The money that we pay as Zakah is not something Allah needs or receives. He is above any want and desire. He, in His benign Mercy, promises us manifold rewards if we help our brethren. But there is one basic condition for being thus rewarded: when we pay in the name of Allah, we shall neither expect nor demand any worldly gains from the beneficiaries nor aim at becoming known as philanthropists.
Zakah is as basic to Islam as other forms of ‘Ibadah: Salah (prayer) and Sawm (fasting). Its fundamental importance lies in the fact that it fosters in us the quality of sacrifice and rids us of selfishness. Islam accepts within its fold only those who are ready to give away in God's way some of their hard-earned wealth willingly and without any temporal or personal gain. It has nothing to do with misers. A true Muslim will, when the call comes, sacrifice all his belongings in the way of Allah, for Zakah has already trained him to do so.
Muslim society has much to gain from the institution of Zakah. It is the bounden duty of every well-to-do Muslim to help his lowly-placed, poor brethren. His wealth is not to be spent solely for his own comfort and luxury -there are rightful claimants on his wealth, and they are the nation's widows and orphans, the poor and the invalid; those who have the ability but lack the means to get useful employment and those who have the talent but not the money to acquire knowledge and become useful members of the community. He who does not recognize the call on his wealth of such members of his own community is indeed cruel. For there could be no greater cruelty than to fill one's own coffers while others die of hunger or suffer the agonies of unemployment. Islam is a sworn enemy of selfishness, greed and acquisitiveness. Disbelievers, devoid of sentiments of universal love, know only how to preserve wealth and to add to it by lending it out on interest. Islam's teachings are the antithesis of this attitude. Here one shares one's wealth with others and helps them stand on their own feet and become productive members of society.