Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 3: Zakah in Islamic Jurisprudence
Zakah or alms tax can be defined as that portion of a man's wealth which isdesignated for the poor. The term is derived from the Arabic verbal rootmeaning "to increase." "to purify," and "tobless." It find its origin in Allah's command to: "Take sadaqah(charity) from their property in order to purify and sanctify them"[at-Taubah 103]. That is why this kind of sadaqah is called zakah, for bypaying it, one is aspiring to attain blessing, purification, and the cultivationof good deeds.
Taking into account its very nature, it is no wonder that zakah constitutesone of the five pillars of Islam. It is associated with prayer (salah) ineighty-two Qur'anic verses. Allah, the Exalted One, prescribed it in His Book(The Qur'an), His Messenger corroborated it by his (sunnah), and the community(ummah) by consensus upheld it. Ibn 'Abbas reported that when the Prophet, uponwhom be peace, sent Mu'azh ibn Jabal to Yemen (as its governor), he said tohim: "You are going to a people who are People of the Scripture. Invitethem to accept the shahadah: that there is no god but Allah and I am HisMessenger. If they accept and affirm this, tell them that Allah, the GloriousOne, has enjoined five prayers upon them during the day and night. If theyaccept that, tell them also that He has enjoined sadaqah upon their assetswhich will be taken from the rich of the (Muslim) community and distributed tothe poor. If they accept that, refrain from laying hands upon the best of theirgoods and fear the cry of the oppressed, for there is no barrier between Allahand it."
At-Tabarani relates in al-'Awsat and as-Saghir, on the authority of 'Ali,that the Prophet said: "Allah has enjoined upon rich Muslims a due to betaken from their properties corresponding to the needs of the poor among them.The poor will never suffer from starvation or lack of clothes unless the richneglect their due. If they do, Allah will surely hold them accountable andpunish them severely." According to at-Tabarani: "It was reportedonly by Thabit ibn Muhammad az-Zahid." Of Thabit's credibility, al-Hafizin turn says: "Thabit was an honest and trustworthy person. AlBukhari andothers related from him, and the rest of the narrators in the chain areconsidered as accepted authorities."
In the early days of Islam at Makkah, no limit or restriction was placed onthe amount to be donated, for that decision was left to the individual Muslim'sconscience and generosity. In the second year of hijrah, according to thewidely known authorities, both the type and the quantity of zakah revenues weredetermined, and detailed illustrations were provided.
At-Taubah 103 authorizes the Prophet, upon whom be peace, to take either astipulated amount of alms from the believers' holdings in the form of theobligatory zakah, or a voluntary, unstipulated amount (zakah of tatawwul). Inthis 'ayah, "purify" means to purify them from stinginess, greed, andmeanness, and a lack of remorse toward the poor and the wretched. To sanctifythem is to raise them in esteem through good deeds and blessings so that theywill be worthy of happiness both now and in the afterlife.
In reference to the life hereafter, Allah reveals: "Lo! Those who keep fromevil will dwell amid gardens and watersprings, taking that which their Lordgives them. For they were before doers of good. They used to sleep but littleof the night, and in the hours of the early dawn they prayed forforgiveness.... In their wealth, the beggar and the outcast had due share"[azh-Zhariyat 15-19]. Allah views beneficence and righteousness as exclusivequalities of the pious. It is because of their beneficence that they pray atnight and ask Allah's forgiveness at dawn as a way of worshipping andapproaching Him. Their beneficence is likewise in their giving to the needytheir share of mercy and sympathy.
Allah further confirms: "And the believers, men and women, areprotecting friends of one another; they enjoin the right and forbid the wrong,they perform prayer and pay the zakah, and they obey Allah and His Messenger.Upon them, Allah will have mercy" [at-Taubah 71].
Such are the people blessed by Allah and given His mercy-- those who believein Him, who take care of each other through support and love, who exhortfairness and restrain lewd behavior, who have strong ties with Allah throughprayer, and who strengthen their mutual relations through zakah.
Finally, these people, as reflected in al-Hajj 41, are: "Those who, ifwe give them power in the land, perform prayers and pay zakah, and enjoinkindness and forbid inequity." Giving zakah is, therefore, one of thereasons for which the righteous are given authority on earth.
At-Tirmizhi relates from Abu Kabshah alAnmari that the Prophet, upon whom bepeace, said: "I swear upon three (things) and ask you to memorize mywords: Sadaqah taken from a property never decreases it; a man who suffersinjustice and is patient with it, Allah will grant him strength; a man whostarts begging, Allah will cause him to be poor."
Ahmad and at-Tirmizhi relate (and the latter graded it sahih) from AbuHurairah that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said: "Allahreceives charity by His right hand, and then He causes it to grow for each ofyou. Just as you raise a horse, colt, foal, or young weaned camel, so thatmorsel becomes as large as the Mount of 'Uhud."
Of this hadith's content, Waki' says: "This is sanctioned by theQur'an: 'Do they not know that it is Allah alone who can accept the repentanceof His servants and is the (true) recipient of whatever is offered for His sake- and that Allah alone is an acceptor of repentance, a dispenser of grace?'[at-Taubah 104]. 'Allah deprives usurious gains of all blessing, whereas Heblesses charitable deeds with manifold increase.' [al Baqarah 276]."
Again, Ahmad relates, with a sound chain of narrators, that Anas said:"A man from the tribe of Tameem came to the Messenger of Allah, upon whombe peace, and said: 'O Messenger of Allah! I have plenty of property, a largefamily, a great deal of money, and I am a gracious host to my guests. Tell mehow to conduct my life and how to spend.' The Messenger of Allah, upon whom bepeace, replied: 'Pay zakah out of your property, for truly it is a purifierwhich purifies you, and be kind to your relatives, and acknowledge the rightsof the poor, neighbors, and beggars'."
It was reported from 'Aishah that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom bepeace, said: "I swear upon three things: Allah does not equate one who hasa portion in Islam with one who does not. The portions of Islam are three:prayer, fasting, and zakah. If Allah takes care of a man in this world, He willtake care of him on the Day of Judgment. If a man likes a group of people,Allah will certainly include him among them. As for the fourth, if I swear onit, I hope I will not commit a sin: that if Allah conceals a man's sin in thisworld, He will certainly not expose him on the Day of Judgment."
At-Tabarani relates in al-'Awsat, that Jabir reported: "A man said: 'OMessenger of Allah! What will be the gains for a man who pays zakah on hisassets?' The Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said: 'For one who payszakah on his asssets, he will be removed from the evil in them'."
On the same subject, al-Bukhari and Muslim relate that Jabir ibn 'Abdullahreported: "I gave my allegience to the Messenger of Allah, upon whom bepeace, that I will establish salah (prayers) and zakah, and I will give adviceto every Muslim."
Allah says: "O you who believe! Most surely many of the doctors of lawand the monks eat away the property of men falsely and turn them from Allah'sway; and as for those who hoard treasures of gold and silver and do not spendthem for the sake of Allah--warn them of grievous sufferings [in the life tocome]. On the Day when that [hoarded wealth] shall be heated in the Fires ofHell and their foreheads and their sides and their backs branded with it, [itwill be said to them:] 'These are the treasures which you have hoarded foryourselves. Now taste of what you used to accumulate!' [at-Taubah 34-35]."He also says: "And they should not think--they who avariously cling to allthat Allah has granted them out of His bounty--that this is good for them. No,it is bad for them, for that which they hoard will be hung about their necks onthe Day of Judgment" [al-'Imran 180].
Ahmad, al-Bukhari, and Muslim relate from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger ofAllah, upon whom be peace, said: "No owner of a treasure who does not payzakah will be spared, for his treasure will be heated in the Fires of Hell andthen made into plates. His flanks and his forehead will be branded with themuntil Allah pronounces judgment on His servants during a day lasting fiftythousand years.
[The individual] will be shown his path, leading him either to Paradise orto Hell. A camel owner who does not pay zakah will not be spared (either). Hewill lay flat on a sandy, soft plain and they will run over him heavily oneafter another until Allah pronounces judgment on His servants during a daylasting fifty thousands years. [The individual in question] will then be shownhis path, leading him either to Paradise or to Hell. Equally, no owner of goatswho does not pay zakah (will be spared). He will lay flat for them on a sandyplain, and the goats will run over him as heavy as they will come and they willtrample him with their hoofs and gore him with their horns--with twisted hornsor with no horns--one after another until Allah pronounces judgment on Hisservants, during a day lasting fifty thousand years, and [the individual inquestion] will be shown the path, leading him either to Paradise or to Hell.They [the Companions] asked: 'O Messenger of Allah, what about the horses?' Hesaid: 'Horses have goodness in their foreheads (or he said 'Goodness lies inthe foreheads of the horses') until the Day of Judgment. Horses are of threekinds: they are a source of reward for the owner, they are a cover, or they area burden to a person. As to those [horses] that bring rewards, one who raisesand trains them for the sake of Allah will get a reward from Him as well as allthat they consume will be considered a reward for him from Allah. For everystalk of grass in the meadow that one lets them graze, there is a reward forhim. For every drop of water that one lets them drink from the creek, there isa reward.' He went on describing until a reward was mentioned even for theirurine and their feces.
'And for every step that they prance on elevated ground, there is a reward.As for the one to whom they will provide cover [in the life hereafter], he isthe one who raises them for honor and dignity and remembers the right of theirbacks and stomachs in plenty and adversity. As for the one to whom they are aburden, he is the one who raises them for glory and showing off to people.'They asked: 'O Messenger of Allah, what about donkeys?' He said: 'Allah has notrevealed to me anything in regard to them except this one comprehensive verse:'He who does an atom's weight of good will see it, and he who does an atom'sweight of evil will see it' [az-Zalzalah 7]."
Al-Bukhari and Muslim relate from Abu Hurairah that the Prophet, upon whombe peace, said: "Whoever is made wealthy by Allah and does not pay zakahon his wealth, on the Day of Judgment it will become a bald-headed, poisonous,male snake with two black spots over his eyes. The snake, on the Day ofJudgment, will encircle his neck, and bite his cheeks and say: 'I am yourtreasure, I am your wealth.' " Then he [the Prophet] recited this 'ayah:" 'And let not those who hoard up that which Allah has bestowed upon themof his bounty...' [al'Imran 180]."
Ibn Majah, al-Bazzar, and al-Baihaqi relate from Ibn 'Umar that theMessenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said: "O Muhajirun, beware of fivetraits: if ever immorality spreads in a community and there is no sense ofshame on its occurrence or mentioning it [and people talk about it as ifnothing bad has taken place], diseases which were not present in the time oftheir predecessors will spread among them. If they decrease the measure andweight (of sold grains or food), they will be overcome by poverty, theirprovisions will decrease and their ruler will be unjust. If they refrain frompaying the zakah due on their properties, they will be deprived of rain, unlessthey get it only for the sake of their cattle. If they renounce theircommitment to Allah and His Messenger, they will be governed by an enemy who isa stranger to them and who will take away some of what they possess. If theirrulers do not rule according to Allah's Book, they will be afflicted by civilwar. Allah forbid that these should happen to you."
Al-Bukhari and Muslim relate from al-Ahnaf ibn Qays that he said: "Iwas in the company of some men of Quraish, when a man (Abu Zharr al-Ghafari, acompanion of the Prophet) came with coarse hair, clothes, and appearance. Hestood up, greeted them and said: 'Inform those who hoard property that a stonewill be heated in the Fires of Hell and then placed on the nipples of theirbreasts until it comes out from the top of their shoulders. It will then beplaced on the top of their shoulders until it comes out again from the nippleof their breasts, and they will be shaken.' Then he left. I followed him andsat near him, not knowing who he was. I said: 'These people disliked what yousaid to them.' He observed: 'They do not understand anything that my friendsaid to me.' I asked: 'Who is your friend?' He replied: 'The Prophet, upon whombe peace. [One day he asked me]: 'Do you see the Mount of Uhud?' I looked atthe sun to see how much of the day was left, as I thought that the Messenger ofAllah, upon whom be peace, wanted to send me on an errand for him. I said:'Yes.' Upon this he said: 'Nothing would delight me more than having gold equalto the bulk of Uhud and spending all of it (in Allah's way) except threedinars.'
'Indeed, these people do not understand and go on accumulating riches. ByAllah! I neither ask them for this world, nor do I ask them anything aboutreligion until I meet Allah, The Exalted One.' "
As an obligation upon Muslims, zakah is one of the essential requirements ofIslam. If somebody disputed its obligation, he would be outside of Islam, andcould legally be killed for his unbelief unless he was a new Muslim and couldbe excused for his ignorance.
As for the one who refrains from paying it without denying its obligation,he would be guilty of committing a sin. Yet, this act does not place himoutside of Islam. It is the ruler's duty to take zakah from the defaulter byforce and rebuke him, provided he does not collect more than the stipulatedamount. However, in the views of Ahmad and ash-Shaf'i (in his earlier opinion)the ruler could take half of the defaulter's money, in addition to thecalculated amount of zakah, as a punishment. This view is based on what Ahmad,anNasa'i, Abu Dawud, al-Hakim, and al-Baihaqi have recorded from Bahz ibn Hakimall the way back to his grandfather who said: "I heard the Messenger ofAllah, upon whom be peace, say: 'Whether the camels of the zakah payer are grownor baby camels, it makes no difference in his reward if he gave them willingly.(However,) if someone refrains from paying it, it will be taken from him alongwith half his property, for it is a right of our Lord, the Blessed and theExalted, not a right of the house of Muhammad.'"
Asked about its chain, Ahmad ruled it good (hassan). Of Bahz, al-Hakim says:"His traditions are authentic." Ash-Shaf'i, as alBaihaqi says, didnot include it for fiqhi consideration because . . . "this hadith is notconfirmed by the scholars of hadith."
If some people refrain from paying zakah knowing that it is due and thatthey can afford to pay, they should be fought until they yield and pay.Al-Bukhari and Muslim report that Ibn 'Umar heard the Prophet say: "I havebeen ordered to fight people until they say that none has the right to beworshipped but Allah, and that Muhammad is His Messenger, and they uphold theprayers, and pay the zakah. If they do this, their lives and properties will besafe, except for what is due to Islam, and their accounts are with Allah."
Abu Hurairah is reported to have said: "When Allah's Messenger, uponwhom be peace, died and Abu Bakr succeeded him as caliph, some Arabsapostasized, causing Abu Bakr to declare war upon them. 'Umar said to him: 'Whymust you fight these men?', especially when there is a ruling of the Prophet,upon whom be peace: 'I have been called to fight men until they say that nonehas the right to be worshipped but Allah, and whoever said it has saved hislife and property from me except when a right is due in them, and his accountwill be with Allah.' Abu Bakr replied: 'By Allah! I will fight those whodifferentiate between salah and zakah because zakah is the due on property. ByAllah! If they withheld even a young she-goat ( 'anaq) that they used to pay atthe time of Allah's Messenger, upon whom be peace, I would fight them.' Then'Umar said: 'By Allah! It was He who gave Abu Bakr the true knowledge to fight,and later I came to know that he was right.' "
The same hadith narrated by Muslim, Abu Dawud, and atTirmizhi has thefollowing variant: "If they witheld the 'iqal, the rope of thecamel," instead of "'anaq, young she-goat."
Zakah must be paid by every Muslim who has a nisab, which is the minimum ofone's holdings liable to zakah. The nisab is conditioned by the following:
-1- Zakah should be paid on any amount of money remaining after meeting theexpenses for such necessities as food, clothes, housing, vehicles and craft machines.
-2- A complete year of Islamic calendar should pass, starting from the veryday of the nisab's possession, without any decrease during the year. In case ofits decrease (being less than nisab), the year count (hawl;) starts from theday of the nisab completion.
Commenting on the issue, an-Nawawi said: "In our view and the views ofMalik, Ahmad, and the majority of scholars, the amount of property liable forpayment of zakah, such as gold, silver, or cattle, is tied to the completion ofnisab through the turn of a whole year. If the nisab decreases in any time ofthe year, [the counting of] the year discontinues. Later, if the nisab iscompleted, the year count is resumed from the time of its completion."
On the same subject, Abu Hanifah holds: "What matters istheavailability of nisab at the beginning and end of the year. Its decrease at anytime in between does not matter, even though the zakah payer had two hundreddirhams and he lost all but one dirham during the year, or if he had fortysheep, all of which died except for one during the year. If, at the end of theyear, he had two hundred dirhams, or forty sheep, then he must pay zakah on allof that. This condition is not applicable to the zakah of plantations andfruits, for their zakah should be paid on the harvest day. Allah, the ExaltedOne, says: 'And pay the due thereof upon the harvest day' [alA'raf 142]."
Al-'Abdari elaborated that: "The holdings subject to zakah are of twokinds. The first kind grows by itself: crops and fruits. The second kind isused for growing and production: money, merchandise, and cattle. In the formercase, zakah should be paid at the time of harvest. In the latter case, itshould be paid at the end of the haul. This was the opinion of all jurists asreported in anNawawi's al-Majrnu'."
The guardian of a child or of a mentally retarded person must pay zakah onhis behalf from his property if it constitutes a nisab.
'Amr ibn Shu'aib reported from his father backed up by a chain of sourcesgoing back to 'Abdullah ibn 'Amr that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom bepeace, said: "One who becomes the guardian of an orphan with property musttrade on his behalf and not leave it passive in order to avoid depletion of theproperty by sadaqah."
However, this hadith has a weak link. Still, al-Hafiz affirms that:"There is a similar hadith of the mursal type in the compilation ofash-Shaf'i, who confirmed that it is considered a sound one. 'Aishah used toset aside zakah for the orphans who were under her protection."
At-Tirmizhi concludes that: "Jurists differ on this issue. More thanone companion of the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said that zakah may be takenfrom an orphan's property. Among these are: 'Umar, 'Ali, 'Aishah, and Ibn'Umar. This view is also supported by Malik, ash-Shaf'i, Ahmad, and Ishaq.Another group, including Sufyan and Ibn al-Mubarak, hold that: 'Zakah shouldnot be taken out of an orphan's property.' "
Whoever has property must pay its proper zakah. If the property is indebted,he may first pay off his debt, then in case the remainder is enough toconstitute a nisab, he must pay zakah. If he does not hold the nisab, he doesnot have to pay it since he is poor. The Messenger of Allah, upon whom bepeace, said: "Only the wealthy are required to give charity." Thishadith is related by Ahmad and al-Bukhari. The latter records it in mu'allaqform. The Prophet also said: "Zakah is levied on the rich and paid to thepoor." It is all the same, whether he is indebted to Allah or to man,because one hadith states: "Allah's debt is more deserving offulfillment."
If a person dies before he pays zakah, then it must be taken from hisestate.
According to ash-Shaf'i, Ahmad, Ishaq, and Abu Thaur, it is obligatory thatzakah be paid from the property of the deceased, and this payment receivespreference over debt, legacy, and inheritance for Allah says: "... afterpayment of legacies and debts is what you leave ..." [an-Nisa' 12]. Zakahis a debt payable to Allah.
A man came to the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, and said: "Mymother died while she still had to make up one month of fasting. Shall I makeit up for her?" The Prophet replied: "If there was any debt upon yourmother, would you pay it off for her?" The man answered: "Yes."The Prophet then observed: "A debt to Allah is more deserving to be paidoff." This is related by alBukhari and Muslim.
Since the payment of zakah is an act of worship, its validity depends uponthe expression of one's intention. That is, the zakah payer should pay it forthe sake of Allah; he should make up his mind, with all of his heart, thatzakah is an obligation to be discharged. Allah says: "And they arecommanded no more than this: to worship Allah, sincere in their faith in Himalone" [al-Bayyinah 5].
It is related in al-Bukhari and Muslim that the Prophet, upon whom be peace,said: "The value of [one's] deeds is determined by [one's] intentions; andthus for each shall be according to his intentions." Malik and ash-Shaf'isay that the intention is to be made at the time of rendering zakah. AbuHanifah holds that the intention must be present at the time of payment or whenzakah is being set aside from one's assets. Ahmad's view is that it ispermissible to express the niyyah a little earlier before payment.
Zakah must be paid immediately at its due time. Deferring payment of zakahis prohibited, unless the payer for some valid reason cannot pay it on time. Insuch a case, he may wait until he is able to pay it. It is related by Ahmad andal-Bukhari that 'Uqbah ibn al-Harith said: "Once I performed the 'asrprayer with the Prophet, upon whom be peace. When he concluded the prayer, hehurriedly went to his house and retumed immediately. Noticing the amazed faces,he said: 'I left at home a piece of gold which was meant for sadaqah, and I didnot want to let it remain a night in my house, so I ordered it to bedistributed.'"
Ash-Shaf'i and al-Bukhari (the latter in his Tarikh) relate from 'Aishahthat the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: "Whenever sadaqah which ispayable is mixed with a property, it will destroy that property." The samehadith is related by al-Humaydi with this addition: "If you have to paysadaqah which is payable, then it must be set aside, or the unlawful [property]will destroy the lawful one."
It is permissible for zakah to be paid for even two years in advance.Al-Zuhri did not see any problem in paying his zakah before the hawl. Al-Hasanwas once asked if a man who had paid his zakah for three years in advancefulfilled his obligation. Al-Hasan answered in the affirmative. Of this view,ash-Shaukani said: "This was the view of ash-Shaf'i, Ahmad, and AbuHanifah. It was supported by al-Hadi and al-Qasim." Al-Mu'ayyad-billahalso subscribes to this opinion as being better, but he says that Malik,Rabi'ah, Sufyan ath-Thauri, Dawud, Abu 'Ubayd ibn al-Harith, and an-Nasir (whocomes from the Prophet's family) held that one's obligation is not dischargedif the zakah is paid before the expiration of the year. They formulated theirstance on the Prophet's hadith, already mentioned, which makes the zakahmandatory for the payer only when he has his possessions for a year. However,this does not invalidate the view of those who maintain that paying zakah inadvance is lawful, for undeniably the obligation of zakah is associated withthe expiry of one full year. The difference is only on the point of whetherone's obligation is discharged if the zakah is paid before the year has expired."Ibn Rushd sums up the subject: "The controversy arises from the questionwhether it is an act of worship or an obligation owed to the poor. The groupwhich considers it an act of worship, like salah (prayers), does not agree thatit should be paid before its time. On the other hand, the group which views itas similar to the case of deferred obligatory dues approves its voluntarypayment in advance." In support of his view, ashShaf'i relates a hadithfrom 'Ali that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, asked for al-'Abbas' sadaqahbefore its due date.
It is desirable that the recipient invoke blessing for the zakah payer atthe time of its payment, for Allah says: "Take alms of their property thatyou may purify and sanctify them and pray for them. Verily, your prayers are acomfort for them" [at-Taubah 103]. It is related from 'Abdullah ibn AbuAwfa that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, on receiving sadaqahwould say: "O Allah, bless the family of Abu Aufa." This is relatedby Ahmad and others.
Wa'il ibn Hajr reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, prayed for aman who had offered a fine she-camel in his zakah payment: "May Allahbless him and make his camels beneficial to him." This is related byan-Nasa'i.
Ash-Shaf'i says: "According to this hadith, the leader may pray for thealmsgiver upon receiving his payment by saying: 'May Allah reward you in turnof what you have offered, and may Allah bless what you still possess.' "