Importance of Zakat
To pay zakat is
one of the fundamental articles of faith for a Muslim. Zakat is one
of the five columns or pillars upon which the whole edifice of Islam
is built. Next to Salat (payer), Zakat is the most important of the
religious obligations enjoined on the followers of Islam.
The importance of
Zakat in Islam can be judged from this very fact that the Qur’an,
the revealed book of Islam, mentions Zakat for more than eighty
times, while for twenty seven times commandments regarding Zakat are
found in close connection with obligatory Salat (prayer).
The word ‘Zakat’
literally means ‘growth’ or ‘increase’ or ‘nourishment’. Thus Zakat
means ‘to grow’, ‘to increase’ or ‘to purify’. Zakat helps the
purification of human soul from miserliness, selfishness, lust and
greed of wealth and thus it paves the way for its growth and
development. The spending of wealth for the sake of Allah purifies
the heart of man from the love of materialism and instead inculcates
in his heart love of God and love of humanity. Apart from its moral
and spiritual effects, Zakat has also many economic and social
repercussions. It establishes brotherhood, friendship and fraternity
among the rich and the poor. Zakat prevents the concentration of
wealth in few hands and ensures its distribution in the hands of
many. It also discourages hoarding and brings about the circulation
of capital into the national economy. In this way, Zakat ensures the
growth of national wealth and promotes national integration and
In the days of the
Prophet and early Muslim caliphs, Zakat was compulsorily collected
by the state as a tax and was spent strictly on the welfare of the
poor and destitute as prescribed by the Qur’an. However the later
Muslim rulers did not pay their proper attention to its collection
on behalf of state and so it became a private charity, each believer
paying it at his will to the poor in his locality. Recently the
forces of Islamic revival have made several Muslim states to create
institutions for collection of Zakat on behalf of government and for
spending of it for the cause of the welfare of the poor.
Verses of the
Please refer to
al-Qur’an 2:43, 2:110, 2:177, 2:277, 9:18, 9:60, 9:103, 22:41,
23:1-5, 24:56, 30:39, 98:5.
Ahadith of the
Some of the
Traditions of the Prophet about Zakat are:
Ibn Omar reported that the Holy Prophet said:
Islam is built on five things, to bear witness that there is no
deity but Allah and that Muhammad (PBUH) is His servant, to keep up
prayer, to pay Zakat, to make pilgrimage and to keep fast in
Ibn Abbas reported that the Holy Prophet sent
Mu’az to Yemen saying: Certainly you will come across a people, the
People of the Book. Call them to bear witness that there is no God
but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. If they
submit to that, teach them that Allah has made obligatory upon them
prayer for five times a day and a night. If they submit to that,
teach them that Allah has made obligatory over them Zakat which will
be taken from the rich and will be given to the poor among them. If
they then obey that, avoid taking the best part of their property
and fear the invocation of the oppressed, because between it and
Allah, there is no veil. (Bukhari and Muslim)
Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah
said: Whomsoever Allah gives wealth but who does not pay its zakat,
his wealth will be made to appear to him on the Resurrection day as
a huge bald snake having two fangs for it. It will be put round his
neck on the Resurrection day and then take hold of him with its two
fangs meaning its two jaws. Afterwards it will say; I am your
wealth, I am your hidden treasure. Then he recited: And let not
those think who are niggardly, the verse. (Bukhari)
Ibn Omar reported that the Messenger of Allah
said: Whoever acquires wealth, there is no Zakt therein till a year
passed over it. (Tirmizi)
Ali reported that Abbas asked the Prophet about
advance payment of his Zakat before a year passed. He gave him
permission for that. (Ibn Majah, Abu Daud, Tirmizi)
Abu Hurairah reported: When the Holy Prophet was
dead and Abu Bakr succeeded him, and those who returned to disbelief
from desert Arabs returned to disbelief, Omar-bin-al Khattab said to
Abu Bakr: How can you fight with the people while the Messenger of
Allah said: I have been ordered to fight with the people till they
utter: There is no deity but Allah? So whoso utters: there is no
deity but Allah, his property and life are under my protection
except for its tax, and its account is upon Allah. Abu Bakr said: By
Allah I shall surely fight against him who differentiates between
prayer and Zakat, because Zakat is a duty on property. By Allah, if
they refuse me to deliver young goats which they used to deliver to
the Prophet of Allah, I will fight against them inspite of their
refusal. Omar said: By Allah, he was not except that I saw that
Allah expanded the chest of Abu Bakr for fighting. Then I recognized
that it was right. (Bukhari and Muslim)
Amr-bin-Shuaib reported from his father from his
grandfather who said that two women came to the Holy Prophet with
two bangles of gold in their hands. He asked them: Have you paid its
Zakat? ‘No’, replied they. The Holy Prophet then asked them. Do you
both like that Allah will dress you with bangles of Hell? ‘No’
replied they. He said: Then pay its Zakat. (Tirmizi)
Samorah-bin-Jundab reported: The Messenger of
Allah used to direct us to collect Zakat from that which we counted
as merchandise. (Abu Daud)
Rules and Regulations
The prophet of Islam (PBUH) instructed Mu’az, when the
latter was sent to Yemen as Governor: “Teach them that Allah has
made obligatory over them Zakat which will taken from the rich and
will be given to the poor among them.” This Hadith of Prophet (PBUH)
explains the nature and purpose of Zakat.
The rules and regulations of Zakat as laid down by the
Muslim jurists in the light of the Qur’an and the Sunnah are:
Zakat is imposed on the wealth of a person who is (a) Muslim (b)
adult (c) sane (d) free and (e) solvent. However, Zakat is also
payable on the wealth of a minor as well as on the wealth of an
insane person but it is paid by the guardian. As it is a religious
duty, it is obligatory on a Muslim only and no non-Muslim is obliged
to pay it. A slave and insolvent debtor is also not liable to its
Nisab of Zakat or the minimum limit of wealth which attracts
liability of Zakat has been fixed at various levels in case of
different categories of wealth. Nisab in case of gold is 20 Misqal
or 7.5 tolas or 3 ounces or 85 grams. In case of silver, it is 200
Dirhams or 52.5 tolas or 21 ounces or 612 grams. In case of camels,
it is 5 in number. In case of cows, it is 30 and in case goats and
sheep, it is 40 in number. Articles of trade and general merchandise
qualify for Zakat when their value is equal to Nisab of silver.
Rate of Zakat in case of gold and silver is 2.5%, in case of cattle
wealth it varies between 1% to 2.5%, while in case of articles of
trade it has been fixed at 2.5%. Assets of modern times like shares
and stocks, cash and coins, deposits in banks, investments and
debentures, etc. are also charged to Zakat at the rate of 2.5%.
No Zakat is due on property before a Lunar year elapses. Ibn Umar
reported that the Messenger of Allah said: “Whoever acquires wealth,
there is no Zakat therein till a year passed over it” (Tirmizi). For
the purpose of Zakat, the Muslim financial year begins with the
month of Ramadhan. Advance payment of Zakat is also permitted like
the advance payment of Income Tax these days. Deduction of Zakat at
source is also allowed.
Properties which were subjected to Zakat in the early Islamic State
included gold and silver, animal wealth, articles of trade, etc.
During the reign of Caliph Umar, horses were also subjected to Zakat
when they were bred and traded on a larger scale.
Industrial revolution and technological development have brought in
their wake certain properties and assets which were not known in the
early days of Islam such as: industrial machinery, bank or currency
notes, bank deposits, bonds, securities, shares, stocks, debentures,
certificates of credit, bills of exchange, insurance policies,
provident funds, certificates of investments, etc. Modern jurists
and scholars of Islam are almost unanimous that these assets are
chargeable to Zakat in an Islamic State.
The following properties and assets have been exempted from the levy
Personal effects like clothes, articles of furniture, household
goods except ornaments and utensils of gold and silver.
Horses and asses for conveyance or Jihad.
Arms or weapons for personal use.
Cattle employed in farming or transportation of goods.
Tools of a professional for his personal use.
Slaves and servants.
Food for the owner and his family.
Agricultural land and factory building and machinery etc.
Zakat cannot be lawfully paid to members of the tribe of Hashim who
was the great grand-father of the prophet of Islam. It cannot be
paid to Non-Muslims. Servants and slaves are also not eligible for
Zakat when it is paid to them in consideration of their services. A
person possessing Nisab property is also not eligible for it. One’s
ascendants and descendants are also not eligible for Zakat. A
husband cannot pay Zakat to his wife. Similarly, according to some
jurists Zakat cannot be spent on the construction of a mosque.
However, it can be paid to the charitable institutions, according to
most of the jurists.
Zakat is levied only on what remains after satisfaction of one’s
basic necessities. Wealth for Zakat is computed after deducting the
amount of debt which the assessee owes to others. All the wealth and
assets owned by an assessee are not clubbed together for the purpose
of Zakat because every category of wealth has its own Nisab and its
own rate. In case of joint ownership of wealth, the share of each
partner is considered separately. Zakat can be collected or paid in
kind or cash, whichever method is convenient. Zakat on visible or
apparent wealth is assessed and collected by the Islamic state but
in case of invisible or non-apparent assets, Zakat can be assessed
and determined by the Zakat payer himself. However, in this case
also Zakat should be paid to the State.
Zakat or Sadaqa levied on the agricultural produce is called Ushr.
It is levied at the rate of 10% of the produce in case of
rain-irrigated land and at 5% in case of land irrigated by
artificial means of irrigation such as tube-well. Nisab or minimum
amount of produce which attracts Ushr is 5 vasqa or 948 kg. Wheat,
barley, honey, fruits (like dates and grapes) are liable to Zakat.
However, views differ about Zakat on vegetables and fodder.
Any Muslim who is poor and who does not possess wealth equal to
Nisab is eligible for Zakat. To determine eligible persons for Zakat
please see “Application of Zakat Funds”.
Application of Zakat Funds
The Holy Quran prescribes eight heads of expenditure in respect of
Zakat revenues in its verse 60 of Chapter 9 which reads: “The alms
are only for the poor and for the needy, and for those who collect
them, and for those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to free
the captives, and to free the debtors, and for the cause of Allah,
and for the wayfarers. That is the duty imposed by Allah; and Allah
is Knower, Wise.”
Now let us discuss the categories or classes of persons on which
Zakat Funds can be spent.
The word ‘faqir’ means a poor person who has no means or
insufficient means to live on. The legists have held that the word
All poor persons who need help to pull on.
Incapacitated or physically disabled individuals who cannot earn.
Helpless persons like orphans, widows, old and unemployed.
Muhajireen or refugees who are forced to leave their homeland and
their belongings under oppression or persecution and they seek
refuge in another land.
Students, teachers, preachers etc. who have dedicated their lives
for the cause of learning and Islam and have no time or means to
earn for their survival.
Persons who are overtaken by some calamity like flood, earthquake,
war, storm cyclone etc.
The word ‘Masakin’ which is plural of word ‘Miskin’ is again not
defined. It is a derivative of word ‘Maskanat’, which according to
Syed Abul Ala Maududi, means humility, helplessness and disgrace.
‘Masakin’, in fact, are those persons who are very needy and
indigents. Having nothing with them to live on, they are forced to
resort to begging in order to eat and cover their bodies. They are
perhaps in a worse condition than the ‘fuqara’ because of their
poverty and hardship. However, for practical purposes, the
difference between ‘faqir’ and ‘Miskin’ is not of much
Since the Qur’an mentions the ‘masakin’ in close proximity with near
relatives and orphans, it has been held that close and near
relatives who are poor and needy, enjoy preferential claim on one’s
Zakat and Sadaqat. According to a tradition reported in Abu Daud,
Hadrat Abu Hurairah asked the Messenger of Allah, which charity is
the best? The Prophet (PBUH) said: “The charity of the needy. And
begin with one who is a kinsman”. Again, it has been reported by
Solaiman-b-A’mer that the Holy Prophet said: “Alms to a poor man has
one merit, merit of charity, but alms to a Kinsman has two merits,
merit of charity and merit of connection” (Ibn Majah, Tirmizi,
Nisai). If everyone looks after his poor relatives, poverty would be
alleviated because every poor man has some relative who is rich.
‘Aamileen’ or collectors are those employees of the Islamic state
who have been entrusted with the assessment, collection, management,
preservation and disbursement of Zakat and keeping of its accounts.
They fall under the category of the beneficiary of Zakat funds. So
the salaries, allowances and the emoluments of state officials
engaged in the administration of Zakat are a charge upon the Zakat
It would be very pertinent to point out here that the
very fact of application of Zakat funds on the emoluments of Zakat
collectors, establishes beyond any doubt that Zakat is a state levy
and the Quran makes it an obligatory duty of the state to collect
and administer it. It is not a private charity as some people hold
whose hearts are to be reconciled:
is the fourth head of expenditure of Zakat revenues. Zakat Funds can
be applied to benefit those persons whose hearts need
According to the jurists and scholars of Islam, following classes of
persons are included in ‘Muallefa-tul-quloob’:
Infidels and enemies of Islam whose active hostility needs to be
reconciled or neutralized as they can be harmful to the cause of
People converted to Islam whose faith is still weak and there is
apprehension that they would relapse into infidelity if they were
not provided financial assistance.
Whether this head of expenditure still exists or not, the jurists
have no unanimous view. According to the Hanifi school of thought,
this head of expenditure stands abolished after the death of the
Freeing of Captives:
Slavery has been a great curse for humanity and Islam took many
steps to remove this curse. Islam not only gave rights to the slaves
but also encouraged the affluent believers to purchase the slaves
and set them free. An important charge on the Zakat revenues is to
help the slaves in getting their freedom.
Another important charge on the Zakat fund is to help the debtors in
paying off their debts. Debtors who are to be helped from Zakat are
those who do not possess wealth worth Nisab over and above their
debt. In other words, if these debtors pay off their whole debt from
their own means, they are left with an amount less than the minimum
level which attracts Zakat.
According to the Jurists, only following categories of debtors are
to be helped in discharging their debt obligations:
Those who incurred the debts for genuine needs e.g. for buying
necessities of life, for wedding their daughters, etc.
Those who incurred the debts by helping other people e.g. by
standing surety for others, by bringing about peace between
combatants or by composing feuds between hostile tribes.
Those who made every effort to discharge their liabilities of debts
by affecting all possible means but failed to do so.
However, those debtors who incurred the debts for indulging in
luxuries, or for unlawful acts like gambling or drinking, or for
extravagance, would not be helped by the Islamic state.
Cause of Allah:
Fi Sabil Allah means in the way of Allah or for the cause of Allah.
This is the seventh head of expenditure of Zakat funds. This head of
expenditure is very wide and the allocation of funds made under this
head covers all acts of pity and virtuous deeds. Generally speaking,
Zakat funds under this head can be applied to the following acts:
Hospitals and medical aid centres can be maintained to provide
relief to sick and wounded, especially to the poor patients.
Educational institutions can be established to provide education to
those who cannot otherwise afford it.
Charitable institutions, orphan houses, social work centres etc. can
be established or financially assisted.
Ibn-us-Sabil is the traveller or wayfarer. Expenditure for the
relief and welfare of the travellers is another charge on the Zakat
revenues of an Islamic state. Funds allocated under this head can be
used for the following purposes:-
The wayfarer, though he may be rich at his home, can be helped
financially provided he needs such assistance to complete his
Facilities and comforts may be provided to the wayfarers such as
meals, rest houses, baths, etc.
Roads and bridges can be built and their repair or maintenance can
Means of communication, traffic and transport can be improved.