Part III: Charity (Az-Zakat)
Chapter – 23
Ushr on Agricultural Produce
What is Ushr?
Ushr means one-tenth. It is a charge or levy or tax on agricultural produce. In fact it is Zakat on agricultural produce but because of its rate it is called Ushr. This term is frequently used in the sense of Sadaqa and Zakat, and indeed no strict line is drawn between Zakat and Ushr in Fiqh books. The term Ushr is not found in the Qur’an, but two verses (2:267 and 6:141) are taken to refer to it.
Ushr is called tithe also. It is levied on the produce of tithe land and not on Kharaj land. It is imposed on the Muslims and not on Zimmis or non-Muslims. Like the giving of Zakat, Ushr is also an act of gratitude whereby the payer acknowledges the blessings of God. The functions of Ushr are same as that of Zakat regarding the purification of human soul.
Ushr or tithe is, in fact, on the actual produce of the land and not on land. If there is no produce or the produce is destroyed by some natural calamity, no Ushr would be due. Since it is a charge on the produce, it does not bother who the owner is. Owner of produce should be a Muslim, no matter he is adult or minor, male or female, sane or insane, slave or free.
Before we proceed to discuss the rules and regulations of Ushr, it would be fair if we present the Verses of the Qur’an and Ahadith of Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) relating to Ushr which form the very foundations of this levy.
Verses of the Qur’an
1. O you who believe! Spend of the good things which you have earned and of that which We bring forth from the earth for you…… – (Al-Baqarah 2:267)
2. …… Eat you of the fruit thereof when it produces fruit and pay the due thereof upon the harvest day, and be not prodigal. – (Al-An’am 6:141)
Ahadith of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
1. Abdullah-b-Umar reported from the Prophet who said: There is one-tenth in what is watered by clouds or fountains or what grows in a fertile land. And there is half of one-tenth in what is watered by camels. – (Bukhari)
2. Abu Saeed al-Khudri reported that the Holy Prophet said: There is no Zakat for seeds or dates till they come up to 5 ‘Wasqs’. – (Nisai)
3. Ibn Umar reported that the Messenger of Allah said about (Zakat of) honey: For every ten leather bottles, one bottle falls due. – (Tirmizi)
4. Musa-b-Talha reported: We had with us a letter of Mu’az-b-Jabal from the Holy Prophet. He said: The Prophet ordered him to take Zakat from wheat, barley, and dates. – (Sharhi Sunnat (defective))
5. Ali reported that the Messenger of Allah said: There is no Zakat for vegetables, nor there is Zakat for cultivated plants, nor there is Zakat for less than five ‘wasqs’ nor there is Zakat of animals of labour, nor there is Zakat for Jabha, (Saqar said: Jabha is a horse, mule and servant.) – (Darqutni)
6. Ayesha reported that the Holy Prophet sent Abdullah-b-Rawahah to the Jews to appraise dates on trees when they are fresh before they are eatable. – (Abu Daud)
7. Sahl-b-Ali Hatmah reported that the Prophet used to say: When you appraise dates, take (them) and give up one-third; if you do not give up one-third, then give up one-fourth. (Tirmizi, Abu Daud, Nisai)
8. The Prophet wrote to Mu’az bin Jabal in Yemen: “Collect one tenth of the produce of land irrigated by clouds, rivers or springs and half Ushr from the land irrigated by wells.
Rules and Regulations
In the light of the Qur’an and the Sunnah, following rules and regulations have been made regarding Ushr by the Jurists and Ulema:
1. Who would pay Ushr? Ushr is payable only when there is actual produce, the land is Ushr land and the producer or owner of the produce is a Muslim. Owner may be an adult or a minor, a man or a woman, a sane or an insane, a salve or a free man, Ushr will have to be paid. Even a waqf is subjected to Ushr if there is produce from the lands owned by it.
In case the owner of the land has himself cultivated it, he will be charged to Ushr. If the land has been given on lease or rent by the owner and has been cultivated by the tenant or leaseholder, then the tenant or leaseholder would be paying the Ushr because he is the owner of the produce. (Abu Yusuf).
In Mazaraat, i.e., when the land is given to the tenant on the basis of produce sharing, Ushr would be paid by the landlord if the seed has been supplied by him. If the seed is supplied by the tenant then the land-owner and the tenant, both of them, would be paying Ushr according to their shares in produce.
If the land is leased or rented to a Zimmi, the Ushr would be paid by its Muslim owner, since by renting the land to a non-Muslim, he has deprived the state of its right.
2. Types of produce chargeable to Ushr
In the times of the Prophet, Ushr on produce of land was levied on the four things which were generally produced in the territories of Arabia which were under Islamic control: Wheat, barley, dates and grapes. Honey was also subjected to Ushr, but vegetables were exempt. The jurists have classified the produce in the following categories and their views are as under:
Farm produce: Farm produce is again classified into corn and vegetables. According to Imam Abu Hanifa, Ushr is a compulsory levy and without exception it is imposed on every kind of farm produce. Thus, in his opinion, both corn and vegetables even fodder is subject to Ushr. He does not make any distinction between the produce on the basis whether it is capable to be stored or not or whether it is capable to be measured or not.
On the other hand, Imam Shafii says that ushr is to be charged only on those things which can be stored for food. According to him, Ushr will not be charged on vegetables, fodder and fuel. Imam Malik and Imam Abu Yusuf support the view of Imam Shafii in this respect and hold that vegetables and other perishable goods are exempt from ushr. Imam Abu Yusuf further says that all kinds of produce which can be stored and measured, e.g. corn, wheat, barley, rice, almonds, onion, garlic etc., would be subjected to Ushr provided they reach the level of nisab. About cotton and Zaifran, etc. Imam Abu Yusuf says that Ushr would be levied if the value of such goods comes to the value of nisab of most inferior produce of other kind.
Garden Produce: Fruits: Ushr is levied on fruits also. According to Imam Abu Hanifa, all kinds of fruits are subjected to the levy of Ushr. On the contrary Imam Shafii is of the opinion that Ushr can be imposed on dates and grapes only. View of Imam Shafii is based on action of Hadrat Umar who charged Ushr only on dates and grapes and did not charge it on vines, peaches and pomegranates. The condition about the fruit is that it should be ripe so as to be eatable. Honey is also subjected to Ushr.
3- Rate of Ushr: As stated above, the Holy Qur’an does not mention the name of Ushr, neither it gives its rate. The Prophet of Islam as mentioned in the Ahadith produced above fixed the rates of Ushr which are as follows:
He fixed rate of 10% i.e. 1/10 of the total produce in case of land irrigated by rain, springs or streams. On the other hand, the rate of 5% or 1/20 of the entire produce was prescribed in case of land watered by wells, buckets or other artificial means of irrigation. In either case, the rate is applied before deduction of any expenses on account of cultivation.
The difference in the rate is based on the consideration that in case of land watered by artificial means of irrigation much labour and capital is required, while in the case of land irrigated by natural means, labour or capital is not that much needed. Hence in the former case the rate is lower i.e. 5% while in the latter case it is higher i.e. 10%.
4- Nisab: According to Ahadith mentioned at serial No. 1 and 4 above under the heading Ahadith of Prophet Muhammad(PBUH), the Prophet fixed Nisab of each product at five wasqs. Weight of five wasqs according to modern research comes to approximately 948 kilograms or about one metric ton.
5- Time of Payment of Ushr: Unlike Zakat on gold and silver or on cattle which is paid after one year, the Ushr on agricultural produce is paid at the time of harvest when the crops are reaped or fruits taken away. The Qur’an says: …… and pay the due thereof upon the harvest day…… (6:141).
6- Assessment of the quantity of fruits: According a Hadith reported by Attab-bin-Ussaid, the Prophet used to send his Ushr collectors to the people to make estimate of the quantity of dates and grapes for the purpose of Ushr. (Tirmizi, Ibn Majah). However, they were instructed to make the estimate only when the fruit reaches the ripening stage or when it is taken to be eatable.
The Prophet also used to direct his collectors to be lenient while making assessment. Excessive estimate should not be made, rather there must be given room for the fruit which is eaten by the farmer, wayfarer and birds. The estimate, therefore, may be reduced by 1/3, or 1/4.
However, assessment of the quantity on the basis of estimate while the crop is on trees, is relevant only in case of fruits. So far as the produce of farm like wheat, barley, etc. is concerned, the assessment of their quantity will be made by weighing the produce when it is harvested.
7- Expenses of Production: Majority of the Jurists like Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Abu Yusuf, Imam Muhammad, Imam Malik, Imam Shafii, etc. hold that no expenses can be allowed as deduction from the produce. They argue that the Prophet has already made concession for land irrigated by artificial means at the time of fixing the rates of Ushr thereby accommodating the labour and expenses on such production. Therefore, according to them, no further concession is justified on account of production expenses. Imam Abu Yusuf says: neither the wages of the workers would be allowed nor the expenses of cattle will be permitted for deduction out of such produce. – (Kitab-Al-Kharaj)
8- Destruction of Crops: If the crops are destroyed on account of natural calamities or theft, there would be no Ushr. If owner himself has destroyed the crops, he will have to pay Ushr which would be a debt on him. If someone else destroys his crops and he gets damages, then he would be paying Ushr out of such compensation. In case a part of the produce is destroyed, the remaining produce would be charged to Ushr on proportionate basis. If the crop is insured, then ushr would be levied on the amount received from the Insurance company.
9- Ushr on Honey: Amr bin Shuaib has reported from his father who reported from his father that the Prophet charged Ushr on honey. Ibn Umar has reported that the Messenger of Allah said about (Zakat of) honey, for every ten leather bottles, one bottle falls due (Tirmizi).
Thus Ushr would be charged on honey. However, there is difference of opinion among the jurists as to what is its nisab. According to Imam Abu Hanifa there is no nisab, while according to Imam Ahmad its nisab is ten farq (about 2 maunds) and according to Imam Muhammad its nisab is five farq (about 1 maunds).
10- Is there any Zakat on produce on which Ushr is charged? The answer is ‘No’. However, if after the payment of Ushr, the corn or fruit is kept for trade and a year elapses, then Zakat would be levied on it as article of trade.
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