Facts About Zakah

Tuesday, 6 May 2019.


Perhaps no institution in Islam has brought as much harmony to human societies as Zakah. Its divine decree and revelation to Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in the 5th year of Hijrah was a social revolution coming to mankind with an ecstasy of delight. That decree was the Fatwah that ushered Zakah into the world and made it the third pillar of Islam.

Hitherto, there was no organized system of redistribution of wealth for the purpose of alleviating poverty in any society. Although the Prophet had introduced Sadaqah (voluntary charity) as a pecuniary bridge among the Muslim social strata, this was only done according to the whims of the rich. And it had a specific neither time nor a specific measure.

While in Makkah, the Prophet was limited to only two pillars of Islam. These were ‘Iman’ (Faith) and Salat (observance of five daily prayers). The three other fundamental pillars of Islam came to him through divine revelations in Madinah. Of the three, Ramadan was the first to come in the third year of Hijrah. It was followed by Zakah which came in the fifth year of Hijrah. These two pillars were finally anchored by Hajj in the 7th year of Hijrah. However, Zakah is our immediate concern here.

Essence of Zakah

Zakah is not about redistribution of wealth between the rich and the poor alone. It is much more about social interaction of individuals and groups in any society for the purpose of boosting tolerance, security, peace and harmony. With the coming of Zakah as the third obligatory pillar of Islam, the mutual suspicion between the rich and the poor in Madinah was reduced to its barest minimum and the instrumentality of governance was formidably strengthened. Zakah is the only pillar of Islam that affects other people’s lives through the giving hands of the rich and the receiving hands of the poor. Other pillars of Islam such as Iman (Faith), Salat (Worship), Sawm (fasting) and Hajj (Pilgrimage) are all personal to whoever observes them. They cannot be shared with any other person. It is only Zakah that requires the giver and the recipient to interact heatedly to the benefit of the latter.

Controversy Over Nisab

The main problem of Zakah in the world today is in the controversy over the interpretation of Nisab (i.e. the minimum taxable amount from which Zakah is supposed to be paid) as prescribed by Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

Some modern scholars have become so lazy and perhaps so intellectually retarded that they only rely on research carried out by primordial scholars some centuries ago. Such modern scholars believe that the research carried out according to the situation of those primordial periods should suffice in projecting Islam to eternity. They have forgotten that Islam is a dynamic and not a dogmatic religion. Thus in matters of Zakah, such scholars are so rigid on using gold as the measure for determining Nisab that they do not even care if Zakah is no longer paid and the five pillars of Islam are technically reduced to four. They have ignored the fact that the same Prophet Muhammad (SAW) who prescribed gold as a measure of Nisab for sellers and buyers of gold also prescribed silver (as a measure of Nisab for dealers in silver as well as the majority of Muslims who are engaged in other businesses). That same Prophet even went further to prescribe the specific amount of money that can be termed as Nisab in certain currencies available during his time. He said, as reported by Ali Bn Abi Talib, that if you have 200 Dirham or 20 Dinar you are liable to paying Zakah. This means that if you are in possession of a net income that amounts to 200 Dirham or 20 Dinar, Zakah payment becomes obligatory on you.

How the Jews Influence Nisab

Since payment of Zakah is not about money alone, subjecting the Nisab of Zakah to the market price of gold is like surrendering a whole pillar of Islam to the whim of the Jewish gold dealers who invariably determine the price of that commodity to the detriment of Zakah as a pillar of Islam. It is generally known throughout the world that the principal traders in gold are the Jews. And they are the ones determining its price from time to time. While some scholars insist on waiting for the current price of gold to be able to determine Nisab of Zakah only a few people know that as of today it requires just a minimum of about 200 UAE Dirham (according to the Prophet’s prescription) which is an equivalence of $54 or N10744 as the net amount of money from which Zakah is to be paid in a year. And only two and a half per cent of this amount which is now N268 (according to current rate of exchange) is payable from it. The figure here is based on 200 UAE Dirham in accordance with the Prophet’s prescription. By this, only those who have less than N10744 as net income in a year will not pay Zakah. Yet Nigerian Muslims prefer to spend thousands of dollars on Hajj every year without ever paying Zakah.

Due Process

In Islam, everything is done by due process. And Zakah cannot be of any exception. The process of paying Zakah includes the following:

  • Being a genuine Muslim
  • Attainment of the age of maturity
  • Intention to pay Zakah and not Sadaqah;
  • Timeliness (the amount must have remained in custody for one year);
  • Correct amount (i.e. to pay according to Nisab);
  • Ensuring that the paid Zakah reaches the intended recipient;


The wealth on which Zakah must be paid are basically seven. These include: gold and silver; cash income; agricultural products; livestock; property and mineral resources.

Every male or female Muslim who has a net income of at least N10744 which is an equivalence of 200 UAE Dirham prescribed by the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) as reported by Ali Bn Abi Talib, the third Caliph should pay Zakah (See Zakah section in Bulughul Marami). The Prophet was quoted as saying that if you have a net income of 200 Dirham or 20 Dinar you are liable to the payment of Zakah. The fact that he mentioned Dirham which was coined in silver before Dinar which was coined in gold confirms his preference for silver over gold as a measure of Nisab. And based on the quoted Hadith, Umar Bn Khattab also laid emphasis on silver during his caliphate and provided an opportunity for most working Muslims to pay Zakah.

Both Dirham and Dinar are still very much in use today in some Arab countries. For instance in countries like the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Syria and Morocco, the currency in use is Dirham while countries like Jordan, Iraq, Libya and Kuwait use Dinar.

Most of the prescriptions of Nisab by today’s Nigeria’s Islamic scholars are based on the current global market value of gold as determined by the Jewish gold traders. This is contradictory to the position of the second Caliph (Umar Bn Khattab) who adopted 200 silver-based Dirham prescribed by the Prophet to enable a majority of the citizenry pay Zakah even as he did not prevent those who preferred gold as Nisab measure from using it. (For reference, see the section of Zakah in Bulughul Marami and Riyadus-Salihin).

Personal Comment

Insisting on gold as a universal measure of Nisab in today’s world is nothing but a dogmatic ambush for Zakah as well as a clandestine collaboration with some enemies of Islam to ditch the third pillar of that divine religion. The Prophet had guarded against this by considering the implications of not paying Zakah before he prescribed Dirham and Dinar. Now, going by the current market price of gold, which has put Nisab at over N600000, more than 85% of Nigerian Muslims may not be able to pay Zakah. And this has been the case year in and year out for many past decades. The implication of this is that most Nigerian Muslims will never be able to pay Zakah throughout their lifetime. Yet, some Nigerian scholars insist on Nisab based on gold price not minding the plight of those who are technically excluded from the payment of Zakah.

Using Dirham for Nisab?

This column (The Message) chose the UAE Dirham as a measure of Nisab for Nigerian Muslims because of their familiarity with Dirham. Many Nigerians either travel to Dubai for business transactions or pass through that city which is globally acknowledged as an international transit on their ways to some countries in Asia or Australia. By that, they have become familiar with the UAE currency called Dirham which the Prophet recommended as a matter of priority. The argument that the Dirham of the Prophet’s time was different from today’s Dirham as being advanced by some so-called scholars is as pedestrian as saying that since the Prophet did not mention Naira as a measure of Nisab, Zakah should not be paid in Naira. Can anybody prove that the available gold or silver during the Prophet’s time was different from that of today? Just as gold is gold whether during the Prophet’s time or today so is Dirham or Dinar remains the same.

Payable Amount

What is statutorily payable from N10744 = N268 (which amounts to 21/2% or 1/40) of that amount. Today, the Dirham used in the United Arab Emirates is globally recognized as denominated in silver just as the Dinar used in Jordan or Iraq or Kuwait is recognized as denominated in gold. It is therefore grossly erroneous to impose the price of gold as determined by the Jews on Nigerian Muslims as the only yardstick for measuring Nisab.

Zakah of Property

With regards to landed property, no Zakah is paid on a residential building that is not commercialized fully or partly. If however, a part of it is commercialized and made a source of income (i.e. a part of it is let out) Zakah should be paid on the amount realized from the income generated from the commercialized part. If an open land is rented out commercially, Zakah should be paid on the amount realized from it provided that the net amount there from reaches the prescribed Nisab of N10744 per annum. But if the property is completely sold out the payable sum on it should be 21/2% or 1/40 of the amount realized from its sale.

Other properties on which Zakah should be paid include machinery leased out which generates income or a plot of land leased out on commercial basis or a well of water used for commercial purpose. Whatever is realized from any of these should be assessed according to the prescribed measure and   21/2% or 1/40  of its net balance should be paid as Zakah after deducting all expenses incurred on its process as well as payment of any debt.

Agricultural Products

As for the agricultural products, the prescribed minimum quantity from which Zakah should be paid is 653 kilograms. Such products include cash crops, legumes, fruits as well as tuber. There is no payment of Zakah on anything less than that weight. And the measure to be paid on agricultural products generally is 10% if the farm is not irrigated. But if irrigation is involved, only 5% is to be paid. This is to enable the farmer to cater for the cost of irrigation. The Zakah on farm products is paid immediately after harvesting. Payment of Zakah on agricultural products, especially crops, may be more than once in a year because it is a matter of pay as you harvest.


In the case of livestock, the quantities from which Zakah should be paid vary from animal to animal. For instance, one cow is given as Zakah out of every 30 cows. One goat or one sheep is given as Zakah out of every 40. One year old goat or sheep is given as Zakah on every five camels.

The minimum taxable Nisab on gold is 20 Dinar. Out of this, half of one Dinar, which amounts to 1/40 of 20 Dinar is payable. Anything in excess of 20 Dinar is calculated accordingly. Besides gold and silver, there is no Zakah on mines until they have been converted into cash or cash-able values. Zakat may also be paid on expected payment of debt if the debtor is reliable and trustworthy.

Beneficiaries of Zakah

The statutory beneficiaries of Zakah are contained in Chapter 9 verse 60 of the Qur’an as follows:

“Verily, Sadaqah (obligatory alms) are only for the poor and the needy and those who work on its collection and those whose hearts are to be reconciled (i.e. new converts) and to free those in bondage (debtors and prisoners) as well in the path of God (building of Mosques, orphanages etc) and the wayfarers; a duty imposed by God; God is all-knowing, all-seeing”.

The administration of Zakah to these people should be done by the State authorities in Islamic societies or a committee headed by Muftis of each locality with Islamic scholars as members.

It is better to disburse Zakah within the extended family or in the neighbourhood than to carry it outside one’s environment. In countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran and the likes, the time for paying Zakah is set to coincide with Ramadan period. This does not however mean that every Zakah time must fall in Ramadan.

Generally, the business of Zakah is as serious with Allah as it is in the lives of the poor masses that will benefit from it. Thus, it is not a topic to be fully treated in a single day column of this type. It may therefore be continued in this column in the near future.


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