Frequently asked questions about Zakat and their answers
In the dictionary, zakat means, increase, cleaning, abundance, good manners and praise; as a religious term, it means giving away some part of certain goods to certain people in order to please Allah.
Zakat, which is one of the financial worships, is one of the five pillars of Islam; it became obligatory in Madinah in the second year of Hegira. The following is stated in the Quran: “And be steadfast in prayer; give Zakat...” (al-Baqara, 2/43, 110; Hajj, 22/78; an-Nur, 24/56; al-Mujadala, 58/13; al-Muzzammil, 73/20); “Of their wealth take alms, that so thou mightest purify and sanctify them; and pray on their behalf. Verily thy prayers are a source of security for them: and Allah is One Who heareth and knoweth.” (at-Tawbah, 9/103).
A person must be a Muslim, free, sane, should have attained the age of puberty, he must have money or goods that increase, that is, which bring yield, more than his debts and his essential needs and equal to or more than the amount of nisab to be obliged to give zakat.
Nisab is the criterion of richness determined for the kinds of worship like zakat, sadaqah al-fitr (fitrah) (sadaqah paid in Ramadan in order to purify the act of fasting), qurban (animal sacrifice). Nisab can also be defined as the minimum criterion of richness. If a person has money or goods equal to nisab apart from his debts and essential needs, he is regarded to be rich in terms of religion. Such a person cannot receive zakat or sadaqah, and he is obliged to give fitrah and sacrifice qurban. If that extra money or goods has the quality of increasing and if one year passes after owning it, it becomes necessary to pay zakat for it.
Nisab, the minimum limit of being rich, was determined by Hazrat Prophet (pbuh). Those minimum limits show the average standard of living and the criterion of richness of the Islamic community of that time. The amounts of nisab determined by hadiths can be listed as follows; 80,18 grams of gold or its equivalent in cash or goods, 40 sheep or goats, 30 head of cattle, 5 camels. It is clear that those goods that are used to determine the amount of nisab were the most common means of richness. The determination of nisab based on those goods was maintained in the future periods when the social and economic conditions did not change.
Essential needs are goods or property that meet the essential needs and therefore are not subject to zakat.
In Islam, the situation of the mukallaf (competent person obliged to observe the precepts of religion) is taken into consideration in zakat as it is the case in other bodily and financial responsibilities, and he is given a reasonable and affordable responsibility. Therefore, Islamic scholars laid it down as a condition to havemoney or goods more than one’s debts and his essential needs and equal to or more than the amount of nisab for a person to be a mukallaf for zakat and fitrah. The amount of essential needs does not bring about welfare or richness. The amount of essential needs is the amount that is necessary for a person to live.
Allah, the Exalted, says, “They ask thee how much they are to spend; say: "What is beyond your needs...”(al-Baqara 2/219). The following is stated in a hadith regarding the issue: "A man came to Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) and said, ‘I have a dinar. What shall I do with it? Hazrat Prophet said: Spend it on yourself. He again said: I have another. He said: Spend it on your family. He again said: I have another. He said: Spend it on your children. He again said: I have another. He replied: You know best’.” (Abu Dawud, Zakat, 45).
Essential goods are the things that man needs in order to protect his life and freedoms. They are generally things like livelihood, the house one lives in, household appliances, clothes, goods in return for debt, tools and machinery necessary for a trade, vehicles, books obtained for studying, etc.
As a matter of fact, essential needs change and develop with the change of time, environment and situation. What is valid here is the essential needs of the zakat mukallaf. Along with his own needs, the needs of the people he is obliged to take care of are included among the essential needs.
The tools, materials and machinery that are necessary for a trade are regarded among essential needs and it is not necessary to give zakat for them. However, if those tools, materials and machinery are used for buying and selling, not for one’s trade, then it is necessary to pay zakat for them.
Lunar calendar is used for calculating zakat as it is the case in the worships like fasting and hajj. One yearis necessary to pass after obtaining the goods or money equaI to the amount of nisab for zakat to be obligatory. However, the owner of the goods can give zakat for them before its due time if he wishes. The zakat that was due but not given in the past can be given at once; it is permissible and appropriate to be give the zakat which is due in the future now if there are some people who are really in need.
Zakat can be given in kind like food and clothing items as well as in cash like money, foreign currency and gold. A promissory note is a document arranged between two people showing to whom a right, property or borrowed money belongs. Therefore, a rich person, who is a mukallaf of zakat, can give a promissory note that he definitely knows that will be paid in due time to a poor person as zakat.
What is obligatory is giving zakat. Therefore, it can be paid all at once as well as in installments.
There is no definite time to give zakat; it is necessary to give it when it becomes fard (obligatory). Therefore, it is not necessary to wait for a certain month or the month of Ramadan. However, those who are obliged to give zakat should give it as soon as possible when it becomes obligatory.
The zakat of tradable goods can be given in cash by calculating their values or they can be given in kind.
Zakat is a financial worship; it needs to be paid out of the available capital, not out of the probable profit to be made in the future. Therefore, when the zakat of the tradable goods are given, the value of the goods without profit need to be taken into consideration at the time of giving zakat.
The zakat of the receivables that is certain to be collected needs to be given every year. If the zakat of the receivables is not given before they are collected, the zakat for the previous years needs to be given when they are collected. It is not necessary to give the zakat of the denied receivables or the receivables that are impossible to be collected every year. Should such receivables be collected later, it is necessary to pay the zakat of it beginning from that year; it is not necessary to pay zakat for previous years.
If the debtor is one of the people that zakat can be given to, the receivables can be calculated as zakat.
It is necessary to pay zakat for all kinds of crops except wood, cane (except sugar cane) and grass if they reach the amount of nisab (about 650 kg). Allah, the Exalted, states the following in the Quran;“O ye who believe! Give of the good things which ye have (honourably) earned, and of the fruits of the earth which We have produced for you...” (al-Baqara 2/267);“It is He who produceth gardens, with trellises and without, and dates, and tilth with produce of all kinds and olives and pomegranates, similar (in kind) and different (in variety): eat of their fruit in their season, but render the dues that are proper on the day that the harvest is gathered. But waste not by excess: for Allah loveth not the wasters.” (al-An’am 6/141). Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) stated the following, “On a land irrigated by rain water or by natural water channels Ushr (i.e. one-tenth) is compulsory (as Zakat); and on the land irrigated by the well, half of an Ushr (i.e. one-twentieth) is compulsory.”(Bukhari, Zakat, 55).
As it is stated in the hadith, cultivation of the land and the usage of water are taken into consideration in giving the zakat of the crop. Accordingly, if the land is irrigated by rain, river, stream, brook or their channels, that is without any effort, one-tenth of the crop is given as zakat; if the land is irrigated by buckets, by the well or by a motor, that is, by a way that causes expense, one-twentieth of the crop is given as zakat.
Today, expenses like fertilizers, diesel and labor form a great amount in the cost of production. Therefore, it is necessary to give the zakat of the agricultural corps if the crop reaches the amount of nisab after the extra expenses caused by the agricultural conditions are deducted form the gross income as 1/10 for the land that is irrigated naturally and as 1/20 for the land that is irrigated by bucket, the well and motor, etc, that is by extra expenses or effort.
The ushr (zakat) of the land crops is given by the owner of the crops, not by the owner of the land. Therefore, if the landowner lets someone cultivate his land without asking any money, the zakat of the obtained crop is paid by the person who cultivates the land. If the land is hired for a certain amount of money, the zakat (ushr) is paid by the person who pays the rent. If the land is rented as sharecropping, the owner of the land and the person cultivating the land pay zakat separately out of the shares of the crop.
The farmer whose crop is destroyed in the field does not have to pay zakat. Ushr becomes obligatory after the crop is harvested; so, if the crop is destroyed after harvesting, it is necessary to pay zakat. As a matter of fact, Allah, the Exalted, stated the following, "Render the dues that are proper on the day that the harvest is gathered."(al-An'am 8/141).
The zakat of goods can be given in kind as well as in the form of other equivalents. Accordingly, a person who wants to give the zakat of his animals can give some of his animals or their equivalents as zakat. However, it is better to prefer the one which is more useful for the poor.
The goods that are bought and sold in order to make profit are called tradable goods. A person who has tradable goods equivalent to 80.18 grams of gold has to give the zakat of those goods when one year passes after obtaining them as 1/40 (%2,5).
The articles of adornment other than gold and silver are not subject to zakat.
According to the ijtihad of the majority of the scholars including the three madhhabs except Hanafis, adornment (jewelry) is regarded among the essential needs of women and they are not subject to zakat, that is, it is not necessary to pay zakat for them.
However, according to Hanafis, if the jewelry of a woman is equal to or more than the amount of nisab, it is necessary to pay zakat for them.
The flats that real estate agents buy and sell in order to make profit are subject to zakat. The property that are owned by real estate agents except the office they work in and the house/flat they live in are subject to zakat, and it is necessary to pay zakat for them when one year passes after obtaining them after deducting their debts as 1/40.
A person who is a partner of a company needs to pay zakat for the amount of the shares he has out of the current assets except the offices, tools, etc, if they are equal to or more than nisab after one year passes.
The fixed assets (production instruments, machinery, etc) of the companies in the sector of industry are exempt from zakat; the current assets ( semi-manufactured and manufactured goods, raw materials, cash, checks, etc) and the net profit are subject to zakat as 2,5% after the debts, materials, labor, production, marketing management and finance costs are deducted.
A person who invests in the equity shares bought and sold in the stock exchange is obliged to give zakat if the value of his shares is equal to or more than nisab as 1/40 after one year passes after obtaining them.
It is stated in the Quran to whom is zakat given. (Chapter at-TawbahTevbe, 60). They are;the poor and the needy, those in bondage and in debt, those who are in the way (cause) of Allah, the wayfarer, those employed to administer the (funds) and those whose hearts have been (recently) reconciled (to Truth).
It is not permissible to give zakat to the people and institutions apart from those mentioned in the 60th verse of Chapter at-Tawbah. In addition, it is not permissible to give zakat to one’s mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, son, children of one’s son, daughter, children of one’s daughters and their children.
There is no religious drawback to giving zakat and fitrah to societies, institutions, solidarity funds that are known to collect them in a fund and give them to the people mentioned in the 60th verse of Chapter at-Tawbah and directed by reliable people.
In Islam, it is determined clearly to whom zakat can be and cannot be given regardless of their classes and occupations. Accordingly, a person who has a regular income but who cannot meet his needs with that income and who does not have any other assets can be given zakat.
The difference of carat is not important in gold in terms of being subject to zakat because it does not matter what carat it is; gold is gold. Therefore, even if the carats are different, all kinds of gold is subject to zakat if the amount of the gold, alone or all together with different carats of gold, is equal to or more than 80,18 grams and the value of 22 carat if it meets the other conditions too. In that case, the zakat of the different carats of gold is calculated out of their values and is given as 2,5%.
If the owner ofthe profit obtained illegitimately is known, it is necessary to return it to its owner; if the owner is not known, it should be given to the poor or charitable institutions without expecting any reward from it. Accordingly, since the profit obtained illegitimately needs to be returned to its owner or to be given to the poor or charitable institutions, giving zakat for it is not in question.
Essential needs are the things that are necessary for the continuation of life securely and healthily such as a house, household appliances, clothes, transportation and food. It is not necessary to own them in order to meet those needs. If a person has given an oral or written undertaking with the money he saves to meet those needs, then he does not have to give zakat for it because when he has given an oral or written undertaking, it means he has spent that money for his essential needs. However, if there is no such undertaking, then it is necessary to give zakat if that money is equal to or more than nisab and if one year has passed after obtaining it.
People who are not sane or who have notreached the age of puberty are not obliged to give zakat because they are not religiously responsible. However, since the poor have a right on the property of the rich, the guardians of such people should give zakat out of their property even ifpeople who are not sane or who have not reached the age of puberty are not obliged to give zakat. As a matter of fact, the following is stated in the Quran; "And in their wealth and possessions (was remembered) the right of the (needy), him who asked and him who (for some reason) was prevented (from asking)."(adh-Dhariyat 51/19).
If a person who lives together with his father has property of his own and if he has the conditions for zakat, he is obliged to give zakat. However, if his property has not been separated from his father’s and if they earn money together and spend together, then the person who has the right and authority to use the money is obliged to pay zakat.
Tax is an obligation of citizenship; zakat is a religious responsibility. In addition, zakat and tax are different in terms of the authority of sanction, main purpose, rate and the places where they are spent. Therefore, the tax paid to the state cannot be regarded as zakat. Zakat has to be given separately.
Zakat can be paid by hand, through a deputy or money order. What is important here is to transfer zakat to the person who will receive zakat.
If the father is dead, the stepmother can be given zakat; if the stepchild has reached puberty and has left the house, he can be given zakat; the stepfather can also be given zakat if they are poor. There is not a relation of offspring and ancestry between them, and the person giving zakat to them is not obliged to look after them.
The son-in-law can be given zakat if he is poor. Since the husband has to look after his wife, the zakat given to the daughter-in-law is like giving zakat to one’s son indirectly. Therefore, it is not appropriate to give zakat to the daughter-in-law.
The person who is obliged to pay zakat should search to whom he is giving zakat to. As a result of his search, if he has the opinion that that person can be given zakat, he can give zakat to that person; however, if he finds out that the man is rich later, his zakat is valid. If a person gives zakat to a person without searching and if he finds out that the man is rich later, his zakat is not valid, he needs to give zakat again.
Since themother-in-law and father-in-law are not among the people that a person is obliged to look after, they can be given zakat if they are poor.
Sometimes, zakat is described wrongly. The expressions like zakat is the dirty part of the goods because it purifies the goods of the rich are not right and they are contrary to Islam. Zakat is the right of the poor. It is given to the people described in the Quran.
The following is stated in the Quran: "And in their wealth and possessions (was remembered) the right of the (needy), him who asked and him who (for some reason) was prevented (from asking).." (see adh-Dhariyat, 19-24).
The cleanest thing in Islam is the thing that is the right. It is ugly and nonsense to call the right as something dirty. Zakat is the cleanest and most legitimate thing for the poor, if the person receiving it is really poor. A person who does not give zakat eats the right of the poor; so, he eats haram. Thus, haram mixes into his property. When a rich person gives zakat, he will protect his goods from haram since he gives the right of others.
Seen in this light, zakat cleans the goods. Otherwise, the zakat that a rich person gives is not the dirty part of his goods. No rich person has the right to say that zakat is taken from him unjustly.
Questions about sadaqah al-fitr (fitrah)
Sadaqah al-fitr, which is named as fitrah by people, is a financial worship that is obligatory to be given by each Muslim that has goods at least equal to nisab except his essential needs and that reaches the end of Ramadan.
Sadaqah al-fitr is regarded as the zakat of the existence of man as a necessity of the mutual help and solidarity in the nature (creation) of man. Therefore,sadaqa al-fitr is also called “sadaqah of the soul” or “sadaqah of the body”. On the other hand, it plays an important role by meeting the needs of the poor and making them share the joy of the eid (festival) days.
Sadaqah al-fitris obligatory for eachMuslim that has goods at least equal to nisab except his essential needs and debts. The criterion of richness of an individual for sadaqah al-fitr is the same as that of zakat. However, the conditions that the goods must have the property of increasing and that one year has to pass after obtaining the goods, which are necessary for zakat, are not necessary for sadaqah al-fitr.
Sadaqah al-fitr becomes obligatory with the break of the dawn on the first day of Ramadan Festival (eid al-fitr) but it can be given during the month of Ramadan too. It is better to give it before the eid so that the poor can meet their needs for the eid. However, if sadaqah al-fitr has not been paid until the morning of the eid, it is necessary to pay it on the days of the eid. The sadaqah al-fitr that has not been paid on time must be paid as soon as possible.
The amount of sadaqah al-fitr was determined as one sa’ (about 2197 grams) of wheat, barley, dates or grapes by hadiths. The fact that sadaqah al-fitr was determined in the form of those foods is based on the economic conditions and eating habits of that period. When the applications in the period of Hazrat Prophet and his Companions are taken into consideration, it is understood that the amount of sadaqah al-fitr aims to meet the food need of a middle class family in a community.
Accordingly, the amount that is enough to meet the average daily food need of a person can be given in kind or in cash. However, it is better to prefer the one that will be more useful for the poor.
Since the standard of living are different in different countries and regions, the person that is obliged to give sadaqah al-fitr should give it in accordance with the standards of the average daily food need of a person in the country where he is.
The obligation of sadaqah al-fitr must be carried out on time without delay, as it is the case in all other worships. However, if it has not been given on time, it must be paid as soon as possible.
Sadaqah al-fitr is given to the people whom zakat is given. (See ‘To whom is zakat given?’) It is not permissible to give sadaqah al-fitr to the people to whom zakat is not given. (See ‘To whom is zakat not given?’).
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