"The third pillar of Islam involves a serious redistribution of wealth. Since all is given by God, then nothing of what I own is mine, unless it is shared according to God's will. Muslims traditionally give 2.5 percent of their wealth to the poor, although this tithing sometimes has taken the form of a tax if the government is Muslim. Nevertheless, the intent remains the same: to give to the poor and to be a just and peace-filled society.

"The principle of almsgiving stems from Muhammad's alarm at the sight of the poor during his early days as a traveling merchant. He witnessed the unjust burden of the masses and the opulence of the ruling families and decided that he and his followers would make sure that the poor had food, clothing and shelter. He saw that all creatures belong to God and that Allah would repay each according to their good deeds on Earth and in heaven. . . .

"The revelation in the Qur'an is that in this world the rich must give to the poor to guarantee a place in heaven with the angels and Allah. In practice, therefore almsgiving is an insurance policy to be entitled to heaven. The gathering of alms also exemplifies to Muslims that they are an umma, a community.

"Such generosity is based on two teachings. First, as we have seen, all goods are gifts of God and God has told us to share them. Secondly, these gifts are blessings and rewards from God and will be taken away if not used rightly. For Muslims, giving to the poor is not optional; it is the duty of bowing with one's goods. There are no exceptions — all are expected to give annually. In practice, this means that a Muslim who makes $40,000 gives about $1,000 off the net income. . . .

For the Muslim, God does not plan for his creatures to be poor. A Muslim feels blessed for being alive and understands that he is created by God and so surrenders his life to God. As part of his surrender, islam, the Muslim provides for the poor and thus receives God's mercy and goodness through economic prosperity. This instills more gratitude as well as salvation in the hereafter, which stimulates still further surrender. In this way, Islam is firm, dynamic and actual — a universal pattern that God first set in motion at Creation."