Zakat is obligatory upon every Muslim whose total wealth, after having deducted expenses (house rent, etc.), during a full year, has been more than their required Nisaab (minimum amount on which Zakat becomes due). According to Islamic law, certain preconditions must be satisfied before collecting Zakat. Any money which fulfills these conditions is termed “Aamil-e-Nisaab.”
Zakat is paid 2.5% of the “Nisaab” (see below). The portion of Zakat that is due on cash and gold ornaments, i.e., currency, bullion, and jewelry, must be equal to 85 grams of pure (24 carats) gold.
This is called “Nisaab ul-Muallimeen”. Nisaab for silver and other articles, such as clothing, ornaments, furniture, etc. – excluding gold – is equivalent to 85 grams of silver. This is known as “Nisaab ul-Mithril.” All adult Muslims who have the means must pay Zakat each year that they can do so. The amount payable should be 2.5% of their wealth after deducting any liabilities (e.g., loans). For those without a Nisaab, the rate of Zakat is 2.5% on anything which exceeds their expenses for a full year.
By paying Zakat, one purifies one’s remaining assets and thus remains within the Islamic fold, while withholding it may destroy oneself.
Zakat should be distributed in the community to which it belongs so that all Muslims can benefit from its spiritual blessings. Those who do not pay or refuse to pay because they want to show off will be punished by Allah according to the traditions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The payment should be made before fasting commences if possible; otherwise, it must be paid before Ramadan arrives. However, certain Zakaats, like grain products, should be paid for before harvesting.
To establish the Zakat institution, Allah has appointed an administrator in this world, i.e., the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), who is assisted by his Khulafa to manage the affairs of Da’wah. Apart from these two institutions, certain other valuable institutions play their due role in the proper distribution and utilization of Zakat. They are:
1) Islamic center
4) Grave Yard
5) Humanitarian Organizations
The most worthy recipients of Zakat are those whose cause is championed by the poor. If these are not available, it is recommended that Zakat be given to one’s parents, children, and wife.
If there are more deserving persons than these, Zakat should be used for them, provided they are Muslims. However, if none of them is a Muslim, Zakat can be spent on anyone who needs it even though he may be a non-Muslim.
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As regards expenditure of Zakat on non-Muslims living under an Islamic state or territory, their share will vary according to circumstances:
- If they are benevolent towards Muslims and show goodwill towards Islam by refraining from wrong actions and words against Islam and its adherents; if they abstain from participating in the war against the Muslim community,
- If some non-Muslims show hostility towards Muslims, Zakat will be spent only on the poor and needy among them. This expenditure is intended to attract their hearts by showing kindness and goodwill.
- If none of these situations arises, the use of Zakat funds for non-Muslims is not allowed under any circumstances. It should rather be given back to the donor or used somewhere else.
There are some other rules concerning the distribution of Zakat, which are as follows:
- Those who cannot earn their livelihood because of old age, disease, or an accident may receive Zakat whether they were born in an Islamic state or have migrated from another place according to certain conditions laid down by Shari’ah. However, in the absence of these conditions, they should be given as much as they need from Zakat as a matter of grace and courtesy.
- Minors cannot receive Zakat without the consent of their guardians; however, if there is no male guardian (father or grandfather) available to give his support, then female guardians can do so.
- It is not permissible to keep Zakat with oneself because it becomes an object of personal use; rather, it must be distributed immediately after its collection every year among the deserving persons mentioned above.
- If someone dies during the distribution of Zakat and there are more deserving persons than that person at their disposal, then such a person will not get any share out of that.