Zakat (Charity, Alms) or Zakah
Zakat (alms) is the name of what a believer returns out of his or her wealth to the neediest of Muslims for the sake of the Almighty Allah. It is called Zakat because the word Zakat is from Zakaa which means, to increase, purify and bless.
Who Should Give Zakat
The obligation of Zakat is mandatory on every Muslim who possesses the minimum Nisaab, whether the person is man, woman, young, old sane or insane. Because the proof of Zakat in Al-Qur'an and Sunnah is general and does not exclude young or insane. Allah (SWT) stated that:
"Of their goods take alms so that thou mightiest purify and sanctify them..." (Surah 9: Verse 103)
Imam Ibn Hazim said that every Muslim young or old sane or insane needs to cleanse his or her wealth with Zakat because of generality of the evidence. Anas bin Malik reported that the Messenger of Allah (saws) said:
"Trade with the money of the orphan, lest it is eaten up by Zakat." (At-Tabraani)
In another Hadith `Amru bin Shuaib related from his grandfather that the Messenger of Allah said:
"Whoever is entrusted with money of an orphan should trade with it and should not leave it sitting to be used up by charity." (Tirmidhi)
The point of reference in these reports is that the Messenger (saws) urged the trustee on the estate of people who due to age or other reasons cannot manage their own financial affairs, to invest it in a business that will yield a return and make it grow until they are in a position to do so themselves. For, if proper investment is not made with an ophan's inheritance, it will be depleted by charity, thus leaving the orphan with little or nothing.
The Lawgiver, Allah has prescribed the minimum amount that is obligatory for Zakat in different ranges of properties, and that minimum amount is known as nisaab. The reason for nisaab is to ensure that no one is forced to give Zakat out of what he or she does not have, and that no wealth goes without Zakat.
Nisaab is also an insurance against the tyranny of the state to tax the poor and or the neediest as is the case in many countries. Nisaab is a reference point for the average Muslim who is not sure whether he possesses the minimum wealth on which Zakat is obligatory. The wealthy need not worry about the Nisaab. Zakat is obligatory on their entire wealth and must be paid out at the end of financial year that they set for their Zakat.
Conditions for Nisaab
- The amount that has reached Nisaab must be the excess or surplus known as "faadil" from one's essential needs such as food, clothing, housing, vehicles, tools and machinery that is used in business. The essentials for living are exempted from Zakat.
Although what constitutes nisaab may change from one country to another, the amount that is needed for the basic needs of living in different countries is very similar, because the market place determines the prices, whether it is an official market or a non-official market. In the poorest countries people do without or live below the poverty standard, and that is why many go hungry or without basic essentials.
However, we must realize that Zakat is an act of worship (ebadah) like Salaat. The element of intention (niyyah) is necessary, and we should not overly rely on state agencies to determine for us the requirements of our religious duty.
Nisaab eliminates the possibility of injustice or unfair treatment of the Zakat payer. To suggest that if we do not follow the rules of International Monetary Fund or the arbitrary figures of social security administration or department of agriculture we will be doing injustice to the Zakat payer is ludicrous.
- Nisaab must mature, that is the money is not liable for Zakat unless it has remained a full year in the possession of a person. This is the understanding of the majority of the scholars. Imam Abu Hanifah (raa) said: "What should be considered is the existence of nisaab at the beginning and the end of the Zakat year set by the payer". It does not matter if the nisaab money increases or decreases during the calendar year.
How To Give Zakat
Zakat may be assessed and returned in two ways:
- Make a record of all money earned, either daily or monthly, which has reached the nisaab and remains in the treasury. The Zakat of that money would be due one year later on the same day the money was earned and reached nisaab. This means every month's income must be set aside and assessed for Zakat and so will be the case for the rest of the months.
- The best way is to set a day or a month, preferably Ramadan, for your annual Zakat return calendar, say Ramadan 1st. One year later on the same day of Ramadan, your Zakat is due and payable. Whatever is in the savings is due for Zakat, regardless of whether all the amount in the savings reaches a year or not. This method is the best because it is easy to assess, meets one's obligation and relieve one's conscience.
The Recipient Of Zakat
Knowing who qualifies as recipient of Zakat is an important aspect of Zakat collection in Islam. Fortunately, Allah (SWT) has been merciful to us in that He Himself spelled out the people eligible to receive Zakat. In Surah Tawbah He stated:
"Alms are for the poor and the needy; and those employed to administer (the funds); for those whose hearts have been (recently) reconciled (to truth); for those in bondage and in debt; in the cause of Allah; and for the wayfarer: (thus is it) ordained by Allah, and Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom." (Surah 9: Verse 60 )
In this verse Allah enumerated the people who deserve this divine welfare, and they are as follows:
- The poor and the needy: These are individuals, and those under their care, to live on. By the poor and needy is meant the people whose income or salaries, or whatever material goods they have, fall short of the cost of living in a given environment and economy.
- Those who administer the Zakat department: Assigning people for collecting, bookkeeping, making lists of people eligible for Zakat, and a financial calendar.
- The new converts to Islam: Whose hearts we want to harmonize into the fold of Islam, either because their faith is weak or we are afraid of their being harmed, should be given Zakat to strengthen their Iman or until we no longer fear their harm.
- The bonds person who has contracted with his master to buy himself out of bondage deserve Zakat and should be given enough to pay off their debt to the master and be freed themselves; similarly, Muslim prisoners of war if their freedom is tied to monetary payment, deserve Zakat sufficient enough to secure their release.
- The people in debt
- Zakat can be given in the path of Allah.
- The wayfarer. This is the traveller who in a strange land runs out of money.
It is, however, permissible to give Zakat to a wife or family member, provided it is not part of their daily living expense money, but is needed to pay off a debt for one's wife if she can not pay it. So is the case for one's parents if they can not pay their debt.
Zakat money may be given to members of the family for their expenses if one is not obligated to take care of them financially. The wife can pay off a debt of her husband with Zakat money, because he may be among the eight eligible recipients and she is not obligated to spend on him as he is on her.
The eligible recipients of Zakat can be denied their right to Zakat without proof from Al-Qur`an or Sunnah. In a hadith reported by Ibn Masud, his wife Zaynab heard the Messenger of Allah order women to give Zakat, so she asked the Messenger (saws):
"O Messenger of Allah, you commanded us to give Zakat, and I have jewellery that I wanted to assess for Zakat, but my husband Abdullah bin Masud claimed that his son deserves it more than anyone." The Messenger replied: Your husband Ibn Masud is right. Your son deserves your charity more than anyone."
In another hadith reported by Salman bin Aamir, he said the Messenger of Allah said:
"Charity to the poor is only charity, but charity to the rest of kind is charity and maintenance of relations (sillah)." (Nisaee)
Article Contributed by: itsIslam Staff