It’s Gen Z who will be the next set of lawmakers, and that’s why it is up to them to learn more about advancing Zakat as a vehicle for social change.
Why Gen Z Needs to Learn More About Zakat
As Gen Z enters the workforce, they will kick off the start of a lifelong career trajectory. With this career, many Muslim Gen Zers will start to earn enough money to meet the minimum amount of wealth (known as nisab), qualifying them to pay Zakat.
Why Is Zakat So Important?
Social movements gain traction as younger generations rebel against antiquated systems. The concept of the 40-hour, office-based workweek is losing its support.
Those 40 hours a week amount to about a quarter of one’s time without even factoring in commutes or overtime. The average worker, though, sacrifices time and, in many ways, money, to work for companies that do not provide adequate (or sometimes any) parental leave, severely limit sick days and do not adjust pay rates to cover the cost of inflation. But this issue is not reflected throughout the entirety of most corporate environments.
The Economic Policy Institute found that the CEO-to-typical-worker compensation ratio (options realized) was 20-to-1 in 1965 and 58-to-1 in 1989. From 1978 to 2018, CEO compensation grew by 1,007.5%, whereas wages for the typical worker grew by just 11.9%. That wage gap grew even larger from 2018 to 2019. CEOs now earn 320 times as much as a typical worker, the institute found in an Aug. 2020 study.
This trend is not new nor surprising, but it is telling. “The IRS records show that the wealthiest can — perfectly legally — pay income taxes that are only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of millions, if not billions, their fortunes grow each year,” a ProPublica report explains. Tax laws make it easier for the richest to pay less in income tax than the poorest.
Tax and business laws, though, do not always focus on the moral issues that severe financial disparities create, as lobbyists make active efforts to prevent increasing taxes on the ultra-rich. Corporate executives worldwide get richer but do not always step up to the task of using that acquired wealth to create positive change.
That is what paying Zakat is for: uplifting the poor rather than hoarding money. But that is just the start. For Muslims young and older climbing the corporate ladder and finding themselves accepting higher-paying jobs, this wealth acquisition becomes a direct call to give Zakat at the bare minimum, and to extend that goodness by giving in Sadaqah. Purifying one’s wealth through charitable spending.
To break it down simply, it is a Muslim’s responsibility to give two types of charity: mandatory (Zakat) and voluntary (Sadaqah).
Muslims whose wealth exceeds a specific threshold must pay Zakat. There are different wealth types upon which Muslims owe Zakat, and they are calculated at different rates. Commonly addressed is Zakat is on monetary income (as opposed to, for example, property or agricultural income), focusing on how much one has in the bank after paying off necessary living expenses. When to pay depends on how long one has held that wealth.
Corporate greed is comparable to a disease of both the heart and soul, seeking to take more and more at the expense of those who need it most. Combatting it starts with giving more and more despite one’s love for the extravagant comforts in life.
You shall never attain righteousness unless you spend from what you love. Whatsoever you spend, Allah is fully aware of it.”
Gen Z Can Be A More Equitable Generation
It is up to each generation to teach the next to spend from what they love. This first step to countering one’s inner greed is also the first step to creating a social movement that admonishes wealth hoarding, promotes a system of fair and equitable compensation, and opens easier, more direct avenues to give to those in need.
Generation Z, by nature of being the latest generation in a more interconnected world, is the most racially and ethnically diverse yet, and they are on track to become the most formally educated generation in history. Teaching the value and necessity of Zakat to young Muslims and non-Muslims alike is a responsibility that comes with being formally educated.
Understanding the charitable contributions Muslims make on a daily basis — let alone during Ramadan or leading up to the days of Eid al-Adha — will not only help counter Islamophobia on a surface level but also break down the myths that propel it through a higher base-level of understanding.
Gen Z is seeing children from around the world help their families amass wealth through YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and other social media popularity. These nontraditional revenue streams are entering the hands of an educated younger generation that sees what financial corruption has done to those just a decade older than them — student debt and affordable housing crises, mass food insecurity, large corporations putting small businesses out of business at the height of a pandemic, and much more.
These systemic issues won’t be fixed without morally responsible, equitable business and tax laws, but Zakat and Sadaqah are clear, direct ways for Muslims to alleviate those stresses for the poor while lawmakers create meaningful solutions. It’s Gen Z who will be the next set of lawmakers, and that’s why it is up to them to learn more about advancing Zakat as a vehicle for social change.
What Are Some Zakat Resources for Gen Z?
Zakat Foundation of America provides entirely free, online resources to learn more about what Zakat is, how it is used, who is eligible to receive it, and much more. Their scholars answer frequently asked as well as niche questions about both Zakat and Sadaqah. They have also developed a convenient Zakat calculator.
Don’t delay paying your Zakat. Pay your Zakat online here.