Zakaat: Give Up the Poor’s Due

December 17, 2009.
Zakaat (or Zakah): means “to grow” (in goodness), “increase,” “purifying,” “foster,” “making pure.”
Zakaat is a monetary devotion and an act of worship that has been ordained in the divine laws given to all the prophets (Peace be upon them). Zakaat is one of the five pillars of Islam.
The Prophet says: I have been commanded to collect zakaat from the rich among you and distribute it to the poor among you.
Zakaat was made compulsory on Muslims at Makkah at the same time as Salaat. This can be seen in the Surahs of the Qur’an where the laws of Zakaat are mentioned. The amount, distribution, etc. was defined at Madinah in the second year of Hijri.
When Does it Become Obligatory?

The payment of Zakaat becomes obligatory on every sane and mature Muslim and Muslimah whenever there is an economic activity resulting in the net increase in their wealth.

The following are the categories of production. Profit, investments and savings are subject to Zakaat.

1. The produce of land. The rate is one tenth of the produce of the unirrigated and undeveloped land and one twentieth of the produce of the irrigated and developed land.

2. Pure economic profit business.

3. Inheritance, once for all.

4. Cash, investments, food, merchandise, jewelry, gold and silver kept in the inventory for full one year and above the certain value defined as Nisaab.

The rate of Zakat on each of the above categories is different. In all the four recognized (Sunni) madhaeb the fiqh of Zakaat is very much the same with the key elements that make Zakaat compulsory for an individual being:


1. Islam

2. Freedom

3. The nisaab

4. Ownership

5. A year for other than treasure trove and tenths (A treasure trove may broadly be defined as an amount of money or coin, gold, silver, plate, or bullion found hidden underground or in places like cellars or attics, where the treasure seems old enough for it to be presumed that the true owner is dead and the heirs undiscoverable.)

6. Lack of debt in money


Allah Ta’ala says in the Qur’an;
“Allah destroys wealth obtained from interest and will give increase for deed of charity”. Surah Baqarah: 276
Rasulullah S.A.W. has said;
  • “The nation that does not give Zakaat, Allah will bring about a drought on them (i. e. necessities of life will become scarce)”

  • “The persons on whom Allah has bestowed wealth, and he does not give Zakaat, on the Day of Qiyaamah, this wealth will be turned into a venomous bald serpent which will wind around his neck and, bite his jaws and say: “I am your wealth, I am your treasure” Bukhari.

It is stated in the Hadith that by giving Zakaat the following benefits are derived :
  • Gaining of the pleasure of Allah.
  • Increase in wealth;
  • Protection from losses;
  • A cause thus established for Allah’s forgiveness and blessings are obtained;
  • Safety from calamities;
  • Protection from the wrath of Allah and from a bad death;
  • The Zakaat will provide a shelter on the Day of Judgement;
  • Security from seventy misfortunes;
  • It will serve as a shield from the fires of Jahannam;
  • It contributes to Barakat in wealth.
  • It saves from fear and grief.


The preconditions for its validity are four:
1. Intention

2. Its distribution in the place of its obligation,

3. Paying it after it has become obligatory
4. Paying it to a just Imam to take it and spend it

THE NIYYAT (intention) OF ZAKAT.

  • It is Fardh to form niyyat for the fulfillment of Zakaat.
  • When giving Zakaat to a needy person, the niyyat should be that, “I am giving this as Zakaat.” If the niyyat is not made the Zakaat will not be valid.
  • It is not necessary to reveal to the needy person to whom Zakaat is given that the cash or kind which is being given to him is Zakaat.
  • When one has put aside an amount for Zakaat with the intention that he will give it to the needy, and at the time of giving Zakaat he forgets to make the niyyat, the Zakaat will still be valid.
  • If one gives a deserving person some money as a gift but makes the niyyat of Zakaat, the Zakaat will be valid.



  • Zakaat is Fardh at the rate of 2.5%.
  • Zakaat should be given as soon as possible after it becomes due. It is possible that death may occur and thus lead to failure in fulfilling one’s obligations. It is normal for some people to delay Zakaat and give it during Ramadan in ordan to take advantage of the increased barakah of giving in Ramadan, this practice is discouraged as Zakaat must be given immediatelt after it falls due. 
  • A poor man cannot be paid for his work from Zakaat, nor can Zakaat be given in payment of anyone’s services, except when an Islamic government pays salaries to persons appointed by the government to collect Zakaat.
  • Zakaat will only be valid if the recipient is made the owner of that amount.
  • Zakaat may not be given or used for the construction of a mosques, madrasah, hospitals, a well, a bridge or any other public amenity. Please see more clarification on this ruling below under Restrictions.
  • Poor students can be given a bursary from Zakaat. If the student is of an understanding age, the Zakaat must be given to him personally; and if he is not of an understanding age, then his Shar’i Wakeel (parents or legal guardian) must be given possession of the amount.
  • Zakaat can be paid in kind from the same merchandise on which it is duet or alternatively, it could be paid in cash. It is of VITAL importance to ensure at all times that the recipient is made the OWNER of the ZAKAAT.
  • Authority can be delegated to another person or an organization for the distribution of Zakaat in order that it be utilised in accordance with the laws of Zakaat.
  • If a person requests someone to give a certain amount on his behalf as Zakaat, and that sum is given out, then that Zakaat will be valid. The sum given will be a right upon the one who made this request.
  • If an agent is given Zakaat for distribution, and he does not distribute it then the Zakaat will not be regarded as fulfilled, and the sin of not discharging the obligatory duty of Zakaat will remain.
  • It is best to give one’s Zakaat when it is due, rather than wait for Ramadan.


There are eight categories of people who may receive the collected Zakaat:
  • The Poor (those who do not have enough to cover their basic needs). Only poor Muslims may be given Zakaat, some scholars have exempted from this category non-devout Muslims or sworn sinners.
  • The Destitute (those with no property or income at all)
  • The Collectors (Al Aamileen) 
  • People Whose Hearts are to be Reconciled (Normally new Muslims or those close to becoming Muslim.)
  • Freeing Slaves
  • Debtors (to help those heavily indebted with paying their debts)
  • In the Way of Allah (normally taken to mean helping those fighting Jihad)
  • Travellers (who find themselves in difficult circumstances)


All the above-mentioned recipients excluding Al Aamileen must be those who do not possess the Nisaab. A person who qualifies to pay Zakaat is not eligible to receive. Also, anyone who qualifies to receive Zakaat, can be given it as assistance or a gift, without telling him that it is Zakaat. Zakaat money of a particular year could be spent during the same year in advance, could be given all at once or in installments.

Zakaat is one of the basic principles of Muslim economy, based on social welfare and fair distribution of wealth.
  • Zakaat cannot be given to the families of the prophet- the children of his daughter, Sayyadatina Faatima (R.A.), and all members of prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) family and wives (Radiyallahu Anhuma).
  • Zakaat may not be given to a dependant of the giver: This is a general requirement for all the categories. It is not permissible for the mukallaf to pay the zakaat on his property to his paternal/maternal parents, grandparents. In the same manner one’s children and grandchildren, cannot be given Zakaat, a husband and wife cannot give Zakaat to each other.
  • Zakaat contributions cannot be given to such institutions or organizations who do not give the rightful recipients (Masaarif) possession of Zakaat, but instead use Zakaat funds for construction, investment or salaries.
  • Zakaat cannot be given to non-Muslims. The same ruling applies to Wajib Sadaqah.
  • If one cannot determine whether the recipient is needy or not, then it is better to make certain before giving him Zakaat. If Zakaat is given without inquiry and subsequently it is known that the recipient is wealthy the Zakaat is not valid. It has to be given again.
  • Zakaat will not be fulfilled by purchasing books for an institution, or land purchased for public utility and made Wak’f.
  • Zakaat cannot be used for the Kaf’n of a deceased person who has no heirs, because at that time he/she cannot become the owner.
  • A dead peson’s debt cannot be paid from Zakaat.RESTRICTIONS


There have been cases where you don’t/can’t pay zakaat for/to.
  • Traditional zakaat laws generally do not cover trade.
  • It is not permissible to pay zakaat to some members of the family (i.e. grandparents, parents, spouses, children), for if they were needy or poor, they are under the custody of the eligible man while Zakaat is considered a sort of Public Charity. Some scholars include this category amongst those that are eligible to collect Zakaat- Wallahu Alam.
  • Expenditure to Zakaat fund is not permissible on the construction of mosques, hospitals or other such projects. Since in public and social welfare projects no one becomes the owner, so, according to traditional interpretations the Zakaat should not be used for this purpose. Thus you will find in the books of Fiqh statements emphasizing that the money should not be used to build the Mosques, schools, hospitals, hostels etc. because this money belong to poor and it should be given to them. There are some jurists who still hold this strict opinion concerning Zakaat.However, there are a number of jurists of this century, such as Sheikh Muhammad ‘Abduh, Rashid Rida, Maulana Mawdudi, Amin Ahsan Islahi, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi and some Fatwa organizations in Kuwait and Egypt, they are of the opinion that the phrase ‘in the cause of Allah’ covers a broad category. It is a general term and it should be applied in all those situations where there is a need to serve Islam and Muslims.Those scholars consider it permissible to use the Zakah money to finance the Da’wah and public welfare programs. They say that the expression ‘for the poor and needy’ can also mean ‘for the benefit of the poor and needy’.
    The modern jurists also argue that in the past Muslim governments used to build Mosques, schools and used to finance public welfare projects. Now many governments are negligent in this matter. Many Muslims are living in areas where there are no Muslim governments.Furthermore the financial needs of the people have become so enormous and diverse that earlier rules and restrictions cannot be fully applied and may not be very useful in every place.In his famous book Fiqh Az-Zakah, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, has thoroughly discussed this subject. His Fatwa is that in non-Muslim countries it is permissible to use Zakah funds to build the Mosques, Schools and hospitals.
  • Zakaat doesn’t become obligatory on a Muslim if he doesn’t have a minimum amount- called Nisaab- in his possession that has remained unchanged for a whole lunar year; any increase in that money during the year waits for the following year and any decrease as long as the total amount is still above the minimum amount is exempted.


The Nisaab
  … of gold and silver fixed by Rasulullah Sallallaho Alaihe Wa Sallam is as follows:
Item  Nisaab Grams Tolas Grains
Troy Oz
20 Mithqaals
87.48 7.5 1350 2,8125
Silver 200 Dirhams 612m36 52.5 9450 19,6875
The rate of Zakaat which was fixed by Rasulullah (SAW) is 2.5% (1/40) i.e. 2.5 kobo in every 1 Naira. The personal belongings such as residential home, car, clothes, furniture, computer, books etc. are exempt from Zakaat.
  • If Zakaat on wealth has not been given at the end of the Islamic year, and all that wealth either gets lost or stolen, then such wealth is exempted from Zakaat. In a case where he only gives away part of that wealth, then Zakaat will be due on the remainder if it is equal to Nisaab. Zakaat is due on all money in your possession for a one year period- including the money you have saved up for hajj for instance- another pillar of Islam! The only exception is a contracted debt that has to be paid from the amount you have at the end of the year.


* One error that most people make is that Zakaat has to be paid during the month of Ramadan. This is not correct as Zakaat on cash, business inventory, livestock and similar assets has a condition of Hawl (the passage of a year). It means that one lunar year (354 days) has to pass from the day you become an owner of an amount reaching the Nisab (Zakaat-payable amount). If you own the Nisab and a full lunar year has passed, then it is subject to Zakaat. This is a generous grace from Allah, Most High.

The Hawl has nothing to do with Ramadan as it begins from that mentioned date (The Idea of Hawl serves two purposes:

1. It determines the beginning of ‘Zakatability’ and;
2. It assures that Zakaat is not taken twice in a period of 354 days.).
Many people like to adjust their Hawl to Ramadan because the reward of good deeds is increased and multiplied in that month. Such adjustment is done by paying the Zakaat of a partial Hawl from the date of acquiring the money until any day in Ramadan -people usually prefer the last ten days- and then they make their Hawl begins in Ramadan for all following years.
Allah Ta’ala says in the Qur’an :
“And there are those who hoard gold and silver and do not spend it in the way of Allah, announce to them a most grievous penalty (when) on the Day of Qiyaamah heat will be produced out of that wealth in the fire of Jahannam, then with it they will be branded on their foreheads and their flanks and backs. (It will be said to them) This is the treasure which you hoarded for yourselves, taste then the treasure that you had been hoarding.” Surah Taubah: 34.
It is important that you find out what the Nisaab is in your locality to enable you know if the obligation falls on you. I have compiled above only the aspects of Zakaat that are applicable to the majority of people. Of course, there are other important aspects that are important to be learned, e.g. methods of adminstering Zakaat on Livestocks, but of course these aspects have specific applications and those concerned should seek knowledge of this- Form 2 below provides a good guid to assessing this as well. To facilitate easy individual Zakaat calculation, any of the two forms may be used:
*Please use Form 1 unless you have more that the items it contains, in which case you should use Form 2 which is more comprehensive.
Please rememebr that Zakaat is not a tax, a levy or a gift; money due as Zakaat is NOT your money per se- rather it is the poor’s due that Allah (SWT) has put in your custody, and it is OBLIGATORY (like solat!) that you give it to them in proper amount- as their right. That means Zakaat must be administered according to its rules, not whatever you feel like giving. Do not allow greed to prevent you from using ordinary N25.00 (or equivalent) to cleanse N1000.00 (or equivalent) from your total wealth over a whole 1 year period (thus debarring the growth of your own wealth!) If all the eligible Muslims in Nigeria receive their due from all Zakaat-qualified Nigerian payers not just in Ramadan as is the common practise, but every month of the year as Allah Wills, grinding poverty will simply diminish to the barest minimum amongst our Muslim population. Allah Knows best. Allah has warned those who do not give Zakaat that they will face dire consequence. He says, “O you who believe! Verily, there are many of the rabbis and the monks who devour the wealth of mankind in falsehood, and hinder (them) from the way of Allah. And those who hoard up gold and silver, and spend it not in the Way of Allah-announce unto them a painful torment (Qur’an 9:34).

MPAC, Nigeria.

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