What is Zakat (zakah)?
Zakat is an act of worship we perform with the wealth Allah has blessed us with.
It is a religious duty which washes away impurities from our provision and ensures excess wealth is distributed among those in need.
Zakat is an obligation upon any Muslim who has reached puberty, is sane, and has above the minimum required amount of wealth (Nisab).
It requires giving a calculated amount (usually 2.5%) to the poor and needy.
The Categories of Zakat
The poor (al-fuqarâ’)
meaning low-income or indigent: This can mean a homeless person in your area, kids whose families qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, or orphans in Bangladesh. Anyone who does not have the funds to live a stable life, feed themselves and their family, go to the doctor when they need to and grow up to be a productive citizen falls under this category.
The needy (al-masâkîn)
meaning someone who is in difficulty: Someone in need might not necessarily be poor, right? Some people are forced from their homes by war or natural disasters. Or imagine a mother who gets sick and cannot take care of her children. Even with money in the bank, they may still need help. Your zakat can be there for them.
meaning any trustworthy organisation that helps you calculate your zakat and accepts the payment for it: In the United States these tend to be categorized as non-profit or 501(c)3 organizations with tax-exempt status. To learn more about any group that offers to distribute your zakat on your behalf, search for them using independent websites such as CharityNavigator.org or GreatNonProfits.org.
Those whose hearts are to be reconciled
meaning new Muslims and friends of the Muslim community: You read that right. Your zakat can be distributed to new Muslims, and to people in the larger community. This not only exemplifies the Muslim tradition of social justice for all, but shows reverts how important they are, and helps build bonds of cooperation and friendship between Muslims and non-Muslims.
Those in bondage
(slaves and captives): Even though slavery is outlawed in most parts of the world, many people are still trafficked, meaning bought and sold, as slaves. Using zakat to help any of these people become free and independent again seems like a no-brainer.
Yes, zakat can help people pay their debts. Living with a great burden of debt can be debilitating to an individual or family, but your zakat can help.
In the cause of God
Have you ever wanted to help build a mosque? Or maybe you graduated from a Muslim school and want to support it through ongoing contributions. Donations to your mosque, Muslim school or Muslim youth group are zakat-worthy. And the benefits of that charity keep giving for years to come!
meaning those who are stranded or traveling with few resources: Whether a refugee who is fleeing violence in a distant country or a motorist stranded on the side of the road, God has designated that anyone who is away from home, out of cash and in need of help is eligible to receive your zakat.
Zakat Q & A
This section provides a brief summary of issues related to Zakat.
The ruling on Zakat
Zakat is a compulsory act of worship that requires a Muslim who owns wealth equal to or above the Nisab (pre-defined threshold) to donate 2.5% of their wealth to eligible recipients.
When should Zakat be paid?
Once a person reaches the nisab and a lunar year (hawl) has passed by, then zakat is due immediately.
How much is the Nisab threshold?
The nisab threshold, which obligates the payment of zakat, will be based on the current price of 612 grams of silver. This can be calculated by visiting silverprice.org and taking the most up to date valuation. As of 17 May 2016, this amount equates to approx. £235.00. Therefore if your Zakatable assets exceed this amount you are eligible to pay Zakat if the amount stays above this by the end of one lunar year.
What happens if the nisab fluctuates during the year?
In some cases one’s zakatable wealth may dip below the nisab throughout the year. In such cases of uncertainty, it is preferable for one to take the value of one’s zakatable assets at the beginning and end of the lunar year. If both values were above the nisab then zakat would be due.
Should we pay Zakat based on the value of gold or silver?
Many scholars prefer that one should pay zakat based on silver (the lower value). This is due to a greater number of people fulfilling Zakat and hence being more beneficial to the poor and needy. However, if your only asset is gold, then the gold Nisab figure has to be used.
Where should Zakat be distributed?
The preferable option is to distribute zakat locally. Alternatively, one may give zakat to one of the eight categories defined in the Qur’an anywhere in the world. Where they feel there is a particular benefit (maslahah) and their contribution would be more beneficial (e.g. recipients in extreme poverty, insufficient local donations, increased demand due to natural disasters, war etc.). One can also apportion their zakat to give some locally and some abroad.
What does one do about Missed Zakat payments?
If one has missed zakat payments over the years, then one must make a calculated estimate of the zakat missed for each year and discharge it accordingly. These payments are still binding on him even if many years have passed by and he did not know they were obligatory.
Is zakat due on worn jewellery or not?
There is a difference of opinion on whether Zakat is due on gold/silver, which is for personal use. Many scholars and some female companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) including ‘A’isha hold that zakat is not due on these items on the premise that is a personal item and hence would fall under items that are not zakatable.
How do I measure how much gold and silver I have?
It is advised that you visit a local jeweller and ask them to value your jewellery for you.
Are any debts which are owed to me zakatable?
The scholars differentiate between a debt in which one is confident of repayment and one, which is not. If the creditor is confident the debtor will pay when he is asked due to having the financial ability, then the creditor must include this in zakat payment. If however, the debtor is struggling and one is not confident he can pay when requested to, then this amount does not have to be calculated as part of zakat.
What are the zakatable assets?
Please see our zakat calculator link below for a list of zakatable assets.
What sort of assets is not zakatable?
Below is a list of assets which one does not have to pay Zakat for:
- The property one is residing in e.g. personal home
- Car owned for personal use
- The debts one is owed (where not confident of payment)
- Jewellery not containing gold or silver (e.g. diamonds, precious stones etc.)
- Jewellery for personal use
- Furniture and household goods for use (not for trade