The Giving of the Zakat

Linguistically, the root of the word Zakat implies purification, blessing and growth. Allah has stated in the Quran, “Indeed whosoever purifies himself (tazakkaa) shall achieve success” (87:14). Another word used in the Quran and hadith for the Zakat is sadaqa. This word is derived from sidq (the truth). Siddiqi explains the significance of these two terms as they are used here,

Both these words are highly meaningful. The spending of wealth for the sake of Allah purifies the heart of man of the love of material wealth. The man who spends it offers that as a humble gift before the Lord and thus affirms the truth that nothing is dearer to him in life than the love of Allah and that he is fully prepared to sacrifice everything for His sake.225

In Islamic Law, its technical meaning is in reference to a specific portion of one’s varied wealth that one must give yearly to a specific group of recipients.

There is no question that among the pillars of Islam, Zakat ranks very close to that of prayer. They are often mentioned together in the Quran— in eighty two instances to be exact. One can also see from the Quran, that one of the keys to receiving Allah’s mercy in the Hereafter is the payment of Zakat. In surah al-Tauba, verse 71, Allah states, “The believers, men and women, are helpers and supporters of one another, they enjoin what is right and forbid what is evil, they offer their prayers perfectly, they give the Zakat and they obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah will bestow His mercy on them. Surely, Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.” (9:71)

The payment of Zakat should purify a person. It also purifies his wealth. Allah said to the Prophet (peace be upon him), “Take (O Muhammad) alms from their wealth in order to purify them and sanctify them with it” (9:103). Beyond that, it can purify a believer’s soul by cleansing him of the diseases of stinginess and miserliness.

It also purifies the wealth of the person by removing any evil effect from it. The Prophet (peace be upon him) once said, “Whoever pays the Zakat on his wealth will have its evil removed from him.”226

Zakat also has a very important role to play for society as a whole. There are some obvious factors that may be stated here. For example, Zakat helps the poor of society as they receive wealth that they need. This should also help to strengthen the ties of brotherhood within a Muslim society, as the poor know that the rich will come to their aid through Zakat and other means of charity. Even for those who are not very rich, it makes them realize that they can afford to give for the sake of Allah. They may realize that they will not starve or die if they give some of their wealth for the sake of Allah. Furthermore, it can make those who possess wealth realize that such wealth has actually come as a blessing from Allah. Hence, the person must use it in the way that is pleasing to Allah. One of the most pleasing aspects is to fulfill one’s responsibility of paying Zakat upon such wealth.

Muslims who do not pay their Zakat are not only harming themselves but they can actually harm the entire Muslim Nation. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “A people do not keep from giving the Zakat on their wealth except that they will be kept from having rain falling from the sky. If it were not for the animals, it would not rain at all.”227

Allah and His prophet have made it clear that not paying Zakat is an act that is displeasing to Allah. Indeed, Allah has threatened a great punishment for such behavior. For example, the following verse of the Quran is a reference to those who do not pay the Zakat on their wealth: “And let not those who covetously withhold of that which Allah has bestowed on them of His Bounty (wealth) think that it is good for them. Nay, it will be worse for them. The things which they covetously withheld shall be tied to their necks like a collar on the Day of Resurrection. And to Allah belongs the heritage of the heavens and the earth, and Allah is Well-Acquainted with all that you do” (3:180).

The Prophet (peace be upon him) described the punishment that will come to those who do not pay the proper Zakat on their wealth. In one hadith in Sahih al-Bukhari, Abu Hurairah narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “[On the Day of Resurrection] camels will come to their owner in the best state of health they have ever had (in the world), and if he had not paid their Zakat on them, they would tread him with their feet; similarly, sheep will come to their owner in the best state of health they ever had in this world and, if he had not paid their Zakat, would tread him with their hooves and would butt him with their horns... I do not want anyone of you to come to me on the Day of Resurrection carrying over his neck a sheep that will be bleating. Then he says, ‘O Muhammad (please intercede for me).’ I will say, ‘I can’t help you for I conveyed Allah’s message to you.’ Similarly, I do not want anyone of you to come to me carrying over his neck a camel that will be grunting. Such a person will say, ‘O Muhammad (intercede for me).’ I will say to him, ‘I cannot help you for I conveyed Allah’s Message to you.’”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) warned of the consequences of not paying such Zakat. Note the following hadith from Sahih al-Bukhari: “Whoever is made wealthy by Allah and does not pay Zakat on his wealth, then on Day of Resurrection his wealth will be made like a bald-headed poisonous snake with two poisonous glands. It will encircle his neck and bite his cheeks and say, ‘I am your wealth, I am your treasure.’” After stating that, the Prophet (peace be upon him) then recited the above verse from surah ali-Imran.

In another verse that also includes those who do not pay Zakat, Allah has said, “[There are] those who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah– announce unto them a painful torment. On the Day when that wealth will be heated in the fire of hell and it will brand their foreheads, flanks and backs. [It will be said to them], ‘This is the treasure which you hoarded for yourselves. Now taste of what you used to hoard’” (9:34-35).

225 Siddiqi, vol. 2, p. 465.

226 Recorded by ibn Khuzaima and al-Tabaraani. According to al-Albani, it is hasan. Al-Albani, Sahih al-Targheeb wa al-Tarheeb, vol. 1, p. 312.

227 Recorded by ibn Majah. According to al-Albani it is authentic. See Muhammad Nasir al-Din al- Albani, Silsilat al-Ahadeeth al-Saheeha (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islami, 1979), vol. 1, hadith no. 106

The Amount of Money to be Given as Zakat

Zakat is obligatory upon different forms of wealth, such as money, crops, fruits, livestock and treasures found in the earth. In today’s world, the most common form of wealth is that of money. Zakat is to be paid on one’s money if that amount of money reaches the minimum required for Zakat and if it has been in the person’s possession for a year’s time. The amount to be paid on such holding is 2.5%.

The minimum required holding of wealth before one is obligated to pay Zakat is known as the nisaab. There is actually a distinct nisaab for gold and for silver. Today, people hold cash and currency rather than gold or silver. This has led to some difference of opinion as to whether the nisaab for cash should be based on its gold equivalent or its silver equivalent. If gold is taken as the basis, Zakat is only obligatory if the amount of gold one possesses reaches twenty mithqaals228 or if a person holds its equivalent value in currency. If the Muslim possesses this amount of money for a year’s me, he pays 2.5% once in that year as Zakat.

Zakat is distributed to specific categories of people. Allah has mentioned those categories in the following verse: “The alms are only for the poor, the needy, those employed to collect (the funds), and to attract the hearts of those who have been inclined (towards Islam); and to free the captives; and for those in debt; and for Allah's Cause, and for the wayfarer (a traveler who is cut off from everything); a duty imposed by Allah. And Allah is All-Knower, All-Wise” (9:60).

In general, most mosques have committees and accounts for Zakat. If a Muslim gives them his Zakat payment, informing them that it is Zakat, it should then be distributed to the proper recipients and the Muslim would have fulfilled his responsibility to Allah.

228 Contemporary es mates range from 85 to 93.6 grams.