Chapter II- Zakat Or Legal Alms
Every religion of the world has preached charity, but, like prayer, there is in Islam some method or regularity given to this institution, so that it has assumed a permanence which is not encountered anywhere else. Islam makes charity obligatory and binding upon all those who embrace the Muslim faith. Here we have a brotherhood into which the rich man cannot enter unless, and until, he is willing to give part of his possessions for the support of the poor and the needy members of the community.
The enjoinment upon the rich to pay zakât to the poor subjects him to a practical test, by which a real brotherhood is established between the rich and the poor.
In its primitive sense, the word zakât means purification, whence it is also used to express a portion of the remainder to the proprietor. It is an institution of Islam founded upon an express command in the Koran, as one of the five foundations of practical religion.
It is a religious duty incumbent upon any person who is free, sane, adult and a Muslim, provided that he is possessed in full property of such estate or effects as are termed, in the language of the Law, nisab, i.e. fixed amount of property, and that he has been in possession of the same for the space of one complete year. The nisab or fixed amount of property upon which zakât is due varies with reference to the different kinds of property in possession, as is detailed in the present article.
The one complete year in which the property is held in possession is termed in the Law as hawlul-haul, i.e. the return of duration.
Zakât is not incumbent upon a man, against whom there are debts equal or exceeding the amount of his whole property, nor it is due upon the necessaries of life, such as dwelling-houses, articles of clothing, household furniture, cattle kept for immediate use, war prisoners employed as actual servants, armour and weapons designed for present use, or upon books of science or law used by scholars, or upon tools used by craftsmen.
Zakât is incumbent upon the nisab of the following possessions: -
(a) Camels. (b) Bulls, cows and buffaloes. (c) Sheep and goats. (d) Horses. (e) Silver. (f) Gold and silver ornaments. (g) Cash, Bank-notes, etc… (h) Articles of merchandise. (i) Mines or buried treasures. (j) Fruits of the earth.
The following is the nisab or proportionate property, upon which zakât is due on the above various possessions: -
Zakât is not due upon less than five camels; and upon five camels it is one goat or sheep, provided that they subsist upon pasture throughout the year; because zakât is due only upon such camels living on pasture and not upon those which are fed in the home of the forage. One goat or sheep is due upon any number of camels from five to nine; two goats for any number of camels from ten to fourteen; three goats for any number from twenty to twenty-four. Upon any number of camels from twenty-five to thirty-five, the zakât is a bintmakâd, or a yearling female camel; from thirty-six to forty-five, a bint-labûn, or a two-year old female camel; from forty-six to sixty, a hoqqa, or a three-year-old female camel; from sixty-one to seventy-four, a jaza’a, or four-year-old female camel; from seventy-five to ninety, two female two-year-old colts. When the number of camels exceeds one hundred and twenty, the zakât is calculated by the afore-said rule.
(b) Bulls, Cows and Buffaloes
No zakât is due upon fewer than thirty cattle. Upon thirty cattle which are fed on pasture for the greater part of the year, there is due at the end of the year a jazu’a, or one year-old calf; and upon thirty is due a musinna, or a calf of two year old; and where the number exceeds forty, the zakât is to be calculated according to this rule. For example, upon sixty, the zakât is a two yearling calves upon seventy, one tabî’a and one musinnas; upon ninety, three tabî’as and one musinna; and thus upon every ten heads of cattle a musinna and a tabî’a alternately. Upon one hundred and nine, the zakât is two musinna and one tabia; and upon one hundred and twenty, four tabî’as. The usual method, however, of calculating the zakât upon large herds of cattle is by dividing them into thirties and forties, imposing upon every thirty-one: a tabî’a, or upon every forty-one: a musinna.
(c) Sheep and Goats
No zakât is due upon less than forty which have fed the greater part of the year on pasture, upon which is due one goat or sheep, until the number reaches one hundred and twenty; for one hundred and twenty-one to two hundred, it is two goats or sheep, and above this, one for every hundred.
When horses and mares are kept indiscriminately together, feeding for the great part of the year on pasture, it is the option of the proprietor to give one dînar (a dînar is worth about ten shillings, or fifty Egyptian piastres) per head of the whole, or to estimate the whole and give five per cent upon the total value. No zakât is due upon droves of horses consisting entirely of males, or entirely of mares. There is no zakât due upon horses or mules, unless they are articles of merchandise, nor it is due upon war horses, or upon beasts of burden, or upon cattle kept for drawing ploughs and so forth.
It is not due upon silver of value less than two hundred dirhams (one dirham is equivalent to 3.12 grammes), but if one be possessed of this sum for a whole year, the zakât due upon it is five dirhams till such excess amounts to forty, on which the zakât is one dirham, and for every succeeding forty-one dirhams. These dirhams on which silver predominates are to be accounted silver, and the laws respecting silver, and the laws respecting silver apply to them, although they should contain some alloy; and the some rule holds with regard to all articles falling under the denomination of plate such as cups and goblets.
(f) Gold and Silver Ornaments
No zakât is due upon gold under the value of twenty misqâls (), and the zakât due upon twenty is half a misqâl. When the quantity of gold exceeds twenty misqâls, on every four misqâls above twenty are due two qirâts (), and so on in proportion.
Zakât is due upon gold and silver bullions and upon all gold and silver ornaments and utensils.
(g) Cash, Bank-notes, etc.
No zakât is due upon notes, etc., the value of which does not exceed twelve Egyptian pounds or its equivalent of foreign currency. And the zakât due upon a value of twelve pounds and upwards is two and half per cent of the total money remaining idle in possession for the duration of one year.
(h) Articles of Merchandise
Articles of merchandise should be appraised, and a zakât of two and a half per cent paid upon the value if it exceeds two hundred dirhams of silver in value.
(i) Mines or Buried Treasures
Mines of gold, silver, iron, lead or copper are subject of a zakât of one-fifth, but if the mine is discovered within the precincts of a person’s own home, nothing is due. And if a person finds a deposit of buried treasures, one-fifth is due upon it. No zakât is due upon precious stones.
(j) Fruits of the Earth
Upon everything produced from the ground, there is one-tenth whether the soil be watered by the overflow of rivers, or by periodical rains, excepting the articles of wood, bamboo, and grass, which are not subject to the tithe. If the soil is watered by means of buckets, machinery, or watering camels, etc., the zakât is one twentieth.
Honey and fruits collected in the wilderness are subject to tithe.
The zakât is received by collectors duly appointed by the State, although it is lawful for the possessor to distribute his alms himself.
If a person comes to the collector and makes a declaration upon oath as to the amount of his property or as to his having himself distributed the alms due, his statement is to be credited.
Expenditure of Income from Zakat
As regards the expenditure of income from zakât, eight heads are mentioned in the Holy Koran (IX-60): -
1. The poor.
2. The needy.
3. Those in debt.
4. Ransoming of captives (prisoners of war)
5. The wayfarer.
6. The officials appointed in connection with the collection of zakât.
7. Those whose hearts are to be harmonized by material support.
8. The way of God.
A few words may be added to explain the above: -
1. The poor are those who are unable physically or otherwise to earn their living.
2. The needy are those who may be able to earn their livelihood but lack the means as implements, etc.
3. By those in debt are meant persons who may be able to support themselves, but if they are in debt, their debts may be paid off from the zakât fund.
4. The captives are those who are taken prisoners in war. A portion of the zakât fund must go for their release.
5. The wayfarer is a traveller who, though in well-to do circumstances, stands in need of help in a strange place or country; hence a part of the zakât income must be spent on such a person.
6. The officials who collect zakât are members of the staff appointed officially to manage its collection as well as the management of its expenditure; hence their wages are also to be paid out of the zakât fund.
7. & 8. The last two heads mentioned in the Koran, namely those whose hearts are to be harmonized and the way of God, refer to the propagation of the Faith. With respect to the preaching of a religion, there is always a class of people who are ready to listen and ready to embrace Islam when they are preached, but who, in the meantime, have to forego material advantages which it is very difficult for them to relinquish. These persons are spoken of in the Koran as those whose hearts are to be harmonized or united by giving them such a portion of the zakât fund to reassure them. By the way of God is meant the advancement of the cause of Islam or the defence thereof. Under this head, therefore, zakât may be spent for the propagation of the religion of Islam and to meet the objections advanced against it.
The above laws covering the institution of zakât principle in Islam are detailed according to the Hanafi Schools of Muslim Jurisprudence, but the differences amongst the teachings of the Sunni Schools of Muslims are but small and even insignificant.
However, the recognition of paying the wages of the staff employed in connection with the poor-tax (zakât) from that revenue is clear in order to denote that the institution is meant for raising a public fund, of which the management should entirely be in the hands of a public body, although it is lawful for the possessor to distribute his alms himself; and if he makes declaration on oath to this effect, his statement is to be credited.
1) Zakât is not a State Tax
As already mentioned in the foregoing chapter, the scope of zakât is clearly set forth in the Holy Koran, and, therefore, must not be confounded with other forms of compulsory taxes imposed by the State on its Muslim and non-Muslim citizens alike.
In the first place, zakât is not a tax imposed by the State. Nor is zakât a tax destined to the State as such. The very nature of the institution of zakât requires that the part, which the State is to play in the function there of, is merely one of “Supervision” and not of full control, as is the case where government taxes are concerned.
The difference between supervision and full control is that the latter would imply the right to increase or modify the tax, to extend or limit its scope, to suspend the imposition thereof, or even to abrogate it altogether, whereas, in its role of supervision, the right of the State is only to enforce observance of the Divine Law as directed by the precepts of the Koran and the Koran and the instructions of the Prophet.
2) Practical Application of Zakât
Zakât attaches exclusively to productive wealth, that is wealth
represented by: -
a) Agricultural produce.
b) Pasturing domestic animals.
c) Things constituting ready medium of exchange, such as silver, gold, and money invested (in trade capital, in cash, and articles of merchandise) or kept as savings.
The law of zakât considers the productivity of wealth as either potential or actual, the former, inhering in such wealth as silver, gold, and money kept as savings, and the latter is actual productivity inhering in such wealth as agricultural produce, pasturing domestic animals and invested money, i.e. trade capital in cash and articles of trade.
3) Cause and Object of Zakât Act
The cause of Zakât act is the productivity of wealth existing in a quantity, number, value, equal to or above the established minimum taxable limits. The object of Zakât is the profession of Islam by the legitimate owner of wealth under taxation.
4) Responsibility for Zakât Payment
Zakât is an act of worship; it being an obligatory impost on Muslim-owned wealth, the zakât must be discharged regardless of age or state of mind.
Where adult Muslims are concerned, the responsibility devolves directly upon the legitimate owner of the wealth; where minors or insane persons are concerned, it lies with the legal guardian or custodian thereof, as the case may be. Where the zakât of wealth belonging to minor children is concerned (as, for example, in the case of wealth inherited from the mother), the responsibility for the payment of dues rests with the person entrusted with the care and administration thereof (i.e. the child’s father, or any other responsible person) until the child comes to full age.
The same ruling applies to Muslim orphaned children or insane Muslim men or women, where the responsibility of payment of zakât rests with the legal guardian or custodian as the case may be.
Trade capital, that is to say both the reserve and working capital (i.e. money and articles of trade) belonging to individuals or companies, is also subject to the payment of zakât, wherever its value is equal to or above the minimum taxable limit.
Where private ownership of business concerns is involved, responsibility for the payment of dues rests with the owner or owners; where endowments are concerned, such responsibility rests with the individual or committee entrusted with the administration of the establishment or concern in question.
5) Exempt from Zakât Dues
It is one of the fundamental doctrines of Islam that the needy and poor citizens of any Muslim community have an inherent right in the wealth of every Muslim of means, and nowhere in the Koranic text is any justification to be found for exempting the wealth owned even by minors, orphans or persons of unsound mind.
However, all establishments privately owned or endowed, which are either totally devoted to charitable purposes (i.e. hospitals, orphanages, homes for the poor, disabled and old people, etc.), or to the service of humanity (i.e. scientific research, free educational institutions), are naturally exempt from the obligation of paying zakât, as by their very nature they fulfill the purpose to which the proceeds of zakât are dedicated. Likewise wealth which has been purposely set aside to cover the expenses of a first pilgrimage to the Holy Ka’ba is exempt from taxation, regardless of the period of time during which it remains suspended. Subsequent pilgrimages being purely optional, wealth set aside to cover expenses of the same is considered as savings, and, therefore, it is subject to taxation of zakât where the quantity or value is equal to or above the minimum taxable limit.
6) Factors of Responsibility
The person subject to taxation must be:
a) An avowed Muslim (non-Muslims being exempt from such taxation).
b) Of sound mind.
c) A person enjoying full freedom of action. If for any reason, he/she be under any kind of duress, his or her responsibility remains suspended until full freedom of action is recovered.