What is Zakat (zakah)?
“Take from their money a charity to cleanse them and purify them” – Qur’an 9:103.
Zakat is the amount of money that every adult, mentally stable, free, and financially able Muslim, male and female, has to pay to support specific categories people. This category of people is defined in surah at-Taubah (9) verse 60: “The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to free the captives and the debtors, and for the cause of Allah, and (for) the wayfarers; a duty imposed by Allah. Allah is knower, Wise.” (The Holy Qur’an 9:60).
The obligatory nature of Zakat is firmly established in the Qur’an, the Sunnah (or hadith), and the consensus of the companions and the Muslim scholars. Allah states in Surah at-Taubah verses 34-35: “O ye who believe! there are indeed many among the priests and anchorites, who in Falsehood devour the substance of men and hinder (them) from the way of Allah”.
Zakat is obligatory when a certain amount of money, called the nisab is reached or exceeded. Zakat is not obligatory if the amount owned is less than this nisab.
What is Nisab?
Nisab is the minimum amount of wealth required to make a person liable to pay Zakat.
The nisab (or minimum amount) of gold and golden currency is 20 mithqal, this is approximately 85 grams of pure gold. One mithqal is approximately 4.25 grams. The nisab of silver and silver currency is 200 dirhams, which is approximately 595 grams of pure silver. The nisab of other kinds of money and currency is to be scaled to that of gold, 85 grams of pure gold. This means that the nisab of money is the price of 85 grams of 999-type (pure) gold, on the day in which Zakat is paid. (Current Gold Prices)
Easiest way to work out Zakat
At any day of the year (eg 21st Ramadan) add up the value of your gold, silver, savings, cash, shares etc – these are your total assets. Minus from this any money you owe and any bills immediately due – these are your liabilities. If the balance is more than the nisab value, then you have to pay Zakat of 2.5% on the whole amount.
Points to remember
Zakat is only due on assets held for more than a lunar year. Zakat is not due on your main home. Mortgage loans should not be deducted from your assets. Businesses also need to pay Zakat on their profits and stock.
If the nisab is $20,72 this Ramadan – and you have savings of $960 and gold worth $1,438 (Total $2,395), then you have to pay 2.5% of the whole amount as Zakat – which = $60.
When is Zakat Due?
1. Passage of One Lunar Year:
Zakat is obligatory after a time span of one lunar year passes with the money in the control of it’s owner. Then the owner needs to pay 2.5% (or 1/40) of the money as Zakat. (A lunar year is approximately 355 days).
2. Deduction of Debts:
The owner should deduct any amount of money he or she borrowed from others; then check if the rest reaches the necessary nisab, then pays Zakat for it. If the owner had enough money to satisfy the nisab at the beginning of the year, then the money increased (in profits, salaries, inheritance, grants…etc.), the owner needs to add the increase to the nisab amount owned at the beginning of the year; then pay Zakat, 2.5%, of the total at the end of the lunar year. (there are small differences in the fiqh schools here)
Each Muslim calculates his or her own Zakat individually. For most purposes this involves the payment each year of two and a half percent of one’s capital. (Zakat Calculator) A pious person may also give as much as he or she pleases as sadaqa, and does so preferably in secret. Although this word can be translated as ‘voluntary charity’ it has a wider meaning. The Prophet said ‘even meeting your brother with a cheerful face is charity.’