Zakat, or almsgiving, is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with prayer, fasting, pilgrimage (Hajj) and belief in Allah (SWT) and His Messenger, Prophet Muhammad (SAW). For every sane, adult Muslim who owns wealth over a certain amount – known as the nisab – he or she must pay 2.5% of that wealth as Zakat.
“…and those in whose wealth there is a recognized right, for the needy and deprived” (Qur’an 70:24-5)
Zakat is not just a fundamental pillar of Islam. It is also a revolutionary concept with the potential to ease the suffering of millions around the world.
As Allah (SWT) tells us in the Holy Qur’an:
“And be steadfast in prayer and regular in charity: And whatever good ye send forth for your souls before you, ye shall find it with Allah” (Qur’an 2:110)
It is also a right that the poor have over us as for
“Those in whose wealth there is a recognized right for the needy and the poor” (Qur’an 70:24-25)
What is Zakat?
An obligatory annual payment, Zakat is paid by qualified adult Muslims whose wealth exceeds the Nisab value for one Islamic (lunar) year. This donation pleases Allah (SWT). Payments are made to support those most in need both domestically and around the world.
Who is Eligible for Zakat?
The Holy Qur’an determined who is eligible to receive Zakat, stating:
“As-Sadaqat (Zakat) are only for the Fuqara’ (poor), and Al-Masakin (the needy) and those employed to collect (Zakat funds); and for to attract the hearts of those who have been inclined (towards Islam); and to free the captives; and for those in debt; and for Allah’s Cause (i.e. for Mujahidun – those fighting in the holy wars), and for the wayfarer (a traveler who is cut off from everything); a duty imposed by Allah. And Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.” – Chapter at-Tawbah Tevbe, 60
This means that Zakat donations cannot be given to just anyone. A husband cannot give his Zakat to his wife as he is already responsible for her, just as he is his children. A wife, though, is permitted to give Zakat to her husband, so long as he meets the relevant criteria – she must not benefit in any way from this donation (i.e. the husband using the funds to pay for a gift for his wife).
Those eligible to receive Zakat can be placed into one of eight categories, which are:
- Fakir – those with little to no income or wealth
- Miskin – those who are without food
- Amil – anyone designated to collect and distribute Zakat
- Riqab – anyone held involuntarily against their will in captivity or as a slave
- Gharmin – those struggling with unmanageable debt
- Fisabillillah – those who fight for Allah (SWT)
- Ibnus Sabil – struggling and/or stranded travelers
- Muallaf – friends of the Islamic community and/or revert Muslims
Not every Muslim is obligated to pay Zakat as per the rules set out in the holy Qur’an. To be eligible to pay Zakat, you must be past the age of puberty, of Muslim faith, sound mind, free, and have a positive cash/goods flow, as well as a personal wealth that exceeds the Nisab value.
When Should I Pay Zakat?
You should pay your Zakat when your wealth has exceeded the Nisab threshold for one full Islamic year from the point your wealth first exceeded the threshold. The amount of Zakat you owe should be calculated on the day you make your payment. This means that regardless of how much your wealth was above the Nisab threshold during the year, it is how your wealth stands at that moment from which your Zakat is calculated.
The holy month of Ramadan is the most popular time of year for Muslims to pay their Zakat as it is believed that donating during this time yields multiplied rewards and blessings. You can, though, pay Zakat any time during the year if your wealth has exceeded the Nisab threshold for a lunar year. This should also not be confused with Zakat al Fitr, or Fitrana, which must be paid during the month of Ramadan before the Eid prayers.
How Much Zakat Do I Need to Pay?
The Zakat that you owe is calculated on:
- 2.5% of personal wealth and annual savings
- 5% of a farmer’s assets where the farmer has funded the irrigation of crops
- 10% of a farmer’s assets where the farmer’s crops have been irrigated by rain
20% of valuables and resources on the property, such as gold, silver, and oil.