WHO IS LIABLE FOR ZAKAT?
Before collecting zakat from the obliged, it is essential to first ascertain who these individuals are. This requires certain prerequisites, like the knowledge of Islam, freedom, wealth, sanity, maturity—in addition to the requirements concerning wealth, namely ownership,
augmentation, nisab, an elapse of a year and the exclusion of basic necessities.
Moreover, there are additional points pertaining to the collection of zakat that must crucially be observed. In sum, zakat must be requested strictly of those who are eligible, and eligibility demands certain requirements relating, in part, to the person in question, and in part, to the person’s wealth.
WHAT FEATURES MUST ONE POSSESS TO BE OBLIGED WITH ZAKAT?
These requirements can be encapsulated as follows: being a Muslim free of any constraints, possessing the ability to obtain basic needs, being free of debt, and having reached maturity, all of which demand a separate elucidation.
Before anyone, Islam addresses the believer, constructing its precepts on this solid foundation of belief. Therefore, as is the case with other responsibilities, the first requirement for zakat is being a Muslim. The requirement of those who have not accepted Islamic teachings but continue to live in Muslim lands is a simple tax, or jizya, identified by the government.
Zakat has not been ordained compulsory on those enslaved or incarcerated; conversely, those in this situation are advised, firstly, to utilize their wealth, if they have any, to obtain their emancipation. From this perspective, slaves historically were not compelled with zakat, owing to their lack of physical freedom and their financial constraints.
Falling into debt, in normal circumstances, is something a Muslim should avoid, as it may involve entering the domain of subverting another’s personal rights. The Prophet (upon whom be peace) had conceded to perform the funeral prayer of a deceased Companion only after another Companion agreed to finance his outstanding debts.1 As the time and place of death of any one of us is unknown, the attitude of a wise Muslim would be to avoid, if possible, going into debt in the first place, as the hadith makes clear that dying while in debt can incur a difficulty for the community and a serious burden on our souls.
Critically, of course, Islam has never burdened man with obligations that exceed his capacity; contrarily, it has incessantly promulgated what is easy. This principle is also valid for zakat. Even though a person in debt may possess wealth which surpasses nisab, he is first advised to resolve his debts, and thus excused from zakat. People who find themselves in this position are, in fact, eligible to receive zakat, as testified by the Exalted Creator in the Qur’an.
Maturity is the point where obligations start, and in effect, a child is not responsible until he or she reaches that phase. Perhaps some voluntary duties may be taken up for the sake of becoming accustomed to servanthood, although this does not imply an obligatory activity. The advice of the Noble Messenger, for example, is to accustom a child to salat (prayer) at the age of seven, and impart gentle words of encouragement if the child is still not offering salat at age ten. Yet again, the Messenger has pronounced that the pen (responsibility) has been lifted from a child until maturity, from a sleeper until he is awake, and from the insane until sane.2
WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE PROPERTY SUBJECT TO ZAKAT?
Offering zakat necessitates the prior fulfillment of some requirements pertaining to wealth. Thus, as mentioned above, a person is obliged only to pay zakat on the possessions that meet these terms—namely, a person must possess the entire ownership of the wealth; the wealth must be augmentable; it must have surpassed the set amount well above the basic necessities; and a full year must elapse since its attainment. This description needs to be elaborated further at this point.
In calling upon those obliged to perform their duties of zakat, Islam does not want them to pay zakat on the wealth they are yet to possess, a demand that would indubitably inflict people with financial hardship. Wealth is generally obtained by virtue of legitimate methods like earnings, inheritance, mutual agreements, donations, and so forth; hence, a person can freely dispose of and orchestrate his wealth, and take full responsibility in doing so. This, in turn, verifies the full ownership of wealth and therefore, within this framework, whichever method may be used in attaining this wealth, the owner meeting the requirements of full ownership must unavoidably pay its zakat.
Should zakat be given on loans?
In a case where a person is the creditor, that is, he possesses money that is temporarily lent to somebody else, we are faced with two outcomes in ascertaining the necessity of zakat.
Firstly, if the money that is expected to be paid back is under guarantee, like a check or promissory note seen as certain repayment, then this wealth is virtually commensurable with the wealth at hand, and as a result, its zakat must immediately be paid. Given that the chances of repayment are doubtful or improbable, then the zakat on this money should be delayed until reimbursement takes place. When the repayment does take place, we are then faced with another two alternatives: some scholars believe that as well as not giving zakat for previous years, the current year’s should also be withheld, because in a sense, it resembles newly acquired wealth. The others, who approach the issue from the perspective of the rights of the poor, maintain that its zakat should still be offered. Insofar as caution is concerned, undoubtedly, the additional payment of the previous year’s zakat is more appropriate, both as a means of steering clear from breaching the rights of the poor, as well as taking a step towards attaining the pleasure of God.
AUGMENTATION (THE INCREASE OF POSSESSIONS)
Islam does not necessitate zakat on property that by nature does not increase, though conversely, it targets augmentable possessions. Augmentation or nama denotes valuables that increase and attract revenue and earnings, and is classified into two: absolute augmentation and relative augmentation. Absolute augmentation is basically the increase of property or possessions through birth, reproduction, trade, or the like. Accordingly, animals or livestock, gold, silver and commercial merchandise fall under this category. Relative augmentation, on the other hand, is the wealth possessing possibilityof increase at the hand of its owner or agent. Irrespective of whether the owner increases it or not, he will effectively be asked for zakaton that wealth, owing to its potential. However, in Islam, if the property is lost or stolen, and the owner consequently becomes powerless in its management, then he is not obliged with zakat.
NISAB (MINIMUM EXEMPTION LIMIT)
As mentioned earlier, nisab is the minimum extent which wealth must reach to become eligible for zakat. Zakat must imperatively be given of wealth that has realized that amount. As zakat is a critical means of social assistance, it would be meaningless and beyond its aim to either fail to implement such a measure or to demand everyone to pay from whatever trivial wealth they might possess.
Accordingly, the Prophet of Islam (upon whom be peace) has clearly identified the amount of nisab for each item. The nisab has been identified as 5 for camels, 30 for cattle, 40 for sheep, 8 5 grams for gold and 595 grams for silver. The nisab for commercial merchandise is established in concordance with gold and silver. As for agricultural harvest, the ratio is one- tenth for crops grown by rainwater or streams, or one-twentieth for crops grown through personal irrigation. For storable crops like wheat, barley and raisins, the nisab is 5 wasq (approximately 653 kg), and the prevalent conception is that no zakat is required for vegetables such as onions and lettuce. Abu Hanifa, however, maintains that regardless of their nisab, all agricultural goods, more or less, are subject to zakat.
Insofar as minerals and marine products are concerned, they do not possess a specific requirement for nisab and therefore their zakat, at any rate, must be paid. Because we have thoroughly handled the matter of nisab in the chapters concerning the recipients of zakat, those who desire more information are advised to throw a glimpse there.
THE WEALTH MUST EXCEED BASIC NECESSITIES
Another prerequisite for zakat is that the wealth should surpass the amount needed for sustenance, which may vary depending on social, economical and current circumstances. Nonetheless, there are always aspects on which all can mutually agree on, enumerated by the Hanafi scholars as consisting of basic food items, clothing, housing, enough wealth to see to one’s debts, work utensils or apparatus, furniture, a means for travel—or, in today’s conditions, a car or books needed for education. Moreover, the needs of those who, in Islam, are required to be taken care of—such as children, spouse, parents etc.—are similarly allowed basic necessities which are not liable to calculations of zakat upon the person providing their care.
THE ELAPSE OF ONE YEAR
For one to become obliged with zakat, at least a year has to elapse on the earnings beginning from the date of their attainment. This elapse of a year, called hawalanu al-hawl in Islamic terminology, is calculated in reference to the lunar year. However, this requirement does not necessarily aim at all types of wealth: it does pertain to livestock, money and commercial merchandise; but it does not affect agricultural crops, fruit, minerals, treasure, honey and similar items.
Another aspect needs to be elaborated. A person who continues to acquire new wealth in addition to the base wealth which has reached nisab and is thus subject to zakat, no longer needs to wait for the elapse of a year on these possessions; on the contrary, these augmentations need to be progressively included in the base wealth and calculated accordingly. This point is overwhelmingly agreed upon for commercial merchandise and for the offspring of livestock, although there is a minor difference of opinion between the schools pertaining to increases in different types of livestock. The general consensus, however, is that under such circumstances, one must start anew; for instance, if a person owns camels equivalent to nisab, for which he is paying zakat, and acquires a further 30 cattle or 40 sheep, he would wait a year for these new acquisitions, and then pay their zakat, owing to the difference of type. However, if the person isdoing business with these animals, then without waiting for the elapse of a year, he must pay zakat on them. For this reason, if a person buys a further 100 sheep, for instance, in addition to the 40 sheep for which he is paying zakat, according to Abu Hanifa, he must provide zakat on 140 sheep without waiting for a year to elapse.
Senturk, Omer Faruk. “Charity in Islam” Tughra Books Press. January 2007.
- December 16, 2013
- 0 Comment