Zakah is an old practice being Abraham, the father of our religion (22:78), which means to us that all the rites that we practice today were first given to him. If we can reflect to this persuasion, we may avoid many of our disputes on any of the practices given to us to find the right path to make our return journey simple and straight without being lost. Why should we not do that if we can ensure our joy and happiness with God before departing this earthy life, which is nothing but a play and amusement, and adornment.
[22:78] And you shall strive in the cause of God as you should strive for His cause. He has chosen you and has placed no hardship on you in the religion – the religion of your father Abraham. He named you submitters from before and in this that the messenger may be a witness among you, and you may be witnesses among the people. So, you shall observe the Contact Prayer (al-salata) and give the Obligatory Charity (al-zakata), and hold fast to God; He is your Protector, the best Protector and the best Supporter.
However, Zakah is a due almsgiving and Sadaaqah is an almsgiving while the due almsgiving is obligatory and the almsgiving is optional. Zakah is due on our income while Sadaaqah may be paid from our savings to earn extra reward from God. So, there is a clear difference between these two terms and practices while many of us may confuse Zakat with Sadaaqah or vice-versa, and fail to fulfill what is obligatory for us.
Purpose of Giving Zakah
The main purpose of giving Zakah is to achieve righteousness with God through helping others not being proud of what we own and hoard as the worldly life is nothing but an enjoyment of illusion (57:20) as well as removing natural stinginess in our hearts (70:21). Zakat has been made obligatory for the wealthy to recognize it a right in their wealth for the needy (51:19 & 70:24-25) for the specific recipients (2:215). In fact, our wealth is a test for us and our success in the Hereafter with God to be decided based on how we use it what He gave us as our provisions. Hence, those who are paying Zakah are not doing any favor to the recipients rather it is an opportunity for them to get closer to God through the provisions given by Him while the root word of Zakah means to purify. However, its importance has reflected in certain verses of the Quran that urge us to take initiatives to fulfill this obligation in a right way to deserve God’s mercy (7:156) being a true believer in the Hereafter (41:7) as well as observant of it (23:4):
[57:20] Know that the worldly life is a play and amusement, and adornment, and boasting among you, and hoarding of wealth (money) and children. It is like a rain (which promotes plant growth), its growth has pleased the farmers. Then it dries and you see it is turning yellow, then it becomes debris (useless). And in the Hereafter there is severe punishment as well as forgiveness from God and approval. And the worldly life is nothing but an enjoyment of illusion.
[70:21] And when the good touches him, he is stingy.
[7:156] “And decree (Moses) for us goodness in this world and in the Hereafter; indeed, we have turned to You.” He (God) said: “My punishment, I afflict with it whomever I will, but My mercy has encompassed all things. So I will decree it for those who fear (Me) and give the Obligatory Charity (al-zakata), and those who believe in our revelations.”
[41:7] “Those who do not give the Obligatory Charity (al-zakata), and with regard to the Hereafter, they are disbelievers.”
[23:4] And those who are observant of the Obligatory Charity (lilzzakati).
Method of Paying Zakat
The practice of Zakat is very old but God has preserved its method, even clarifying in the Quran what is needed to practice it in a right way. The Quran confirms that someone who has income whether it is low or high (3:134) should pay Zakat, which is due on the day of income (6:141) at 2.5% of the income (70:24) without deducting any expenses for his/her family to the recipients – the parents, the relatives, the orphans, the poor and the traveling alien according to the preference (2:215). However, the rate of 2.5% is mentioned as the known amount in the Quran passed down to us, generation after generation, like the steps of Salat from the time of Abraham to our time, and there is no dispute about the rate of income among the Muslim community. Thus, Zakat should be accurately calculated as well as it should be given away on a regular basis whenever we have any income if we expect good with God when we will meet Him:
Zakat should be paid if we have any income
[3:134] Those who spend (yunfiquun) during ease (al-saraa-i) as well as hardship (al-daraa-i), and those who restrain anger, and those who pardon people – and God loves those who do the good works (al-muh’sineen).
Zakat should be paid on the day of income
[6:141] And He is the One who established gardens – trellised and untrellised, and dates, and crops with different tastes, and olives, and pomegranates – fruits that are similar and dissimilar. Eat from their fruits when they ripen, and give its due (wa-aatuu haqqahu) on the day of its harvest, and do not be extravagant. Indeed, He does not love the extravagant.
Zakat should be paid at 2.5% of the income
[51:19] And in their wealth there is a portion (haqqun) for the beggars and the deprived.
[70:24] And those who have in their wealth a known portion (haqqun ma’luumun),
[70:25] for the beggars and the deprived.
Zakat should be paid to 5 recipients
[2:215] They ask you (prophet) what they should spend (yunfiquun). Say, “Whatever of good you spend (anfaqtum) should be for the parents, the relatives, the orphans, the needy, and the traveling alien.” And whatever of good you do, then God is Knower of it.
Calculation of income
We see different approaches around us to calculate individual’s incomes that make it difficult for many of us to practice Zakat in a right way, even the Quranic law of giving Zakah is very simple based on the agricultural produces. It is so simple and well explained that if someone has income from other sources should find ease to comply it without any confusion. Thus, we do not have any concern or question to accept that God’s commandment of giving Zakat is not only for the farmers but also for those who are engaged in other professions for their livelihood as well. It is God’s wisdom that He has made the law so clear that it does not limit us to comply it because of where we live and what is our source of income or profession for our livelihood. However, let us have a look to know how to calculate income so that we can follow God’s law of giving Zakat instead of the man-made innovated approaches to be righteous to Him:
1. Agricultural produces
The law of giving Zakat states that when anyone has any harvest from crops and fruits, he/she has to pay Zakah at 2.5% of it to the specific recipients without deducting the cultivation cost for the portion of the produce (yield) given as Zakat. It may be paid once or twice a year, i.e., depending on how often harvesting is done based on respective major crops and fruits that support our livelihood. There is no Zakah for livestock except for the sale proceeds from it or from a large scale milk production including the land unless it is used to pay back loan.
2. Industrial products
Those who own industries have to pay Zakat from the sale proceeds of merchandise based on the balance sheet, which details out the balance of income and expenditure at a particular point in time over the preceding period. Zakat is payable from the profit but there is no Zakat for the loss. No Zakah is payable on the capital investment whether it is inherited or is a borrowed loan.
3. Trade and Businesses
Those who run businesses should pay Zakah from the profit while there is no Zakah for the investment as well. If someone invests money in the financial institutions should pay Zakah on what accrues as interest but not for the principal as Zakah has already been paid for the principal amount when it is earned.
Those who get paid working for others or organizations should pay Zakat from their income based on how often they are paid for their services. For example, if they are paid weekly, they have to pay Zakah on weekly basis. Zakah would be due on the net come after mandatory deductions (Govt. taxes etc.) if any but not after deducting family expenses irrespective of number of members in the family.
5. Capital investment
There is no Zakah on the capital investment such as land, livestock and business establishment if inherited, while any new investment or any addition to the capital investment is done after paying Zakat from his/her money if it is not loan money. However, Zakat is payable if anyone inherits cash or liquid asset being his/her income as well as what accrues from the investment. For example, the rent money from renting out of a house is an income and we should pay Zakat for this income while there is no Zakat for the house based on its market value. It is noteworthy that Zakat is due on any income only once, i.e., the same money is not subject for Zakat yearly basis or repeatedly.
Like Salah, the Zakah practice is also corrupted with man-made laws and rules, even though its method is very simple and straightforward. However, let us have a look into some of the man-made rules on Zakah along with explanations why they are so, may help us to understand even what have not been specifically mentioned here as man-made when we encounter them to practice it in a right way avoiding all of them to get closer to God through purifying our wealth given by Him:
- Zakah is given only once a year while we see in the Quran that Zakat is due “on the day we receive income” (6:141).
- Zakah is paid once a year based on excess (savings) in the month of Ramadan or on the day of Eidul Fitr (the first day of shawwal) while God has made it obligatory for us to pay it on the day we have income not of excess, which is an opportunity for those who have income to pay it round the year to the specific recipients when they are in great need.
- Zakah is obligatory in nine things: wheat, barley, dates, grapes (raisins), gold, silver, sheep, cow and camel, and is necessary to possess them for twelve months while the Quran confirms Zakat on produces of major crops and fruits but not on gold, silver or livestock and the twelve-month possession is an innovation as there is no such thing in the God’s law.
- Zakah is paid on a yearly basis when a Muslim possesses the minimal Zakat payable amount (Nisaab) or above deducting debts and immediate family expenses, which passes over a complete lunar year while God’s law is very clear its payment when someone has income without deducting any expenses and the twelve-month possession is introduced by the corrupters of Islam being their innovation.
- We often hear about two types of Zakat such as (1) Zakatul Maal and (2) Zakatul Fitr while we know from the Quran that God spoke only one Zakat on any income including enough details that we need to fulfill this obligation and Zakatul Fitr is not sanctioned by Him.
- “Zakah al-Fitr” is paid on the day of Eidul Fitr, paying it for every member of the family while there is no mention of “Zakatul Fitr” in the Quran and it is an innovation as advocated by those who lost the Quran.
- Additional groups are added to the recipients of Zakat while the five recipients of Zakat are clearly defined in the Quran (2:215).
- Zakat is paid calculating the net income deducting the expenses based on the number of family members while according to the Quranic law, we are to pay Zakat based on our income not deducting expenses for the family.
- Zakah is payable at 2.5% of the wealth one possesses above the Nisaab, which is equivalent to 3 ounces of gold, is the minimum amount of wealth one must have before they are liable to pay zakat, and in every year the minimum amount will change based on gold market while the Quran confirms the believers to pay Zakat when someone has any income (3:134 and 6:141).
- Net income is calculated deducting debt and immediate expenses such as food, clothing, education, transportation etc. while God’s law does not permit us to calculate one’s income deducting debt and family expenses.
- Zakah on gold and silver is due when their values have reached the amount of Nisaab, which is equivalent to 3 ounces of gold. It is assumed that it is the husbands who are liable for paying Zakat for the jewelry of their wives. If the husband is unwilling to pay Zakat on the behalf of the wife, she must pay its Zakat and if she is unable to do so then she needs to sell the jewelry to pay Zakat or until the jewelry reaches below the level of Nisaab while there is no commandment of God to pay Zakat on the jewelry unless there is income from selling it and the amount of Nisaab about the jewelry or any other wealth is an innovation and direct violation of God’s commandment as He has not authorized anyone of us to make any religious law about anything on the behalf of Him.
- Many Muslims believe that Zakah cannot be given to their poor relatives as they are a part of their family and can be paid to the relatives other than blood relation such as parents, spouses, children, and siblings etc. while the Quran defines 5 categories of recipients including the near relatives: (1) the parents, (2) the relatives, (3) the orphans, (4) the needy and (5) the traveling alien to pay Zakah according to the order (2:215).
- Zakah on excess. Many of us think that Zakat is payable only on the wealth that is in excess (savings) after meeting all the family expenses. There is mention of spending from excess in the Quran (2:219), but it refers to Sadaaqah, a voluntary giving can be given beyond Zakah. Thus, giving from excess is an opportunity for us to earn extra reword with God giving it to a different set of recipients (9:60).
- In addition, there are many online references to Zakat defining its rules based on personal views, which may seem to many of us as if they have received recent revelations from God about it while God has explained the method with adequate details more than 1400 years ago to fulfill this obligation in a right way for the true believers of the Quran and the Hereafter and any attempt from our end to correct Him would not only be extreme disobedience but also would be an unforgiveable sin for making us equals to our Lord as God only decrees laws for His servants.
God has commanded us to pay Zakat when we receive income and has given us details so that we can obey His command as we should obey it. The specific details are given on its every crucial aspect to fulfill this obligation in a right way eliminating natural stinginess in our hearts as well as knowing that hoarding of wealth is a matter of the worldly life, which is a play and amusement, and adornment being an enjoyment of illusion.
Zakat is payable from income as produces and products, investments, rent income, business merchandise and profits, shares, securities, and bonds while Zakat is not payable on loan or on wealth used for debt repayment. We must calculate the income in light of the law stated in the Quran avoiding all man-made innovated approaches. Thus, Zakat must be carefully calculated and given away on a regular basis whenever we receive any income instead of once a year. Government taxes should be deducted, but not other expenses such as debts, mortgages, and living expenses including education, transportation etc. We are to pay Zakat based on our income not on the number of family members as advocated by those who lost the Quran.
According to the God’s law of Zakat we understand that those who are experiencing hard times are in any way exempted from it while many of us have question or concern about a person who has a low income whether he has to pay Zakat or not. The phrase in (3:134) “who spend during ease and hardship” indicates that God is talking about Zakat not Sadaaqah, which must be observed equally during the easy times as well as the hard times, and must not be paid from our excess as well. We also see that there is not a single verse in the Quran that gives any concessions in Zakat to any person if he has a low income. Hence, the one who has a low income, if he still obeys God’s law in Zakat, in that is his test, and we are all given tests, some in adequate and some in inadequate. Those who are poor may not have any income at one point, will get income from Zakat, and from their Zakat they are obligated to give 2.5% from this income to another poor person while those who introduced Nisaab in Zakat made them equals to God.
We may reflect to the wisdom behind the Quranic law that Zakat is paid as soon as the money is earned, is in total agreement with modern economic and monetary laws. These laws state that the circulation of money is a vital factor for the prosperity of any economy when the money is paid as soon as it is earned as there is more circulation than if it is stacked away and paid after the end of the year. Besides, if the money is going to a good cause, why make the recipients who are in great need, have to wait till the end of the year?
We must reflect that paying Zakat calculating from income of our livelihood in light of God’s law is a fair system. If His system would permit us to do it otherwise, a rich person who spends in luxury will not have any money to pay Zakat as he spends all his money or get it tied in the stock market, on the other hand who have low income would be deprived of His mercy. All that makes it fair is God decrees law for His servants being aware of their all needs and circumstances. So, we must accurately calculate Zakat from income we earned and pay it to specified recipients on a regular basis following His law, avoiding man-made rules to achieve righteousness with Him.
Peaceful Friday, salaam and God bless.