In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
(Friday speech delivered by Imam Mohamad Baianonie at the Islamic Center of Raleigh, N .C. on April 17, 1987)
Zakat is the third Pillar of Islam. It is sometimes translated as alms or poor-due, but actually means purification, growth, and blessing.
Zakat purifies the heart from the detested trait of stinginess, and also purifies the wealth by giving out a portion of that wealth. It also causes the wealth to grow through Allah's blessings. While regular charity is strongly recommended and abundantly rewarded by Allah (S.W.T.), Zakat is a debt we owe Allah (S.W.T.), and must be paid as a part of our belief in Him.
Zakat, as a specific amount, was ordained in Madinah during the month of Shawwal of the second year of Hijrah. In order to emphasize its importance, the order to give Zakat is associated with the order to perform prayers over eighty times in the Qur'an. In one Ayah which is repeated many times Allah (S.W.T.) says: "... And perform prayers and give Zakat..." and in Surat At-Tawbah (9:103), Allah (S.W.T.) says to His Messenger (S.A.W.) " Of their wealth take alms so that, through it, you may purify and sanctify them..."
The order to give Zakat is established numerous times not only in the Qur'an, but also in the Ahadith of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.). In a Hadith narrated by Imams Al-Bukhari and Muslim, the Prophet (S.A.W.) said: "Islam is built on five pillars..." and he mentioned Zakat as one of them. Also Imams Al-Bukhari, Muslim, and others narrated that when the Prophet (S.A.W.) sent Mu'ath to the people of Yemen, he told him: "... And let them know that Allah has ordained on them alms, to be taken from their rich (people) and given to their poor..."
There are several Ayat (verses) and Ahadith that warn about the severe consequences for those who do not pay Zakat. We read in Surat At-Tawbah (9:34-35): "... And those who hoard gold and silver and spend them not in the way of Allah, announce unto them a most grievous penalty. On the Day, when they (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." What is meant by "hoarded" here is every wealth on which Zakat was due but was not paid.
Imams Al-Bukhari, Muslim and Ahmad narrated a Hadith in which the Prophet (S.A.W.) says: "For every owner of a hoarded wealth on which he does not pay Zakat, this wealth will be heated in the fire of Hell and made into sheets with which his flanks and forehead will be branded until Allah 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."
The companions of the Prophet (S.A.W.) have unanimously agreed, during Abu-Bakr's term of Khilafah, to fight those who refused to pay Zakat; and they did in fact fight those who withheld Zakat.
WHO MUST PAY ZAKAT?
Zakat is obligatory on every Muslim, male or female, who has an amount of money, called "Nisab", in excess of his/her basic needs that has stayed in his/her possession for one whole lunar year.
HOW IS NISAB DETERMINED?
Nisab is either the equivalent of the price of eighty five (85) grams of gold which, according to today's market value, is worth about seven hundred dollars ($700), or the equivalent of the price of five hundred and ninety five (595) grams of silver, which is worth about one hundred and forty dollars ($140). A Muslim can choose either one of the two estimates. Some scholars are of the opinion that it is preferable to consider the Nisab definition, which would help the needy, the most, i.e. the definition based on the value of silver. It is important to remember that Zakat is calculated based on the total amount of wealth owned at the end of the lunar year, not only the Nisab.
WHAT IS MEANT BY BASIC NEEDS?
Basic needs refer to the things one cannot do without. These may include any or all of the following: food, clothing, housing, and transportation for oneself and one's dependents. Dependents include spouse, children who are unable to earn their living, and parents who are in need.
HOW IS ZAKAT YEAR DETERMINED?
Zakat year is one lunar year starting from the time one's wealth reaches the Nisab. If the wealth drops below the Nisab any time during the year, one should stop counting days and start again the day the wealth reaches the Nisab. For example, if you choose the gold definition of the Nisab (i.e. seven hundred dollars ($700), and you have:
So, if a person's wealth consists of gold, silver, cash, stocks, bonds, and merchandise(1), he/she should add up the values of all these possessions. If the total amount is equal to or greater than the Nisab, and it has stayed above the Nisab for one whole lunar year, then Zakat is due on this wealth, at a rate of two and a half percent (2.5%) of the amount owned at the end of the year.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE TO RECEIVE ZAKAT?
There are eight categories of people eligible to receive Zakat. They have been specified in the Qur'an in Surat At-Tawbah (9:60): "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 Allah, and the wayfarer, (thus it is) ordained by Allah, and Allah is most knowledgeable, most wise."
Based on this Ayah, the ways of spending Zakat funds can be classified as follows:
- For the poor (Fuqara') who do not have enough to take care of their basic needs.
- For the needy (Masakeen) whose basic needs are met but their income does not take care of other important needs.
- For those whose sole job is to collect and distribute the Zakat funds.
- For those who are close to accepting Islam as a religion, and those 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 Allah (S.W.T.): the scholars have said that what is meant here is that Zakat can be given to those who volunteer to fight in the cause of Allah (S.W.T.) 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 though he might be rich otherwise. He should be given enough money to allow him to return to his homeland.
It is preferable that Zakat be paid to the poor and the needy among the relatives first. As we will see shortly, not all relatives qualify to receive Zakat.
WHO IS NOT ELIGIBLE TO RECEIVE ZAKAT?
There are categories of people who are not eligible to receive Zakat. They include:
- the rich who have enough to support themselves
- 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. About these two categories, Imam Abu Dawood narrated an authentic Hadith where the Prophet (S.A.W.) said: "Alms are not to be given to the rich or to the well-built." The term "well-built" conveys the meaning that he is able to work and support himself.
In addition, Zakat cannot be paid to:
Finally, Zakat cannot be paid to:
- one's dependents whom he is responsible for supporting. These include the wife, the parents, grandparents (up to the eldest living grand grandparent), children, and grandchildren (down to the last born grand grandchild).
- a non-Muslim, unless this person belongs to category No. 4 of those eligible to receive Zakat.
WHAT IF I HAVE A DEBT, SHOULD I EXCLUDE THAT FROM THE AMOUNT ON WHICH I HAVE TO PAY ZAKAT?
Debts are usually of two types:
- due for payback in the immediate future, and
- long-term payback arrangement. If the debt is due in the very near future at the time of paying Zakat, this debt can be excluded from the amount on which Zakat is due. However, if the debt is being paid back as installments, say every month or every year, then the amount that has been paid back over the previous lunar year is subtracted from the total income in the process of calculating Zakat.
IS IT PERMISSIBLE TO TRANSFER ZAKAT MONEY TO AN AREA OTHER THAN WHERE IT WAS COLLECTED?
In principle, Zakat should be distributed among the people in the area where it was collected, for this has been mentioned in the Hadith when Mu'ath (R.A.) was sent to Yemen. However, if there were no people eligible to receive Zakat in the same area where Zakat was collected or if there were Zakat money left over after distribution, then this money can be sent to other areas where it is needed.
DO WOMEN HAVE TO PAY ZAKAT ON THEIR JEWELRY?
The scholars have agreed that jewelry made of precious stones or metals other than gold or silver does not necessitate paying Zakat. As for jewelry that is made of gold or silver, the scholars have not reached a unified opinion. Some see that Zakat is due on this type of jewelry; among them is Saeed Ibnul-Musayyeb, Saeed Ibnu-Jubair, Mujahed, and Imam Abu Hanifah. They have drawn their evidence from the Hadith which starts with "For every owner of gold or silver who does not pay their duty (i.e. Zakat), this wealth will be heated in the fire of Hell and made into sheets..." In another Hadith, narrated by Imam Abu Dawood, a woman came to the Prophet (S.A.W.) accompanied by her daughter in whose hand there were two bulky bracelets made of gold. The Prophet (S.A.W.) asked the mother: "Do you pay Zakat on these?" She answered "No". The Prophet (S.A.W.) said: "Would you like that Allah exchange them for two bracelets made of fire (you'd wear on the Day of Judgement)?"
On the other hand, there are scholars who say Zakat is not due on this type of jewelry; they include Ash-Sha'bi, Tawoos, Imam Malik, Ash-Shafe'i, and Ahmad. They have drawn their evidence from a narration by Imam Malik that Aa'isha (R.A.), looked after her orphaned nieces who used to wear jewelry and she did not pay Zakat on the jewelry. Imam Malik also narrated that Abdullah Ibn Omar, (R.A.), used to give his daughters and female servants jewelry made of gold and he did not pay Zakat on it.
It should be noted, however, that stored gold and silver, whether in the form of jewelry or otherwise, are considered savings and thus are included in the calculation of Zakat.
WHAT IF ZAKAT WAS NOT PAID FOR YEARS, DOES IT HAVE TO BE PAID NOW?
Zakat is considered a debt we owe Allah (S.W.T.), and it should be paid when it is due without any delay. If a person is supposed to pay Zakat and he/she neglected to pay it for years with or without a legitimate reason, then the whole amount of Zakat which he/she missed paying should be paid immediately after calculating it precisely. Moreover, if he/she had no legitimate reason for being late to pay Zakat, he/she should repent and ask Allah (S.W.T.) for forgiveness.
CAN ZAKAT BE PAID, PARTIALLY OR FULLY, BEFORE IT IS DUE?
Yes, according to some Fiqh scholars. A situation may arise where there is a need to give out some or all of the anticipated Zakat amount before Zakat year is over. In this case, the amount given out with the intention of being considered Zakat, is deducted from the actual Zakat amount due at the end of Zakat year.
Finally, here at the Islamic Center, we have a committee that collects and spend Zakat-ul-mal. If you would like to give your Zakat-ul-mal through this committee please deposit it in the donation box in the lobby.