POSSESSIONS ARE SUBJECT TO ZAKAT

Print Friendly
WHICH POSSESSIONS ARE SUBJECT TO ZAKAT?

The issue of trying to determine how much zakat needs to be spared from a certain item, and leveling what proportion, are all predicated upon the Qur’an and Sunna. Despite the Qur’an’s  ardent  emphasis  on zakat,  it  has no specific pronouncement  on the amount  of

nisab, which has been, in turn, explained by the Prophet (upon whom be peace).

 

The possessions subject to zakat can basically be encapsulated as livestock, moveable and immoveable assets, mines, agricultural harvests and commercial merchandise, all of which have different limits and amounts for nisab. In brief, the nisab for each item and the amount of zakat that needs to be spared from the item vary according to the item’s status. “One-fortieth” has generally been a pervasive measure among public, although this calculation only pertains to commercial merchandise and sheep. Thus minerals, mines, agricultural harvests and various livestock all have been assigned various amounts and proportions of nisab.

 

HOW IS ZAKAT GIVEN ON MOVEABLE GOODS?
 The zakat on gold and silver

Gold and silver, valuable assets in commercial life as items of jewelry, also cater to the ornamental needs of certain individuals, though it is  forbidden for men to use gold jewelry. Regardless of commercial or ornamental utilization, those in possession of a nisab’s worth of gold or silver are required to pay its zakat, as attested to by the Qur’an:

O you who believe! Indeed many of the rabbis and priests devour the wealth of people by false means and debar them from the way of God. Those who hoard up gold and silver and do not spend it in the way of God, give tidings unto them of a painful punishment. The day shall come when their treasures shall be heated in hellfire; and their foreheads, sides and backs shall be branded with them (saying), “Here is that treasure that you hoarded up for yourselves; taste, now what you were hoarding up.”(Tawba 9:34-5)

In similar fashion, the Messenger of God has provided the following illustration: “There is no wealthy withholding the zakat of the gold and silver that will not have these possessions brought to them in the Day of Judgment, in the form of burning panels, additionally heated in the hellfire,

 

branding their sides, foreheads and backs. Each time these panels cool down, they will be reheated to return the torment, until the end of judgment, in a day equivalent to fifty thousand days. Then they will be shown the way, either to Paradise or to Hell.”1

As it is known, gold and silver were the currencies in circulation during the era of the Noble Messenger and the ensuing centuries, evaluated as both nuggets and jewelry. Even though, in this day and age, they are predominantly no longer utilized as currencies, they still occupy an undoubtedly important place as economic investments, which can be changed into currency with easeif the need arises. Moreover, their current use as jewelry is quite pervasive throughout society. Irrespective of the intention one has in possessing such goods, one is compelled to pay zakat on them once they have accumulated to a certain level.

Various figures exist in relation to the definition of a nisab of gold and silver, stemming from diverse interpretations of the measurements used during the time of the Prophet (upon whom be peace) in different areas, or simply put, according to traditional norms. The nisab of gold, however, has generally been identified as 85 grams and that of silver as 595 grams. According to a narration of Abu Said al-Hudri, the Messenger of God stated thatzakat is not required for silver less than 5 uqiyya’s (200 dirhams=595 grams).2 Anas ibn Malik, an official zakat collector during the era of Caliph Umar, asserted that he had been instructed to take ½ a dinar from every 20 dinars, a practice similar to that later followed by Caliph Ali.3

Taking the hadith and subsequent applications of the Companions into consideration, scholars have unanimously pinpointed the nisab of gold and silver as being 85 grams and 595 grams respectively, with an overall proportion of 2.5%.

 

The zakat on cash, checks and bonds

The banknotes in circulation today do not essentially possess value; rather they are simply papers assigned a nominal value. Though from the purely physical aspect they hold no resemblance to the gold and silver used during the time of the Prophet, they perform the same function. To be more precise, banknotes or cash have taken the place of gold and silver in commercial transactions. Thus, it is only logical that cash be evaluated according to the role it plays in trade; therefore, it is also integrated into the calculation of zakat, with a 2.5% ratio. Thus, a person in possession of checks or bonds equivalent to at least 595 grams of silver or 85 grams of gold must offer 2.5% of it as zakat, owing to the fact that nowadays, these have become the standard for the exchange of goods, as well as a potential means for buying.

 

The zakat on shares or investments

The practice of selling shares, propounded by companies within great investments to spread the capital among a large base and to incorporate into the commercial life the contribution of a multitude of people, can be assessed in two forms. The first denotes the capital invested during the beginning phase of a company; and the second indicates the investments that exist in the company as property or wealth.

Pertaining to the first type that involves investments in the foundation, the building and machinery, Hanafi scholars nurture a reluctant attitude in regards to subjecting it to zakat given that the investments end there. The Majalla Committee, organized by the Ottomans in the 19th century to systematically complete an official Islamic Code of law, nonetheless inclined towards the Malikis and opted in favor of giving zakat in such a situation, a verdict perhaps more fitting in terms of disseminating vigor in an otherwise dead investment. The investments within the company, on the other hand, must be assessed as commercial merchandise, with a 2.5% ratio of zakat, in that they can also be cashed in if required.

 

The zakat on jewelry

Even though other schools hold diverse views, the Hanafi scholars insist that zakat is imperative for jewelry equal to nisab. Thus, a woman possessing jewelry worth at least 85 grams of gold is compelled with the payment of zakat. Despite the fact that wearing necklaces, bracelets, earrings and other jewels are permissible for women, the Messenger of God had nurtured a profound sensitivity towards his family as far as this issue was concerned, to the effect that once, having seen his beloved daughter Fatima wearing a bracelet acquiredas part of gains of war allocated for her share, he admonished her by warning,“Would you like people to say the daughter of the Prophet is fashioning a loop of hellfire around her wrist?” Having heard this, Fatima, so sensitively compassionate, hurriedly sold the bracelet and freed a slave with its money. After explaining what she did to her exceptional father, he displayed his joy by uttering, “Praise be to God who has spared the Prophet’s daughter from hellfire.”4

Insofar as Islamic Law is concerned, the wife is financially independent from her husband; in other words, a wife can possess both moveable and unmovable assets. If these assets surpass the amount of nisab, then according to Islam, she is considered to be rich; thus she naturally becomes obliged with the duties of the rich.

Goods owned with marriage, however, should be evaluated within the framework of the husband-wife partnership. At times, according to customary practices, the wife may be the official owner of assets and the user of jewelry, although the rights of disposition may be with the husband. In these kinds of scenarios, the husband exercises extensive rights over property. If     so,          then      the zakat  of  these  assets  is  counted  among  the  husband’s  possessions  in ascertaining the nisab, hence the zakat for both of them becomes an obligation on the husband. Owing to the fact that the Messenger of God did not disclose any instructions in relation to jewels  in particular,  the  jurists  have maintained  that  no zakat needs to be given for  pearls, diamonds, sapphires,  corals  and  other  precious  stones  worn by  women as  ornaments. We must stop here, however, and gain a more profound understanding of this issue. Does this verdict mean that the person is not responsible for paying zakat on these items, or need not pay it; or, does it open the possibility that it is best, and advisable, to give zakat on these? This,

in entirety, certainly calls for reflection and contemplation.

In summary, returning back to the jurisprudential verdicts, zakat basically must be given of jewelry equivalent to nisab. If the jewelry is used for trade, then it becomes classified under commercial merchandise and is calculated accordingly. Precious stones, then, are subject to a 2.5% ratio of zakat given that they are utilized as commercial merchandise. On the whole, it is more appropriate to offer zakat even if they are being kept as items of jewelry, as the Almighty will not interrogate a person on account of giving zakat, but will do so in the reverse situation— and one’s situation, at that point, will be irreversible.

Thus, it is more prudent to treat jewels and precious stones similarly to other jewelry like gold and silver. This recommendation is strengthened by that fact that these stones essentially have innate value and exempting them from zakat would open the door for stowing  treasure,  an iniquity denounced in both the Qur’an and Sunna.

 

The zakat on collections

In this day and age, as a result of personal interest or commercial pretexts, the collection of various items has become a pervasive practice. In some instances, they can even gain astronomical values which are difficult to estimate.

Looking from the perspective of the Qur’an and Sunna, no clear-cut verdict can be cited. Like in most other issues, however, a sound decision can be reached predicated upon general

 

principlesof Islam and extrapolations from similar situations. Thus, if the items are collected with commercial intention, then the verdict is evident; the collection is subject to a 2.5% zakat. However, if collecting is practised as a hobby or a pasttime, then it ought to be regarded as kanz (i.e. stowed treasure), whereby it again becomes subject to a 2.5% zakat. Adopting this approach effectively disperses all excuses to evade paying zakat and renders an advantage when considering the sadd al-dharayi principle in Islamic law, which elaborates the necessity of blocking all roads that lead to iniquity. In effect, collectables, some of which may even have gained a worldwide market, can easily be sold and cashed-in at any given time. Requiring zakat for these effectively prevents people from collecting simply as a pretext to avoid paying zakat.

 

The zakat on additional accessories

Except for basic necessities, zakat is required for additional accessories and clothing that are kept at home. This demands first the identification of these extras, and second, the integration of these items into the calculation of zakat. These “additional items” include all sorts of clothes, equipment and household devices and appliances that cannot be considered an absolute necessity. Consequently, it would be wise to reassess the whole contents of the house prior to offering zakat.

 

HOW IS ZAKAT GIVEN ON UNMOVABLE ASSETS?

The system of zakat, promulgated by Islam not just for moveable assets but to cover all areas of possible investment, is an absolute social solution. By unmovable assets, we mean all types of real estate that a person owns (e.g. houses, land, hotels, factory buildings etc). It proficiently sets forth the necessity in paying alms for unmovable assets encompassing billions of dollars worth of commercial ventures. According to the Hanafi School, zakat must be given from the revenues of assets, other than those which are basic necessities, like houses, businesses, apartments, and so on. The Maliki School, conversely, maintains that the zakat should be extracted out of the asset itself, a verdict in concordance with the decision of the Majalla Committee, despite the differing opinion of Hanafi scholars. The Majalla Committee reachedthis conclusion considering, sympathetically, the benefits to Muslims in general, and by taking into account the masalih al-mursal principle of Islamic Law—that is, the existence of one or another enormous advantage which is inherent in deciding upon a certain verdict. From a contemporary perspective, this verdict seems quite appropriate, as the preponderant pretext for investing in unmovable assets, these days, is for “commercial use.” Thus, inevitably, the commercial holdings must themselves be subject to zakat.

We can perhaps clarify the issue further by looking at it from two separate perspectives. Unmovable assets are generally either agricultural/commercial land or real estate. If it is agricultural land, then it is evident; depending on the nature of the effort required to maintain it, a one-tenth or one-twentieth ratio of ushr from the produce is paid while the asset itself does not become subject to zakat. However, if the land in question is not being used for agricultural purposes, or if there is no crop growing for more than three years, the rights of use need to be handed over to somebody else who will make agricultural use of it, as it is evident that the current land-holder is, in fact, not in need of the land. If, on the other hand, the land-holder then claims that the land had been bought to fulfill commercial purposes, he would be obliged to pay its zakat using the standard 2.5% ration—for example, $2500 on land worth $100,000.

The case for real estate is not much different. A person owning additional houses apart from the one in which he lives in must follow suit. As indicated by the Majalla Committee, the zakat o n the  building  must  be  calculated  based  on  its  current  value. Suggesting  otherwise,  for

 

instance that zakat ought to be calculated based on the estate’s rent instead, or only, would be tantamount to impeding on the rights of alms recipients. For instance, although amounts will surely differ from one place to another, let’s assume the total rent per annum on a $100,000 house to be approximately $6000. Paying zakat from the rent results in a calculation of $150 only, in contrast to the $2500 worth of zakat extracted from the house itself.

Scrutinizing the issue from another viewpoint, it becomes blatantly clear that virtually no one, in the current world, buys a second house simply to benefit from its rent; rather, real estate is perceived as an investment that reaps both current and future revenues. Therefore, it is only natural that real estate investments be treated as commercial commodities.

According to these preceding factors, and in harmony with the spirit of zakat, it is undoubtedly more appropriate to follow the Maliki School and the Majalla Committee on this issue. As well as being in harmony with Islamic ideals, this verdict also secures better benefits for the poor. Bearing in mind that the needs of the poor, destitute, students, and the Muslim public in general are taken care of with the money acquired through zakat, nobody has the prerogative to hinder or impede such a socially beneficial system. And, most importantly, God will bestow a multitude of rewards on those, according to their intentions, who sacrifice their wealth throughout all times of need.

 

HOW IS ZAKAT GIVEN ON COMMERCIAL MERCHANDISE?

The Qur’an describes the process of giving zakat of commercial commodities as an obligation for believers. A verse relating to this articulates, “O you who believe! Spend of the good things which you have earned, and of that which We have brought out of the earth for you” (Baqara 2:267). Samurrah ibn Jundab, one of the Companions of the Noble Messenger, has also clearly testified in support of the prophetic command of zakat being required on commercial merchandise.5

All items subject to trade, such as tools, machinery, food items, clothing, animals, jewelry, land, and real estate, effectively, are regarded as commercial merchandise and thus are directly subject to zakat. For an item or a property to be classified as commercial merchandise, however, it must necessarily be kept with the intention of acquiring revenue or profit from it; and in addition, it must be offered in trade. Critically, therefore, a person holding the intention of making commercial use of possessions obtained through donations, wills, or inheritance must include those possessions when calculating his overall zakat, since according to the  Hanafi Scholar Abu Yusuf, they have effectively become commercial merchandise owing to personal intention. Looking at it from this perspective, the rent acquired from a car, house or land must also be deemed as a commercial commodity.

As for the nisab on commercial commodities, they have been identified as 85 grams of gold or 595 grams of silver. Regardless of possible fluctuations throughout the year, the nisab must be equivalent to the above amounts both at the start and end of the year. Importantly, these items subject to zakat are evaluated at the end of the year, each according to their market value, irrespective of prior fluctuations. The apparent end-of-the-year value is taken into consideration, as opposed to the selling price or other customary standards, given that the sale has actually not taken place.

The stipulation of “an elapse of a year” just mentioned as a necessary requirement for such possessions to become subject to zakat does not become invalid if or when, throughout the year, certain items are exchanged with other items of the same or different nature or value. For instance, if a trader sold the construction steel he owned at the start of the year and bought carpets instead, which he then again sold and entered into the brick industry, he is still obliged with zakat given that his overall possessions exceed the nisab.

Livestock or other animals which are fed for commercial purposes are also considered as commercial merchandise and subject to 2.5% zakat. These possessions themselves can be presented as zakat; or, the 2.5% value on these possessions may be calculated and given in cash.

In summary, in light of this information, a trader would calculate, in cash value, his entire commercial possessions, and then offer a 2.5% zakat of the calculated aggregate, including the money lent and the money expected from unpaid sales, excluding his debts.

 

HOW IS ZAKAT GIVEN ON MOTOR VEHICLES?

Included in a person’s basic necessities, in addition to a house, household items, clothes and food, are vehicles of transport. From this point of view, it initially becomes evident that no zakat is required on motor vehicles. As in the case of houses and household items, however, opting to fulfill this necessity luxuriously, which could have otherwise be fulfilled—owning cars which carry astronomical price tags—alters the prior viewpoint. In such cases, zakat comes into the picture, as these can no longer be considered to be simply items of necessity, owing to their pomposity. Notwithstanding the argument of some that people necessarily should own vehicles appropriate with their social positions, offering zakat on these vehicles certainly stands as a more prudent approach. Such a course of action implies forestalling, from the outset, possible dissent against wealth, and in fact, only by virtue of this approach will the social benefits of zakat be procured.

Thus, on one hand, no barriers are placed in front of those desiring expensive cars; while on the other, the possible ill feelings of the poor towards the rich are purged right from the beginning. And, as always, the morality of zakat comes into focus as man, essentially, makes his calculation of what is payable in the all-encompassing gaze of God.

In a case where vehicles are owned for trade or profit, the situation is entirely different and a simple calculation of one-fortieth, 2.5%, zakat is required on their total revenue. Taxis, buses, commercial trucks, interstate coaches, and so on, can be classified under this group. Even the value of number plates on taxis and minibuses, in some cities, can reach 10 or 20 times the value of the vehicle itself, which, in turn, reflects on the earned revenue. The revenue on trucks and semi-trailers used for transporting goods is also subject to zakat, and in similar vain, that of sea or air transportation vehicles. Vehicles used within a company, factory, or building site, such as forklifts and cranes, are classified  as  commercial  machinery  and  also  subject  to zakat using the standard calculation.

In a nutshell, the zakat on vehicles owned for personal use is calculated according to its overall value, whereas the zakat on commercial vehicles is calculated according to its revenue.

 

HOW IS ZAKAT GIVEN ON LIVESTOCK?

As the nisab and ratio of zakat differ according to the item, as discussed above, so it also varies depending on the type and age of an animal held as livestock. In fact, camels, sheep and cattle all have independent systems for the calculation of zakat, all of which the Prophet himself (upon whom be peace) unambiguously designated.

 

The zakat on camels

Camels, as known, belong to desert climates and therefore may not be found in most of the geographical areas of the world. In many Muslim countries, however, they still undoubtedly hold significance as livestock with numerous benefits. The era of the Noble Prophet was a time when camels enjoyed immense popularity as virtually inseparable instruments of social life, ultimately holding a very profound meaning for the people of the region, utilized for riding, as beasts of burden, and as sources of meat and milk.

Moreover, camels at that time were a testament to the financial strength of a person. As understood by the grievous testimony of Kab ibn Malik, divulging his regret from lagging behind during the preliminary preparations for the Tabuk campaign, owning two camels was then considered to be a sign of wealth.6

Camels, in places maintaining their widespread use, still connote economic power, thus the validity of their subjection to zakat remains. The Islamic verdict pertaining to the zakat on camels has been ascertained, predicated upon the narrations of Anas ibn Malik, who describes his official correspondence with Caliph Abu Bakr in relation to the zakat on camels, to the effect that the former was given the following written instructions by the Caliph, embossed with the seal of the Prophet:

When one has 5 grazing camels for one year, their due is 1 sheep, which is also the due for 5 to 9 camels. The due for 10 to 14 camels is 2 sheep; for 15 to 19 camels it is 3 sheep; and for 20 to 24 camels it is 4 sheep. The due for 25 to 35 camels is a 2-year-old she-camel; for 36 to 45 it is a 3-year-old she-camel; for 46 to 60 it is a 4-year-old she-camel; for 61 to 75 it is a 5-year-old she-camel; for 76 to 90 it is two 3-year-old she-camels; and for 91 to 120 it is two 5-year-old she-camels.7

 

The zakat on cattle

T h e zakat required on cattle, another key multipurpose animal, has again been explicitly identified by hadith. Oxen, too, are classified under the same category. The measure instructed by the Noble Messenger pertaining to the nisab and amount of compulsory zakat on cattle are as follows:

The nisab for cattle is 30. For 30 to 40 heads of cattle, a 2.5 year-old male or female weaned calf; for 40 to 60, a 3 year- old weaned calf; for 60, two 1 year-old calves. For more than 60 heads of cattle, the rate is one calf per 30 heads and 1 weaned calf per 40 heads.8

These measures are for those who own cattle for other than commercial reasons. Those who buy and sell cattle, however, are obliged with a 2.5% zakat, as is the case with other commercial goods. Precisely, whenever a commodity sways towards a commercial domain, insofar as zakat is concerned, it is considered as commercial merchandise and thus subject to the standard of 2.5% zakat.

 

The zakat on sheep

The Prophet (upon whom be peace) has explained the necessary amount of zakat and nisab required on sheep. The instructions found in a treatise dictated by the Messenger to the zakat collectors regarding the zakat of sheep, can briefly be encapsulated as follows:

When one has 40 sheep or goats, their due is 1 sheep, which is the same for 40 to 120 sheep or goats. For 120 to 200 sheep, it is 2 sheep; for 200 to 399 it is 3 sheep; and for 400 to 500 it is 4 sheep.9

 

The zakat on horses and similar animals

Man’s purpose in keeping horses varies greatly, and whether they are subject to zakat or not differs according to these variances. During earlier times when horses were used in warfare, they could not be subject to zakat, simply because they were classified as war equipment, in line with the Prophet’s declaration, “zakat is not required of a Muslim’s horse or slave.”10

Today, horses are certainly kept for reasons other than war fare—namely, for  riding or transporting heavy loads—sometimes even strictly for racing, not for gambling but for pleasure. On the word of Abu Hanifa horses are subject to zakat, a verdict predicated upon the hadith

 

transmitted by Zayd ibn Thabit: “One dinar or ten dirhams for every horse in possession that roams freely.”11 Accordingly, the owner has the free choice of either paying in cash for each horse, whether it is male or female, or treating it as a commercial possession, and thus extracting a one-fortieth amount of zakat. But keeping the horses for commercial intentions, would classify them as commercial merchandise, effectively nullifies the previous free choice.

Donkeys and mules that are exempt from zakat become subject to it when they are possessed for purposes of trade.

Perhaps the most important factor that distinguishes horses from other livestock is that they do not provide benefits from their meat, milk or wool. Hence, what remains important in horses is reproduction, whereas nama (augmentation), an imperative prerequisite of zakat, is the most central characteristic of other livestock. For that reason, horses are rarely kept by a single owner for purposes other than breeding, essentially a pretext for trade, and in line with this intention, they thus become subject to zakat.

 

The zakat on other animals

In addition to the animals for which zakat has evidently been elucidated by revelation, there are also those that have not been given a mention. Rapid industrial development has begotten countless ne w sectors, many of which are founded on animal breeding. Today  in various regions of the world, animals or livestock are fed with the intention of benefiting from their products, like bees for honey, cows and sheep for milk, chickens for eggs, silkworms for silk etc…In fact, a great amount of production takes place in established modern dairies, poultry farms, trout-farms, and places built for beekeeping and sericulture. A question that may naturally come to mind regarding the zakat on these animals would be answered by stating that a 2.5% zakat is necessitated, in that they constitute commercial merchandise. In other words, if they are kept for commercial intentions, a 2.5% zakat is required; but if, on the contrary, they are fed for personal needs, then their zakat and nisab are evident. In essence, then, these animals become subject to zakat once they enter the commercial domain. This is the general principle which is applicable to any animal or insect.

 

HOW IS ZAKAT GIVEN ON ANIMAL PRODUCTS?

Apart from what has been stated above, we must determine whether  the revenue acquired from the products of these animals should be integrated into the zakat calculations. However, if one compares the animals to factory machinery and tools, one might conclude that only the product would be subject to zakat. It is imperative, then, that these issues, which increasingly arise amid the changing times, be continually reassessed from the viewpoint of zakat—always with the intention of pleasing God and honoring the noble goals of zakat.

As for the zakat on honey, Maliki and Shafii scholars maintain that zakat is not necessary owing to its resemblance to milk in terms of its liquid texture, and due to the lack of sound evidence in relation to honey. Yet, in the view of Hanafi and Hanbali scholars, honey entails a zakat of one-twentieth, or an amount of ushr, namely one-tenth. The Hanafi scholars have not set a restraint on the nisab of honey, in contrast to the Hanbali scholars who have identified it as 10 faraqs (100 grams) thereof, substantiating this judgment with a few hadith and with the practice of the the four pious caliphs who succeeded the Prophet (upon whom be peace) and the succeeding times.

In a hadith conveyed by Ibn  Umar, the Messenger of God pronounces, “For every ten measures of honey, one is for zakat,12 a point similarly stressed on another account, “one water-skin for every ten,” transmitted by Amr ibn Shuayb.13

 

When Abu Sayyara came to the Prophet and said, “O Messenger of God! I own bees,” the Prophet responded, “Then you must pay their ushr.14

Embarking off from these and other similar evidence, Abu Hanifa decided on the necessity of ushr or one-tenth for honey acquired from lands exempt from kharaj i.e. a special tax imposed on the yield of the land, and effectively, this is the view embraced by the Hanafi school.

 

HOW IS ZAKAT PAID ON AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS?

Ushr, the term given to the zakat of harvest obtained from land through cultivation—a practice, in our day, that has sadly almost fallen into disrepute—encompasses various assessments depending on the status of the land and the energy committed to acquiring the harvest. On this subject, the Qur’an announces general principles that consequently enjoin zakat on agricultural crops, such as:

O you who believe! Spend of the good things which you have earned, and of that of which We have brought out of the earth for you. (Baqara 2:267)

Eat of the fruit thereof when they are in season, and pay the due thereof upon the harvest day. (An’am 6:141)

In connection with the topic, the Noble Messenger has proclaimed clearly, “There is an ushr on crops that grow by rainwater, streams or by themselves through absorbing water into their roots, and half an ushr on irrigated crops.”15

Including a slight difference in minor details, all schools are in agreement that crops grown effortlessly require a zakat of one-tenth and those grown with greater effort entail a zakat of one-twentieth.

The Hanafi school, by virtue of taking into consideration the generalization of the judgments within the verse, have laid down that ushr can be acquired of all kinds of agricultural harvest, contrary to the opinion of Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shafii, who suggests that crops that are able to be stored for a long time are subject to zakat. The Maliki and Hanbali schools, almost in line with the Hanafi scholars, maintain that agricultural crops should all be considered for ushr.

Evidently, the Hanafi school handles this issue in a more extensive manner, whereupon crops that have become significant sources of income in many countries such as cotton, linen, sugarcane and so on, are effectively included in the process of ushr collection, thus expediently balancing the number of rich and poor in society. In some jurisprudential books, there has recently been a mention of virtually ushr-free crown land (miri land), a blatant mistake that must be corrected. From a historical perspective, from the very beginning of the Ottoman Empire to its collapse, for instance, the Sultan—not the public—paid tax, or ushr, on the land he owned. Thus, in some books, the terms Arazi al-Amriyya or Arazi al-Sultaniyya have been abbreviated a s Arazi al-Miri (chief’s land or the Sultan’s land), according to which the rulings have been predicated upon.

At various times throughout history, in fact, land reforms have been carried out whereby each land has gradually become privatized. The new land-owners, previously not obliged with the payment of ushr on this land, had now become responsible for it as they took proprietorship from the crown. Today, the definition and responsibilities of ownership have become clearly delineated to the effect that even when a government wishes to expropriate land, it first must purchase the title deed. For this reason, the new and disturbing rulings mentioned in above, which are found in a limited number of books of jurisprudence, must be carefully reassessed, for there is strong unanimity in the whole Islamic world regarding the necessity of ushr.

 

HOW IS ZAKAT GIVEN ON MINES AND MINERALS?

The word madan (mine) has two separate connotations in the Arabic language: Kanz and rikaz. Kanz practically means all things like treasure, fortune, relics and antique objects that have been buried by man. Rikaz, a general term encompassing kanz, refers to all valuable objects underground.

By broadly stating that “there is humus (one-fifth) on rikaz,16 the Noble Messenger (upon whom be peace) has obligated a zakat of one-fifth or, 20%, on all unearthed items. Taking this hadith as a starting point, the Hanafi school has decided that a 20% zakat must be acquired from all types of solid minerals that can be melted, like gold, silver, iron, copper and lead. No zakat is necessary, the school generally opines, from solid minerals unable to liquefy, such as rubies, emeralds, marble and lime, as well as liquid substances that are unable to naturally become solid, like crude oil and mercury. Although considering the generalized aim of the hadith, it would perhaps be more appropriate, especially today, to procure a 20% zakat from all types of rikaz. Besides, the transmitted hadith pertaining to the zakat of precious stones, technically, does not offer certitude. Thus it is more fitting to predicate the judgment on a proof of certainty, in addition to bearing in mind the principle of maslaha (common interest) and pay zakat regardless.

An emphasis on the customary aspect will be of further benefit. Insofar as commercial affairs are concerned, there is a great deal of difference between today and the early period of Islam. The demand  toward precious stones then, surely, could not have  been anywhere nearly as strong as it is today. For instance, petroleum, an item that has ultimately become an inseparable part of life and today’s “black gold,” was probably not even known back then; even if it was known, nobody could have predicted its countless potential uses. Hence, current supply and demand must be considered along with customs in determining what is and what is not subject to zakat.

In brief, taking the current situation into perspective, it is quite possible to appropriate 20% zakat on all types of excavated minerals. It has become somewhat impossible to exclude, from zakat, these precious minerals, especially petroleum, for which the mere acquisition results in such stormy global disputes.

 

Senturk, Omer Faruk. “Charity in Islam” Tughra Books Press. January 2007.