Ibn Kathir on Zakah and Tazkiyyah al-Nafs

Allah says in surah Fussilat:

وَوَيْلٌ لِّلْمُشْرِكِينَ * الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُم بِالْآخِرَةِ هُمْ كَافِرُونَ

Woe to the mushrikoon * those who do not give the zakah and who are disbelievers in the hereafter [41:6-7]

In part of his commentary on these ayaat, al-haafidh ibn Kathir wrote the following words:

ـ (وويل للمشركين) أي: دمار لهم وهلاك عليهم، (الذين لا يؤتون الزكاة) قال علي بن أبي طلحة، عن ابن عباس: يعني: الذين لا يشهدون أن لا إله إلا الله. وكذا قال عكرمة. ـ

وَوَيْلٌ لِّلْمُشْرِكِينَ

Woe to the mushrikoon

meaning: ruin and destruction for them

الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ

those who do not give the zakah

‘Ali ibn Abi Talhah transmitted that ibn ‘Abbaas said, “meaning, those who do not bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah”. And ‘Ikrimah said something similar.

وهذا كقوله تعالى: (قد أفلح من زكاها وقد خاب من دساها) [الشمس: 9، 10]، وكقوله: (قد أفلح من تزكى وذكر اسم ربه فصلى) [الأعلى: 14، 15]، وقوله (فقل هل لك إلى أن تزكى ) [النازعات: 18] والمراد بالزكاة هاهنا: طهارة النفس من الأخلاق الرذيلة، ومن أهم ذلك طهارة النفس من الشرك. وزكاة المال إنما سميت زكاة لأنها تطهره من الحرام، وتكون سببا لزيادته وبركته وكثرة نفعه، وتوفيقا إلى استعماله في الطاعات. ـ

This is like Allah’s statement:

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن زَكَّاهَا * وَقَدْ خَابَ مَن دَسَّاهَا

He has succeeded who purifies himself * and he has failed who corrupts it [91:9-10]

and like His statement:

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن تَزَكَّىٰ * وَذَكَرَ اسْمَ رَبِّهِ فَصَلَّىٰ

He has certainly succeeded who purifies himself * And mentions the name of his Lord and prays. [87:14-15]

and His statement:

فَقُلْ هَل لَّكَ إِلَىٰ أَن تَزَكَّىٰ

And say to him, “Would you purify yourself?”

The intended meaning of al-zakah in this case is the purification of one’s self from lowly characteristics and manners, and the most important part of this is purifying oneself from al-shirk. And the zakah of one’s wealth is only called zakah because it purifies one’s wealth from unlawfulness, and it acts as a cause for an increase and blessing in one’s wealth, as well as an increase in its benefit, and a person being blessed with the accord to use it in acts of obedience.[1]

وقال السدي: (وويل للمشركين الذين لا يؤتون الزكاة) أي: لا يدينون بالزكاة. وقال معاوية بن قرة: ليس هم من أهل الزكاة. وقال قتادة: يمنعون زكاة أموالهم. ـ

al-Suddi said:

وَوَيْلٌ لِّلْمُشْرِكِينَ * الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ

Woe to the mushrikoon * those who do not give the zakah

meaning, “they do not pay the zakah“. Mu’aawiyah ibn Qurrah said, “They are not people who pay the zakah.” Qataadah said, “They refuse to give the zakah of their wealth.”

وهذا هو الظاهر عند كثير من المفسرين، واختاره ابن جرير. وفيه نظر. لأن إيجاب الزكاة إنما كان في السنة الثانية من الهجرة إلى المدينة، على ما ذكره غير واحد وهذه الآية مكية، اللهم إلا أن يقال: لا يبعد أن يكون أصل الزكاة الصدقة كان مأمورا به في ابتداء البعثة، كقوله تعالى: (وآتوا حقه يوم حصاده) [الأنعام: 141]، فأما الزكاة ذات النصب والمقادير فإنما بين أمرها بالمدينة، ويكون هذا جمعا بين القولين، كما أن أصل الصلاة كان واجبا قبل طلوع الشمس وقبل غروبها في ابتداء البعثة، فلما كان ليلة الإسراء قبل الهجرة بسنة ونصف، فرض الله على رسوله [- صلى الله عليه وسلم -] الصلوات الخمس، وفصل شروطها وأركانها وما يتعلق بها بعد ذلك، شيئا فشيئا، والله أعلم. ـ

And these latter statements are what is apparent from the ayah according to many of the mufassiroon, and that is the position that ibn Jarir [al-Tabari] favored. That is because the obligation to pay the zakah only came into effect in the second year after the migration to al-Madinah according to what has been mentioned by more than one source, while this ayah was revealed in the Meccan period. This is the case unless perhaps one were to say: It is not a stretch to say that the basis of the zakah was the voluntary charity which was enjoined from the beginning of the Prophet’s career, such as in Allah’s statement:

وَآتُوا حَقَّهُ يَوْمَ حَصَادِهِ

pay the due on the day of the harvest [6:141]

But as for the zakah which was based on the minimum threshold levels and specified amounts, then the command for this was only made clear in al-Madinah.

So this is a way to reconcile these two different opinion, just as the basis for the prayer had been obligated at the times of the rising and setting of the sun at the beginning of the Prophet’s career, but then two and a half years before the Hijrah on Laylah al-Israa’ Allah mandated the five daily prayers upon His Messenger and clearly explained their conditions, pillars and all that was related to the prayer after that a little bit at a time. And Allah knows best.

[Tafsir ibn Kathir 7/165]

[1] Translator’s Note: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool quoted this paragraph in his book “Contemplating the Qur’an and its Effects on Purifying the Soul” [تدبر القرآن وأثره في تزكية النفوس] as his legislative definition of tazkiyyah al-nafs (purification of the soul).

See also: Qualities of the Successful Believers – Part 3/7: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

See also: Zakah al-Fitr in the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Baghawi

See also: “Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

2 thoughts on “Ibn Kathir on Zakah and Tazkiyyah al-Nafs

  1. Pingback: Qualities of the Successful Believers – Part 3/7: Tafsir al-Shinqitee | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: Zakah al-Fitr in the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Baghawi | Tulayhah

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.