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The Inner Dimensions of Zakat

By Shah Wali Allah al-Dihlawi

Translated by Marcia K. Hermansen

You should know that when a need presents itself to the poor person, and he entreats God about it either verbally or through his condition, his entreaty knocks at the door of the Divine Generos­ity. Sometimes the best interest will be fulfilled by inspiring the heart of a pure person to furnish the remedy for his want. Thus, when the inspiration descends and he is provoked (to respond), he is given success, God is pleased with Him, and blessings flow to him from above and below, and from his right side and his left, and God’s mercy is upon him.

One day a poor person asked me concerning a need in which he was hard-pressed and I sensed in my heart an inspiration com­manding me to give, and informing me of an ample reward in this world and the next, so I gave and witnessed that what my Lord had promised me was true. The knocking at the door of (Divine) Generosity, the arousal of inspiration and its selection of my heart on that day, and the manifestation of the reward, all of that hap­pened before my very eyes.

Sometimes expenditure of money is an anticipated source of the divine mercy, such as when there arises a motive among the Highest Council for the elevation of a community so that everyone who undertakes to carry out their command is blessed, and a person’s undertaking an expenditure at that time is equivalent to (partici­pating) in the difficult military expedition.[1] Another example would be a period of drought when a community is among the most needy of God’s creatures, and what is intended is their revival.

In summary, the truthful news-bearer made from this conjec­tured instance a general rule, by saying that whoever gives charity to such and such a type of poor person-or in such and such a situation-God will accept this action from him. Then someone hears this and submits to its ruling wholeheartedly, and finds what was promised to be true.

Sometimes the lower self comprehends that the love of wealth and being miserly with it harms a person and turns him from his course, so that he suffers from this very greatly. He is not able to prevent this except by practicing giving away whatever he loves best. In his case giving is the most beneficial thing, for if he does not give, the love (of wealth) and miserliness will remain as they are, and in the Afterlife will take on the shape of a hairless snake[2] or his wealth will take on the shape of some thing which harms him and this is the hadith, “A soft sandy plain will be spread out for them,”[3] and His saying, may He be Exalted, “and those who hoard gold and silver.”[4]

 

Sometimes the time of person’s destruction may have come, and his ruin has been decreed in the World of Images (Alam al-Mithal)[5], then he pro­ceeds to spend great wealth, while he and other good persons around him entreat God. Thus he cancels out his destruction on his own through the destruction of his wealth, and this is his saying, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, “Nothing turns back destiny except petitionary prayer, and nothing extends the life­span except piety.”[6]

 

Sometimes it occurs that a person does a wicked act due to being overcome by his physical nature, and then becomes aware of its repugnance and repents. Then physical nature again over­comes him and he returns to it. The wisest thing to do in curing his soul is to persist in spending great wealth in amends for what­ever (wrong) he does so that this (loss) will be on his mind, and deter him from (the wicked acts) which he intends.

Sometimes good character and the preservation of the extended family system consist of distributing food, giving greetings to all and sundry, and various types of charitable acts, and this is commanded and considered to be a freewill offering (sadaqa). Zakat increases the blessing, extinguishes (the divine) anger by attract­ing an effulgence of mercy (from God), repels the punishment of the Afterlife which results from miserliness, and favorably dis­poses the invocation of the Highest Council (Al-Mala’ al-Ala)[7] who improve things on the earth toward this person, and God knows better.

Taken with permission from the English translation of Hujjat Allah al-Balighah (The Conclusive argument from God) by Prof. Marcia K. Hermansen.


  1. In the Arabic “ghatwat al-’usra“, which is the name given to an expedition carried out by the Prophet towards Tabuk in hot and difticult conditions.
  2. Mishkat, p.376; Bukhari Zakat 3, Tafsir 3; Nasai; Ibn Majah; Muwatta, Ibn Hanbal.
  3. This is a hadith that on the Day of Judgment those heards of camels, sheep, and goats on which a persion did not pay zakat will trample him on a flat plain. Mishkat, p.371-372; Muslim Zakat, 24, 26, 27, 28; Abu Dawud; Nisai; Darimi; Ibn Hanbal.
  4. Qur’an 9:34. “…and spend it not in the way of Allah, give them tidings of a painful doom. On that day it will be heated in the fire of Hell and their foreheads and their flanks and their backs will be branded therewith.”
  5. A non-elemental world, informed in many traditions of the Prophet, in which abstract meanings are represented by quasi-bodily forms corresponding to them in quality. There, things take on their materialization in some form before they are materialized on earth. Many of the things which are commonly assumed not to be bodily move and descend, although people cannot see them.
  6. Ibn Hanbal, V: 277, 280, 282.
  7. The Highest Council or the Highest Host. The term is found in Qur’an 37:8, 38:69. This group contains both angels and developed human souls, according to Shah Wali Allah al-Dihlawi.

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