As the third pillar of Islam, Zakat is an annual religious obligation for Muslims. The word Zakat finds mention in several verses of the Holy Quran exhorting believers to be clean, pure, innocent, etc. But generally, Zakat is used for the mandatory act of giving alms. Muslims prefer to pay Zakat during Ramadan as good deeds are considered to bring manifold rewards in the holy month.
Zakat is mandatory for all Muslims and requires people to donate a portion of their wealth to support those who are less fortunate, or for a noble cause. Islamic texts offer detailed guidance on the Zakat and all its aspects. Let’s understand a few important details about Zakat.
Zakat is calculated on the basis of one’s annual earnings, for which we need to first understand Nisab. Nisab is a term given to the least basic amount of a person’s wealth, which, if they own, makes them eligible for Zakat.
Nisab is only calculated from one’s earnings after deduction of living expenses and those dependant upon a person. These expenses include rent, food, clothing, expenses for treatment of illnesses, etc. If after deducting the expenses, one’s wealth does not equal the Nisab amount, they are exempt from paying Zakat.
There are two standards to determine Nisab: gold and silver. The Holy Qur’an describes Nisab value as 612.36g of silver or 87.48g of gold. The rate of Zakat in layman terms can be understood as giving 2.5% of one’s wealth or Nisab and is applicable to possessions such as:
• Gold, silver, cash
• Real estate or movable property, if these are intended for trade
Zakat can be given to these groups of people.
• Those who are less fortunate
• Those in debt
• To be given for the cause of Allah
• To those travelling and who are cut off from everything
• To those who are employed to collect the funds
• And to help free those in captivity
And establish prayer and give Zakat, and whatever good you put forward for yourselves – you will find it with Allah.” (2:110, Qur’an)
Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is an obligatory charity which is given to lessen people’s suffering. Muslims believe paying Zakat helps purify one’s wealth. It is also a way to form a spiritual connection with the Almighty, by acknowledging that whatever one owns, belongs to Him. Zakat is not a favour that is given to those in need by those who are rich. It is considered a sin to withhold Zakat.
The Prophet is reported as having said: “Giving alms (Zakat and others) to needy people is rewarded as alms only but giving them to a needy relative is rewarded both as alms and as a treatment that strengthens kinship”.
Also called Sadaqat al-Fitr, or “the Charity of Breaking the Fast”, Muslims who possess food in excess of their needs pay Zakat-al-Fitr towards the end of Ramadan to help those in need. It is preferably paid before Eid al-Fitr prayers so as to help the underprivileged celebrate the festival. “The minimum amount due is the equivalent of about 2 kg of wheat flour, rice or other staple foodstuffs, per member of the household, including dependants, even if they do not live in the same house”, according to Islamic Relief Worldwide.