Zakat (Alms Giving) – The Purity and Eternity! (Part 1)
Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam. Though, it can be distributed anytime in the year, many people prefer to pay it around Ramadan. So, let’s discuss it in detail.
As we know, Zakat is one of the prime ibadath (worship) in Islam. Among the five pillars of Islam, Prayer (Salah) is the form of worship, which is obligatory to offer everyday on time, since the time we hit puberty and as long as we remain in good mental health. Fasting in Ramadan is to be offered only one month in a year and we must repeat it every year. When it comes to Hajj, it’s obligatory only for those who are financially, mentally and physically stable, that too, once in a lifetime. But Zakat is different from all these. This should be performed since when we attain financial stability. Unlike salah, hajj or fasting, there is no specific day or time to perform it. This is one of the ibadah that must exist very lively in the MUSLIM society.
Islamic economics, the principles of Zakat, connection and correlations with a believer, the societal implication of Zakat, the fiqh (ruling) of Zakat, the practicality of Zakat implementation in the modern society, the fluctuations in the wealth and the rulings- yes, Zakat is a very vast topic and a lot is there to discuss.
And they (believers) who are observant of zakah [Qur’an 23:4].
And, those in whose wealth is a recognized right. For the (needy) who asks and him who is prevented (for some reason from asking); [70: 24-25]
Who believe in the unseen, establish prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them [Qur’an 2:3]
… And woe to those who join gods with Allah, Those who practice not regular Charity, and who even deny the Hereafter. [Qur'an 41:6,7].
Islam is based on five principles:- Shahada, Prayer, Zakat, Fasting and Hajj [Bukhari: Book2 Hadith No 1]
Aforementioned Hadith and Qur’an verses show light into the importance and the seriousness of the obligation – Zakat!
We should neither ignore nor trivialize the importance of any ibadah (worship) in Islam. Also, must not make any alterations in Prayer, fasting and hajj, from the form Prophet (May Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) taught us. We must do it every time, in the same manner. But, Zakat is little different. It is given for our wealth, and the form of wealth usually changes with the passage of time.
If we compare, the financial structure of Prophetic era and modern era, evidently they fall miles apart. So, what changes will it bring forth in the calculation and distribution of Zakat? – This is something we need to learn very strictly and carefully. Time has changed, so does economic conditions. Even the means and meaning of trading and exchange has completely changed. Islam is the religion of Allah and undoubtedly it should be practicable at all times. Prophet (PBUH) indeed has given us clear instructions to handle things with changing times and conditions.
Though the forms of wealth have changed, we must give Zakat by holding fast to the principles that our Prophet (PBUH) has set forth. Prophet (PBUH) has divided wealth into 5 categories and set a minimum limit for each category, for Zakat to be applicable. Technically, this limit is called nisab in Arabic. He has set forth the scale for calculating Zakat for each category. We have no right to alter these scales. Therefore, in the modern era, we must find out to which category our wealth falls and consider the nisab of that particular category and give Zakat as per the scale set forth for that category. As this is a matter that’s Ijthihaada (interpretation allowed), there may be differing opinions among the scholars, and that is quite natural and there is nothing wrong in it.
Agricultural Produce, Live stock (cattle, goat, camel, sheep etc), gold, silver and treasure trove– these are the five categories. Prophet (PBUH) has fixed nisab and measure for each of these. Prophet (PBUH) said: “No Zakat is due on property mounting to less than five Uqiyas (of silver), and no Zakat is due on less than five camels, and there is no Zakat on less than five Wasqs.” (Sahih Bukhari Book 24 Hadith 1425).
According to this Hadeeth, the nisab for crops is five Wasqs (1 Wasq = 123.6 Kg/272.491lb). The Prophet (PBUH) said, “On a land irrigated by rain water or by natural water channels or if the land is wet due to a near by water channel Ushr (i.e. one-tenth) is compulsory (as Zakat); and on the land irrigated by the well, half of an Ushr (i.e. one-twentieth) is compulsory (as Zakat on the yield of the land).” According to this Hadith, if the crop is depending only on natural resources, then the Zakat due is 10 percent. If there are other expenses like water etc, then Zakat due is 5 percent.
Crops today are not the same as they were at the time of Prophet (PBUH) and the main grains and crops produced may differ from country to country. However, every crop, even if it’s different from what was there at the time of Prophet, will fall under this nisab and measurement.
For example, let’s take a country where the main crop is wheat. Now, there would be many other crops farmed in the country apart from this- vegetables, fruits, grains and so on. Hence, the nisab for such yields are measured by considering wheat as main crop and thus following the nisab of wheat. So according to the opinion of majority of scholars, a farmer in that country who has harvested any other crop which is worth the price of 618 kg (1362.46 lb) of wheat is obliged to pay Zakat. We know that the cost of 618kg (1362.46 lb) of grapes can’t be equal to 618kg (1362.46 lb) of carrots. Therefore, scholars unite in the matter that when calculating the nisab for any crop, the price for the nisab of the main crop should be taken in to account.
As of now, we are not getting into the details of cattle and treasure. Let’s move on to currency or money, which is the foundation of every endeavor and so does with Zakat as well. Currencies – USD, Pound, Riyal, Rupees, Euro etc., were not there at the time of Prophet (PBUH). During that age, gold and silver coins were the elements of transaction. However, in recent era, nowhere in the world, gold or silver coins are used instead of currency. This does not mean that there is no Zakat for currency. So, scholars of the opinion that nisab of currency should be calculated as per the nisab of silver. This is mentioned as ‘5 uqiya’ – 590 Grams or 1.25 lb. (1 Uqiya equals approximately 0.25 Pound/ 119 grams) in the hadith mentioned above.
Hence, if someone owns money or wealth worth market price of 590 grams of silver, he must pay 2.5-percentage of his total wealth as Zakat. Also, it should be noted that anyone who is falling in the category of Zakat payer must pay Zakat for the entire money he possesses, not just for the money above nisab. (nisab is only to distinguish the levied and that amount can’t be ignored from your wealth).
Let’s look at trading. Trading is based on money; no matter what goods we sell. Trading in this era is much different from that of Prophet (PBUH). Now, we have reached up to e Marketing, many people buy and sell through Internet. Even so, at the end of a year, if one takes his net profit over the year and stock and calculates the total worth according to the market rate for today, if he has a total worth equal to the price of 590 grams of silver or more, he must pay 2.5 % as– 1/40 as per hadith- Zakat. We have many types of business and trading today, and no need to specify that the business should be halal and done in halal way.
We don’t have to pay Zakat for land, but if the land is acquired as a commodity to sell, Zakat must be levied on it. We don’t have to pay Zakat for own vehicles. Camels, horses etc. were the vehicles at the time of Prophet (PBUH), but our mean of transport is motorbikes, cars etc. We don’t have to pay Zakat for our own car, but if we are in a vehicle business, we must calculate turnover and pay Zakat.
There are many other businesses which are done in large scale but were not present at the time of Prophet- poultry, fresh water fishes, shrimps, mussels etc. are grown in larger scale and only for trading. As these are the industries based upon money, according to the opinion of many scholars after researches, we should consider the nisab as that of money/currency. We may find that scholars differ while they interpret and some of them have the opinion that the nisab should be that of ‘crops’ while others are agreeing to the nisab of money. We can do more studies or discuss with local imams and decide upon the way we want to follow. But, the fundamental principle here is that Zakat is applicable for anything through which we earn money.
The ultimate aim should be that Zakat must bring into a lively existence in our society and that can’t be trivialized.
And Allah Knows best!
English Rendering of article written by Brother Abdul Jabbar filed under Guest Articles
Coming Up :
Zakat (Alms)- The Purity and Eternity – Part 2
Foot Note : Nisab– It is the minimum amount of wealth that one must possess before one is obligated to pay Zakat.