The literal meaning of “Zakat” is purity
The literal meaning of “Zakat” is purity. Its Islamic technical meaning designates the annual amount of wealth, food, property etc. which a Muslim with the adequate means must distribute among the rightful beneficiaries.
Zakat is a remarkable institution and a major pillar of Islam. Allah, Almighty, Says (what means): “And establish the Prayer, and pay Zakaat (the poor due)…” [Quran, 2:43]
Moreover, Zakat is an obligatory act because it is one of the pillars of Islam: The Prophet sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allah exalt his mention ) said: “Islam was built upon five (pillars): `The testimony that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah; the establishment of the prayer; paying the obligatory charity (Zakat); pilgrimage to the House (Hajj to the Ka’bah in Makkah) and fasting (the month of) Ramadan.”‘ [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Zakat is a small portion of the Muslim’s wealth that must be given to the poor or to other specified beneficiaries. Whoever claims that Zakat is not obligatory and refuses to pay it, is not a Muslim, but a Muslim who refuses to pay Zakat due to stinginess, while affirming its obligation, has committed a great sin for which one will be severely punished.