers up some of your evil deeds. God is aware of the real face of whatever you do. ” (al-Baqarah 2:271)

 

2. THE DESPERATE (MASAKIN = الْمَسَاكِينِ)

“Masakin” is the plural form of “miskin”. The root meaning of the word “miskin” is “to become still after movement”[14][19]. Such people once had the means to earn their own subsistence, but then they had to stop earning for various reasons. The sick, the old, the disabled, the jobless or any other desperate people fall into this category. Nabi Muhammad (pbuh) said:

“The miskin is not the one who goes round to the people and is dismissed with one or two morsels. and one or two dates. They (the Prophet’s Companions) said: Messenger of Allah, then who is miskin? He said: He who does not get enough to satisfy him, and he is not considered so (as to elicit the attention of the benevolent people), so that charity way be given to him, and he does not beg anything from people.[20]

The Almighty God uses the word “miskin” for the owners of the ship that Khidr damaged in the story of Moses and Khidr:

There exists the following verse about people whose boat was damaged: “As for the boat, it belonged to masaakeen working at sea. I wanted to damage it because there was a king coming after them seizing every boat by force” (al-Kahf 18:79).

The reason why they were called “miskin” is that they would remain jobless and desperate if their ship was seized by the king.

 

3. THE COLLECTORS OF ALMS (A’MILEEN)

The salaries of those who are employed to collect the alms are paid out of the collected alms, because this type of alms is in fact a tax. It is collected and distributed under the control of the state.

4. WHOSE HEARTS TO BE WARMED  (MUALLAFAT AL-QULUB)

Te’lif is the relevant verbal noun (masdar) of the Arabic word “muallafat”, and means “uniting by causing accord” [21]

“Muallafat al-qulub =الْمُؤَلَّفَةِ قُلُوبُهُمْ” is “those whose hearts are brought together/unified”. There is close relation between the kindness that is done and unification of the hearts. One verse is as follows:

“Good and evil are not equal. Repel evil with good, and the person who was your enemy becomes like an intimate friend.(Fussilat 41:34)

To achieve this, one must behave in accordance with God’s commands. Otherwise, we cannot get the desired result. The Almighty God decrees:

“He unified their hearts. Even if you had spent everything on the earth, you could not have unified their hearts. But Allah has unified them. He is Almighty, All-Wise.”

Winning hearts is of high importance.When Muhammad (as) conquered Makka, he did not touch anybody’s life or wealth, nor did he disturb anybody. After the conquest, while he was going on a campaign against the Hawasinis, he had borrowed 100 armors, some guns and 50.000 dirham (silver coins) from Safwan b. Umayya, who had not yet converted to Islam. Muhammad (pbuh) granted Safwan 100 camels from the account of “muallafat al-qulub”

 

B- FUNDS

1. THE FUND FOR THE SUBJUGATED (RIQAB)

The word “riqab = رقاب” in the verse is the plural form of “raqaba”. Raqaba literally means “neck”. The neck of a human is used to refer to the whole body of a human through the use of a synecdoche (Lane). Therefore, the word “raqaba” means “one who is subjugated or under control of somebody else”[23], such as a captive.

It is against the rulings of the Qur’an to enslave the male or female war captives. They must be treated gently. The Almighty God decrees as follows about good believers:

وَيُطْعِمُونَ الطَّعَامَ عَلَى حُبِّهِ مِسْكِينًا وَيَتِيمًا وَأَسِيرًا.  إِنَّمَا نُطْعِمُكُمْ لِوَجْهِ اللَّهِ لَا نُرِيدُ مِنكُمْ جَزَاء وَلَا شُكُورًا .

“They (the good believers) feed the desperate, the orphan and the captive on the foods they like[24]. (They say,) ‘We feed you only for the sake of God. We do not want anything in return or thanks from you.’ ” (Insan 76:8-9)

Captives are set free either by an act of grace (with no return), or against ransom. The Almighty God decrees:

فَإِذا لَقِيتُمُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فَضَرْبَ الرِّقَابِ حَتَّى إِذَا أَثْخَنتُمُوهُمْ فَشُدُّوا الْوَثَاقَ فَإِمَّا مَنًّا بَعْدُ وَإِمَّا فِدَاء حَتَّى تَضَعَ الْحَرْبُ أَوْزَارَهَا

“When you meet those who ignore (in battle), smite their necks. When you suppressed them,  cordon (the rest of) them off strictly. Thereafter, set them (the captives) free, either by an act of grace, or against ransom. Do this, so that the burden of war is laid down.” (Muhammad 47:4)

Setting the captives free relieves the enemy and also prevents the justification of a a new battle which could be started because of them. Our Nabi (obuh) obeyed the 4th verse of Chapter Muhammad and set the Badr captives free either by an act of grace or against ransom. Including the captives of Khaybar and Banu Mustaliq, all the captives were treated according to the verse above.

The costs of ransom are paid out of this fund to the people who do not want to set their captives free as an act of grace, thus freeing the captives. The citizens who are captured or imprisoned in another country (and cannot afford to ransom themselves) are also saved through the ransoms paid out of this fund.

2. THE FUND FOR THE INDEBTED (GHARIMEEN)

Gharimeen means “the indebted”. At the beginning of the verse, the poor and the desperate were mentioned as separate classes. Then, the “gharimeen” are those who cannot pay off their debts although they are not poor. For instance, a person has a business and is in debt. He can pay off the debt if he sells some of his assets or raw material. In that case, however, the business would have to stop and he would completely lose the chance of paying his debts. Such businesses have to be supported out of this fund. In this day and age, many businesses have to close down just because the owners could not pay off a small amount of debt. The money that is lent to such people is also considered “alms”. It is narrated that Nabi Muhammad (pbuh) said:

“Anything lent is alms[25].”

The debt of those who cannot afford to pay back is paid off through dotation, so that they can keep on their business.

People can be overwhelmed with debt. Debt causes the disruption of businesses. The fund “gharimeen” both protects the reputation of the indebted and solves the problem of the debtee.

It is narrated that Nabi Muhammad (pbuh) prayed to God as the following:

اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ غَلَبَةِ الدَّيْنِ وَغَلَبَةِ الْعَدُوِّ وَشَمَاتَةِ الأَعْدَاءِ

“O Allah, I seek refuge with You from being overwhelmed with debt, from being overpowered by the enemy and from the enemy rejoicing over my misfortunes[26]

 

Considering this verse, it is revealed that there is relation between being overwhelmed with debt and being overpowered by enemy. Another narration from Muhammad alayhissalam is :

“He who alleviates the suffering of a brother out of the sufferings of the world, Allah would alleviate his suffering from the sufferings of this world and the Day of Resurrection.[27]

3. THE FUND OF DEFENCE (SABIL’UL-LAH)

“Sabil’ul-lah” means “the path of God”. The path of God is the religion of God. All of the spendings made for God’s religion are in “the path God”. We cannot see the difference between the other seven classes of zakat and the fund of sabilullah from this perspective.

When the relevant verses are studied in the Qur’an, we see that this fund corresponds to war expenses. The verses are below:

“Fight for God’s cause against those who start a fight against you, but do not attack unjustly[28]. God does not like those who attack unjustly.” (al-Baqarah 2:190)

“Prepare whatever forces you (believers) can muster, including warhorses[29], to frighten off God’s enemies and yours, and warn others unknown to you but known to God. Whatever you give in God’s cause will be repaid to you in full, and you will not be wronged.” (al-Anfal 8:60)

“Spend for God’s cause in order to not put yourselves in jeopardy by your own hands[30]. Behave kindly. God loves those who behave kindly.” (al-Baqarah 2:195)

All types of war expenses are covered out of this fund. This allows establishing the internal and external security of the country; thus, leaving no obstacles against the atmosphere of peace and satisfaction.

4. THE FUND OF TRANSPORTATION (IBN AL-SABIL)

“Ibn al-sabil” means, “son of the road”. It is used to refer to travelers who are away from their hometown[31]. These travelers are called “son of the road” since they are inseparable from roads[32].

For improvement of economics, an atmosphere of trust and  security is required. The verse is below:

“God presents the example of a city that was secure and in satisfaction, with provisions coming to it abundantly from all places. Then it became ungrateful for God’s blessings, so God made it taste the garment of famine and fear, for what its people had done.” (an-Nahl 16:112)

 

Coming of the provisions from all places requires that there are roads to all places and those roads are secured. The expenses about the security of those roads are made out of this fund.

 

CONCLUSION

The word “alms”, in Arabic “sadaqah = صدقة”, is traditionally used to refer to simple aids, such as money or food given to beggars. However, the relevant verses of the Quran and practices of Nabi Muhammad (pbuh) prove that  it is used to refer to taxes, which signify loyalty of citizen to the state.  Long after the decease of Nabi Muhammad (pbuh), new taxes called “jizya” and “kharaj” were imposed on non-muslims. The word “zakat” started to be used instead of “sadaqah” from then on. In the Qur’an, the command “take zakat” does not exist, but the command “take alms (sadaqah)” does.

What is more interesting is that the items of spending in verse Tawba 60 were restricted to “zakat” and the items of spending were modified, whenas God has decreed:

This is an obligation enjoined by God. God is All-Knowing and He judges correctly.

Nabi Muhammad (pbuh) also said:

“Allah is not pleased with a Prophet’s or anyone else’s decision about sadaqah. He has given a decision about them Himself. He has divided those entitled to them into eight categories[33].”

Muslim folk thinks that schools (madhabs) are fully compliant to the rulings in the Qur’an and the Example of Muhammad (pbuh). Yet, some schools have made up new regulations in the matter of alms (sadaqah), just as in many other matters. This caused the state to lose most of its tax income leaving no fund for defense and transport. As a result of this, Islamic states had to impose different taxes under new names. The opinions of different schools are not mentioned in this article due to the following verse:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ فَرَّقُواْ دِينَهُمْ وَكَانُواْ شِيَعًا لَّسْتَ مِنْهُمْ فِي شَيْءٍ إِنَّمَا أَمْرُهُمْ إِلَى اللّهِ ثُمَّ يُنَبِّئُهُم بِمَا كَانُواْ يَفْعَلُونَ

“You have nothing to do with those who make divisions in their religion and become the partisans of their factions. Their judgment belongs to Allah. He will inform them about the true nature of their actions.” (al-An’am 6:159)

May Allah let Muslims see the truth…

 

 

SOURCE: Abdulaziz BAYINDIR, “Kur’an’da Sadaka ve Faiz”, Kitap ve Hikmet Dergisi (Quarterly Magazine), Issue: 17, April-May-June 2017, p. 4-14.

Translation into English: Zeynep Dönmez

 

[1] Jizya, which means “per capita tax”, taken from non-Muslim men was made up as a result of arbitrary interpretation of the word “jizya” in the verse below. Such a tax did not exist during the lifetime of Messenger Muhammad (pbuh):
“Fight those of the People of the Book who do not [truly] believe in God and the Last Day, who do not consider prohibited what God and His Messenger have prohibited, who do not obey the rule of justice, until they pay that fee (al-jizya) with their own hands while they are abased.” (at-Tawbah 9:29)
We can learn what “that fee” is from another verse which explains this one:
“When you meet those who ignore (in battle), smite their necks (with your swords) until you suppress them, and then cordon (the rest of) them off strictly; thereafter set them (the captives) free, either by an act of grace, or against ransom. Do this, so that the war lays down its burden”
(Muhammad 47:4)

“Being abased at war” denotes being captured at war. Some of the captives may be released as an act of grace and some have to pay their ransom to be freed. The fee (al-jizya) that they “pay with their own hands” is nothing but the ransom the captives would have to pay in order to regain their freedom.

 

[2] The verses that command donation are: al-Baqara 195, 254,267; al-Hadid 7; Munafiqun 10; Taghabun 16; Talaq 6.

[3] The word we translate as “the surplus” is “al-afw =العفو”. The surplus depends both on the economic situation of the person who gives out the zakat and on the item that is spent (given) as zakat.

[4] Ismail b. Hammad al-Jawhari, as-Sihah, (Tahqiq: AhmedAbdulgafurAttar), Beirut 1983, art. عفو.

[5] Ahmad b. Faris b. Zakariya, Mu’jam Maqayis al-Lughah, Beirut, n/d, art. عفو.

[6] See al-Furqan 25:69, Qasas 28:84, Ahzaab 33:68, Ghafir 40/40.

[7] Sunan an-Nasa’i 2489; Sahih Muslim 979 a

[8] The word “takhabbut = تخبط” in the verse also means “to dissuade and to confuse somebody” (Lisan, Taj al-arus).

[9] To be increasing several-fold is the permanent quality of interest. Any debt borrowed on a certain percentage of interest would bear more interest which increases several-fold, unless the debt is paid back. Therefore, the expression “ad’adan muda’afatean =   أَضْعَافًا مُّضَاعَفَةً ” is a constant quality of “riba = interest”. Since “increasing several-fold” is a constant quality of interest, assigning anıther meaning to this verse would be incorrect.

[10] “Dı’f = ضٍعف” is “multiple of a value”. “Di’fayan” is double of a value”, “ad’af = أَضْعَافً” “triple or more than three multiples of a value”. “Mudaa’fa”, is used for “2 and multiples of 2”. “Ad’afan muda’afatan= أَضْعَافًا مُضَاعَفَةً” sözü ise “ikinin katları” demektir. İkinin en küçük katı dört’tür.

[11] The Messenger of God said as the following in his Farewell Sermon: “God has Judged that there shall be no interest, and that all the interest due to Al-Abbas ibn Abd’el Muttalib shall initially be waived…” (Abu Dawud, Manasik, 57, hadith no:1905)

[12] The word “rasul = رسول” mentioned in the verse means both “information that is sent” and “the messenger who delivers the information that is sent” (Raghib al-Esfahani, Mufradat al-fazl al-Quran, art. رسل). Information is of higher worth than the messenger, and therefore the Almighty God has decreed: “Muhammad is only a messenger. Messengers have passed on before him. If he dies or gets killed, will you turn about on your heels?” (Al-e Imran 3:144). Since the information that the Messenger Muhammad (pbuh) has brought is gathered in the Quran, the “rasul” is the Quran Itself for us in the era after his death. Therefore, depending on the context, the word “rasul” is assigned the meaning “the Book of God” within this work, as well “the Messenger of God”.

[13] Any amount of increase added on the principal is interest. However, purchasing power is the criterion in a fiduciary monetary system (paper money system). In order to comply with the expression “neither you do wrong, nor you are wronged”, the purchasing power of the loaned money must be fixed. Therefore, inflation cost can not be considered as excess and is not included in the scope of interest.

[14] In the verse at-Tawba 9:60, the word “sadaqah” is used in the meaning of “zakat”, and debtors are listed among the categories of zakat receivers.

[15] Bukhari, Zakat 24, hadith no:

[16] Sunan Abu Dawud, Zakat 23, hadith no: 1630.

[17] The definite word “as-sadaqah” is assigned the meaning of “zakat” here, based on the verse at-Tawba 9:60. However, the general noun “sadaqah” has a wider range of meanings. The word “sadaqah = صدقة” is of the root “truthfulness = صدق” (Mufradat). It is generally translated as “alms” or “almsgiving”. Although almsgiving is not obligatory on a regular basis, it serves as a kind of proof that God is more valuable to the person than their possessions, and that the person “truthfully” holds God in highest esteem. The tax received from non-Muslims is also called sadaqah. By giving sadaqah, non-muslims prove their loyalty to the government, and earn the right to get public services in return. Zakat is only obligatory for Muslims who have at least a specific amount of wealth, whereas sadaqah may be given even by the needy to others in need. There is not an upper limit of sadaqah, but it is decreed to observe the bounds stated in verse Isra 17:29 while giving. The same notion of “sadaqah” exists in Judaism, with a very similar name: “tzedakah”, having a similar word root: “righteousness”, or “fairness” in Hebrew (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tzedakah). This is another evidence of the Quran being confirmative of the previous Books.

[18] The second sentence “wa antum tu’tuneha = وانتم تؤتونها” is considered as a circumstantial clause having the meaning “while you give it”.

[19] Raghib al-Esfahani (d.425h), Mufradat al-fazl al-Quran, Damascus & Beirut, art. سكن

[20] Bukhari, Zakat, 53; Muslim, Zakat, 34; Abu Dawud, Zakat, 543;  Sunan an-Nasa’i, Zakat 76; hadith no:2573.

[21] Raghib al-Esfahani, Mufradat al-fazl al-Quran, art. الف

[22] Mehmet Ali Kapar SAFVAN b. UMAYYA- Diyanet Vakfı İslam Ansiklopedisi.

[23] Mufradat, art. رقب

[24] This sentence includes an adverbial clause according to Arabic grammar. In our opinion, it should be considered as “كائنين على حبهم الطعام ”.

[25] Abd Al-Azim ibn Abd Al-Qawi al-Munziri,  at-Targhib wa’t-Tarhib, v. II, p. 163. Informed that he hadith was classified as “sahih” by Tabarani and Bayhaki.

[26] Nasai, al-Istiaze 34, v. VIII, p. 265.

[27] Sahih Muslim, Zikr 11, hadith no:2699a

[28] We must establish good relations with those who do not start a fight against us (al-Mumtahanah 60:8-9).

[29] Nothing can replace the troops on horseback in a war. Horses produce their own energy and have superior agility. Therefore they are indispensable at war.

[30] Spending on others for God’s cause creates a safe and satisfactory atmosphere since it would be for the needy and the weak in society.

[31] Mufradat, art. سبل

[32] Ibn Manzur, Jamal al-din Muhammad b. Mukrim (630-711), Lisan al-Arab, Beirut., art. سبل.

[33] Sunan Abi Dawud, Zakat 23, hadith no:1630.

«إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَعَالَى لَمْ يَرْضَ بِحُكْمِ نَبِيٍّ وَلَا غَيْرِهِ فِي الصَّدَقَاتِ، حَتَّى حَكَمَ فِيهَا هُوَ، فَجَزَّأَهَا ثَمَانِيَةَ أَجْزَاءٍ،»

 

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Date: May 21, 2018