And establish prayer and give zakah and bow with those who bow [in worship and obedience]. [Quran, 2: 43]
The Saheeh English translation of the Quran contains 33 references to the word “zakah,” and 28 of them refer to those who establish prayer and give zakah. Clearly prayer and zakah are spiritually inseparable.
To figure out why, let’s take a moment to separate the two.
Prayer Without Zakah
Suppose you prayed but never gave zakah? Never. Not once. Not so much as a penny for the handicapped man you pass at the post office every morning on your way to work or classes. What are the implications?
We’d have to assume that your prayer is not entirely sincere.
How can you make dua to Allah the Compassionate, the Merciful, when you yourself refuse to be compassionate and merciful?
How can you be truly thankful to Allah the Generous when you horde the bounty He’s given you? How can you open the door to dependence on your own material wealth instead of upon Maliki yawmi‘d-din, the sole being whom we worship and the sole being from whom we should demand aid?
How can we ask to be shown the good path if we demand that this path avoids zakah?
How can we ask to keep from being deceived when we’ve allowed ourselves to become blinded by our own greed?
And establish prayer and give zakah, and whatever good you put forward for yourselves – you will find it with Allah. Indeed, Allah of what you do, is Seeing. [Quran, 2:110]
Zakah Without Prayer
Indeed, those who believe and do righteous deeds and establish prayer and give zakah will have their reward with their Lord, and there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve. [Quran, 2:277]
Suppose you gave zakah but didn’t pray? What would be the implications?
Who would you be doing it for? Public approval? Assuaging of personal guilt? Even if you’re giving zakah as an expression of compassion for a suffering human being, you have to ask yourself if giving zakah to this person at this time really is making a difference.
Without prayer you might not receive the spiritual discernment allowing you to know how to give— and to whom. The Quran admonishes us not to give willy nilly; not everyone who extends an imploring hand is truly in need.
And give the relative his right, and [also] the poor and the traveler, and do not spend wastefully. Indeed, the wasteful are brothers of the devils, and ever has Satan been to his Lord ungrateful. [Quran, 17:26-27]
Who is the Needy?
Who is the needy? You are, and no more so than once you start breaking that precious tie with your creator; very quickly you start to forget that you’re not the centre of the universe.
Prayer keeps us humble and reminds us of who the real boss is. It reminds us of our dependence on Him. It reminds us that one day but for a few random events we too might be standing at the post office asking passersby for money.
Some of you who are reading this really and truly are unable to give zakah in the form of money, but the generousity of your hearts in obedience to Allah teaches you to give such as you have, be it a bit of help to someone struggling, a kind word, some food, or even a smile.
Doesn’t that make you feel rich? Within the context of a healthy prayer life, zakah is win-win, and the prayer that follows it comes from the sincere heart of a true slave of Allah.
May your heart be opened and your mind enriched,
The Understand Quran Academy Team