Nature of Islamic Zakat
Through prayer and fasting exercises which rest on a base of the widest and deepest possible scientific knowledge of the world, man may reach awareness of the pattern of the cosmos and a penetration of its secrets. In consequence, man may discover his place as well as that of his fellow men in the cosmos. His love for them and their love for him will increase with this realization. In service to God, they will cooperate with one another for the good and reinforce one another's piety; the strong will protect the weak, and the rich will share their bounty with the poor. But that is precisely the zakat. To do more than it requires is charity. The Qur'an joins zakat to prayer in many places. Some of the following verses have already been quoted
"But righteousness consists in being convinced of the existence and unity of God, of the reality of the Day of Judgment, of the angels, the Book, the Prophets; in giving of one's wealth lovingly to the next of kin, the orphan, the destitute, the wayfarer, the poor, the slave; and in holding the prayer and giving the zakat." [Qur'an, 2:277] The Most High also says: "Observe the prayer and remit the zakat and kneel with those who pray." [Qur'an, 2:43] Further, God-may He be adored-says: "Those believers have done well and achieved felicity who hold their prayers with reverence, abstain from gossip, and complete their payment of zakat," [Qur'an, 23:1-4] etc., etc.
Concerning zakat and charity, the Qur'an talks at length, clearly and emphatically. It has classified charity among the highest virtues deserving of the greatest rewards; indeed, it has placed charity alongside the conviction of God, thus leading us to believe that the two are equal. Addressing His angels regarding a man who violated the duty of charity, God said
"Take him away. Fetter him and cast him into the fire that he may broil therein. Bind him in long and heavy chains that he may not move. For he did not believe in God Almighty, nor did he urge the feeding of the poor." [Qur'an, 69:30-34]
Similarly, God said: "And give glad tidings to the humble, whose hearts are filled with reverential fear whenever God is mentioned, who patiently endure whatever befalls them, who observe the prayer and spend of that which We have provided for them." [Qur'an, 22:34-35]. Further, God-may He be blessed and adored-says: "Those who spend of their wealth at night and during the day, in secret and in public, have their reward with God. They have reason neither to fear nor to grieve." [Qur'an, 2:274]