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Zakat: What is it and How much should I pay?

Zakat: What is it and How much should I pay?

Along with shahadah, salah, sawm, Hajj, and zakat make up the five pillars of Islam. We are currently in the holy month of Ramadan, a time when zakat is on the minds of most devoted Muslims. 

But what exactly is Zakat in Islam and why is it so important? Read on to find out.

What Is Zakat in Islam?​

Zakat is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, which are the five basic acts of worship that are considered obligatory for all Muslims. 

Zakat is a form of almsgiving and charity, and it is a fundamental religious duty for Muslims who meet certain criteria of wealth.

In Arabic, Zakat means “purification” or “growth.” It is considered a way to purify one’s wealth and help those in need. 

Zakat is typically calculated as a percentage of a Muslim’s total wealth and assets, including cash, savings, investments, gold, silver, and business merchandise, that exceeds a certain minimum threshold, called the Nisab.

Zakat in Islam is considered both a religious obligation and a means of social welfare, promoting a sense of community and solidarity among Muslims. 

It helps address socioeconomic inequalities by redistributing wealth and providing assistance to those who are less fortunate.

How Much Is Zakat in Islam?

The amount of Zakat in Islam is generally calculated as 2.5% of a Muslim’s total wealth and assets that exceed a certain minimum threshold, known as the Nisab. 

The Nisab is the minimum amount of wealth a Muslim must possess before they are obligated to pay Zakat.

The Nisab is based on the value of gold or silver or their equivalent in cash or assets. For gold, the Nisab is the value of 87.48 grams of gold, and for silver, it is the value of 612.36 grams of silver. 

The value of gold and silver fluctuates, so the Nisab amount can vary.

Once a person’s total wealth exceeds the Nisab and they have possessed it for a full lunar year (hijri year), they are obligated to pay Zakat. 

The Zakat amount is then calculated as 2.5% of the total wealth that exceeds the Nisab.

It’s important to note that there are different opinions among Islamic scholars regarding the types of assets subject to Zakat and the specific calculation methods. 

However, the 2.5% rate is widely accepted across different schools of Islamic jurisprudence.

What Does the Quran Say About Tithing?

The concept of tithing, which involves giving a portion of one’s income or produce for religious purposes, is not explicitly mentioned in the Quran in the same way it is in some other religious texts, such as the Bible. 

However, the Quran does emphasize the importance of charity, generosity, and helping those in need.

Several verses in the Quran encourage Muslims to give in charity and support those less fortunate. For example:

  • Surah Al-Baqarah (2:267): “O you who have believed, spend from the good things which you have earned and from that which We have produced for you from the earth. 

And do not aim toward the defective therefrom, spending [from that] while you would not take it [yourself] except with closed eyes. And know that Allah is Free of need and Praiseworthy.”

  •  Surah Al-Baqarah (2:271): “If you disclose your charitable expenditures, they are good; but if you conceal them and give them to the poor, it is better for you, and He will remove from you some of your misdeeds [thereby]. And Allah, with what you do, is [fully] Acquainted.”
  •  Surah Al-Hashr (59:7): “And what Allah restored to His Messenger from the people of the towns – it is for Allah and for the Messenger and for [his] near relatives and orphans and the [stranded] traveler – so that it will not be a perpetual distribution among the rich from among you. And whatever the Messenger has given you – take, and what he has forbidden you – refrain from. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is severe in penalty.”

While the Quran does not specify a fixed percentage of income or produce to be given as charity (as in the case of tithing), it emphasizes the spirit of generosity and giving for the sake of pleasing Allah and helping others. 

Muslims are encouraged to give freely and willingly, according to their means and circumstances, without setting a specific amount or percentage.

What Are the Ground Rules of Zakat?

The ground rules of Zakat in Islam encompass several key principles and guidelines:

  •  Obligation: Zakat is obligatory for Muslims who possess wealth and assets above a certain minimum threshold, known as the Nisab, for a full lunar year.
  •  Wealth Calculation: Zakat is calculated as 2.5% (or 1/40) of the total wealth and assets that exceed the Nisab.
  •  Nisab: The Nisab is the minimum amount of wealth a Muslim must possess before they are obligated to pay Zakat. 
  •  Types of Assets: Various types of assets are subject to Zakat, including cash, savings, investments, gold, silver, and business merchandise, among others.
  •  Intention: Zakat should be given to fulfil a religious obligation and seek the pleasure of Allah, rather than for personal gain or recognition.
  • Distribution: Zakat is distributed to specific categories of recipients, including the poor, the needy, those in debt, travelers in need, those fighting in the path of God (fi sabeelillah), and others. It should be distributed fairly and equitably.
  •  Timing: Zakat should be paid once a person’s wealth exceeds the Nisab and they have possessed it for a full lunar year (hijri year).
  •  Voluntary Charity: In addition to Zakat, Muslims are encouraged to give voluntary charity (Sadaqah) as a means of earning blessings and drawing closer to Allah.
  •  Transparency: While it’s permissible to give Zakat discreetly, disclosing charitable expenditures is considered good, but concealing them and giving to the poor without publicizing it is even better, as it preserves sincerity and humility.
  •  The intent of Redistribution: Zakat serves as a means of redistributing wealth and addressing socioeconomic inequalities within the Muslim community. It promotes a sense of social responsibility and solidarity.

These ground rules outline the basic principles and obligations of Zakat in Islam, emphasizing the importance of generosity, compassion, and justice in the distribution of wealth and resources.

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