The Zakat of Livestock
As mentioned earlier zakat must be paid on camels, cattle, sheep and goats provided that they reach the minimum number on which zakat is due. It makes no difference whether they are foddered or put out to grass nor whether they are used for milk, wool, meat, riding, as work animals or for any other purpose. As with monetary wealth, no zakat is owed unless the minimum (nisab) number of animals has been in the possession of the owner for a full year. No zakat is due on horses unless they are kept or bred for trading purposes in which case they become classified as trading goods, enter the category of monetary wealth, and are assessed accordingly.
The minimum number of camels on which zakat is due is five. Between five and twenty-five, depending on the number, a certain number of sheep or goats must be paid as zakat. After twenty-five the zakat must be paid in camels of a particular age and sex depending on the number in the herd.
All types of cattle are considered together for zakat purposes. The minimum number of cattle on which zakat is due is thirty. Thereafter zakat must be paid in cows of particular ages according to the number in the herd.
Sheep and Goats
Sheep and goats are considered together for zakat purposes. The minimum number on which zakat is due is forty, when one animal of a particular age must be paid as zakat. Another animal is due when the herd reaches one hundred and twenty in number and then more according to the size of the herd.
In the case that animals are jointly owned by two or more partners zakat is owed on the whole flock or herd provided that each partner is a free Muslim and that their share individually reaches the minimum number on which zakat is due. The zakat should be shared between the partners according to the proportion which each owns of the whole flock or herd.
The official collector should visit each location at a given time each year in order to assess and take the zakat from every flock and herd. The animals taken as zakat should be of average size and in good condition. If the collector is late, zakat only has to be paid on the number of animals he finds, not on the number that may have been there when zakat fell due. If the owner has died and the animals have been inherited by a new owner he only pays zakat after the animals have been in his possession for a full year. It is not permitted for the owner of animals to assess his own zakat and give it out before the arrival of the collector, but if two years or more elapse without the collector coming then the owner of the animals may assess and pay the zakat he owes to the appropriate recipients.
The Zakat of Agricultural Produce
Various types of agricultural produce are subject to zakat and they are largely those foodstuffs which can be stored for extended periods. No zakat is due on fresh fruit and vegetables intended for immediate consumption. In agricultural zakat the nisab is the same for every type of produce namely five wasqs. The wasq was a measure which corresponded to roughly a camel-load and was a measure of volume made up of sixty sa’as. The sa’a is equivalent to 2.035 litres so one wasq equals 122 litres. So this makes the minimum amount of any type of agricultural produce on which zakat is due 610 litres by volume. This is sometimes expressed in terms of weight as 610 kgs. The problem is that the same volumes of different kinds of produce vary considerably in weight so that it is better to hold to the volume measure whenever possible.
The amount of zakat payable on agricultural produce varies according to how the land in which the particular crop is being grown is irrigated. The basic rule is that when the land is naturally irrigated, whether by rain or surface water such as rivers or springs, then one tenth of any crop which reaches the amount of the nisab is taken as zakat. When artificial means of irrigation have to be used at the expense of the cultivator to bring water to the land the zakat is only one twentieth of the crop. The zakat of agricultural produce should be assessed and collected by an officially appointed collector and none of a crop on which zakat is due may be consumed or sold until the zakat on it has been properly assessed.
Where cereals are concerned, zakat is assessed on the amount of actual grain which has been harvested after threshing has taken place. The zakat on cereals falls due once the crops have ripened in the field and should be paid immediately the harvest process has been completed.
Certain grains are considered as forming a single category for zakat purposes, namely wheat, barley and rye. These are added together and if the combined quantity reaches the nisab, zakat is taken proportionally from each type of grain.
Other types of grain are considered as forming separate categories and are not added together for zakat purposes, namely rice, sorghum, millet and maize, so that crops of these must each individually amount to the nisab before any zakat falls due on them.
Lentils, chick-peas, peas, and various kinds of beans are also considered as forming a single category for zakat purposes and so crops of these grown by a single grower should be added together when calculating zakat. If the combined crop reaches the amount of the nisab, zakat is due on it and should be taken proportionally from each individual type of pulse.
Zakat is due on olives and various types of seed grown for their oil content. They are not added together, each being considered separate for zakat purposes. The nisab is calculated on the basis of the amount of actual fruit or seed harvested but the zakat should be paid in oil after pressing has taken place.
Dates and raisins
Zakat must also be paid on dates and grapes when they are intended to be consumed as dried fruit. The zakat on them falls due when they are ripe on the branch but is, of course, paid after they have dried.
The Zakat of Monetary Wealth
The Problem of Paper Money
As was noted above the last couple of centuries have witnessed a radical change in the way that wealth is viewed and that rather than being seen in terms of ownership of land, and thus expressed largely in agricultural produce and livestock holdings, wealth is now seen in almost exclusively monetary terms. The whole subject is, however, from the zakat point of view, further complicated by the fact that the nature of money has also concurrently undergone a total transformation, gold and silver having been replaced by paper and electronic currencies. Since it is also clear that the zakat of monetary wealth may only be paid in gold and silver, it now becomes a question, given the current nature of money, of how that can, and indeed if it should, be brought about.
To start with it must be understood that, economically speaking, the current situation of the Muslims throughout the world, both because of our inextricable relationship with the openly usurious global economic system and also because of the nature of paper money itself, has clearly moved us into the realm of the haram. This puts us in what should be experienced by all of us as an absolutely intolerable situation and it must be the explicit intention of every Muslim to do everything in his power to combat this abominable system and take all the necessary steps to disconnect from it in the shortest possible time. Only then will it be possible to re-establish the pillar of zakat in a complete way.
We must, however, start from where we are, and so we must deal with the change that has taken place in the nature of money and see how zakat can be best applied to the type of currencies we are at present faced with. As we saw with the fatwa of Shaykh ‘Illaysh, if paper money is viewed logically as numbered tokens worth in reality no more than the value of the paper they are printed on, then zakat does not come into the picture at all. But as we also saw, paper money was originally intended to directly represent certain specific amounts of gold and silver and if we take that view of it banknotes are, as was noted earlier, in reality acknowledgements of a debt owed by a bank to the bearer of the note.
From the standpoint of zakat there are two difficulties in taking this position. The first is that while this specific gold/silver equivalence was the initial intention of paper money, it is clearly no longer the case since paper currencies have long since given up any pretence of being tied to their original direct connection with gold and silver coinage. The second is that while it is true that creditors must pay zakat on debts owed to them they do not have to do so until the debt has been repaid, since, although they own the money, they do not have full use of it until it returns to their possession. But in the case of paper money no such restriction exists because the possessors of the banknotes have full use of the value they represent, by their use of them as a medium of exchange in the country in which they live, even though they do not have possession of it in real terms.
So for zakat purposes it is better to view paper money as being like bond certificates whose value is more or less guaranteed by the government. This does not legitimise their use as a medium of exchange, since there is no way under the laws of Islam that such financial instruments can be employed to replace gold and silver coinage as money, but it does give us a way of understanding their usage and of making it possible to assess them for zakat purposes. This is because although they are forbidden by the shari’a they have been imposed on us by force as being the sole means of exchange whereby we are able to conduct all the financial transactions necessary for our lives. This brings the principle of darura into play, whereby the forbidden becomes temporarily permissible if it is a question of preserving life. On this basis alone the use of paper money has gained a temporary, but extremely reluctant, permissibility for the Muslim community.
Other examples of the application of the principle of darura are the drinking of wine to preserve one’s life in the absence of water or any other permitted beverage or eating pig-meat when absolutely no other food is available. In such extreme situations these otherwise forbidden and abhorrent acts become not only permitted but in the eyes of some authorities mandatory. They are, of course, conditional on the fact that no other means exist and they must be abandoned the moment that any permitted forms of sustenance appear.
Paper money should be viewed by the Muslims in exactly the same light, something abhorrent which no Muslim would use unless absolutely forced to do so, and even then with extreme reluctance, and something for which a halal replacement must be found at the earliest possible opportunity. Although paper money may be used and assessed for zakat purposes on this basis, that still does not make it permissible to pay any zakat owed in any other form than the actual gold and silver which the shari’a requires, since for one thing there has never been any evidence that anything else has ever been acceptable and secondly there is no difficulty in obtaining the gold and silver necessary to fulfil the obligation.