Giving Of Alms (Zakat)
Zakat means freewill offering and is the third pillar of Islam. It consists of gifts to the poor, the needy, debtors, slaves, wayfarers, beggars, and charities of various kinds. The word Zakat means "purification," suggesting that the act of sharing is a necessary prelude to making one's wealth and property pure. Zakat represents the unbreakable bond between members of the community, whom prophet Mohammad described to be "like the organs of the body, if one suffers then all others rally in response."
Zakat is a symbol of one’s obligation to recognize the rights of others and to be in sympathy with them in pain or in sorrow. These sentiments should become so deep-rooted that one begins to regard one’s own wealth as belonging, in part, to others. Moreover, one should render service to others without expecting either recognition or recompense. Each individual should protect the honour of others without hope of any gain in return. He should be the well-wisher of not just friends and relations, but of all members of society. Zakat, first and foremost, makes it plain to people that their entire ‘possessions’ are gifts of Allah, and, secondly, dissuades the servants of Allah from living in society as unfeeling and selfish creatures. Indeed, throughout their entire lives, they must set aside some portion for others.
Zakat is quite different from the tribute (the jizyat), collected from non-Muslims for political and military expenses. The Zakat was once universally obligatory in Muslim lands. It is now common under Muslim governments for the Zakat to be calculated at a per cent of the accumulated wealth of a man or his family at the end of each year and to be levied by the government. In non-Muslim countries, the collection and distribution of the Zakat is undertaken by the Muslim community.