Part III: Charity (Az-Zakat)

Chapter 25

Answers to Quarries Often Raised

         Some of the quarries which are often raised regarding Zakat and our answers to them are as under:

1 - Is Zakat chargeable on the ornaments of a woman?

         There is a difference of opinion among the Jurists and the Ulema on this question. Some say that there is no Zakat on ornaments as to give them for use to others without any monetary consideration is their Zakat. Some say that to pay Zakat on ornaments only once in lifetime is sufficient. Some say that those ornaments which a woman wears constantly are not chargeable to Zakat. According to them Zakat is only leviable on those ornaments which she does not use and which are lying in the house or in the bank locker.

         In our view Zakat is payable on gold and silver in all its forms, and so it will have to be paid on gold and silver ornaments also. So a woman would pay Zakat on her ornaments every year whether she uses them or not and whether she gives them for use to others or not. Following two Ahadith of the Prophet (PBUH) are quoted in the support of the view that Zakat is chargeable on the ornaments:

1)            Amr bin Shuaib reported from his father and from his grandfather that a woman came before the Holy Prophet along with her daughter who was wearing bracelets of gold in her hands. The Holy Prophet asked her: Do you pay Zakat on these? She said: No. Upon this the Prophet said: Would you like that Allah may give you two bracelets of fie instead of these on the Day of Resurrection? – (Abu Daud, Tirmizi and Nisai)

2)            Hadrat Umm-e-Salmah says she was putting on gold bracelets, and when she asked the Prophet whether it was kanz (hoarded wealth), the Prophet replied: The ornaments for which you have paid Zakat are not Kanz. – (Abu Daud, Darqutni, Muwatta)

2 - Whether a wealthy wife can give Zakat to her husband?

         There is almost a concensus of opinion among the Muslim Jurists that a husband cannot give Zakat to his wife, the reason being that a husband is legally bound by Islamic Shariah to provide food, clothes and lodging to his wife and bear all her expenses. The principle is that when you are required to provide nafqah (maintenance) to a person you cannot give Zakat to him or her. For example, the parents cannot give Zakat to their children and the children cannot give Zakat to their parents, because they are bound to pay nafqah to each other.

         So far as wife is concerned, she, in our view, can give Zakat to her needy husband because she is not required by Islamic Shariah to provide nafqah or expenses of living to her husband. This view is based on a long Hadith reported in Bukhari and Muslim on the authority of Zenab, wife of Abdullah bin Masud. She reports that once the Prophet enjoined the Muslim women to give Sadaqah though it may be from their ornaments. She enquired from the Prophet through Bilal whether Sadaqah would be counted if she gives it to her husband Abdullah bin Masud who was a poor man and was in need of it? The Prophet replied in affirmative and said that in doing so there were two rewards for her, one for Sadaqah and other for connection. From this Hadith it is clear that Zakat can be given by a wealthy wife to her poor husband. However, some scholars say that the question asked from the Prophet was about charity and not about Zakat. This view looks to be out of context as the words of the Prophet enjoining the women that “give sadaqah even if it is from your ornaments” and the words of zenab asking the Prophet “whether this Sadaqah would be counted” amply show that Zakat was under question and not voluntary charity.

3 - Is it justified to employ tactics to evade Zakat?

         Zakat is one of the fundament articles of Islam and it is religious obligation of a well-to-do Muslim to pay it. Both the Qur’an and the Sunnah, which are basic sources of Islamic Law enjoin a Muslim to pay Zakat faithfully which is due on his wealth considering it as an act of Ibadah (worship). According to the Islamic scholars, as prayer is right of Allah on a Muslim similarly Zakat is right of the poor on a wealthy Muslim. So a wealthy Muslim is not at all justified to evade Zakat on any pretext.

         However, it is a bitter fact that some Muslims try to evade Zakat by adopting various pretexts and tactics. For example, zakatable assets are concealed, or their value is suppressed, or they are divided among the family members to bring them below Nisab level. Sometimes assets are transferred to other people before the completion of the condition of the year and afterwards they are taken back. Those persons who employ such tactics or pretexts to evade Zakat should not forget that they can deceive men but they cannot deceive God Who has imposed this obligation of Zakat.

4 - Is the liability of Zakat discharged if you pay it to the Government of a Muslim country?

         Our answer to this question is in the affirmative. We have already discussed in chapter 21 at serial No. 14 that collection and disbursement of Zakat is the responsibility of the Islamic state and it has been expressly assigned this responsibility by the Qur’an and the Sunnah. So payment of Zakat to the government of a Muslim country is rather the better discharge of Zakat liability as compared with paying it directly to the poor people. You should not forget that Zakat was collected and distributed in the times of the Prophet and the pious caliphs by the state and the well-to-do people used to pay Zakat to the officials appointed by the government.

         So if the government of a Muslim country has made arrangements for collection and distribution of Zakat, it is the duty of the people liable to Zakat to pay it to the government. Avoiding to pay Zakat to the government by deploying various tactics is not at all justified, such as the people in Pakistan do For example, they withdraw the money from bank accounts or file affidavits to show their attachment with sects or faiths who are exempt from Zakat deduction. Abu Bakr Siddique, our first caliph, fought against those who refused to pay Zakat to the government and wanted to pay it themselves to the poor.

5 - Is the transfer of ownership to the beneficiary essential for valid payment of Zakat?

         Some Ulema raise this issue of transfer of ownership and say that it is imperative for the Zakat payer to transfer the ownership of the amount or the things to be given in Zakat to the beneficiary of the zakat. We do not understand what exactly do they mean by transfer of ownership. Do they mean that the Zakat payer should arrange at least two witnesses and in their presence he should announce that he is transferring the amount of Zakat to such and such needy person. Or do they require that the Zakat payer should purchase a stamp paper and he should write on it that in the presence of such and such witnesses he is directly paying Zakat to such a poor man and is transferring its ownership to him? Or do they say that Zakat should not be paid to the government or to an institution because the officials collecting Zakat on their behalf are not needy and deserving and so Zakat is not validly paid?

         This question of transfer of ownership of Zakat money or asset has neither been raised by any Verse of the Qur’an or any Hadith of the Prophet of Islam nor any Verse or Hadith is quoted in support of this question. In the times of the Prophet and the pious caliphs people used to pay Zakat to the officials of the state without bothering whether in doing so they are transferring the ownership of the amount of Zakat or not. In fact there is a Hadith reported by Hadrat Anas that a person came to the Prophet and asked him: When I pay Zakat to a collector sent by you, have I discharged my duty in the sight of Allah and His messenger? The Prophet said: Yes. When you have done it, you are absolved from the liability. And reward of it is due for you, and he (meaning the collector) who misappropriates it, there would be sin on him (Ahmad). This Hadith is very pertinent to the question under consideration and amply solves it.

         So in our view if you sincerely make the intention to pay Zakat in your mind and pay it to a needy person or hand it over to a collector of the government or to a representative of a charitable institution, you have validly discharged your obligation. It has been seen that some people raise this issue unnecessarily to deprive the government and the charitable organizations from Zakat.

6 - Can Zakat be paid to a non-Muslim?

         There is almost a consensus of opinion among the jurists of Islam that Zakat cannot be paid to a non-Muslim. In the support of their opinion, they quote a Hadith of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that he sent Mu’az bin Jabal to Yemen and enjoined him to invite the people of the book to accept Islam, and if they do it, tell them to pray five times a day and pay Zakat which would be taken from the rich of them and would be distributed among the poor of them (Bukhari, Muslim). From this they conclude that Zakat is to be collected from the wealthy Muslims and it is to be distributed among the poor Muslims.

         However there is a verse in the Qur’an (verse No. 60 of its Surah 9) which is well known and which is considered an authority on the disbursement of Zakat. It states eight items or heads on which Zakat collected is to be spent and one of these heads is “the people whose hearts are to be reconciled.” These items we have explained in detail in chapter No. 24 of this book. Under item No. 4 of this verse, the Prophet of Islam used to give Zakat funds to non-Muslims to pacify their hostility or to neutralize them in war or to enlist their active support in cause of Islam. But in the reign of Abu Bakr, Umar is reported to have opposed giving of Zakat to some chiefs of the disbelievers saying that now Islam is no longer in need of their support as it has grown strong. So some jurists say that this head of account is suspended for ever. However, some jurists believe that none can suspend an injunction of the Qur’an. If the need or the situation arises, payments to the non-Muslims can be made by the Islamic state under this head of Zakat funds.

         But an individual is not allowed to pay Zakat to the non Muslims if he is paying his Zakat to the poor directly. He should pay his Zakat to the Muslim poor only.

7 - Is Zakat payable on Mahr (dower) due to a woman from her husband?

         There is difference of opinion among the jurists on this issue. Some say that woman’s Mahr is “weak debt”. So there is no Zakat on it unless an amount equal to Nisab is received by her out of it and a year has elapsed on its receipt. Some of them say that if her husband acknowledges his debt of Mahr and is able to pay it but the wife is not receiving it, then the wife should pay Zakat on it every year. Some others say that she should pay Zakat on such Mahr when she receives it and she should then pay for the past years as well.

8 - Is Zakat of a dead person payable by his heirs?

         Some scholars say that if a person dies when Zakat had become due on his wealth but he had not yet paid it, then Zakat would be recovered from the wealth left by him whether he has made a will for it or not. According to them Zakat is a sort of Allah’s debt on a Muslim and as payment of debt due to men is essential similarly payment of debt due to God is also essential. But, some other scholars say that Zakat would be paid only if the dead person has left a will for that.

         However, Zakat would be paid when the debts and the bequests made by the deceased, if any, have already been satisfied from the property left by him.


9 - Is Zakat acceptable from the earnings or assets of a person acquired through Haram (unlawful) means?

         Most of the Ulema say that Zakat on Haram earnings of a person should not be accepted even if it is offered. Incidentally we have a different view. If Zakat from such a person is not accepted or collected and he is left alone with such a wealth, he would spoil the wealth on gambling, on fornication, and on other Haram activities and may become bigger criminal. Not only Zakat should be imposed on him but also heavy taxes should be levied on him.

         Possibility of charge of Zakat on doubtful earnings is also seen by the jurists in Verse No. 103 of Surah At-Taubah. This verse reads as follows: “Take alms from their properties wherewith you may clean them and purify them, and pray for them……”. Although in the interpretation of this Verse there is difference of opinion among the scholars, yet a considerable number of them hold that Zakat purifies the assets on which it is paid from the ommissions and commissions which have been deliberately or indeliberately made in earning them. In the sight of Allah whether Zakat purifies the wealth acquired through Haram means and whether Allah would reward the payers of Zakat on such wealth, we donot know. But to accept Zakat on such ill-gotten wealth is not forbidden in the light of this Verse.

         Moreover, there is hardly any instance of a needy Muslim or a government of the Islamic state even in the early days of Islam refusing acceptance of Zakat from a person for the reason that his earnings were from Haram means. Neither today any instance has come to our knowledge where a poor person or an administrator of an institution or a madressah or the government has refused Zakat or donations from a wealthy person on the ground that his means of earning were Haram. Rather it is noted that Madressahs, schools, colleges, hospitals and other institutions engaged in charitable cause are being run on the donations and Zakat received from the persons who earn from Haram means such as bribes, smuggling, black marketing, usury, embezzlement, hoarding, business malpractices, etc. Otherwise an honest person can hardly earn sufficient money to meet his and his familiy’s basic needs. He cannot think of giving big donations or big amounts of Zakat to help such intuitions.

10 - Can remission of debt be counted as Zakat?

         Sometimes it happens that you have given Qarze-e-Hasanah (goodly loan i.e loan without interest) to a relative, friend or someone else. After the expiry of the agreed time, you ask him off and on to return the loan but he expresses his inability to return it. Ultimately you are convinced that he is a poor man and he cannot return your loan. So you decide to remit the loan and count it as payment of Zakat. Can you do it, that is the question which is often asked.

         We think that if you remit the loan of a debtor who is really poor and eligible for Zakat, you can treat it as payment of Zakat provided you make up intention of payment of Zakat in your mind. In support of our view we quote Verse No. 280 of Surah al-Baqarah which reads: “And if the debtor is in difficult circumstances, then give him time till he is in easy circumstances to repay it. But if you remit the debt by way of charity, that would be better for you if you did but know.”

         Our above view finds support with many of the Ulema but they suggest rather a complicated method of doing so. They say that you should give him Zakat equal to the amount of loan due from him. After receiving the Zakat he should return the same to you as payment of your loan. But in this method it is not clear whether his self-respect would permit him to receive Zakat from you. It can also happen that he receives the amount as Zakat but does not return it to you to discharge his liability of loan.

11 - Should the interest of the poor beneficiaries preferred in the interpretation or application of Zakat laws?

         Our answer to the above question is in the affirmative. We believe that in the interpretation and application of Zakat law the interest of the beneficiaries i.e. the poor and the needy recipients should be preferred over the interest of the rich payers of Zakat. The reason is that Zakat is in fact the right of the poor in the wealth of the rich and that right has been prescribed by the God of the universe Who is the Creator and Sustainer and bestows wealth on the rich. According to Islam, man is not the owner of wealth, in fact God is the real owner Who blesses wealth to some people as He desires. Position of man in respect of wealth is that of custodian or trustee. The Qur’an enjoins: Believe in Allah and spend of that where of Allah has made you trustees; for such of you who believe and spend, they will get rich reward (57:7). The following Ahadith of the Prophet (PBUH) are very pertinent to the question under discussion:

1)            Jarir-b-Abdullah reported that some men – meaning some desert Arabs – came to the Prophet and said: Some of the Zakat collectors come to us and oppress us. He said: Please your Zakat collectors. They enquired: O Messenger of Allah, even if they oppress us? He replied; Please your Zakat-collectors even though you are oppressed. – (Abu Daud)

2)            Bashir-b-Khasasiyyah reported: We said to the Messenger of Allah: The Zakat collectors exceed limit regarding it. Shall we conceal something of our properties to the extent of what they realize in excess. “No”; replied he. – (Abu Daud)

         Keeping in view the above Verse of the Qur’an and Ahadith we can say that Zakat payer should be generous and large hearted in paying their zakat, but if they are stingy and not ready to pay Zakat due from them, then the collectors would be justified in making proper assessment of their Zakat and recover from them the amount exactly due from them but they should avoid excessive assessment. If somehow in making assessment and application of law the interests of the beneficiaries and the payers of Zakat clash, the Zakat collector should give preference to the interests of the beneficiaries and not the interests of the well-to-do payers. This is what the Prophet advised the Zakat payers that they should please the collectors even if they oppressed them by making excessive assessments or by applying law harshly.

12 - Are the diamonds, precious stones, costly paintings and antiques possessed by the wealthy people exempted from Zakat?

         In the times of the Prophet and his companions the people lived a simple life and they hardly kept in their possession such things like diamonds, precious stones, etc. as a pastime or hobby. So there is hardly any Hadith on the question raised above. At least no. Hadith directly relevant to the issue under discussion has come to our knowledge. However there is one Hadith we know, according to which the Prophet allotted some piece of land to a companion in which there were precious mines and metals and that companion used to pay Zakat on them.

         Some of the scholars say that the above mentioned things are exempt from Zakat if they are kept as a hobby, but they would be charged to Zakat if they are articles of trade. But our view on this issue is different. Islam puts heavy restrictions on hoarding of wealth and encourages its circulation. Therefore, the Prophet of Islam advised the guardians of the orphans, according to a well known Hadith, to put the wealth of the orphans in trade instead of keeping it idle so that Zakat may not eat it up. Thus the objective of Zakat in a way is to discourage hoarding and encourage circulation of wealth. So we cannot allow the rich people to keep their wealth of which God is the real owner and they are merely trustees, in idle investments such as in diamonds, precious stones, paintings and antiques instead of bringing it into circulation. And if they insist on holding it idly, they should be made to pay Zakat on it. It should also be kept in mind that the wealthy persons not only keep such things as display or show off but finding proper opportunity they sell them making huge profits thereon. Moreover the point is that if Zakat is charged from a poor widow owning fifty two and half tolas of silver Jewellery worth only fifty thousand rupees, why it should not be charged from the rich people owning these articles worth millions of rupees?

13 - Are the palatial houses and expensive cars and aeroplanes kept by the wealthy persons for their personal use exempted from Zakat?

         As we have stated already in chapter No. 21 that a house kept for one’s residence and a horse, mule or ass kept for one’s conveyance is exempted from Zakat. Under this provision of law, some of the jurists say that houses and motor vehicles maintained by a wealthy person are exempt from Zakat irrespective of their value. So according to them, palaces, castles and big houses maintained by the rich persons for their residence, and expensive cars and even aeroplanes maintained by them as their conveyance should be exempted from zakat. But our view on this question is different.

         Islam is a religion of nature and it teaches austerity and simple living. There is a Hadith that the Prophet of Islam once saw a two storied house with a dome in Madinah and he was told that it belonged to so and so companion. When that companion came and greeted him, the Prophet turned his face from him instead of replying to him. The companion came to know the reason of it. He went straight to his house and demolished its dome and its upper storey. When he came again and greeted the Prophet, the Prophet replied to his greeting with a smile.

         In our view living in palatial houses and travelling in self owned expensive cars and aeroplanes cannot be permitted in an Islamic state. The state should fix the maximum value of house and conveyance keeping in view the per capita income and general economic condition of the country. If the value of a house or conveyance exceeds that limit, the excess should be subjected to Zakat.

14 - If Zakat is given unknowingly to an ineligible and non-deserving person, can it be treated as valid discharge of Zakat liability?

         If you pay Zakat to a person sincerely believing, according to best of your knowledge, that he is eligible for it, but later on it turns out that the person was not eligible, in our view your liability to pay Zakat would be considered as validly discharged. There is a long Hadith of the Prophet reported by Abu Hurairah that (in old times) a person came out of his house to pay Sadaqah in a night. He gave it to a man. In the morning he came to know that the man who received sadaqah was a thief. He came out in the next night and gave Sadaqah to a woman who later on turned out to be an adulteress. In the following night he again came out and gave sadaqah to some person, but in the morning he came to know that one who received Sadaqah was a wealthy person. This Sadaqah payer was told in a dream that the thief, adulteress and the wealthy man whom he has unknowingly given Sadaqah may reform themselves because of his Sadaqah. Thus Sadaqah was accepted (by Allah) as it may reform the erring persons. (Bukhari, Muslim)

            However the jurists say that if Zakat is given to a non-Muslim even though unknowingly, when you come to know of it, you should again give it but this time to a Muslim.


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