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Zakah at a Glance

Introduction

Zakáh is one of the five fundamental institutions of Islam. It is second only to prayer as an essential article of the faith. Zakáh forms an integral, compulsory and inseparable part of the Islamic way of life. The non-observance or neglect of Zakáh is tantamount to a negation of the faith itself. The early Meccan revelations emphasized the moral aspect of Zakáh and persuaded Muslims to offer it voluntarily. It was not until the second year of Hijrah that Zakáh was made obligatory on all Muslims.

An example of one of these revelation is:
“Zakáh is for the poor and the needy and those employed to collect the funds, and for those whose hearts are inclined towards the faith, and to free the captive, and for those in debt, and in the cause of Allah, and for the traveller, a duty imposed by Allah. And Allah is All-Knower, All-Wise.” (Q9:60)

Sadaqah

Apart from Zakáh, which is an obligatory charity, Islam also encourages voluntary giving known as Sadaqah. This voluntary alms giving, is not just mere handouts to the poor for self-gratification or public show. On the contrary, it serves to confirm our faith in a Generous God that smiles upon the generous spirit. Sadaqah knows no distinction of status, race or even creed. It begins with one’s family, and then extends to the poor, the traveller and even the enemy. Allah Almighty declares:” They feed (others) for the love of Him: destitute, orphan and captive.” (Q76:8)

” For the love of Him” means that Sadaqah must be given for the pleasure of Allah alone and for no other reason. It may be given in secret, or openly as an example for others to emulate. “If you give alms in public, for others to see, it is well: but if you conceal your alms, and give them to the poor, it shall be better for you.” (Q2:271)

Sadaqah is thus a tangible prayer of thanksgiving to Allah for His bounty.

Faith and Charity

“It is not righteousness that you turn your faces toward the east and the west. True righteousness is this: to have faith in Allah and the Last Day, the angels, the scriptures, and the Prophets; to give of one’s wealth, though it may be cherished, to the next of kin and the orphans, the destitute and the wayfarer, to the needy and for the redemption of slaves; to observe regular worship and to give the obligatory alms. Those who fulfil their covenant having bound themselves by it and those who are patient in misfortune and adversity and in times of strife: these are true in their faith; these are the God-fearing.” (Q2:177)

Both worship and responsibility are the hallmarks of a true Muslim. Allah ascribed to man the role of His vicegerent on earth. The execution of this responsibility becomes in itself an act of worship. Muslims, individually and collectively, are bound ‘to enjoin acts of righteousness and goodness, and to forbid acts of wickedness and depravity.’ Enjoining good is not simply preaching to others and avoiding evil. It is actively sharing your own material, spiritual and intellectual wealth with others, be it little or much. To give and to share with others are of the greatest expressions of righteousness. That is Zakah means purification, wholesomeness or health. It also means, in a figurative sense, the contribution that every Muslim of means, man and woman, must make for poverty eradication and social upliftment, and to subsidize establishments and works of public welfare for the benefit and progress of civil society. ” ”

Zakâh is both discipline and freedom. As a discipline, Zakáh has been made a farîdah (an obligatory act of worship) which every Muslim, man and woman, rich and poor must fulfil. Zakáh engenders freedom because sharing and giving liberates man from greed, selfishness and pride. “And believers, men and women, are protectors of one another, they enjoin the right and forbid the wrong, and they establish regular prayer and they PAY THE ZAKÁH, and they obey Allah and His Messenger. On them Allah has bestowed mercy. Allah is Mighty, Wise.” (Q9: 71)

” Islam is the faith of Divine Oneness (tawhîd). Simply expressed, tawhîd is the conviction and witnessing that there is no god but God. This statement, brief to the utmost limits of brevity, carries the greatest and richest meanings in the whole of Islam. Sometimes, a whole culture, a whole civilization, or a whole history lies compressed in one sentence. This certainly is the case of the kalimah (pronouncement) or shahâdah (witnessing) of Islam. Zakâh, an integral part of tawhîd and purifier of body and spirit, penetrates every facet of the life of the Muslim and his community. Prayers, fasting, the pilgrimage and striving in Allah’s cause  (jihâd) are also acts of Zakâh, for these also purify the hearts and minds of true believers. ”

The Stand Of The Caliph Abu Abkr (RA)

The early history of Islam offers a practical example of the stand taken by Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (RA), successor to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), when certain tribes refused to pay Zakâh. Faced with what Abu Bakr (RA) saw as a crisis, he sent Khalid Ibn al-Walid at the head of an army to force the recalcitrant tribes to abide by the payment of Zakâh. In reply to Khalid’s exhortation to fulfil his obligation, Mâlik Ibn Nuwaira said: ”I will keep the prayer but not give the Zakâh.” Whereupon Khalid retorted: “Do you not know that the prayer and the Zakâh are complementary, and that the one is not accepted without the other?”

In order to overcome their unyielding attitude and compel them to carry out the terms of their Islamic covenant, Abu Bakr (RA) did not hesitate to fight against the dissident tribes and subdue them by force of arms.

This was the first and last time in the history of man that an army was commissioned to compel the rich to fulfil their financial obligations to the needy members of society.

5.  THE EFFECT OF ZAKÂH

The love of wealth is a natural human trait. Wealth and sons are, according to the Qur’an a “a vain adornment of the life of this world.” (Q18:46). It is for this reason that Allah challenges the people of faith to strive in His way with both their wealth and their lives.

The payment of Zakâh creates a healthy impact on the giver, the recipient, and the society. It purifies the assets of the giver, restrains his lust for material goods and creates in him the virtue of sharing his wealth with others. It uplifts him from a life of material pursuits to a life endowed with a moral purpose.

The payer pays Zakâh as an act of worship while the destitute receives it as a right, without any obligation towards the payer. Zakâh, creates love and goodwill between the rich and the poor; it minimizes social tension and bridges the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. It provides social and economic security to the Muslim community and brings its members closer together.

6.  THE IMPORTANCE AND REWARD OF ZAKÂH

Ibn Umar (RA) reported the Prophet (SAW) as saying:

Islam is built on five Pillars: Testifying that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad (SAW) is the Messenger of Allah, establishing prayer, giving Zakâh, performing pilgrimage and fasting during Ramadaan. (Bukhari and Muslim)

Zakâh is mentioned thirty-two times in the Qur’an, of which twenty-eight is associated with prayer (salah), forever joining our communion with Allah to our responsibilities towards our fellow man. In several verses, observing the payment of Zakâh is a pre-condition for entering the fellowship of Islam. Allah Almighty proclaims:

“But if they repent, establish regular prayer and give Zakâh, they are your brethren in faith.” (Q9: 11)

The non-payment of Zakâh excludes defaulters from this brotherhood and fellowship of faith. The Prophet (SAW) instituted the following penalty for evaders of Zakâh, and insisted that neither he, Muhammad (SAW), nor his family must benefit from it:

One who gives it seeking its reward, he will be rewarded. But one who refuses to pay it, we will take it by force and we will take with it half of his properties, as a command of God’s commands, none of it may be given to Muhammad and his family. (Ahmad, Nasa’i, Abu Dawud and Bayhaqi)

The Prophet (SAW) consistently enumerated the reward Allah (SWT) has reserved for the Zakâh payer:

Abu Hurairah (RA) narrated from the Prophet (SAW): Guarantee me six things and I assure you of (entering) paradise. I said: What are they, O Messenger of Allah? He said: Prayer, Zakâh, honesty, chastity, the stomach and the tongue. (Tabarani)

Jâbir (RA) narrated: A man asked: O Messenger of Allah, what if someone pays Zakâh on his property? The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: One who pays Zakâh on his property has had evil to go away from him. (Tabarani and Hakim)

7.  ZAKÂH AND INCOME TAX

As will be readily appreciated from the method of payment, Zakâh is not an income tax. In fact, Zakâh is a government tax in the modern sense of the term. It is a Divinely ordained financial responsibility that must be satisfied exclusively from the surplus wealth of the Zakâh payer. By surplus wealth is meant that which is over and above the lawful necessities of an individual and his/her dependants. This fact is clearly stated in the Qur’anic verse:

“And they ask thee what they should spend for others. Say: THAT WHICH IS SUPERFLUOUS. Thus, Allah makes plain to you His Revelations that perchance you may reflect upon the world and the hereafter.” (Q2:219)

8.  ZAKÂH AND USURY (RIBA)

Riba refers to all or any fixed increase on a capital amount to the owner without any partnership or joint venture agreement between the parties, such as the automatic accrual of bank interest (riba).

The superficial attractiveness of easy gain through riba, has been a major temptation for men of greed throughout history. It has proven to be one of the most pernicious factors in destroying the true science of economy and the economic stability of individuals and nations.

The institution of Zakâh, by making fast the bond of human sympathy, naturally creates in the heart of every Muslim a sense of solidarity with and a genuine compassion for, all his fellow Muslims. In the words of the Qur’an:

“That which you lay out for increase through property of (other) people will have NO INCREASE by Allah. But that which you lay out as ZAKÂH (charity) seeking the Countenance of Allah (WILL INCREASE): it is these who will get A RECOMPENSE MULTIPLIED.” (Q30: 39)

The principle is that any profit, which we should seek, should be through our own exertions and at our own expense, not through exploiting other people or at their expense, however much we may wrap up the process in the specious phraseology of high finance or free enterprise.

9.  WHAT IS NISÂB

A nisâb is the minimum amount of taxable wealth that is Zakâtable after possession of the said amount for a full lunar year.

10.  NISÂB ON CURRENCY NOTES

The currency issued by governments in the shape of coins of any metal or paper notes is subject to Zakâh on account of its purchasing power.

It actually represents gold or silver. It is the consensus of opinion that the nisâb for gold is 87,48 grams and silver is 612,36 grams or its equivalent value in currency. If the amount of currency possessed by a person equals the value of the nisâb for silver or gold, he will have to pay Zakâh on it.

11.  WHO SHOULD PAY ZAKÂH

To pay Zakâh is incumbent on every adult Muslim of sound mind, man or woman, who is the legitimate owner of wealth, taxable under the law of Zakâh.

Zakâh is obligatory upon a person if:

a) He/she is a Muslim;

b) He/she is an adult;

c) He/she is a sane person;

d) He/she owns wealth to the value of a nisâb.

Further the wealth should be:

a) Fully owned by them;

b) In excess of their personal needs (clothing, household furniture, utensils and cars etc, are termed as articles of personal use);

c) It should be possessed by them for a complete lunar year; (i.e. ±354 days); and

d) Of a productive nature from which they can derive profit or benefit such as merchandise for business, currency, gold, silver, livestock, etc.

12.  THE RATE OF ZAKÂH

If a Muslim owns wealth (whether on hand or in banks) of value equivalent to nisâb or more, he is required to pay a minimum of 2,5% of it as Zakâh. Other forms of wealth on which Zakâh is levied are agricultural produce and animals. Details of other forms of wealth and their nisâb can be obtained from any office of the South African National Zakâh Fund.

13.  WHEN SHOULD ZAKÂH BE PAID?

Zakâh is to be paid at the end of every twelve lunar month on one’s surplus assets, irrespective of whether the assets are the same old ones or have been recently acquired. The purification on wealth is a continuous process and the needs of the poor are perennial.

14.  PUNCTUALITY IN THE PAYMENT OF ZAKÂH

One all-important rule in the discharge of one’s Zakâh is punctuality in effecting its payment. Unwarranted postponement of the payment of Zakâh falls under the same category as unlawful postponement of the sacred months:

“Postponement is only an excess of disbelief whereby those who disbelieve are misled…” (Q9:37)

Once the payment of Zakâh is due, it constitutes, a sacred debt of the individual to the Muslim nation, a debt that must be paid.

15.  MINOR, ORPHANS AND THOSE OF UNSOUND MIND

Zakâh, according to Imam Shafi’i must likewise be paid from the taxable wealth of Muslim minors and orphans, and Muslims of unsound mind. The responsibility for the payment of Zakâh due from wealth belonging to minors and those of unsound mind rest with the person legally entrusted with the care and administration thereof.

For Imam Shafi’i Zakâh is a tax on the wealth of the person and not a tax on the person.

The Hanafi School of law holds that no Zakâh other than Zakâtul-Fitr is incumbent on minors, orphans or insane persons as in either case the condition of voluntary compliance cannot be fulfilled due to lack of understanding. Imam Abu Hanifah holds that Zakâh is an obligation on the conscience of the individual, and therefore it is a condition that the individual must be able himself to discharge this responsibility.

16.  ZAKÂH ON TRADE CAPITAL

Trade capital, i.e. both the reserve and working capital (cash, money and articles of trade) belonging to individuals or companies is also subject to the payment of Zakâh whenever its value is equal to or above the minimum taxable limit established above.

17.  PROFIT MAKING INSTITUTIONS / ESTABLISHMENTS
Wealth privately owned (by individuals or companies, or endowed establishments), THAT HAS THE CHARACTER OF BUSINESS CONCERNS, such as private hospitals/clinics, hotels, educational institutions, companies of every description, farms, factories, etc. are subject to the payment of Zakâh.

18.  INSTITUTIONS / ESTABLISHMENTS FOR CHARITABLE PURPOSES
All establishments privately owned or endowed, that are either totally devoted to charitable purpose (i.e. free hospitals, orphanages, homes for the poor, the disabled, or the aged, etc.) or to the service of humanity (i.e. scientific research institutes, etc.) are exempted from the obligation of paying Zakâh, as by their very nature they fulfil the purpose to which the proceeds if Zakâh may be dedicated.

19.  ZAKÂH ON JEWELLERY AND OTHER ORNAMENTS
The Hanafi School of law deems the taxability of silver and gold as absolute, and so maintains these two precious metals, in whatever shape they may be cast, lose nothing of their liability for Zakâh. They hold that jewellery and ornaments made of gold and/or silver are under all circumstances subject to Zakâh.

Imam Shafi’i takes the view that Zakâh should not be imposed on women’s ornaments and jewellery made of gold or silver, these being lawful articles of daily use for women. Likewise, both Imam Malik and Imam Ghazali favour the opinion that no Zakâh should be imposed on gold and silver ornaments and jewellery kept for personal use.

20.  ITEMS EXEMPT FROM ZAKÂH
The principles of Zakâh naturally imply that unproductive wealth i.e. whatever does not constitute surplus wealth of lasting value, constitutes, by its very nature, Zakâh-free wealth.

The Shari’ah excludes belongings falling under personal and household use. These exemptions include clothes, furniture, utensils, (excluding gold and silver utensils), household and kitchen appliances, residence, transportation vehicle, etc.

21.  ADVANCE PAYMENT OF ZAKÂH
With the exception of agricultural produce, honey, raw silk and the produce of silver and gold mines, the law of Zakâh allows the payment of Zakâh ahead of time. The following Hadith substantiates this ruling:

It is related on the authority of ‘Ali (RA) that Abbaas (RA) asked the Messenger of Allah (SAW) for permission to effect the payment of his Zakâh dues before the completion of the year’s term of possession. So he (i.e. the Prophet (SAW) allowed him to do so). (Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi)

As laid down by the Shafi’i school of law, the extreme limit for the advance payment of dues is one year, and for the Hanafi school of law two years.

22.  DISCHARGE OF ZAKÂH AFTER DEATH
If at the time of death any Zakâh remains unpaid, it must in accordance with Islamic law, be paid out of the wealth of the deceased Muslim, man or woman, along with any other debts, BEFORE the distribution of the estate of the deceased!

23.  WHO ARE THE QUR’ANIC RECIPIENTS OF ZAKÂH?
Before we mention the recipients of Zakâh, it is important to note that Zakâh is the DIVINE RIGHT of recipients of Zakâh. The Zakâh payer, by paying it to the recipient, does not oblige the recipient, nor is the acceptance of Zakâh, by any means, a matter of shame, insult or humiliation. Allah (SWT) calls Zakâh in the Qur’an, “A Recognized Right” (Q70: 24-25) of the needy, and the one who has little access to sustenance.

24.  COLLECTION AND DISTRIBUTION OF ZAKÂH
In principle, the collection and distribution of Zakâh is a task carried out by an autonomous agency in every Muslim community. Some Muslim countries and some minority communities are attempting to revive this institution with a view to establishing a practical administrative programme to achieve the required aim.

Zakâh may be given to any one, or all of the eight categories of recipients mentioned in Surah Taubah:

“Zakâh is only for the poor and the needy and those who 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 it is) ordained by Allah, and Allah is full of Knowledge and Wisdom.” (Q 9:60)

25.  THE RECIPIENTS OF ZAKÂH
According to Islamic Law, the basic lawful material necessities of life are: sufficiency in food, clothing, shelter, basic education and medical care. These are the minimum standards of material well being recognized by Islam. Sufficiency in food, clothing and shelter constitute the first stage of what, in Islamic terminology, is called “GHINA” i.e. the state in which one can dispense with material help from others. Until a Muslim has reached this stage, he remains a rightful claimant to Zakâh.

i) The Poor of Limited Means (Al-Fuqarâ)

These include all Muslims whose means are insufficient to adequately provide for the basic lawful material necessities of life, in spite of their trying their best or because of some physical disability.

ii) The Poor / Destitute (Al-Masâkin)

These include all Muslim whose means are totally lacking or are so deficient as to deny them the basic lawful necessities of life in spite of their best efforts or due to some physical disability.

iii) The Zakâh Officials (Al-Âmilûn)

As a principle, all authorized Zakâh officials are entitled to receive remuneration payable out of the Zakâh funds. It is generally accepted that such persons comprise:

a) The collectors (Al-Su-‘ât), whose duty it is to collect the Zakâh dues.

b) The distributors (Al-Qassâmûn), whose duty it is to apportion the Zakâh funds.

c) The custodians (Al-Hâfizûn), whose duty it is to keep safe the Zakâh funds. The custodians include; the treasurer, the caretakers of Zakâh granaries and storehouses, the caretakers of the domestic animals levied as Zakâh.

d) The measurers (Al-Kayyâlûn), whose duty it is to measure, or weigh, the cereals and other kinds of agricultural produce levied as Zakâh.

e) The scribes or clerks (Al-Kâtibûn), whose duty it is to keep the Zakâh files and records.

f) The accountants (Al-Hâsibûn), whose duty it is to keep the Zakâh revenue and expenditure.

g) The officers in charge (Ru-asâ Al-Âmilîn), whose duty it is to direct and manage the various Zakâh centres.

The Prophet (SAW) laid special stress on the exalted status of those who devote their services to the furtherance of the cause of Zakâh:

It is related on the authority of Rafia Ibn Khadij, who said: The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: In truth, the Zakâh official is like unto him who fights in the Way of Allah, until he returns to his own home! (Imam Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi)

Thus to serve the cause of Zakâh must never be considered in the light of a lucrative career. Such service is, in itself, a pious act and must be performed with a spirit and in a manner befitting the nature of the task. Indeed it was in perfect harmony with the spirit and the letter of verse 6 Surah 4 of the Qur’an that the second Caliph ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattâb declared to the people upon assuming office:

“Verily my right on your wealth is only that of a guardian of an orphan. If I am well-to-do, I shall abstain, and if I am in straitened circumstances, I shall take therefrom what is lawful (i.e. a living wage).”

iv) Those Whose Hearts Are Reconciled (to Islam) (Al-Mu-allafati Qulubuhum)

These are new converts to Islam. The Qur’an included new converts in the category of lawful beneficiaries of Zakâh if their impoverished condition justifies such provision and not at all as a boon for having embraced the Islamic faith.

v) The Slaves And Captives (Al-Riqâb)

One of the paramount principles set forth in the Qur’an is that the Muslim, the “servant of Allah” may never live in bondage to any created power. Thus, the possibility of a Muslim remaining or becoming the legal property of another human being is not only abhorrent to, but definitely not tolerated by Islam. Indeed, the Qur’anic precept, which dedicates a portion of the Zakâh funds to the emancipation of slaves, faithfully reflects this principle.

vi) The Debtors (Al-Ghârimûn)

All debtors who find themselves unable to repay their debts without suffering undue distress or destitution, or who are absolutely unable to do so being devoid of all means of subsistence, may lawfully seek relief from their burden through the agency of Zakâh. As laid down by the law, the circumstances which entitle a debtor to avail himself/herself of Zakâh funds are:

a) the debt in question must be one incurred for a perfectly lawful purpose, whether the purpose served be purely personal or altruistic.

b) before availing himself/herself of Zakâh funds, the debtor must make every possible effort to discharge the debt by his/her own lawful means.

vii) For The Cause Of Allah (Fi-Sabil-Allah)

Both Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Abu Yusuf understand the “Way of Allah” as specifically meaning “Al-Ghazwa” i.e. lawful warfare for the defence of Islam and of the Muslim peoples and territories. Hence, these two eminent jurists hold that Zakâh may be given to a fighter (Al-Ghazi), but only on condition that he be poor. Other jurists interpret the term “Ghani” in the sense of materially well-to-do and maintain the Zakâh may be given to a fighter even if he is wealthy in terms of the following hadith:

Abd’ur-Razzâq has related on the authority of Ma’amar, (who said) on the authority of Zabd bin Islam (who said) on the authority of Ata bin Yasâr, (who said) on the authority of Abu Sa-id al-Khudri, who said: The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “The Zakâh is unlawful for one who is self sufficient, except in five cases: if a person be a Zakâh official or a fighter in the Way of Allah; or if a person who is self-sufficient purchases it with his wealth; or if a poor deserving beneficiary gives thereof as a personal gift to a person who is self-sufficient, or in the case of a debtor.” (Abu Dawud)

More in keeping with the true spirit of Islam is the widely accepted view that “The Way of Allah” includes all activities undertaken solely for the service of Islam and that which accrues to the greater glory and benefit of the Muslim people.

viii) The Wayfarer (Ibnus Sabîl)

The wayfarer (the traveller who is not poor, but finds himself stranded abroad without funds). Wayfarer means any traveller who finds himself in financial difficulties. Example:

a) A person away from home whose money is lost or stolen, and who thus finds himself penniless in a country where he is unknown.

b) A person on whom Haj was obligatory and he sets out on pilgrimage with sufficient money to cover all his expenses, but through unforeseen and unexpected increases in the cost of commodities, fares, etc. or through any other reason, he finds his funds exhausted, and he does not now possess money even for his return fare.

Zakâh could be given to people who find themselves in such temporary plights.
given to a fighter (Al-Ghazi), but only on condition that he be poor. Other jurists interpret the term “Ghani” in the sense of materially well-to-do and maintain the Zakâh may be given to a fighter even if he is wealthy in terms of the following hadith:

Abd’ur-Razzâq has related on the authority of Ma’amar, (who said) on the authority of Zabd bin Islam (who said) on the authority of Ata bin Yasâr, (who said) on the authority of Abu Sa-id al-Khudri, who said: The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “The Zakâh is unlawful for one who is self sufficient, except in five cases: if a person be a Zakâh official or a fighter in the Way of Allah; or if a person who is self-sufficient purchases it with his wealth; or if a poor deserving beneficiary gives thereof as a personal gift to a person who is self-sufficient, or in the case of a debtor.” (Abu Dawud)

More in keeping with the true spirit of Islam is the widely accepted view that “The Way of Allah” includes all activities undertaken solely for the service of Islam and that which accrues to the greater glory and benefit of the Muslim people.

viii) The Wayfarer (Ibnus Sabîl)

The wayfarer (the traveller who is not poor, but finds himself stranded abroad without funds). Wayfarer means any traveller who finds himself in financial difficulties. Example:

a) A person away from home whose money is lost or stolen, and who thus finds himself penniless in a country where he is unknown.

b) A person on whom Haj was obligatory and he sets out on pilgrimage with sufficient money to cover all his expenses, but through unforeseen and unexpected increases in the cost of commodities, fares, etc. or through any other reason, he finds his funds exhausted, and he does not now possess money even for his return fare.

Zakâh could be given to people who find themselves in such temporary plights.

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