9: Repentance (Part IV — Zakat.)
Oh, how I love a 3 day weekend. I spent my break alternating between being incredibly productive and incredibly unproductive — chores and errands vs. sitting my ass on the couch to watch Penn & Teller: Bullshit! And I didn’t touch my Quran, except maybe to swat it out of the way so I could toss my feet up on the coffee table.
Here’s the deal: I’ve been getting a little burned out on the holey book lately. Too much doom and gloom, not enough fun. I used to be one of those obnoxious Pollyanna types who always sees the bright side of things. And this damn book has quickly turned me into a curmudgeonly old misanthrope. I feel like I’ve been walking around in a state of perpetual pissed offness. All frowns and eye rolls. When I see a woman in a hijab or a man in a prayer cap, I start foaming at the mouth and my eyeballs explode. Not pretty. So I took the weekend off to recuperate from all of that.
And then late last night, I started feeling a little guilty about taking a break. I realized that my last post — the one about jizyah — covered only one verse from chapter 9. One lousy, stinkin’ verse. If I squandered an entire post on every stupid verse in the Quran, I would probably have slit my wrists before I even got to chapter 3. (You do remember how horrendous chapter 2 was, don’t you?) I also realized that I’m a mere 31% of the way done with the book. How depressing.
That lit a fire under my ass. I’m back and ready to rock. This is the last post on chapter 9 and then we’ll hit the double digit chapter. I’ll make it a quick one because we’ve already discussed zakat in the comments of the jizyah post. You guys are way ahead of me. I have to play catch up, and with a book this repetitive, it feels like running in neverending circles. See above about eyeballs exploding.
Anyway, lets jump right in and do it to it. We got a whole book to get through, right?
Jizyah is to non-Muslims as zakat is to Muslims. Muslims have to cough up the cash, too, although it’s less of a per-head tax and more of a standardized tithing system. Check out what Wikipedia had to say:
It is often compared to the system of tithing and alms but unlike these older systems, it serves principally as the welfare contribution to poor and deprived people in the Muslim lands, although others may have a rightful share. It is the duty of the state not just to collect it; but to distribute it fairly as well.
Distribute it fairly, eh? I guess fairly is a pretty open-ended word, because zakat sometimes ends up in the hands of terrorist organizations. Check it out:
Humanitarian organizations present an especially sensitive challenge, as authorities must discern between legitimate charity organizations, those unknowingly hijacked by terrorists who divert funds, and others deliberately engaged in supporting terrorist groups. Leaders of the latter organizations raise funds both from individuals purposely seeking to fund terrorist groups as well as from innocent contributors unwitting of the groups’ links to terrorists.
Nice, huh? You can read the entire article here. Take some Tums beforehand, babies, because that’s heartburn city right there. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The standard rate Muslims have to pay is 2.5% annually. And they have to pay it on their collective wealth, which includes things like cars, jewelry, clothes, etc. Still, it’s cheaper to be a Muslim than a non-Muslim, and I imagine this led to a lot of fake conversions back in the desert days. Besides being cheaper, zakat also differs from jizyah in that it goes directly towards charity. Awwwww! Warm fuzzies!
You know what? I’m all for donating money to good causes and helping people out — I do my part by donating money to good causes whenever I can. For instance, Planned Parenthood is getting a chunk of my tax returns from now until the day I die. I give money to charity whenever I can afford it, and there’s that little CafePress thing I’m trying to do. When I was in college and couldn’t really afford to donate money, I made a PB&J sandwich every day to give to the first homeless person I ran into (highly recommend this — PB&J stays fresh all day long. Plus who the hell doesn’t love PB&J?? Commies, that’s who.) I do what I can. I don’t do it because it’s mandatory or because I want to go to heaven. And here’s the best part: my dollars are going to people regardless of whether they believe in God or not.
Zakat doesn’t work like that. In order to receive zakat, you must be Muslim. There are a few exceptions, though. Check it out:
(60) Charities are meant for the indigent and needy, and those who collect and distribute them, and those whom you wish to win over, and for redeeming slaves (and captives) and those who are burdened with debt, and in the cause of God, and the wayfarers: So does God ordain. God is all-knowing and all-wise.
My favorite part of that verse: those whom you wish to win over. Well, shit, maybe that’s why God and I don’t see eye to eye on this subject! See, I don’t really expect anything back when I give a bum a dollar. I don’t expect them to believe in what I believe or reject what I reject. I even try not to gag when they (almost inevitably) say “God bless you.”
Apparently God’s got a very different M.O. His bottom line is to put money into his own pockets. Only he doesn’t have pockets since he doesn’t fucking exist, so the next in line will do. Guess who that would be. I said fucking guess, damnit!
(102) But there are others who admit their sins of mixing good deeds with evil. It may be that God will accept their repentance, for God is forgiving and kind.
(103) Accept the offerings they make from their wealth in order to cleanse and purify them for progress, and invoke blessings upon them. Your blessings will surely bring them peace, for God hears all and knows everything.
(104) Do they not know that God accepts the repentance of His creatures and receives what they offer in charity, and that He is forgiving and kind?
Accept the offerings they make from their wealth. That’s a command from God to — who else? — Mohammed! I especially enjoyed the bit about how repentance and donations go hand in hand. Donate money to God’s cause and earn his forgiveness. Indulgences, anyone?? It may not be as systematized as it was in Christianity, but the message to the Muslims is always the same: if you’re a true believer, you’ll give your money to Mohammed God. That’s how you earn his love!
(18) Only those who believe in God and the Last Day, who fulfil their devotional obligations, pay the zakat, and fear no one but God, can visit the mosques of God. They may hope to be among the guided.
(71) Those who believe, men and women, befriend one another, and enjoin what is right and prohibit what is wrong. They observe their devotional obligations, pay the zakat, and obey God and His Apostle. God will be merciful to them, for God is all-mighty and all-wise.
(20) Those who accepted the faith and left their homes and fought in the way of God, wealth and soul, have a greater reward with God, and will be successful.
(41) O believers, go out in the cause of God, (whether) light or heavy, and strive in the service of God, wealth and soul. This is better for you if you understand.
(44) Those who believe in God and the Last Day, do not ask your leave to be excused from fighting wealth and soul (in the cause of God), for God knows the pious and devout.
Here’s what it basically boils down to: God made us a bunch of tightwads and he has to impose a mandatory percentage of money that you have to give to help other people out. He could probably just have avoided the whole thing by giving everyone an equal income so they didn’t have to rely on charity. Or by giving people a built-in desire to give money to charities, so there would be no need for prophets to heckle people into giving him 2.5% of their annual income. But he didn’t. And that’s why he has to heckle us:
(67) The hypocrites (are the same) whether men or women, the one of them being of the other. They encourage what is bad and dissuade from the good, and tighten their purses (when it comes to spending in the way of God).
That’s all I’ve got on zakat. Coming up next: chapter 10, Jonah. Don’t get too excited now. It’s mostly just the same stories about the same prophets rehashed pretty much in the same words. The Quran is great like that. Head, meet desk. Repeat.
Some verses from chapter 9 that are worth mentioning, but not worth devoting an entire post to.
- Check out how God eggs on the Muslims to fight the pagans. The only thing missing is God calling the Muslims chickens and pussies:
(13) Will you not fight those who broke their pledge and plotted to banish the Apostle, and who were the first to attack you? Are you afraid of them? If you are believers you should fear God more.
(14) Fight them so that God may punish them at your hands, and put them to shame, and help you against them, and heal the wounds of the hearts of believers,
(15) And remove the anger from their breasts; for God turns to whooever desires. God is all-knowing and all-wise.
- God calls the Arabs a bunch of bumpkins. Teehee! (97) The village Arabs are more obstinate in disbelief and hypocrisy, and impervious to ordinances revealed to His Apostle by God; yet God is aware of everything and is wise.
(98) Some of these rustics take whatever they spend in the way of God as a penalty, and wait for an adverse turn in your fortune. For them will be the adverse change, as God hears all and knows everything.
- Ohz noz, Mohammed, your crazy is showing:
(61) There are some among them who talk ill of the Prophet by saying: “He listens to everyone.” Tell them: “He listens for your good, and trusts in God and trusts the faithful, and he is a blessing for those who believe. For those who offend the Apostle of God there is painful punishment.”