By: Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi
“Zakât” literally means “purity; justness; integrity and honesty”. In Islamic legal terminology, the word “zakât” is used for one of the main obligatory taxes imposed upon the wealth of the Muslims derived from the natural resources given to them by Allah. Its literal meaning implies that by paying zakât, one is purifying his wealth by sharing God’s blessing with the less fortunate members of the ummah. The wealth of the person who does not pay zakât is impure and tainted with the share of the poor and the needy.
One of the ways by which we describe the value of a seemingly simple thing is by comparing it to an item well known for its value. In the Qur’ân, Allah, subhanahu wa ta`ala, also uses this method of emphasizing certain Islamic values: whenever He wants to show the importance of an issue, He combines it with something whose importance is well known to the Muslims. Salât, the symbol of Allah’s right upon human beings, is a well known virtue in Islam; it is known as “the pillar of the religion”. Similarly, Allah has used zakât as the symbol of the rights of human beings upon each other. In order to show the importance of fulfilling the rights of fellow human beings, in many verses, Allah has combined the order of salât with the order of paying zakât.
All items of zakât are related to the natural resources of the earth. They are not the creation of man but blessings of Allah. So by paying zakât, we thank Allah by sharing His blessings with other human beings; and we also show our concern for the poor and the needy. Imam ‘Ali bin Abi Tâlib (a.s.) said, “Almighty Allâh has made the zakât obligatory so that He may test the rich people and provide for the poor. If the people pay zakât from their wealth, no one would be poor any longer…”
2. Obligatory Zakât
(A) Sharing The Natural Resources
Zakât, according to the Shi‘a school of thought, is limited to the following nine items:
I. Coins: 1. Gold Coins. 2. Silver Coins.
II. Cattle: 3. Goats and sheep. 4. Cows. 5. Camels.
III. Crops: 6. Wheat. 7. Dates. 8. Barley. 9. Raisins.
These are the nine items on which zakât is wâjib. At this stage of our discussion, we will not go into details of the rules to explain how much becomes wâjib on which item at what time. We shall only mention some details about zakât on crops.
Zakât on crops becomes wajib only when the production reaches the minimum nisâb (the specific amount or quantity on which zakât becomes wâjib). The nisâb for each of the four crops mentioned above is 846 k.g. So if you produce less than 846 k.g. of wheat, then there is no zakât on you.
The amount you have to pay as zakât tax depends on the methods used for watering the crops:
· if the farm was watered by a river or by rain, then you have to pay 10% of the total crop.
· if the farm was watered by drawing water from a well or by using modern machines, then you have to pay 5% of the total crop.
So if you produced 100,000 k.g. of wheat and you had watered your farm through a near-by river, then you have to pay 10,000 k.g. wheat as zakât. But if you used modern technology to water your farm, then you have to pay 5,000 k.g. wheat as zakât.
(B) Zakâtu ’L-Fitra: Sharing On The Day Of ‘Iddu ’L-Fitr:
Besides the zakât mentioned above on the natural resources, Islam has introduced a zakât common to all affluent people on the occasion of `iddu ‘l-fitr, the celebration which occurs after the end of Ramadhân. This zakât is known as zakâtu ‘l-fitra.
By “affluent” we mean anyone who can provide the necessary expenses of his self and his dependents for a year.
The amount to be paid depends the one’s eating habits and the number of his dependents. One has to pay three kilos of wheat or rice (or its market value) on behalf of himself and each of his dependents. So if a person has a wife and three children, then he must pay fifteen kilos of wheat or rice, or its monetary value.
It becomes due on the eve of `Iddul ‘l-fitr and must be paid before one performs the special salât of `idd. This zakât is to be paid to the poor and the needy so that they may be able to share in the happiness and joy of the day of `iddu ‘l-fitr.
3. Recommended Zakât
All other forms of charity are considered as sunnat zakât or sunnat sadaqah. The levels of voluntary charity has already been discussed in the previous lesson. Here I would like to mention one more sunnat zakât: If a business man buys certain merchandise for investment and it remains in his inventory for a full year, then it is recommended that he should pay the zakât on that particular merchandise at the rate of 2.5% of its market value. This recommendation is applicable only if the value of that merchandise is at least equal to 69 grams of gold.
4. The Usage of Zakât Fund
The revenue generated from the zakât tax is to be used for the following persons and projects:
1. The Poor: a person who does not earn enough to cover a year’s expenses for himself and his family.
2. The Needy: a poor person who is so desperate that he begs for his needs.
3. Those in debt: A person who is in debt and does not have the ability to pay it off can be helped from the zakât fund for the paying of the debt.
4. In the way of Allah: A project which can be classified as “fi sabîli ’l-lâh — in the way of Allah” can also be financed by the zakât fund. This includes construction of roads, bridges, hospitals, shelters for the poor, mosques, religious schools, religious publications and other projects which contribute to the betterment of the society in general.
5. The Way-farer: A traveller who has run out of money and, therefore, cannot return to his home, can be helped by the zakât fund.
6. Those poor non-Muslims whose hearts are inclined towards Islam and/or Muslims. Islam allowes the use the zakât to win the goodwill of the financially weak non-Muslims in whom one finds an inclination towards the religion of Islam or towards the Muslim people.
7. The Zakât-Collectors: The wages of those who work in the revenue department of an Islamic government to collect zakât comes out of the zakât revenue itself.
8. The slaves: Islam allowes the usage of zakât to buy slaves in order to emancipate them in the way of Allah.
his list is based on the following verse of the Qur’ân: “The alms (zakât) are only for the poor, the needy, those who work (to collect) them, those (unbelievers) whose hearts are inclined (towards the truth), the slaves, the debtors, in the way of Allah, and the traveller. So does Allah ordain. Allah is Knowing, Wise.” (9:60)