Zakat, which Islam has enjoined upon Muslims, marks the lowest limit of the expression of human sympathy, kindness and compassion. It is a duty, the disregard or violation of which is not in any circumstances tolerable to God. The Shariah is emphatic in its insistence upon its observance. It has prescribed it as an essential requirement of Faith for Muslims.
But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then they are your brethren (Al-Tawba:11)
A person who injures zakat who willfully declines to pay it will be deemed to have forfeited his claim to be a Muslim. There is no place for him in the fold of Islam. Such were the men against whom Hazrat Abu Bakr took up arms and his action was universally supported by the Companions.
Other Obligations on Wealth
The Holy Prophet had, by his teachings and personal example, made it clear to his friends and Companions that zakat was not the be-all-end-all of monetary good doing. It was not the highest form or ultimate stage of charity and generosity. In the words of the Holy Prophet: “Beyond question, there are other obligations on wealth aside from Zakat.” It is related by Fatima Bint-i-Qais that once the Prophet was asked (or she herself asked him) about Zakat. He replied: “Beyond question, there are other obligations on wealth aside from Zakat.” The Prophet then recited the following verse of the Qur’an.
It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces to the East or the West; but righteous is he who believeth in Allah and the Last Day and the Angles and the Scripture and the Prophets; and giveth his wealth, for Him, to kinsfolk and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask, and to set slaves free; and observeth proper worship and payeth the poor-due. And those who keep their treaty who they make one, and the patient in tribulation and adversity and times of stress. Such are the God-fearing (Al-Baqara: 177).
The Prophet’s Attitude Toward Wealth
The attitude of the Prophet towards wealth and the family bearing in mind that he possessed the utmost affection for the Ummah and was its greatest well-wisher was: “The best among you is he who is good for his household, and, among you, I am the best for my household” and this was typically illustrative of the Apostolic point of view. It was the attitude of a man to whom the Sublimity and All-powerfulness of the Divine Being was an absolute and self-evident reality, whose morals were the morals of God and who was permanently solicitous of the Day of Resurrection and Final Judgment: The day when neither wealth nor progeny will avail (any man) save him who bringeth unto Allah a pure heart.” (Al-Shuara:88-89). The Holy Prophet was more impatient for the Hereafter than a bird is for its nest after a whole day’s flight. He would exclaim: “O God: There is no joy other than the joy of Futurity. Wealth, in his eyes, was no greater significance than the foam of the sea or the grime of the palm. To him, the whole of mankind was the family of Allah, and he regarded himself to be the guardian and protector of orphans, the needy and the destitute. For others he wished ease and comfort, but for his own household, poverty and indigence. Not inpresently would he cry out from the depths of his heart: “(What I like is that) I may eat my fill on one day and go without a meal on the other,”4 and also, “O God! Bestow upon the descendants of Mohammad only as much provision as may be necessary to sustain life.”
The Prophet had no hesitation in conveying to his wives the Message of the Lord:
O Prophet! Say unto thy wives: If ye desire the world’s life and its adornment, come! I will content you and will release you with a fair release.
But if ye desire Allah and His Messenger and the abode of the Hereafter, then lo! Allah hath prepared for the good among you an immense regard (Al-Ahzab: 28-29)
His pious wives, for their part, had willingly chosen to live with him and not with their parents or brothers where every worldly comfort was available to them.
The Life of the Prophet and his family
What then was the life the Prophet’s wives opted for? It us hear about it from Hazrat Ayesha herself:
“The members of the Prophet’s household,” says she, “never ate even barley bread to their heart’s content. For months the oven was not lighted in our house and we lived only on dates and water. When the Prophet died there was nothing in our house which a living creature could eat except a piece of bread I had kept away in the cupboard.”
Once, Hazrat Omar visited the Prophet and found to his surprise that the Prophet was sitting on a mat which had made its mark on his body. In a corner of the room there was a small quantity of barley, in another was spread the skin of an animal while just above his head hang a water-skin. Hazrat Omar relates that on seeing it tears came into his eyes. The Prophet enquired why he was weeping and Hazrat Omar replied: “O Prophet of God! I have every reason to weep. This is the mat which has made deep impressions on your bare body. The room itself is so comfortless while the Chosroes of Persia and the Emperor of Rome are in the midst of their lakes and gardens though you are the Apostle of Allah”., The Prophet remarked, “Are you caught in two minds? These are the men to whom all the things of comfort and enjoyment have been granted here in this life.”