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Literally Zakah means
Blessing, purification, increase and goodness. It is so called as it blesses the wealth from which it is taken and protects it from misfortunes. Ibn Taimiah said, "The soul of one who gives Zakah is blessed and so is his wealth."

Technically Zakah is defined as
"A determined portion taken from wealth and allocated to those deserving it, by a Qur'anic injunction." Sometimes Zakah is referred to in the Holy Qur'an as Sadaqah (alms). The Qur'an says, "Of their goods take alms, that so thou mightest purify and sanctify them; and pray on their behalf, verily thy prayers are a source of security for them." (Surah Al-Taubah, No.9, Verse: 103). In an authentic hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said to his Companion Mu`adh, when he was sent to Yemen as governor, "Tell them that Allah has made Zakah obligatory for them, that it should be collected from the rich and distributed among the poor."

Judgment of Zakah
Zakah is the third of the Five Pillars of Islam. Denying it leads to disbelief and Muslims are commanded to fight those who abstain from paying it. Its legality dates back to the second year after Hijrah. It is mentioned in the Qur'an more than once. The Qur'an says, "And be steadfast in prayer; practice regular charity; and bow down your heads with those who bow down (in worship)". (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:43). The Qur'an also says, "And those in whose wealth is a recognized right for the (needy) who asks and him who is prevented (for some reason from asking)". (Surah Al-Ma`arij 70:24-25

Wisdom of its Legality
Zakah is indispensable for the Muslim community as it achieves reform, both financially and spiritually. It eliminates misery and greed from hearts and consolidates the Islamic economy, leading to its stability and prosperity. Besides, the Qur'an pictures Zakah as:

* The means of attaining Allah's mercy, "But My Mercy extendeth to all things. That (Mercy) I shall ordain for those who do right, and practice regular charity". (Surah Al-A`raf 7:165).

* A precondition to achieve victory, "Allah will certainly aid those who aid His (cause); for verily Allah is Full of Strength, Exalted in Might, (able to enforce His Will). (They are) those who, if We establish them in the land, establish regular prayer and give regular charity." (Surah Al-Hajj 22:40-41).

* A sign of brotherhood in religion, "But (even so), if they repent, establish regular prayers, and practice regular charity, they are your brethren in Faith." (Surah Al-Taubah 9:11).

* A distinctive feature of the faithful community, "The Believers, men and women, are protectors, one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity, and obey Allah and His Messenger. On them will Allah pour His Mercy: for Allah is Exalted in power, Wise." (Surah Al-Taubah 9:71).

* A distinctive quality of the believers who frequently go to mosques and maintain them. "The mosques of Allah shall be visited and maintained by such as believe in Allah and the Last Day, establish regular prayers, and practice regular charity, and fear none (at all) except Allah." (Surah Al-Taubah 9:18).

* A distinctive quality of the true believers who will abide in Paradise, "Who are active in deeds of charity." (Surah Al-Mu'minun 23:4).

* Also the Sunnah equally stresses the importance of Zakah. Ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him and his father) reported Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) as saying, "I have been commanded to fight against people till they testify that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, perform Prayer, and pay Zakah."

* It is reported on the authority of Jarir (may Allah be pleased with him) that he observed, "I gave pledge of allegiance to Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) on the observance of Prayer, payment of Zakah, and sincerity and well-wishing for every Muslim."

* Ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with them) reported that the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "(The superstructure of) Islam is raised on five (pillars): Bearing testimony that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, performance of Prayer, payment of Zakah, Pilgrimage (to Mecca) and Fast of Ramadan."
(All the above hadiths are included in Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim)

Judgment of withholding Zakah
A person who denies Zakah is considered a disbeliever. First there must be an attempt to correct him. If he insists on his denial, he must be killed for disbelief. However, an allowance must be given to the person who recently converted to Islam on account of his ignorance of its principles. He must be directed until he abides by and acknowledges the giving of Zakah. As for one who though acknowledges the obligation to pay Zakah but abstains from giving it, he only incurs sin without being considered a disbeliever. Rather he should be given a discretionary punishment and forced by the ruler to pay Zakah. If a powerful group of people abstains from paying Zakah though acknowledging its legality, they must be fought until they pay it. This is confirmed by Abu Hurairah's narration that, "When the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) deceased and Abu Bakr was appointed Caliph, some Arab tribes became apostates. `Umar said to Abu Bakr, "Why would you fight these people while Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said: I have been directed to fight against people till they testify that there is no god but Allah. Whoever professes it is granted full protection of his property and life except for a right cause and his (other) affairs rest with Allah?" Upon this Abu Bakr said, 'By Allah, I would definitely fight against those who make a difference between Prayer and Zakah, for it is the obligation upon the rich. By Allah, I would fight against them even if they withheld a cord (used for hobbling the feet of a camel) which they used to give to Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) (as Zakah).' `Umar said, 'Then I became convinced that Abu Bakr was right.'"

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) also reported that Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said, "The owner of gold or silver who does not pay the poor due (Zakah) will have a bitter punishment on the Day of Resurrection. Plates of fire will be beaten out for him; these will then be heated in the fire of Hell and his sides, forehead and back will be cauterized with them. Whenever these cool down, (the process will be) repeated throughout a day whose extent will be fifty thousand years until Judgment is pronounced among the servants, and he sees whether his path is to take him to Paradise or to Hell."

`Abdullah bin Mas`ud (may Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) as saying, "There is no owner of property who does not pay Zakah but it (his property) will turn into a bald snake and enclose his neck. (The Prophet, peace be upon him) then recited, 'And let not those who covetously withhold of the gifts which Allah hath given them of His Grace, think that it is good for them: nay, it will be the worse for them; soon shall the things which they covetously withheld be tied to their necks like a twisted collar on the Day of Judgment.'" (Surah Aal `Imran 2:180).

`Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) reported, "Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) cursed the one who accepts or gives interest, the one who witnesses to it and the one who records it; (and cursed) the female tattooer and the woman who gets herself tattooed; (and also cursed) the one who withholds Sadaqah (Zakah), the Muhallil (the one who marries an irrevocably divorced woman then divorces her with the aim to return to her previous husband) and the Muhallal Lahu (the one who irrevocably divorces his wife and gets her married to another then divorced from another man in order to marry her again."

 
 Condition of Zakat
 

Islamic Shariah laid down some conditions that must be realized to make Zakah due. These conditions were identified with the aim of granting some facilities to the owner, so that he might give Zakah willingly. Thus, Zakah achieves the noble aims for which it has been ordained. These conditions are:

  • Full Possession
  • Real or Assumed Growth
  • Fulfilling the Nisab (Minimum Amount Liable to Zakah)
  • Fulfilling One's Basic Needs
  • The Lapse of a Full Year
  • Forbidding Twice Payment of Zakah at the Same Year
Full Ownership

Full possession implies that the owner should be fully capable of disposing the property without being an object of contest by others. As Zakah is considered a kind of ownership as regards the receiver, the giver must purely own it. Thus, no Zakah is due on the property which is Dimar (that is not fully possessed, due to ignorance of its location or incapability to reach it). Some Companions are reported to have said, "Zakah is not due on a Dimar property, nor on the deferred amount of dower (as a woman cannot dispose of it) nor on the debt owed by an insolvent person." However, in case such kind of property becomes fully possessed, Zakah becomes obligatory on it for one year only, no matter how many years it remained out of reach.

Growth of Wealth, Whether Real or Assumed

Real growth of wealth is that caused by its producing offspring, or by gain realized from trade. Assumed growth implies the liability of property, such as gold, silver and currencies to increase when exploited in trade. However, no Zakah is due on properties that are not liable to real or assumed growth.

Reaching Nisab (Minimum Amount Liable to Zakah)

The method of estimating the Nisab (minimum amount liable to Zakah) is applicable to cash money, gold, silver, commercial commodities and cattle. According to a prophetic hadith, "Gold is not liable to Zakah unless it reaches twenty dinars. Once it reaches this amount, half a dinar must be paid as Zakah on it. Likewise, silver is not counted for Zakah unless it reaches two hundred dirhams. Once it reaches this value, an amount of five dirhams must be paid as Zakah on it." Based on this hadith the Nisab of gold counted for Zakah is twenty dinars (85 grams) of fine gold, while the Nisab of silver is two hundred dirhams (595 grams) of fine silver. The Nisab of merchandise is an amount whose value equals eighty-five grams of gold. No Zakah is due upon other kinds of property unless they reach their Nisab, which will be specified later on. Zakah becomes due upon reaching the Nisab or more than it. According to the Hanafi and Maliki juristic schools, the Nisab is calculated at the beginning and end of the year. Any decrease or insufficiency in between is overlooked. Any increase of property after reaching the Nisab during the year is to be included in the total sum counted for Zakah. This is considered the easiest and most applicable among the other juristic views, which has made the majority of scholars adopt it.

Khultah [Co-possession]

Khultah implies treating the property owned by two or more persons as that owned by only one person. This may result from the unity of type and conditions, such as the unity of pasture, watering place and enclosure if the property is sheep, or the unity of responsibilities, procedures and disposition in case of partnership. Though the concept of Khultah is often applied to Zakah on cattle, some juristic schools also applied it to other kinds of property such as crops, fruits and cash money. Thus co-properties are to be treated as a single unity making up the total sum on which Zakah is payable. For example, a flock of 45 sheep that is owned by three persons, 15 sheep each, is counted for Zakah, and one sheep is due, though treating each of the three persons individually would not reach the Nisab of 40 sheep.

Exceeding One's Basic Needs

Properties owned to meet one's basic requirements such as houses, work tools, machines for industry, means of transport, and furniture are excluded from Zakah. The same applies to the money dedicated to the repayment of debts, since the debtor is in need of this money to relieve himself from imprisonment and humiliation. This leads to a conclusion that the money kept to meet the basic requirements is exempted from Zakah.

The lapse of a full year

A property is not counted for Zakah unless after the lapse of a full lunar year right from the day it reaches the Nisab. In case the budget is linked to the solar year, the solar calendar can be applied provided that the percentage of Zakah is raised up to 2.577% instead of 2.5% so as to make up for the difference between the two calendars.

However, this condition does not apply to fruits and other crops. The criterion for giving Zakah on these two specific kinds of property is mentioned in the Holy Qur'an, "Render the dues that are proper on the day that the harvest is gathered." (Surah Al-An`am 6:141). In the same line the majority of scholars agreed that the lapse of a full year is not a necessity to pay Zakah on minerals and extracted treasures.

Forbidding Twice Payment of Zakah at the Same Year

Once Zakah is paid on a property, it absolves the owner, even though the property is then transferred to a type different from that on which Zakah had been paid. For example, when the crops or cattle are sold, thus transferred to cash money, this new type of property is not liable to Zakah in the same year in which Zakah is paid on the former type. This in fact leads to the repetition of paying Zakah, which is contradicted by the Prophet's hadith in which he observed, "There is no repetition of Zakah."

Public wealth, endowments and charitable properties

Zakah is not due on public wealth, since it is a common property owned by all individuals of the community, including the poor. Likewise, Zakah in not due on endowments and money dedicated to charitable purposes, such as charitable associations and funds, so long as they do not belong to a specific owner.

 

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