(Prepared by Mohamed Baianonie, Imaam at the Islamic Center of Raleigh, NC)
Updated on July 26, 2013
Zakaat is the third pillar of Islaam. It is sometimes translated as alms. Linguistically, zakaah means growth, purification and blessing.
Zakaat purifies the heart from the horrible trait of stinginess, and it also purifies one's wealth by distributing a portion of it. It also causes the wealth to grow with Allaah's blessings. While regular charity is strongly recommended and greatly rewarded, Zakaat is a debt we owe to Allaah ﷻ and it must be paid as a part of our belief in Him.
Zakaat eventually became a specific amount after it was ordained in Madeenah during the month of Shawwaal of the second year of Hijrah. In order to emphasize its importance, Allaah orders giving Zakaat and performing prayers together over eighty times in the Qur'aan. In one verse which is repeated many times Allaah ﷻ says what may be interpreted as, "... And perform prayers and give Zakaat..." and Allaah ﷻ says to His Messenger ﷺ what may be interpreted as, "Of their wealth take alms so that, through it, you may purify and sanctify them..." [Surat At-Taubah, verse 103]
Not only does the Qur'aan order giving Zakaat, but there are numerous sayings of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ that order it as well. For example, the Prophet ﷺ said: "Islam is built on five pillars..." [Recorded by Imaams Al-Bukhaari and Muslim] and he mentioned Zakaat as one of them. Also when the Prophet ﷺ sent Mu'aadh to the people of Yemen, he told him: "... And let them know that Allaah has ordained on them alms, to be taken from their rich (people) and given to their poor..." [Recorded by the group of Hadeeth collectors]
There are several verses and Ahaadeeth that warn us about the severe consequences for those who do not pay Zakaat. Allaah ﷻ says what may be interpreted as, "... And those who hoard gold and silver and spend them not in the way of Allaah announce unto them a most grievous penalty. On the Day, when they [the gold and silver] will be heated in the fire of Hell and used to brand their foreheads, their flanks, and their backs. This is what you have hoarded for yourselves, taste you then what you have hoarded." [Surat At-Taubah, verse 34] The word "hoarded" used in this hadeeth refers to one's wealth on which Zakaat was due but not paid.
The Prophet ﷺ said: "For every owner of hoarded wealth on which he does not pay Zakaat, this wealth will be heated in the fire of Hell and made into sheets with which his flanks and forehead will be branded until Allaah passes judgment among His servants on a day that measures fifty thousand years (of our reckoning), then his path will be shown, either to Heaven or to Hell." [Recorded by Imaams Bukhaari, Muslim and Ahmad]
The companions of the Prophet ﷺ have unanimously agreed, during Abuu-Bakr's term of Khilaafah, to fight those who refused to pay Zakaat. As a result of their decision, they fought those who withheld Zakaat during Abuu Bakr's term.
WHO MUST PAY ZAKAAT ?
Zakaat is obligatory on every Muslim, male or female, who has a surplus of money, called "Nisaab". Nisaab must be extra money saved in one's possession for one whole lunar year, after a person has covered the basic needs of oneself and dependents. Nisaab determines whether a person is obligated to pay Zakaat or not.
HOW IS NISAAB DETERMINED?
There are two standards that determine the amount of Nisaab. The first Nisaab is the equivalent of the price of eighty five (85) grams of pure gold which, according to today's market value, is worth three thousands nine hundred seventy dollars and thirty five cents ($3,970.35). The second Nisaab is the equivalent of the price of five hundred and ninety five (595) grams of silver, which is worth four hundred sixteen dollars and five cents ($416.5). A Muslim can choose from either estimation to determine whether they are obligated to pay Zakaat or not. Some scholars prefer the Nisaab estimation for silver, since it is lower, so that more people would be required to pay Zakaat and the poor would get more help. It is important to know that Zakaat is calculated based on the total amount of wealth in one's possession at the end of the lunar year, not only the minimum amount of Nisaab.
WHAT IS MEANT BY BASIC NEEDS?
Basic needs refer to the things one cannot live without. These necessities may include any or all of the following: food, clothing, housing, and transportation for oneself and one's dependents. Dependents may include wives, children or grandchildren who are unable to earn their living and parents or grandparents who are in need.
HOW IS A ZAKAAT YEAR DETERMINED?
A Zakaat year is one lunar year starting from the time one's wealth reaches the Nisaab. If the wealth drops below the Nisaab at any time during the year, one should stop counting the days and start again the day the wealth reaches the Nisaab. Here is one scenario which follows the gold estimation for Nisaab (three thousands nine hundred seventy dollars and thirty five cents ($3,970.35)).
For example, if a person's wealth consists of gold, silver, cash, stocks, bonds, and merchandise, one should add up the values of all these possessions. If the total amount is equal to or greater than the ($3,970.35) dollar Nisaab, and it has stayed at or above ($3,970.35) dollar amount for a complete lunar year, then Zakaat is due on this wealth. Zakaat must be paid on his wealth at a rate of two and a half percent (2.5%) of the amount possessed at the end of the year.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE TO RECEIVE ZAKAAT ?
There are eight categories of people eligible to receive Zakaat. They have been specified in the Qur'aan. Allaah ﷻ says what may be interpreted as, "Alms are for the poor, the needy, the employees who administer the funds, those whose hearts have been recently reconciled to the Truth, those in bondage, those in debt, in the cause of Allaah, and the wayfarer, (thus it is) ordained by Allaah, and Allaah is most knowledgeable, most wise." [Surat At-Taubah, (verse 60)]
Based on this verse, the following groups are eligible to receive Zakaat funds:
- The poor (Fuqaraa') who do not have enough income to cover basic needs.
- The needy (Masaakeen) whose basic needs are met but their income does not take care of other important needs.
- Those whose sole job is to collect and distribute the Zakaat funds.
- Those who are close to accepting Islaam and non-Muslims whose evil can be avoided if they receive money.
- For freeing a Muslim person from bondage (whether a slave in the old times, or a prisoner of war in our times).
- For those who are indebted and cannot pay their debts.
- In the cause of Allaah ﷻ: the scholars have said that what is meant here is that Zakaat can be given to those who volunteer to fight in the cause of Allaah ﷻ and do not receive a fixed salary from the government.
- For the wayfarer who is stranded in a foreign land and cannot get enough money to go back to his homeland, even if he is wealthy in his homeland. He should be given enough money to allow him to return to his homeland.
It is preferable that Zakaat be paid to the poor and the needy among one's relatives first. As we will see shortly, not all relatives qualify to receive Zakaat.
WHO IS NOT ELIGIBLE TO RECEIVE ZAKAAT ?
There are five categories of people who are not eligible to receive Zakaat. They are: 1) the rich who have enough to support themselves; 2) the healthy person who is capable of working and earning his living, unless he cannot find a job or his job does not provide him with enough money to support himself and his family. The Prophet ﷺ mentioned these two categories of people and he said: "Alms are not to be given to the rich or to the well-built." [Recorded by the five of Hadeeth collectors]The term "well-built" in this hadeeth means that he is able to work and support himself.
In addition, Zakaat cannot be paid to: 3) one's dependents for whom he is responsible for supporting including: his wife, parents, grandparents (up to the eldest living great grandparent), children, and grandchildren (down to the last born great grandchild). However, since a woman is not financially responsible for any dependents, then she can pay Zakaat to her husband, father, brother, or anyone else including family if they are poor. Also, Zakaat cannot be paid to: 4) a non-Muslim, unless he qualifies to receive Zakaat from one of the mentioned categories. Finally, Zakaat cannot be paid to: 5) the family of the prophet Muhammad ﷺ, this includes the families of Banuu Haashim and Banuu Al-Mut-Talib. The Prophet, ﷺ said: "Indeed, sadaqah ought not to be given to the family of Muhammad ..." [Recorded by Imaam Muslim] Abuu Hurairah (R.A.) narrated that when Al-Hasan took one date from the sadaqah dates, the Prophet, ﷺ said to him: "Nay spit it out! Don't you know that we cannot eat from charity?" [Recorded by Imaams Bukhaari and Muslim]
WHAT IF I AM IN DEBT, SHOULD I EXCLUDE MY DEBT FROM THE AMOUNT ON WHICH I HAVE TO PAY ZAKAAT ?
There are two types of debts: a) one that must be paid immediately in full and b) one that must be paid in installments. The amount of the debt that is due immediately can be excluded from the total amount of Zakaat that is due. However, if you are paying the debt in installments, then only the due installment can be exempted from Zakaat.
IS IT PERMISSIBLE TO DISTRIBUE ZAKAAT MONEY TO AN AREA OTHER THAN WHERE IT WAS COLLECTED?
In principle, Zakaat should be distributed among the people in the area where it was collected; this has been mentioned in the hadeeth when the Prophet ﷺ sent Mu'aadh (R.A.) to Yemen. However, if there were no people eligible to receive Zakaat in the same area where it was collected or if there was Zakaat money left over after distribution, then this money can be sent to other areas as needed.
DO WOMEN HAVE TO PAY ZAKAAT ON THEIR JEWELRY?
The scholars have agreed that jewelry made of precious stones or metals other than gold or silver is exempt from Zakaat. As for jewelry that is made of gold or silver, the scholars have varied in their opinions. Some say that Zakaat is due on this type of jewelry; among those scholars are Imaams Sa'eed Ibnul-Musayyeb, Sa'eed Ibnu-Jubair, Mujaahed, and Imaam Abu Hanifah. They support their opinions with the Hadeeth which starts with "For every owner of gold or silver who does not pay their duty (i.e. Zakaat), this wealth will be heated in the fire of Hell and made into sheets..." In another Hadeeth, a woman came to the Prophet ﷺ accompanied by her daughter in whose hand were two bulky bracelets made of gold. The Prophet ﷺ asked the mother: "Do you pay Zakaat on these?" She answered "No". The Prophet ﷺ said: "Would you like that Allaah exchange them for two bracelets made of fire (you'd wear on the Day of Judgment)?"
On the other hand, there are scholars who say Zakaat is not due on this type of jewelry; among those scholars are Imaams Ash-Sha'bi, Taawoos, Maalik, Ash-Shaafe'i, and Imaam Ahmad. They support their opinions with a narration that Aa'isha (R.A.) looked after her orphaned nieces who used to wear jewelry and she did not pay Zakaat on the jewelry. In another narration, Abdullaah Ibn Omar, (R.A.), used to give his daughters and female servants jewelry made of gold and he did not pay Zakaat on it.
It should be noted, however, that gold and silver in storage, whether in the form of jewelry or otherwise, are considered savings and thus are included in the calculation of Zakaat.
WHAT IF ZAKAAT WAS NOT PAID FOR YEARS, DOES IT HAVE TO BE PAID NOW?
Zakaat is considered a debt we owe Allaah ﷻ, and it should be paid when it is due without any delay. If a person is supposed to pay Zakaat and they neglected to pay it for years with or without a legitimate reason, then the whole amount of Zakaat which they missed paying should be paid immediately after precise calculations. Moreover, if they had no legitimate reason for being late to pay Zakaat they should pay it immediately and repent and ask Allaah ﷻ for forgiveness.
CAN ZAKAAT BE PAID BEFORE IT IS DUE, PARTIALLY OR FULLY?
Yes, according to some scholars, this is permissible if a situation arises when there is a need to give out some or the entire anticipated Zakaat amount before the lunar year is over. In this case, the amount given out with the intention of being considered Zakaat is deducted from the actual Zakaat amount due at the end of lunar year.
Let us not forget that Zakaat is a very important pillar of Islaam. It purifies one's heart and one's wealth. It is important to keep in mind that Zakaat is a debt we owe Allaah ﷻ and it must be paid in order for our faith to be complete.
Finally, here at the Islamic Center of Raleigh, we have a committee that collects and distributes Zakaat-ul-maal. If you would like to give your Zakaat-ul-maal through this committee please deposit it in the donation box in the lobby.