This Saturday I visited no less than Five places of worship. I saw a 13 year old Jewish boy’s bar mitzvah. I saw a portion of a Sikh wedding. I saw the preparations for Krishna’s birthday in a Hindu temple. I visited a Buddhist temple. And I went to a Muslim mosque.
We received a booklet about Islam, and here’s something I found interesting: One of the five pillars is as follows.
It is the religious duty for every Muslim who is prosperous enough to accumulate and retain a sufficient amount of savings to give a portion of his or her wealth to the needy each year. These alms are called Zakah in Arabic, which literally means “purification”. All things belong to God, The Most Merciful, and wealth is held in trust by human beings. Paying these alms is a way for people who are financially able to purify the ethically gained wealth that God has bestowed upon them. In addition, it is a means to directly distribute wealth throughout society and help the poor and needy. Zakah (alms) also purifies the soul of the giver, reduces greed, and strengthens compassion and generosity among humanity. The basic rate of these alms is two and a half percent of the wealth that has been held in savings for an entire year. These alms are levied on savings, not income.
I found this extremely interesting. My own faith tradition (Anglican, Christian) has a similar concept, called tithing. Ours is much muddier which has good and bad points. I like the Muslim plan – it’s based on savings; in other words, on what you have in excess – although given our savings rates in Canada, that may not amount to much! – rather than on income.
I also like that it’s non-negotiable. We Christians are not accountable. If we give, we give, and if not, no one notices (or if they do, they don’t say anything). (and do I give? Yup, regularly to a couple orgs, and spontaneously to my neighbours living outside, but not even a fraction of the traditional 10%, even on my post-tax income, frankly).
1. Does your faith tradition, if you have one, say anything about giving money to the needy?
2. One question that arose for me is: Is faith-based giving assuming we don’t already pay taxes which go to helping those less fortunate among us?
photo credit: horizon