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Zakat

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Zakāt (Arabic: زکات) is a financial obligation in Islam based on which Muslims have to pay a certain amount of nine items to be spent for the poor and for other social purposes.

These nine items are: two types of coin (gold and silver), three types of livestock (camel, cow and sheep) and four grains (wheat, barley, dates and raisin). The amount of zakat for each item is different and is discussed in jurisprudential resources.

Zakat is of high significance in Islam and counts as one of its ancillaries. In religious resources, zakat has the same status as prayers and jihad and is one of the five pillars of the religion. Zakat is mentioned in fifty nine Qur'anic verses and about two thousand hadiths.

In the terminology of jurisprudence, zakat is a certain amount of one's property that is obligatory to be paid in some specified cases. There are two types of zakat:

  • Zakat of one's body which is Zakat al-Fitra and is paid in Eid al-fitr.
  • Zakat of one's property that is obligatory to be paid in the case of the four types of grains (wheat, barley, dates, raisins), livestock and coins under certain conditions.

In the broad sense of the term, zakat is wide enough to include all God-given blessings.


Literal and Terminological Meaning

The term 'zakat' in Arabic means growth and increase. About the literal meaning of the term, Khalil ibn Ahmad says that zakat of one's property means its purification and the Arabic sentence "زکا الزرع یزکو زکاء" means that the farm has grown a lot. Raghib Esfahani takes "zakat" to mean a sort of growth resulting from God's blessings. And 'Allama Tabataba'i takes the term to mean purification.

In terminology of jurisprudence, zakat refers to payment of a certain amount of specific properties which has reached to specific levels. The reason for naming this obligation as zakat is that through its payment, it is hoped that one's properties grow or one's soul is purified.

Zakat has also a general meaning which refers to types of obligatory or recommended assistance.

Since in the Qur'an the term sadaqa is used to refer to zakat, for obligatory zakat, the compound obligatory sadaqa is used to be differentiated from recommended sadaqas.

Obligation of Zakat

Obligation of zakat is an Islamic obligation about which there is a consensus among all Muslims such that its denial amounts to apostasy. Zakat counts as a worship, one of its conditions being intention or the intention of closeness to God (by obeying his commands).

Different Qur'anic verses such as Qur'an 7:156[1], Qur'an 27:3,[2] Qur'an 31:4[3] and Qur'an 41:7,[4] all of which are Meccan suras, imply that the obligation of zakat has been issued in Mecca and Muslims were thus obliged to pay zakat in that period, but when the Prophet (s) migrated to Medina and established an Islamic government, God ordered him to personally receive zakat from people, instead of people spending it on their own for its specified expenditures.

The verse "Take charity from their possessions to cleanse them and purify them" (خُذْ مِنْ أَمْوَالِهِمْ صَدَقَةً تُطَهِّرُهُمْ وَتُزَكِّيهِم) in Qur'an 9:103 was revealed in this period. It is well-known that this verse was revealed in the second year of Hijra and then the expenditures of zakat were specified in Qur'an 9:60,[5]

Zakat in Previous Religions

In addition to Islam, zakat was present in previous religions as well—in fact, zakat is, along with prayers, common among all Abrahamic religions, and many verses of Qur'an are evidence of this.

A consideration of Qur'anic verses and hadiths reveals that zakat in Islam is different from zakat in other Abrahamic religions in that in the latter, zakat was a matter of moral advice; in Islam, zakat is a divine obligation indifference to which is a vice and denying its obligation amounts to blasphemy.

Cases of Zakat

Zakat is an obligation in nine cases:

  1. wheat
  2. barley
  3. dates
  4. raisins
  5. gold
  6. silver
  7. camel
  8. cow
  9. sheep

Some have added wealth to the above cases, but the majority of jurists believe that it is just recommended to pay zakat in this case. When a person possesses one of the above, he will be obligated under certain circumstances, to pay a portion of his possession as specified in shari'a.

The intention (the intention of closeness to God) is obligatory in zakat, since it is a financial and divine obligation and one has to pay zakat in order to obey God's command and get close to Him.

Shiite authorities issued different fatwas with regard to the obligation of zakat and the lower limits (or nisabs) of its cases—in order to know about them one must refer to their Manual of fatwas. Here are the majority views with regard to some of the problems:

Conditions of Zakat for Grains

There are two conditions for the zakat of grains (wheat, barley, dates, and raisins):

  • The possession of the farm.
  • Reaching the lower limit (847/207 or 885 kilograms).

The portion of the grains that have to be paid as zakat is, given different conditions of irrigation, from 1⁄10 to 1⁄20 of the crop.

Conditions of Zakat for Gold and Silver

There are three conditions for the zakat of gold and silver:

  1. It is obligatory to pay the zakat of gold and silver when they are minted as coins transaction with which is common.
  2. One year must have passed from having them.
  3. Reaching the lower limit: the first lower limit of gold is about ninety six grams and the first lower limit of silver is about seven hundred grams and their zakat is 1⁄40.

Conditions of Zakat for Animals

There are four conditions for the zakat of livestock (camel, cow, and sheep):

  1. One year must have passed from having them.
  2. The animals must have been pastured in the ranch or grasslands, and they should not be fed by cropped fodders.
  3. The animal must have not been employed for any task during the year.
  4. Reaching the lower limit: the first lower limit of camel is six whose zakat is one sheep. The first zakat of cows is thirty ones whose zakat is a two-year old calf. The first zakat of sheep is forty ones whose zakat is one sheep.

Cases for the Expenditure of Zakat

In order to specify the cases for the expenditure of zakat, most interpreters have, without any disputes, appealed to the following verse of Qur'an:

"Alms" (or "sadaqa") in this verse means zakat. Therefore, zakat is spent in the following eight cases:

  1. The poor (fuqara).
  2. The needy (masakin).
  3. The officials who undertake the management of zakat and people who collect it.
  4. People who are inclined toward Islam if they are financially aided.
  5. In order to emancipate the slaves.
  6. To help people in debt.
  7. Anything in the way of God's happiness.
  8. To help those who are on a trip and they have no money to continue their trip.

Zakat al-Fitra

Main article: Zakat al-Fitra

Terminologically zakat is of two sorts: zakat of one's property and zakat of one's body which is zakat al-fitra. The latter is a portion of one's property that is under certain conditions obligatory to be paid after the month of Ramadan. The sort of zakat that is in question here and counts as one of religious ancillaries is zakat of one's property.

In this terminology, Zakat is a payment of a certain portion of one's property when it reaches a certain amount (a lower limit for paying zakat). The reason why this obligation is called "zakat" is the hope for blessings in one's property or for the purification of one's soul.

There is also a common usage of the term "zakat" to mean any sort of obligatory and recommended financial help.

Zakat and Tax

There are different contemporary issues with respect to zakat, including the relation between zakat and the tax paid to the government, and the restriction of zakat to the above nine cases. Some people take taxes to replace zakat, but some others take the two to be distinct, since there are verses of Qur'an and hadiths to the effect that zakat is an obligation and the expenditures of zakat and taxes are distinct. Some people maintain that zakat is not restricted to the above cases; it includes, as they believe, all industrial, agricultural and other products.

Zakat in Qur'an and Hadiths

Zakat is one of the most important economic programs of Islam. The word and its derivations are used fifty nine times in twenty nine suras and fifty six verses of Qur'an, and in twenty seven cases it is mentioned along with prayers:

  • "Carry out their [duty of] zakat"[6]
  • "Those who, if We granted them power in the land, will maintain the prayer, give the zakat, bid what is right and forbid what is wrong. And with Allah rests the outcome of all matters."[7]
  • "... By men whom neither trade nor bargaining distracts from the remembrance of Allah and the maintenance of prayer and the giving of zakat. They are fearful of a day wherein the hearts and the sights will be transformed,"[8]
  • "But as for those who are firmly grounded in knowledge from among them, and the faithful, they believe in what has been sent down to you, and what was sent down before you—those who maintain the prayer, give the zakat, and believe in Allah and the Last Day—them We shall give a great reward."[9]

There are 1980 hadiths in Wasa'il al-shi'a and Mustadrak al-wasa'il with regard to zakat and this implies its significance.

  • Here are some effects of zakat in these hadiths:
  1. Purification of the payer and sanctification of soul.
  2. It is one of the five pillars of Islam.
  3. It appeases God's anger.
  4. The condition for the acceptance of prayers.
  5. Sign of God's love.
  6. Its payer will be loved by God.
  7. The most difficult obligation.
  8. The goodness and the benefits of the society.
  9. It protects one's property.
  10. Sins of the payer are forgiven.
  11. The growth of one's livelihood—no one's property is decreased by paying zakat.
  12. The purification of the soul and the growth of one's property.
  13. The cure of the patients.
  14. Prevention of disasters for oneself and others.
  15. An examination for the rich and a help to the poor.
  16. A solution for avarice.
  17. A help for the dead.
  18. Minimizing poverty.
  • And there are detrimental effects if one refuses to pay zakat:
  1. The waste of one's property.
  2. Loss in one's wealth.
  3. Spending one's money for the vice and the sins.
  4. Deprivation of divine mercy.
  5. It is in fact a sort of theft.
  6. One who does not pay zakat will become poor.
  7. Rejection of one's prayers by God.
  8. The property whose zakat is not paid will be a fire on the Day of Judgment.
  9. Loss of one's faith in God.
  10. The decrease of the blessings of the Earth.

Zakat for Other Blessings

In the widest sense of the term, zakat for any sort of one's possessions should be paid in order for one's possessions to grow. According to a hadith from Imam al-Sadiq (a) in Misbah al-shari'a there is a zakat for any member of one's body:

  • Zakat of one's eye is to look carefully in order to learn from events in one's surroundings, and not to look lustfully.
  • Zakat of one's ears is to listen to wisdom, Qur'an and everything that frees one's spirit, and not to listen to what captivates one's soul, such as lies, gossips and the like.
  • Zakat of one's tongue is to speak with mercy and benevolence for Muslims, awakening ignorant people, and to praise God.
  • Zakat of one's hands is to act generously, to write about wisdoms and what Muslims benefit from in the way of God, and to refuse from wrong-doing.
  • Zakat of one's legs is to walk in the way of God, e.g. visiting good people, going to religious meetings, helping people, visiting one's family and relatives, jihad and anything that helps the purification of one's heart and reinforces one's religious faith.

In Ghurar wa Durar, Imam 'Ali (a) is quoted as saying that:

  • Zakat of knowledge is to teach it and propagate it.
  • Zakat of a position (or a job) is to devote it to do good acts.
  • Zakat of patience is to tolerate.
  • Zakat of one's property is to be generous about it.
  • Zakat of power is fairness.
  • Zakat of beauty is chastity.
  • Zakat of victory is beneficence.
  • Zakat of one's body is jihad and fasting.
  • Zakat of wealth is to help one's neighbors and relatives.
  • Zakat of health is to try for God's obedience.
  • Zakat of courage is jihad in the way of God.
  • Zakat of a governor is to help the impoverished.
  • Zakat of God's blessings is to do good acts.
  • Zakat of knowledge is to give it to people who deserve it and to motivate oneself to act upon it.

Notes

  1. And appoint goodness for us in this world and the Hereafter, for indeed we have come back to You.’ Said He, ‘I visit My punishment on whomever I wish, but My mercy embraces all things. Soon I shall appoint it for those who are Godwary and give the zakat and those who believe in Our signs
  2. —those who maintain the prayer and pay the zakat, and who are certain of the Hereafter
  3. who maintain the prayer, pay the zakat, and are certain of the Hereafter.
  4. —those who do not pay the zakat and disbelieve in the Hereafter
  5. The charities are only for the poor and the needy, and those employed to collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and for [the freedom of] the slaves and the debtors, and in the way of Allah, and for the traveller. [This is] an ordinance from Allah, and Allah is all-knowing, all-wise.
  6. Qur'an 23:4
  7. Qur'an 22:41
  8. Qur'an 24:37
  9. Qur'an: 4:162

References

  • The material for this article is mainly taken from زکات in Farsi Wikishia.