In the hierarchy of Islamic faith and religious duties, zakat is a very important obligation. It is doubly important in the sense that, on the one hand, it is a means of spiritual purification for the individual and on the other, a way to regain equilibrium in social and economic life of the entire society. It is a very IMPORTANT institution of the Islamic faith. It is probably the first pillar of its’ economic system.
Quran mentions about Zakah at various places especially verse 267 in Sura al Baqarah, verse 242 in Sura al ‘An’am, verses 34, 60, and 103 in Sura al Tawbah and several other verses.
Zakat as an obligation has been mentioned thirty times in the Quran. In twenty eight of them , it is associated with prayer.
We find a chapter on zakat in all major books of Sunnah, such as Muwatta’ Malik, Sahih al Bukhari, Sahih Muslim. Jami ‘alTirmidhi, Sunnan al Nasa’i, Sunnan abi Dawud, and Sunan Ibn Majah. In Sahih al Bukhari alone, the chapter of zakah contains 172 sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH. It also contains 20 sayings of the companions and the followers.
Jurists study zakah in their books as the second major worship in Islam. It is usually listed right after prayers, in line with the sequence found in Qur’an and Sunnah.
Zakat is one among the five pillars of Islam. It is applicable only to those who possess a considerable amount of wealth, which is called as nisaab in Islamic terminology. Zakat payment is an obligation which affirms obedience of man to His creator and eases the sufferings of poor.
The word Zakat in Arabic means both ‘purification’ and ‘growth’. Our possessions are purified by setting aside a proportion for those in need, like the trimming of plants; the cutting of the plant balances as to encourage new growth. Same acts with Zakat.
Zakat becomes obligatory when the wealth reaches or exceeds the nisaab. Be it male, female, insane or a child. The nisaab (or minimum amount) defined as possession of 20 mithqal (measure during prophet’s time) of gold or golden currency. In today’s terms, 20 mithqal is approximately (87) 85 grams of pure gold. One mithqal is approximately 4.25 grams. The nisaab of silver and silver currency is 200 dirhams, which is approximately 595 grams of pure silver. The nisaab of other type of money and currency is to be scaled to that of 85 grams of pure gold. Therefore nisaab of money is the price of 85 grams of pure gold, on the day in which Zakat is paid.
Zakat is due on an individual only when there is a passage of one lunar year (approximately 355 days) on the said wealth. The individual is ought to pay 2.5% or 1/40 of his wealth as Zakat. It is important to note that an individual shall deduct all the debts that he/she has borrowed from others and then check if the remaining reaches nisaab. If yes, then Zakat should be paid accordingly.
It should be mentioned here that in case, the repayment of a debt is over a longer period of time, only those instalments should be deducted which are due within that particular year. In that case, the entire debt should not be deducted from the zakatable amount.
Now that Zakat is being described, the question arises as to who is entitled to receive Zakat? ALLAH SWT in his book, the holy Quran says: “As-Sadaqat (here it means Zakat) are only for the Fuqara and Al-Masakin and those employed to collect the (funds); and 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, and for the wayfarer (wanderer); a duty imposed by ALLAH. And ALLAH is All-Knower, All-Wise.” [Taubah 9:60]
The holy Quran is very stern on those who take the matter of Zakat lightly. ALLAH SWT says: “O you who believe! Most surely many of the doctors of law and the monks eat away the property of men falsely, and turn (them) from ALLAH’s way; and (as for) those who hoard (stocked) up gold and silver and do not spend it in ALLAH’s way, announce to them a painful chastisement (punishment) , On the day when it (wealth) shall be heated in the fire of hell, then their foreheads and their sides and their backs shall be branded with it; this is what you hoarded up for yourselves, therefore taste what you hoarded” (Taubah 9:34-35).
When Abu Bakr RA became the caliph, a group denied paying Zakat stating that now that The Prophet PBUH is not alive to whom shall we pay Zakat now? The caliph reprimanded saying: “I swear by ALLAH, if they refuse to pay to me even a small piece of robe which they used to pay to the Messenger of ALLAH, I would fight them for it.” (Bukhari)
Muslims! Please pay off your Zakat and purify your wealth. It is not necessary to pay Zakat during Ramadan. The spirit of paying Zakat in the month of Ramadan is that ALLAH SWT doubles the reward of whatever is done during this month and it also helps an individual to keep an account on a yearly basis. Please make sure that besides paying Zakat, it is also important to make sure that it is paid to the DESERVING people only, who fall in the categories as mentioned in the Quran. It should be paid at the earliest and not later than the year is over for the next calculation of Zakat.