Published by the All India Personal Law Bpard,
Camp Office, Nawatu Ulama, Lucknow, India


Zakat is not covered by Muhammadan Law for it is essentially an act of worship and piety, but [since] the knowledge of English educated Muslims about Zakat is generally perfunctory, I am writing about it.

According to Quran, God alone is the real Sustainer and Provider. Though in His Infinite wisdom, God has permitted differences in the quantum of sustenance, yet no-one is to be deprived of [a] means of living. In fact, God has taken upon Himself the responsibility to provide for every living creature. Says the Quran:

"There is nothing that moveth on earth the nourishment of which doth not depend on God." (Q. 11:6) –
Verily it is God who is the source of all sustenance. [He is] its possessor, the Unshakable power." (Q. 51:58) 
"And the earth have We stretched forth and fixed mountains thereon, and caused therein to grow everything in a form suited to its very nature. And We have provided them as sustenance for you and also for those whom you do not provide for. Not a thing is there which is not with us in abundance and We provided it not except in appropriate measures.” (Q. 15:19-27) 
To a certain extent, differences in economic levels are but natural [and] everyone has a right to [the] good things of life and the wealth of the wealthy is not meant to accentuate the poverty of the poor but is to be treated as a trust from God which under a collective system should be spent to reduce poverty and want.  It should be a source of bounty for the people and not a means of oppression.
God enhanceth the sustenance of such of His servants as He pleaseth and limits it for whomsoever He pleaseth. Truly God knows the needs of all things." (Q. 29:62) 

"And God hath granted the provisions of life to some of you more than to others; yet they to whom He hath so granted give not out of it to those whom their rights hands possess so that they profit by it together. Do they then assert that this bounty is not from God ?" (Q. 16:71) 

The extension of [the] equality of opportunity does not necessarily argue equality of economic standards which are to vary by the vary be the very nature of things but the differences in the[se] levels should not be too wide and should not divide the people into haves and have-nots.
"It is He who hath appointed you to succeed one another on earth, and raised some of you over others in diverse ways in order that He might try you in what He hath given you." (Q. 6:166) 
The Quran calls upon the rich not to treat [their] riches as exclusively [their] own but that the poor have a right to be benefited thereby. It also asks the poor not to be faithless and ungrateful but to remain contented over small means and not to let jealousy or greed overtake his hearth but to exert and utilise his talents to promote his well being. 
And covet not that of which God has given to some more than to others." (Q. 4:32) 
The system laid down by Quran is opposed to capitalism and [the] accumulation of wealth among a group of persons. 
But to those, who hoard up gold and silver and do not expend them in the way of God, announce tidings of a grievous chastisement. On the day of their punishment when their wealth shall be heated in Hellfire, their foreheads, and their sides and their backs shall be branded therewith. It will be said to them that is what ye had treasured up for yourselves, taste then your treasures." (Q. 9:34-35)

And spend in the way of God and do not with your own hands work for your ruin and do good, for God verily loveth those who do good." (Q. 2:195)

Giving financial assistance to the poor and the needy has been made a necessary ingredient of piety. The Quran says that,
 "Piety does not consist in merely turning your faces towards the east or the west (for prayers), but true piety is this, that one believeth in God, in the [last] Day, [and the] Hereafter, in the angels, in the scriptures and in the prophets and despite his love of it, giveth of his wealth to his kindred and to the orphans and to the needy and to the wayfarer, and to those who ask, and for the redemption of slaves and who observeth prayers and payeth the poor due." (Q. 2:177)
In sales transactions, purchases and exchange, everything is forbidden which may promote an evil economic system or discourage endeavours for [an] honest living or disturb[s] the balance between labour and capital. For this reason it declares illegal usury, gambling, shady deals, and hoarding and insists that all transactions must be governed by justice and fair play. So mindful is the Quran of the economically depressed classes of society that while declaring unlawful all usurious transactions, it calls upon every earning member of society to share his earnings with those who are not economically well off.
"You shall never attain piety till you share with others (the poor or the needy) what you cherish (particularly your wealth). And whatsoever, you give away God surely knoweth it." (Q. 3 : 92)
It postulates the principle that what is termed wealth, intrinsically belongs to God since the land [and] resources, of which man exploits to produce wealth in diverse forms, is God's and the talent which man applies to the process of production is but a gift from God. Hence it is that God claims a share in what is produced and announces that His share should go to those who, for one reason or another, cannot meet the material needs of life satisfactorily. So, apart from the Zakat or the poor due levied on the well-to-do, it calls upon the rich to pool together voluntarily under the auspices of a common agency such as the State, whatsoever is surplus to them (Q. 2 : 219) for suitable distribution among [the] have-nots in Society. 

In fact, it discountenances so strongly the accumulation of wealth, in but a few hands, (59: 71) that it has had to promulgate, for instance, a law of inheritance which allows an equitable share in what is left by the deceased to every member of his or her family, both near and distant, whether male or female. It assures people that this parting [with] a share of one's wealth will not in any way diminish his wealth but would, by grace of God lead to further prosperity. It treats this financial assistance to the needy as a loan to God which would be returned increased manifold. It says:

Who is it that will lend to God a goodly loan? He will double it to him over and over again." (Q. 2 : 245) 
"Those who spend their wealth in the way of God are like a grain of corn, which puts forth seven ears, each ear containing a hundred grains. And God multiplieth for whom He pleaseth. And God is Liberal, cognizant. (Q. 2: 261) 

Injunctions in the Quran regarding the individual fall in three categories:

(1) What should be earned? 
(2) How should it be earned ? 
(3) How should it be spent?
[The] Quran exhorts the individual to strive to earn his living. God has provided all [of the] materials for sustenance, but [a] quest has to be made to obtain them. 
But when the prayer is ended, disperse in the land in quest of the bounties of God." (Q. 23 : 10). 
They whom ye worship instead of God can give you no subsistence, so seek your means of subsistence, from God, and serve Him and give Him thanks.” (Q. 29 : 12). 

The Prophet said, 

"[The] Quest for lawful sustenance is the greatest obligation after [the] worship of God."
In this quest, man is directed to follow two principles:
(1) that what is earned is lawful ;
(2) The means to attain it should also be lawful. Says the Quran:

"O people, eat of the things of the earth which are permissible and welcome, and do not follow the way of Satan, for he is your avowed enemy." (Q. 2 :169)

Islam does not prohibit [the] acquisition of wealth, but [it] insists that it must be acquired by lawful means and [that] there must be a share in it [for] the poor and the needy. It prohibits extravagance [and] also stinginess.
"And give to him who is of kin his due (share in what you have), and also to the poor and to the stranded, but do not indulge in wilful extravagance, for the wilfully extravagant belong[s] to the fraternity of satans and Satan has always been ungrateful to his Lord." (Q. 17 : 26)

And let not thy hand be tied so tightly up to the neck (so that thou shouldest deny thyself the opportunity to help others) and not let it to be so wide open that nothing is left (with thee to meet thine own needs) and thou be reduced to destitution." (Q.17: 29)

The Prophet said : 
Moderation is [a] half part of prosperity."
Zakat literally means ‘growth’ or ‘increase’ and according to some ‘purity.’ The tax has been named Zakat with respect to the first meaning of the word because its payment increases prosperity in this world and enhences religious merit (sawab) in the next and with respect to the second meaning because its payment purifies one from sins. God said, 
"Take from their property alms (Sadaqah) in order thus to purify them from their sins." (Q. 87: 14)
[The] Hanafis define Zakat as giving a legally prescribed portion of one's property to a poor Muslim who does not belong to Hashimite family or their clients in such a way as to preclude any benefit to the giver thereof. Zakat also means the thing so given. Sadaqah is another name for Zakat. By general usage however, Sadaqah is considered as the more general term covering alms the payment of which is obligatory as also that which [is] voluntarily. In other words, while every
Zakat is Sadaqah, only obligatory Sadaqah is Zakat. According to Al Shafi'i and Al Mawardi, both terms connote the same thing.

The Quran lays [the] utmost emphasis on [the] payment of Zakat almost as much as on saying of prayers. It is set down as the third [article] of faith 

And if he (the infidel) has repented, and performed the prayers and paid the Zakat, they are your brethren in religion." (Q. 9:11)
The Prophet described it as one of the five pillars of faith. Said he, 

Islam has been built on five things, namely [the] testimony that there is no God but God, the performance of prayers, the giving of Zakat, the fast during the month of Ramadhan, and the pilgrimage to Mecca when one can afford it."

The Prophet said to Muadh:

"Tell them that God has prescribed for them Sadaqah to be taken from the rich among them in order to be given to the poor."
[The] giving of Zakat purifies one's heart by promoting generosity and large-heartedness and eradicating niggardliness. According to Mujit, [the] failure to believe that Zakat is fard [obligatory] entails unbelief (Kufr) and refusing to practise it involves [the] death penalty.

Zakat becomes due only when one has in his full ownership a productive nisab (minimum) of property. Productivity is either real, as in trade or procreation, or hypothetical as, for example, in the cases where productivity has been possible, though not actual, in that the property was in the possession of the owner or his agent. Real or hypothetical productivity is considered to exist in any of the following three cases:

(1) When property is gold or silver. 
(2) When animals are pastured,
(3) When property is intended for trade.
Zakat is payable on gold or silver whether it is meant for personal use or for trade.

Besides being productive the nisab has to be in full ownership i. e ownership along with possession. It must also be over and above what is necessary for the satisfaction of primary necessities of life. It must also be free from debt. According to AI-Shafi'i, indebtedness does not affect the obligation of Zakat. According to [the] Malikites, indebtedness exempts [one] from the Zakat of gold and silver and the articles of trade but not of crops, cattle and mines. According to the Hanifi’s indebtedness exempts one from payment. 

In one of his sermons in the month of Ramadhan, Caliph Uthman had said, "Behold the month of Ramadhan has come. Whoever has property and debts, let him deduct from what he owns what he owes and pay Zakat from the remaining property.

Articles like dwellings, wearing apparel, household utensils, slaves employed as servants, riding animals, arms kept for use, food meant for oneself or [one’s] family, articles of adornment (if not made of gold or silver, gems, pearls, rubies, emeralds and the like), books and tools are exempt from Zakat. Properties of minors and insane are also exempt.

[The] condition[s] for [the] payment of Zakat are :

1. Freedom and maturity, for there can be no responsibility without these.
2.  State of Islam, because [the] payment of Zakat is an act of worship and as such it can validly be performed only by a Muslim.
3. Freedom. [The] person or the slave cannot own any property.
4. Lapse of a year. No Zakat is due on property before [a year has passed over it. For determining the nisab, the rule is to add together articles belonging to the same genus.
In regard to articles of trade, the nisab is determined by ascertaining their value and, therefore, so far as Zakat is concerned, they constitute a single genus.

The Zakat of Sawai'm (animals) is dependent upon their number and not on their commercial value and each separate genus constitutes a separate legal genus. It is not, therefore, permissible for computing the nisab of, say camels, to make up the shortage by adding together with them sheep or cattle.

According to Abu Hanifa, the nisab of gold or silver may be completed by the other or even by articles of trade and vice versa. According to Abu Hanifa, gold and silver are added in terms of value but according to his disciples, Abu Yusuf and Muhammad, they are added in terms of weight.

In reckoning the Zakat of cattle jointly owned. each share is considered separately. According to Abu Hanifa, [the] Zakat debt lapses by the death of the owner of the property without his having made a will directing settlement of the Zakat from the third portion of his estate. It also lapses if the nisab is accidentally destroyed after the lapse of [a] year, that is, after the Zakat fell due, whether the property was apparent or non-apparent, whether it had meanwhile been possible to pay Zakat.

According to Al-Kasani, another ground on which [the] Zakat debt, after it becomes due, can lapse, is apostasy. This is the Hanifite and Malikite view, but Al-Shafi'i holds a contrary view. 

Zakat or Sawa'im of Flocks and Herd

Sawa'im literally means ‘a pasturing animal.’ It does not, however, cover those pasturing animals which are to be later on used for riding or [the] carrying of loads because Zakat is never paid on such animals. Zakat is however, paid on animals which are pastured in order to be sold later on for other purposes.

Quantum of Zakat

As stated before, Zakat is payable

(1) When [the] property is gold or silver.
(2) When animals are pastured.
(3) When property is intended for trade and business. 
The rate or incidence of Zakat on an ahle-nisab on all these kinds of property is the same, i. e., one-fortieth part (i.e., 2-1/2%).

For discharging the obligation of payment of Zakat, [the] intention to do so while setting aside a portion of the goods and their value for the purpose is essential. If a person goes on giving alms in charity year-round and then intends that whatever he has thus given was in discharge of Zakat, it will not be Zakat. (Fatawa Alamgiri). While giving Zakat it is also essential that the deserving person to whom it is given should be made full owner thereof. If money is spent on funeral expenses of any one or on construction of a mosque or aid to any educational or charitable institution, it is Sadaqah but not Zakat.

Zakat on gold and silver

The nisab of gold is 7-1/2 tolas [appx 11.7 grams = 1 tola] and that of silver is 52 tolas. It is to be reckoned on the basis of weight and not on value if the Zakat is given in the shape of the same metal, but if Zakat of gold is given in silver or if silver in gold, their value will be taken into account. Zakat is also payable on currency notes if they exceed in value to the value of 7-1/2 tolas of gold or 52 tolas of silver.

Zakat on goods of trade and business

All goods, except gold and silver [which] serve as articles of trade, will be assessed for Zakat if their value reaches the nisab of gold and silver. If the goods do not come up to that value but together with gold and silver the nisab is reached, then Zakat will be payable on the totality. As stated before, no Zakat is due on property before there lapses one year over it. It is also necessary that the value of the goods [at] the beginning of the year should not be less than 52 tolas of silver. [The] income derived from [renting] houses and shops is not taken into account.

Zakat on animals or live species

Zakat is due on animals provided they are sawalm (flocks or herds). Camels, cows and goats, buffaloes are treated [like] cows and sheep [like] goats.

Sawaim is that animal which lives on pasturage for [the] most part of the year and is kept for its milk or breeding purposes for its fattening. If the animal is fed on grass [that has been] cut outside and brought home or [it has neen] used as a beast of burden or for ploughing etc., it is not sawaim and no Zakat is due on it. No Zakat is due on camels less than five or on cows and buffaloes or on goats and sheep less than thirty in number.

To whom Zakat can be given and the purposes on which it can he spent

They fall in[to] seven categories: 

1. Faqir or beggar.
2. Miskeen or destitute.
3. Amil or petty collector of Zakat.
4. For emancipation of slaves,
5. For liquidation of a debt of a person who, if he himself liquidates it, will not be left with nisab.
6. Fi sabil-il-Lah or in the cause of God.
7. Ibn-us-sabil i.e., a wayfarer.

A faqir is one who has got something but less than nisab or if it is equivalent to nisab, it is required for his actual needs.

A miskeen or destitute [person] is one who has nothing, not even to feed and clothe himself.

Fi-Sabil -il-lah means spending in the way of God like giving money to one who wants to go for [the] engagement in Jehad but has not got the means to do it, or to a student who wants to go for religious studies (ilm-ud-din) but cannot afford it himself, or a person who wants to go for Haj but he has not got the means to do so.

Ibn-us-Sabil is a wayfarer without goods and money in the course of [a] journey [al]though he may be having it at his home.

By Amil is meant the officials employed in the collection of Zakat. The Imam is to allow as much of it as is in proportion to his labour and is sufficient for him and his assistants. It is paid in the manner of a reward for services rendered.

Zakat is not payable to one's direct ascendants or decendants like [the] father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, grandmaternal father (nona), grand maternal mother (nani) and offspring i.e. sons, daughters, grandsons and granddaughters whether paternal or maternal. Zakat cannot lawfully be given to one's wife or by the wife to her husband if she holds property separately. No Zakat can be given to Banu Hashim which means descendants of Hazrat Ali, Hazrat Jafar, Hazrat Aqil and Hazrat Abbas.

In giving Zakat or Sadaqa, the first to be considered for the purpose are deserving brothers, sisters and other relations, then come the people of one's own habitation or village and then the people of the city.

Besides Zakat, there are some other responsibilities. To give financial aid to poor people, relations in straitened circumstances, the destitute and wayfarers etc., is called Sadaqa. Islam expects one to fulfil his social responsibility and considers it wajib in some circumstances and commendable (mustahab) in others.

If a person chooses to disburse the Zakat himself instead of paying it to the Collector, he is at liberty to distribute in equal shares among the persons of the seven categories enumerated or to pay the whole to one of them.

Zakat is not to be disbursed to non-Muslims but alms can be bestowed upon them.

If a person was to bestow zakat upon another, erroneously supposing him to be a proper object of its application and should discover him to be a rich person or improper object to receive the zakat, in such cases the zakat is considered to be fully discharged.

It is lawful to bestow zakat upon a person possessed of less than a nisab, though he be sound in body and capable of labour because such a one comes under the description of a faqir who is one of the specified objects of its application.