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This is the third in a series of posts about the Five Pillars of Islam.  The first diary was about shahadah, and the second about salat.

Zakat is the formal giving of charity in Islam.  It is related to a similar concept, known as saudaqah.  Saudaqah is the informal giving of charity that may be done at any time, in any amount, to any recipient.  Zakat, however, is more regulated.  While zakat may be given at any time of year, many Muslims try to pay their zakat during Ramadan, when spiritual rewards are greater than during the rest of the year.  The amount of money (or other material goods being given as zakat) is more specific, and zakat tends to be given to institutions (mosques, foundations and other charities, and some government agencies) as opposed to individuals, which saudaqah is normally given to.  Either way, the payment of charity is highly encouraged in Islam.  

Indeed, the Qur'an stresses the need to practice regular charity; moreover, the payment of charity is linked to the practice of prayer.  The following verse is one of over two dozen verses that encourage Muslims to both pray and give charity:

Those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness, and establish regular Prayers and regular charity, will have their reward with their Lord: on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. (2:277)
In essence, the giving of charity on a regular basis is where the Muslim puts his or her faith in Allah (swt) into meaningful action.  As mentioned in the previous essay, prayer (salat) is very important for a Muslim to engage in, but charity (zakat and saudaqah) is just as important.  It is the Islamic example of the idiom, "putting your money where your mouth is."

However, not everyone is required to pay zakat.  There are several key concepts that regulate what is "zakatable" and what is not.  First, an asset that is zakatable must have been owned for at least one haul.  A haul is one Islamic (lunar) year, or about 355 days.  Secondly, the assets that are zakatable must have a value greater than the nisab.  Nisab is equivalent to 85 grams of gold or 595 grams of silver.  Because the values of these precious metals change on a daily basis, the value of the nisab will also change daily.  (For example, today, as I write this, the nisab in Singapore dollars is $5,790; various Islamic websites will publish the daily nisab value so that Muslims can easily lookup this information instead of having to calculate it themselves.)  As long as the value of the assets remains above the nisab for the entire haul, then zakat must be paid on the value of those assets.

The tricky part about zakat is in deciding which assets are zakatable; not every asset must be included.  For the average city-dwelling Muslim, the number of zakatable asset classes is fairly limited.  They normally include savings; certain monies received from or deposited into pension funds; stocks, mutual funds and other investments; gold, silver, and other jewelry; the surrender value on insurance policies (for that year, assuming the policy has been in force for over one haul); and any businesses owned by the Muslim in question.  Generally speaking, the zakat owed for each of these asset classes is 2.5 percent; thus, if the Muslim had a total of $10,000 worth of zakatable assets, he or she would owe $250 for zakat.  

If a Muslim makes his or her living by farming or mining, the methods for calculating zakat change.  For example, if a farmer grows produce in a garden or orchard, the rate for zakat is ten percent if the garden or orchard receives its water through rainfall, nearby water channels (e.g., streams or rivers), or if the ground is naturally wet; however, if the land needs to be irrigated, then the rate is five percent.  For farmers who raise livestock, the zakat owed depends upon the number and types of animals owned and their ages.  For example, if a Muslim farmer owns forty sheep that are over one year in age, then one sheep would be owed as zakat.  (The formulas for these types of calculations are somewhat complex, and will not be discussed in depth here.)  For miners, the zakat rate is twenty percent of the value of all ores or precious metals that are excavated in the past lunar year.

On the other hand, there are a number of personal assets are never considered to be zakatable; these include personal items, clothing, furniture, computers, cars and homes.  Now, for the latter three items listed above, as long as these items are for personal use, then they are not subject to zakat; however, if they are used for business purposes, then zakat must be paid on them.  So, for example, if a family owns two homes, residing in one, but renting out the other, then the rental income derived from the property is zakatable.

Which leads to the next point:  zakat is not an income tax, it is a tax on wealth.  An equivalent secular tax would be a property tax.  In this regard, zakat is a progressive tax in that the poorest members of society normally don't pay any zakat at all (although everyone, regardless of their income level, is still encouraged to pay saudaqah as the need arises).  The wealthier the person is, the more zakat they are required to pay; there are no caps or limits as to what the wealthiest Muslims are obligated to pay.

Another point to consider is, where does the money go?  The Qur'an gives some guidelines as to who can receive zakat money.  The relevant verse is:

Alms are for the poor and the needy, and those employed to administer the (funds); for those whose hearts have been (recently) reconciled (to Truth); for those in bondage and in debt; in the cause of Allah; and for the wayfarer: (thus is it) ordained by Allah, and Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom. (9:60)
Thus, the Qur'an gives eight categories of people who are eligible to receive zakat monies.  The first two categories, the poor (fakir) and the needy (miskin), are very similar to each other, but have slightly different definitions.  The poor are those who may not have enough money for their basic needs, but the needy are those who have neither material possessions nor the means to earn a living, the truly indigent who, out of necessity, are forced to beg for their survival.  (In Singapore, this category accounted for over one-third of all zakat monies distributed.)

The third category, those employed to administer the funds, are those employees of the agency that administers the zakat.  The Qur'an recognizes that people legitimately work to collect, account for, and distribute the zakat monies, and they are eligible to receive wages from the zakat monies as opposed to volunteering to get the job done.

The fourth category, those whose hearts have been recently reconciled to the truth (i.e., recent reverts to Islam), is perhaps one group of people who don't receive very much zakat money in comparison to the other groups.  Very rarely, in my experience, do Muslim organizations (especially in the US) give out any money to recent reverts.  In my own case, I only received any money while here in Singapore, when I needed to prove that I was a Muslim in order to marry my wife, that I received a grand total of S$40.  Certainly not enough money to become rich on.  (To be honest, I was surprised I received any money at all; I certainly hadn't expected it!)  I don't know of anyone who's reverted to Islam for the chance to receive zakat money.

The fifth and sixth categories, for those in bondage and in debt, is interpreted somewhat differently now than it used to be in the past.  Many Muslim organizations now refer to "bondage" in terms of a lack of education.  As a result, zakat monies are sometimes given in the form of scholarships, grants and bursaries, especially to those families with children who are already receiving zakat because of their poor economic status (fakir/miskin).  Those who are in debt doesn't mean that they will help to relieve, for example, credit card balances, but that they might help to pay off utility balances or other bills of necessity that the person or family is unable to pay.

The seventh category, in the cause of Allah (swt), also has a more modern interpretation. Today, those funds are often used to pay for religious programs, mosque leadership and administration, school development and assistance, youth development and engagement, Islamic education, and community development.

The eighth and final category, for the wayfarer, is where zakat monies may be given to those travellers who are stranded.  The aid given might include financial assistance and a plane ticket home, if necessary.

So, what benefits do Muslims receive for their giving of charity, whether it is zakat or saudaqah?  The word zakah actually comes from the root zāy kāf wāw (ز ك و), which literally means "to purify."  (There are actually 21 verses in the Qur'an where zāy kāf wāw is used as the verb to purify.)  By giving zakat, a Muslim benefits by purifying both his or her own soul and his or her wealth.  On the one hand, zakat purifies the soul by helping a person to overcome his or her selfishness, obsession with wealth, and any neglect of the poor.  Likewise, giving zakat helps a Muslim the opportunity to cleanse their wealth of the taint it would acquire if it had not gone through the purification process of zakat.  Muslims try to earn their incomes in a halal manner; however, people don't always do so.  For example, not always giving a full effort at work (e.g., playing games on the computer when one should be working, to use a simple example).  Giving zakat helps to purify the manner in which that wealth is earned.

The rewards a Muslim may receive for giving charity may also bring about significant rewards in either this life or in the hereafter.  The Qur'an gives a parable that helps to explain just how much reward might be given, insha'allah:

The parable of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah, is that of a grain (of corn); it grows seven ears, and each ear has a hundred grains. Allah gives manifold increase to whom He wills. And Allah is All-Sufficient for His creatures' needs, All-Knower.  (2:261)
By giving zakat, Allah (swt) may reward us up to seven hundred fold, insha'allah, for the acts of charity we have done.  Unlike in the so-called "Prosperity Gospel," though, there is no promise of riches in this life for having been charitable.  The rewards may come entirely in the hereafter, insha'allah.  What we try to acknowledge, however, is that all sustenance comes from Allah (swt), and that the rich are being tried on their ability (or inability) to pass on the sustenance due from them to weaker members of the community.  Insha'allah, the rich will pass the test by paying the zakat they owe; otherwise, the punishment for failing to do so may be extremely severe:
Asma bint Yazid reported: "My aunt and I, while wearing gold bracelets, went to the Prophet.  He asked:  'Did you pay their zakat?'  She related that they had not.  The Prophet said:  'Do you not fear that Allah will make you wear a bracelet of fire?  Pay its zakat."  (Ahmad, 6.461)

Originally posted to JDsg on Sun Mar 24, 2013 at 05:13 PM PDT.

Also republished by Muslims at Daily Kos, Street Prophets , and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks (11+ / 0-)

    Very well written and quite clear. Better indeed than some encyclopedia articles I've seen on the subject. I'm going now to go and read what you have written about the shahadah and salat and will wait to read the ones on the hajj and fasting.

    •  Also (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JDsg, Ojibwa, SchuyH, Mary Mike, grannyboots

      have a related question. What are the rules in Islam about usury? And what kind of accountability exists for the charities that receive huge sums of money from the zalat?

      •  Thank you for your kind words. (8+ / 0-)

        Regarding usury, that topic by itself would take a diary to discuss.  However, short answer:  it's forbidden.  Moreover, my research suggests that even one cent over the principal amount is considered usury in Islam.

        As for accountability, I would assume that this will depend upon the organization collecting the money.  Here in Singapore, zakat is collected by MUIS, the government agency that is the liaison for the Muslim community. Their numbers are published in an annual report, and I personally would have a high level of trust that these monies are collected and distributed properly.

        In not-for-profit charitable organizations, such as those in the US, I would assume that these charities are audited annually by CPA firms in order to maintain their tax status.  As for individual mosques that might collect zakat, I couldn't say with any certainty.  However, I would say that theft is a major crime in Islam, and those of us who believe fear the punishment in the Hereafter much more than any Earthly punishment, so we greatly try to avoid that sort of thing.

        Muslims and tigers and bears, oh my!

        by JDsg on Sun Mar 24, 2013 at 06:13:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Usury haram, but fees are halal (6+ / 0-)

          The "Islamic finance" concept works primarily on the notion of a fee: since these are flat, fixed amounts, it's not considered usury. But there's also the notion that someone who falls behind on the debt isn't forced into immediate foreclosure. So, in that sense, it's somewhat more enlightened than our 21st century banking system.

          But it also makes investments in the 21st century economic system very tricky.

      •  I was reading through one of my blogs... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Iberian, Mary Mike

        ...and found this old post I wrote on riba (usury) from a few years ago.  You might find it of interest:  What is Riba?

        Muslims and tigers and bears, oh my!

        by JDsg on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 09:40:06 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks. (8+ / 0-)

    This is the best description of zakat that I have read. I feel I now have a better understanding and, most importantly, I see more connections with the other pillars.

    Again, thanks.

    I'm looking forward to the rest of this series.

  •  Links (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ojibwa, SchuyH, slksfca, Mary Mike, grannyboots

    Just a note to say that I've edited the links so that they work properly now, in case anyone had trouble getting to the previous diaries in this series.

    Muslims and tigers and bears, oh my!

    by JDsg on Sun Mar 24, 2013 at 06:24:48 PM PDT

  •  While most religions (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ojibwa, JDsg, SchuyH, grannyboots

    counsel charity, some suggest that it best be "within the faith", or if directed to outsiders it should be done to benefit the image or standing of the faithful (especially where they are a minority in a larger community), while other faiths overtly use charity as an adjunct to proselytizing.  Still others make no such distinctions . . .

    Are there any teachings in Islam that might address this difference?

    Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

    by Deward Hastings on Sun Mar 24, 2013 at 06:33:38 PM PDT

    •  None of these really apply. (10+ / 0-)

      There is no suggestion to keep any charity (zakat or saudaqah) solely among the Muslim community.  I myself give my four-year-old daughter a S$1 coin to give to this elderly Chinese (non-Muslim) man who publicly plays music for alms whenever we see him.  (I'm trying to get her into the habit of being willing to give charity to the needy.)

      Nor is it done for your second reason, "to benefit the image or standing of the faithful."  If anything, the Qur'an encourages charity to be made as anonymously as possible and hates this public hypocrisy, of doing things only to be seen doing them by others.

      As for the third reason, "an adjunct to proselytizing," I tried to address that in the diary, namely that money may be given to those who have newly converted, but that this is not so commonly done, even though it is permissible according to the Qur'an.

      The Qur'an is primarily concerned that the charity is done properly; for example, that it's better to be discreet to the point of anonymity, that if the charity given (if it's not money) that it's not of such a poor quality that you would turn away from it yourself, that you don't belittle the person for having given them charity in the first place. That sort of thing.  The most important thing is that the charity is given with the proper intention, that of pleasing Allah (swt).

      Muslims and tigers and bears, oh my!

      by JDsg on Sun Mar 24, 2013 at 07:04:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Charity inspired by fear... interesting. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, gzodik

    "Asma bint Yazid reported: "My aunt and I, while wearing gold bracelets, went to the Prophet.  He asked:  'Did you pay their zakat?'  She related that they had not.  The Prophet said:  'Do you not fear that Allah will make you wear a bracelet of fire?  Pay its zakat."  (Ahmad, 6.461)."

    This brings to mind the stories in Acts about Peter and the disciples. They told all who joined them that they must give up all their personal wealth and hand it over to the group. Anani'as and his wife tried to hold back some of their wealth and when Peter called him on it, Anani'as mysteriously died on the spot. When his wife saw his body being carried out, she too mysteriously died on the spot (probably infectious heart attacks).

    Anyway the end of the story goes..."And great fear came upon the whole church, an upon all who heard of these things." I'll bet no one else ever tried to hold back from Peter again. But what does that say about the community overall?  I don't think much of these deities who use fear to control or teach or inspire good behavior.  People have a natural impulse towards charity and helping others. If people found out tomorrow that Allah doesn't exist, they'd still act in charitable ways; no gods needed.

    •  You have several essential details wrong. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JDsg

      None of the disciples were forced to give up anything. They held their possessions in common, we are told, but it is strongly implied that this was voluntary. Furthermore, those who owned land or real estate remained in possession of it, unless they themselves chose to sell it and donate the proceeds:

      All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had...And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. (Acts 4:32-35)
      This point, that giving was voluntary, is reiterated in the story of Ananias and Sapphira in the next chapter of Acts.
      Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

      Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” (Acts 5:2-4).

      The fatal sin of Ananias and Sapphira was not withholding money from God, but lying to God.

      "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

      by Eowyn9 on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 07:47:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Oh I see! (0+ / 0-)

        They were killed for lying to God even though they did give some of the proceeds from the land sale to the disciples.  Well then, that makes it OK.  I think it's perfectly moral to cause the death of two people over that.  

        I am constantly amazed at how scriptural apologetics works.

        •  The disciples were building a church based on (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JDsg

          trust and honesty, not deception, greed and hypocrisy. Such a community can't long endure if its members decide to manipulate one another through lying and deception.

          IF Ananias and Sapphira had truly wanted to contribute to this new, communal society and if they truly believed in Jesus' message of love, honesty and generosity, they would never have considered such a deed. This sort of thing has the potential to rip a community apart. It's pretty evident they were more interested in enhancing their standing in the community than in helping the poor (hence the lie about giving "everything".)

          There's plenty of other "unfair" deaths in the Bible to attack God for. But this might not be the best example to use.

          BTW, it's also been hypothesized that Ananias and Sapphira died not because they were "zapped" by God, but out of a physiological reaction caused by sheer terror as they realized the full extent of what they'd done.

          "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

          by Eowyn9 on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 08:37:22 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  And just what kind of church community (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            gzodik

            did the "rock of Peter" give the world?  The Roman Catholic Church.  The experiment failed right from the start, and it sure wasn't the fault of people like Anani'as and his wife. Your apologies and excuses cup surely runneth over here.  Acts also ends the story with saying "And great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all who heard of these things."  Yep, that's the way to found an enduring community...make the members feel fear! Come to think of it, that describes the Roman Catholic Church to a T, and much of Protestantism too!

            The Jesus of Love, Honesty and Generousity was also the Jesus who endorsed a cosmic system of eternal fire and torture for even those who disagreed with his teachings or refused to hear them. He condemned whole towns to the fires for that.

            I find the concept of infinite flame and torture for deeds done in a finite lifetime immoral.  Perhaps that is why Peter's experiment went sour. Or maybe it was because whichever one of the "Christ" cults at the time which rose up above the others did so because they were willing to use aggressive force to found their church on a stolen Mithraic shrine.  

            And finally, now that we've explored this story, let's get to the reality. There was no Jesus, there was no Peter and Acts is not based on actual historical events. So I guess that lets both of us off the hook for our observations-right?

            •  I find it immoral too. Thankfully it's not (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JDsg

              actually a Biblical concept, not in the form it's portrayed today. The word that Jesus most often used for hell, "Gehenna", is thought to have referred to the garbage dump just outside of Jerusalem. People would toss all sorts of refuse there and it was often set on fire. (A bit of Googling revealed that there is, now, some controversy on this -- some scholars argue that the valley was used for child sacrifice to Moloch, hence the fire imagery. Whatever the origin, it is used here as a reference to evil, horror and corruption.)

              Jesus is using a parable here, not trying to make factual statements about the afterlife. "Do you want to end up a kinder, more enlightened person? Or hate-filled, corrupt refuse on the garbage heap of eternity?" is the way we might say it today.

              Certainly, the idea of rewards and punishments after death was one common view (though not the only one) of the afterlife, popular in the Jewish world at the time. Jesus co-opts this worldview, as he does so many others, and uses it to make his point about how to live here and now.

              BTW many Christian churches now recognize this, and indeed the church I grew up in (SDA) took a vocal stance against the idea of an eternal hell.

              As for your last paragraph, sorry, but it comes across as unsubstantiated dogma. There's plenty of debate in the scholarly world about details of the historical Jesus' life, but the overwhelming consensus is that he almost certainly was a real-life person (a point of view accepted by even, for example, Richard Dawkins). And what makes you state that Acts was not based on historical events? Have you any support for this theory?

              "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

              by Eowyn9 on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 09:27:40 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  OK... well, at this point I might suggest (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                gzodik

                reading Earl Doherty's The Jesus Puzzle or looking for Richard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus Christ which should be out soon.

                Or... here's a discussion site on the very topic of Peter's existence.

                http://vridar.wordpress.com/     It's titled "Missing a Real Peter in Acts."

                As far as Jesus and the concept of hell... Matthew 10:11-16.  Matthew 13:41-43, Matthew 25:41-46...  these passages don't exactly talk about a garbage dump on the edge of town.  Jesus is condemning various groups of people to eternal punishment for either not accepting his teachings or refusing to listen to him or his disciples.

                Dawkins in a 2012 interview with Playboy, "The evidence he (Jesus) existed is surprisingly shaky. The earliest books in the New Testament to be written were the Epistles, not the Gospels. It's almost as though Saint Paul and others who wrote the Epistles weren’t that interested in whether Jesus was real."

                •  Ok, I'll check out the Jesus Puzzle. However, (0+ / 0-)

                  it appears that most mainstream Bible scholars, such as Bart Ehrman, do not take Doherty seriously. Not being proficient in the original languages (or with an academic background in Biblical history) I'm inclined to take the recognized experts' word for it. It doesn't boost my confidence to learn that Doherty has no advanced degrees (in history, Biblical languages or for that matter any subject). What makes him any more qualified than I am to discuss Jesus' existence?

                  (To elaborate: we live in a time when anyone can easily publish a book on anything, even a subject they know little or nothing about. Witness, for example, the elaborate fantasies of Gavin Menzies. I read the first of his books and to me -- not a trained historian -- it sounded convincing, even compelling. Having subsequently learned that most or all historians don't take him seriously, though, I'm not running out to the library to grab the sequels.)

                  I'll have a look at the site you mention.

                  Now for the Bible passages you brought up:

                  Matthew 10:11-16:

                  This doesn't talk about "hell" at all, merely about the "day of judgment." Judgment can come in a LOT of forms, not necessarily hell-related (for example, an earthly judgment, or a judgment after death that is followed not by eternal hell or heaven but by reincarnation -- in the Buddhist model -- etc, etc.) Mainstream Christians do tend to conflate the two, but that's just sloppy hermeneutics.

                  Matthew 13:41-43:

                  This is a whole chapter of parables. Everything else in the parable (from the sower to the weeds to the harvesters) is a symbol. Surely it stands to reason that the fiery furnace is symbolic as well? (Even if it's not, furnaces burn weeds up quickly and permanently -- that is the point, after all -- not go on burning them forever. This parable would seem to disprove and not support an eternal hell.)

                  Matthew 25:41-46

                  This is the only one of the three where the term "eternal punishment" is used. There's actually a great deal of dispute about what the Greek word translated here as "eternal" means. It doesn't necessarily mean "it goes on forever"; some scholars think it may mean something more like "for an age" (or other long period of time, but not "eternity".) I've also heard it tentatively translated as "permanent". There's a lot of debate about this, just run a search for "eternal punishment aionion" and you'll see what I mean.
                  In this parable, however, Jesus is most emphatically NOT

                  condemning various groups of people to eternal punishment for either not accepting his teachings or refusing to listen to him or his disciples.
                  The parable of the sheep and the goats is the very antithesis of that "my way or the highway" attitude. The "sheep" are told that their actions of compassion and mercy -- for ANYONE, even "the least of these" -- are what God is "looking for" in our lives. He makes absolutely no mention of whether the "sheep" attended church or gave sermons or were baptized or enthusiastically proclaimed their faith. No mention at all!! The only question posed is, in essence, "Were you decent human beings to your fellow people?"

                  "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

                  by Eowyn9 on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 04:45:00 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  Had a look at Richard Carrier's blog and (0+ / 0-)

                  he seems to have the credentials and background that Doherty lacks. I'll check out On The Historicity of Jesus Christ when it's released.

                  "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

                  by Eowyn9 on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 05:05:19 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Carrier, who was an admirer of Bart Ehrman (0+ / 0-)

                    wrote a series of arguments (it actually went back and forth) over his book claiming Jesus actually existed. He really ripped into Ehrman's "scholarship" and conclusions.  The arguments were long and detailed. I think I remember they were on his blog some time last year, so you could just do a search on his site for them.

                    I would still recommend Doherty's book, if only for the conclusions he comes to about who Paul was actually worshipping.

    •  Motivation comes in many different forms. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eowyn9, Mary Mike, AaronInSanDiego

      Some people have the internal locus of control that allows them to be self-motivated and get things done on their own; others have an external locus that may require rewards and punishments to motivate them.  Islam and the Qur'an use examples for both types of loci.  The more important issue is not how one motivates but that the task at hand is followed through.  It is all too easy to let things slide, to one's detriment.

      Muslims and tigers and bears, oh my!

      by JDsg on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 08:44:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  This is a good point. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JDsg

        It would be really nice if we could all be motivated by purely intrinsic rewards, all the time. But we are not that good, as human beings. At least not yet. Our society has laws and rules for that express reason: to ensure that we treat each other well, whether our internal motivation is sufficiently strong, or not.

        Just as a concrete example with regards to giving money (since that is what this post was about): it would be wonderful if we all paid taxes freely and willingly! No laws, no penalties, just people happily giving the government enough money to allow it to go on running, build infrastructure, take care of the less fortunate and so on.

        Sadly, though, this won't yet work in real life. There are still too many people who jump at any chance to, in game theory terminology, "defect" rather than "cooperate". I have a great deal of hope for the future -- I'm convinced we're becoming more enlightened -- but we're nowhere near there yet.

        "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

        by Eowyn9 on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 08:53:14 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  As expected, it didn't take long to turn (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JDsg

      an interesting diary on Islam into a Christian bash-fest.

      I never liked you and I always will.

      by Ray Blake on Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 11:50:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  "Baptist Bends" (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ray Blake

        ...as the Unitarians call the reaction some people have when they lose or change their religion.  I doubt fish knows anything more than a nominal amount about Islam, but rather lashes out against Christianity (and religion in general) regardless of the topic of a religion-themed diary.

        Muslims and tigers and bears, oh my!

        by JDsg on Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 09:31:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  There's a good article in Salon (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JDsg

          right now about the subject ("Has militant atheism become a religion?"). "Baptist Bends" perfectly encapsulates the analysis.

          I never liked you and I always will.

          by Ray Blake on Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 10:28:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Good article. Enjoyed it. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Ray Blake

            "Sleeping furiously."  Loved that!

            It may one day help to test my thesis that activist atheism reflects trauma. The stricter one’s religious background, the greater the need to go against it and to replace old securities with new ones.
            I agree with this thought.

            Islam tries to keep the "Baptist Bends" at bay.  In one class I attended after my reversion to Islam, one of the teachers in the class told us that if we had been Christians previously, not to denigrate any of the prophets, like Jesus (pbuh), because the prophets of Christianity and Judaism are also the prophets of Islam (pbut).

            Muslims and tigers and bears, oh my!

            by JDsg on Wed Mar 27, 2013 at 12:27:03 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  An interesting series. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mudgod, JDsg, Mary Mike

    I've been wanting to see someone knowledgeable about Islam discuss a couple of questions that I have, questions that seem crucial for Islam in the modern world: Islam and equal rights (for women, gays, atheists). Also, Islam and the separation of church and state.

    Perhaps you could touch on these in a future diary?

    GOP: Bankers, billionaires, suckers, and dupes.

    by gzodik on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 07:08:36 AM PDT

    •  Insha'allah. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gzodik, Mary Mike

      I have several other diaries to write up first, though, and each diary is taking me a couple weeks to do (when I can get around to it, usually before going to sleep), so it might be a little while.

      Muslims and tigers and bears, oh my!

      by JDsg on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 08:37:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  @gzodik:I couldn't post as a reply for some reason (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gzodik

    In the interests of full disclosure I was raised Muslim but no longer believe in it.

    Women are second class citizens and are generally regarded as weak and in need of protection. Beatings are allowed to encourage obedience. Sex slavery is fine, Muhammad himself had sex slaves and condoned raping POW's. Women get half the inheritance of men, 2 women equate to the testimony of one man which has been used to argue that women are deficient in intelligence

    Beating
    Qur'an 4:34Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great.

    Abu Dawud 11:2142  
    Narrated Umar ibn al-Khattab: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: A man will not be asked as to why he beat his wife.

    Sex Slavery
    Quran 023.005-6 Who abstain from sex,Except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess,- for (in their case) they are free from blame

    Maria Qibtiya was Mohammads concubine which caused the fight between him and his wives wherein he temporarily divorced them all, no primary source lists her as a wife (Ibn e Ishaq and early biographies) but a lot of muslims state she was a wife without evidence
    Quran, Chapter 66 mentions a bit of it

    Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 34, Number 432 (other similar references exist as well):
        Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: hat while he was sitting with Allah's Apostle he said, "O Allah's Apostle! We get female captives as our share of booty, and we are interested in their prices, what is your opinion about coitus interrupt us?" The Prophet said, "Do you really do that? It is better for you not to do it. No soul that which Allah has destined to exist, but will surely come into existence.

  •  Progressive Tax? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JDsg

    You mentioned zakat is progressive tax. The zakat rate is fixed to 2.5% and does not increase with wealth. If I have 100k dollars as zakatable wealth, the rate is 2.5% and if I have 100 million dollars, the rate is still same.

    •  True, except that... (0+ / 0-)

      ...the poorest members of society pay no zakat at all.  In that regard, zakat can be considered a tax system with two different rates.

      Muslims and tigers and bears, oh my!

      by JDsg on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 05:47:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It is a wealth tax, like Ravi Batra recommends (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JDsg

      Those who accumulate masses of wealth (or inherit it) will pay a very large chunk of their income.

      And God said, "Let there be light"; and with a Big Bang, there was light. And God said "Ow! Ow My eyes!" and in a flash God separated light from darkness. "Whew! Now that's better. Now where was I. Oh yea . . ."

      by Pale Jenova on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 07:26:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you, JDsg! Once I had a Muslim friend (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gzodik, JDsg

    whom I was advising on financial matters.  She explained to me that she couldn't accumulate savings in this manner:

    They normally include savings; certain monies received from or deposited into pension funds; stocks, mutual funds and other investments;
    because earning interest on such money is forbidden.  Well, that stumped me and ended our financial discussion!  She also said that her spouse had stashed money in checking accounts all over town, just to do something with the excess cash.

    How do the faithful find it possible to save for their old age, or even emergencies?

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 01:46:13 PM PDT

    •  This is another one of those topics... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Diana in NoVa, SisTwo

      ...in which a diary or three could be written.

      It's true that the modern financial system is so highly dependent upon interest that it's extremely difficult to completely avoid any form of interest.  However, that doesn't mean that Muslims can't save for retirement.  It just means that Muslims have to be more careful in researching potential investments.

      Briefly, there are still a number of different financial assets that Muslims can invest in, many of which I already listed (and you quoted):  gold, silver and other precious metals, businesses, mutual funds, stocks, and so forth. Obviously, there's not going to be a problem with riba for precious metals. With businesses, the owners/managers can try to minimize the amount of interest income and interest expense the company may be exposed to (obviously more and more difficult the bigger the business grows; nor is everyone going to be good at managing a business).  

      For mutual funds, there are several Islamic mutual funds available; one of the bigger and better-known funds is Amana.  These funds screen stocks for several factors.  One is the level of interest income (the cutoff usually being 25% of total income), and another being the type of industry (industries involving interest (banking, insurance, etc.), pork, alcohol, pornography, gambling, tobacco and weaponry are normally off-limits).  You can see from Amana's Growth and Income fund holdings that they hold a lot of blue chips.

      What frequently happens for both stock and mutual fund investments is that the individuals will calculate what the percentage interest is that the investment earned in that year, and then donate that money as zakat or saudaqah, perhaps to non-Muslims, in order to avoid the interest and help to purify the investment.

      Muslims and tigers and bears, oh my!

      by JDsg on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 09:29:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Tipped & recced, including previous installments. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JDsg

    Thank you for contributing to understanding between cultures & religions. I look forward to reading your entire series!

    Time once again to fight cyber-spying! Defeat CISPA!

    by Brown Thrasher on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 09:20:16 PM PDT

  •  Thank you (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JDsg

    This is brilliant; well-written and made easy to understand. I like the explanation particularly of zakat as being more akin to a property tax than an income tax. It would be interesting to apply zakat rules to wealthy Americans (ahem Mitt Romney) who dodge income tax, but have multiple million dollar homes.

    I look forward to your next pillar explanation...

    The Bush Family: 0 for 4 in Wisconsin

    by Korkenzieher on Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 06:55:42 AM PDT

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