2. The Fiqh of Zakat
Linguistically zakat means growth, increase and purification. In the shari’a the term refers to the amount of money or kind taken from specific types of wealth when they reach a specific amount at a specific time which must be spent on specific categories in specific ways. It is called zakat because the wealth of the the one who pays it is purified by it and because the payer gains increase with Allah Almighty by it, in that his rank with Allah is raised through it. This is attested to by the words of the Almighty,
“Take sadaqa from their wealth to purify and cleanse them” (9:103) and “But anything you give as zakat, seeking the Face of Allah – whoever does that will get back twice as much.”
Qur’an 30: 40
The types of wealth on which zakat must be paid are monetary wealth, crops and livestock. Monetary wealth refers to gold and silver, in whatever form they take, and trade goods; crops comprise agricultural produce of the kind which can be stored for extended periods; and livestock refers to camels, cattle, and sheep and goats.
Zakat became a legal obligation in the second year of Hijra. The evidence of its obligatory nature is the Book, the Sunna and the consensus of all the Muslims. Anyone who disputes the fact that it is obligatory, is an unbeliever. If someone affirms that it is obligatory and then refuses to pay it, he should be punished and it should be taken from him by force, but he is not considered an unbeliever.
There are certain conditions which make zakat obligatory and certain other conditions which make it valid. The conditions which make zakat obligatory are five in number.
1.Islam: non-Muslims do not pay zakat.
2.Freedom: slaves do not pay zakat.
3.Nisab: all types of wealth must reach a certain minimum amount before zakat becomes applicable
4.Ownership: zakat is only owed on wealth which is completely owned by the payer and completely at their disposal.
5.A year’s possession: monetary wealth and livestock must have been owned for a complete lunar year before zakat is owed. This condition does not apply to agricultural produce.
There are five conditions which make zakat valid.
1.Intention: it must be remembered that zakat is an act of worship and requires a specific intention like all other acts of worship.
2.Collection: zakat should be paid to a collector appointed by the leader of the Muslim community.
3.Local distribution: zakat should be distributed among the community in which it is collected unless it is not possible to do so because none of the recipient categories exist there when it may be sent elsewhere.
4.Correct time: zakat should be paid promptly at, but not before, the time it falls due.
5.Correct elements: zakat should be paid with the correct means according to the type of wealth in question: the right age and kind of animal in the case of livestock; the right quality in the case of agricultural produce; and the right weight of gold and silver in the case of monetary wealth.
Although it is true that the nature of wealth has changed and that for the vast majority only monetary wealth will come into the frame as far as zakat is concerned, there are still millions of Muslims throughout the world who are involved in agriculture and animal husbandry and so, without going into too much detail, it is appropriate to give the basic rules of zakat for these kinds of wealth. The quite complex specifications involved in the zakat on these types of wealth, which are outlined in many traditional books of fiqh, show how essential it is to have officially appointed collectors who have the knowledge and experience necessary to ensure that correct and fair assessments are both made and carried out.