The Obligation of Zakah

Zakah is the third pillar of Islam and is mentioned several times along with Salah in the Qur’an. Many scholars have even considered Zakah to be of the status of Salah in Islam. Abdullah bin ‘Umar narrated that the Messenger of Allah )صلى الله عليه وسلم )said, "Islam is based on five (pillars): testifying that there is no true god except Allah and that Muhammad )صلى الله عليه وسلم )is His slave and Messenger; performing of Salah, the payment of Zakah; performing Hajj (pilgrimage) to the House [of Allah (Ka'bah)]; and Saum (fasting) during the month of Ramadan." (Bukhari and Muslim). According to the preponderant opinion mentioned by the scholars, Zakah became obligatory in the 2nd year after hijrah.

Upon What is it obligatory?

Zakah is not obligatory upon everything possessed by a person. But it is only upon :

  1. Gold
  2. Silver
  3. Trading Commodities (things)
  4. Cattle
  5. That which is produced/extracted from the Earth

Upon Whom is it obligatory?

It is the third pillar of Islam after Salah. It is obligatory upon a person who is:

  • A Free Person (not in slavery)
  • A Muslim
  • Possessor of Nisaab (نصاب)
  • Possessing (point no. 3) for one lunar (حول) year
Nisaab: It is the particular quantity that a thing possessed by a person should reach or cross in order to come under the obligation of Zakah.

So, a free Muslim who possesses something (from those that come under Zakah) that has reached or exceeded Nisaab and has completed one lunar year while being in possession, should pay Zakah upon it.

Nisaab for different commodities

Name of the Commodity/Thing Nisaab and how much Zakah should be paid
Cash at One’s Disposal When it is worth the amount of gold or silver that requires Zakat and when this amount remains above the Nisab value for a full year. Zakat in this case is also one-fourth of a tenth, or 2.5%.
Gold 85 grams (2.5% of net worth)
Silver 595 grams (2.5% of net worth)
Camels 5-9 = 1 sheep
10-14= 2 sheep
15-19= 3 sheep
20-24= 4 sheep
25-35= 1yr old She-Camel or 2yrs old male camel (and so on)
Cows 30-39= 1yr old male or female calf
40-59= 2yrs old female cow
60-69= two 1yr old cows (and so on)
Sheep 40-119= 1 sheep
120-199= 2 sheep
200= 3 sheep. Then for every 100 sheep, one sheep is due

Who are its recipients?

  1. The Fuqaraa (those who are extremely poor)
  2. The Masaakeen (the poor and the needy)
  3. Those who work in collecting and distributing it
  4. Those whose hearts need firmness upon Islam (especially new Muslims)
  5. Freeing Slaves
  6. Paying debts of debtors who are unable to clear off their debts
  7. In the way of Allah (Jihaad)
  8. The traveller who is in need
These are mentioned by Allah in Surah At-Tawba (aayah no. 60), and one must not give his/her Zakah to anyone who doesn’t belong to the above categories.

Calculation of Zakah

Zakah has to be calculated separately for things that do not belong to a category but can be calculated collectively for that which belongs to the same category.

For example: If a person earns a monthly salary, and he also has properties that fetch rent for him, then his total income would be salary + rent because both are his income. Therefore he will subtract his expenditure and pay zakah on the left over amount if it reaches Nisaab.

A few important points to know

  1. The Nisaab of cash is that of either gold or silver, which ever is met first (so that more people pay zakah)
  2. There is no Zakah upon things owned for personal use such as personal house, car, electronics, furniture etc.
  3. Zakah is due upon money saved by a person even if he intends to spend it for personal purpose but hasn’t spent it yet.
  4. Salaried people can pay Zakah in advance every year by calculate their average yearly savings and later adjust the difference by the end of the year (if paid more, then the rest is sadaqa)

Disclaimer: The information present here is extracted from the books “Sharh Al Mumti’ Alaa Zaad Al Mustaqni’ of Shaikh Al-Uthaymeen and “Mulakkhas Al Fiqhi” of Shaikh Saailh Al-Fawzaan. Please refer to these books for references and detailed explanations which couldn't be accommodated here due to lack of space. A calculation form is separately available for download