Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 3: Zakah in Islamic Jurisprudence

Introduction to Fiqh-us-Sunnah

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Zakah or alms tax can be defined as that portion of a man's wealth which is designated for the poor. The term is derived from the Arabic verbal root meaning "to increase." "to purify," and "to bless." It find its origin in Allah's command to: "Take sadaqah (charity) from their property in order to purify and sanctify them" [at-Taubah 103]. That is why this kind of sadaqah is called zakah, for by paying it, one is aspiring to attain blessing, purification, and the cultivation of good deeds.

Taking into account its very nature, it is no wonder that zakah constitutes one of the five pillars of Islam. It is associated with prayer (salah) in eighty-two Qur'anic verses. Allah, the Exalted One, prescribed it in His Book (The Qur'an), His Messenger corroborated it by his (sunnah), and the community (ummah) by consensus upheld it. Ibn 'Abbas reported that when the Prophet, upon whom be peace, sent Mu'azh ibn Jabal to Yemen (as its governor), he said to him: "You are going to a people who are People of the Scripture. Invite them to accept the shahadah: that there is no god but Allah and I am His Messenger. If they accept and affirm this, tell them that Allah, the Glorious One, has enjoined five prayers upon them during the day and night. If they accept that, tell them also that He has enjoined sadaqah upon their assets which will be taken from the rich of the (Muslim) community and distributed to the poor. If they accept that, refrain from laying hands upon the best of their goods and fear the cry of the oppressed, for there is no barrier between Allah and it."

At-Tabarani relates in al-'Awsat and as-Saghir, on the authority of 'Ali, that the Prophet said: "Allah has enjoined upon rich Muslims a due to be taken from their properties corresponding to the needs of the poor among them. The poor will never suffer from starvation or lack of clothes unless the rich neglect their due. If they do, Allah will surely hold them accountable and punish them severely." According to at-Tabarani: "It was reported only by Thabit ibn Muhammad az-Zahid." Of Thabit's credibility, al-Hafiz in turn says: "Thabit was an honest and trustworthy person. AlBukhari and others related from him, and the rest of the narrators in the chain are considered as accepted authorities."

In the early days of Islam at Makkah, no limit or restriction was placed on the amount to be donated, for that decision was left to the individual Muslim's conscience and generosity. In the second year of hijrah, according to the widely known authorities, both the type and the quantity of zakah revenues were determined, and detailed illustrations were provided.

Volume 3, Page 2: Exhortation to Give Zakah in the Qur'an

At-Taubah 103 authorizes the Prophet, upon whom be peace, to take either a stipulated amount of alms from the believers' holdings in the form of the obligatory zakah, or a voluntary, unstipulated amount (zakah of tatawwul). In this 'ayah, "purify" means to purify them from stinginess, greed, and meanness, and a lack of remorse toward the poor and the wretched. To sanctify them is to raise them in esteem through good deeds and blessings so that they will be worthy of happiness both now and in the afterlife.

In reference to the life hereafter, Allah reveals: "Lo! Those who keep from evil will dwell amid gardens and watersprings, taking that which their Lord gives them. For they were before doers of good. They used to sleep but little of the night, and in the hours of the early dawn they prayed for forgiveness.... In their wealth, the beggar and the outcast had due share" [azh-Zhariyat 15-19]. Allah views beneficence and righteousness as exclusive qualities of the pious. It is because of their beneficence that they pray at night and ask Allah's forgiveness at dawn as a way of worshipping and approaching Him. Their beneficence is likewise in their giving to the needy their share of mercy and sympathy.

Allah further confirms: "And the believers, men and women, are protecting friends of one another; they enjoin the right and forbid the wrong, they perform prayer and pay the zakah, and they obey Allah and His Messenger. Upon them, Allah will have mercy" [at-Taubah 71].

Such are the people blessed by Allah and given His mercy-- those who believe in Him, who take care of each other through support and love, who exhort fairness and restrain lewd behavior, who have strong ties with Allah through prayer, and who strengthen their mutual relations through zakah.

Finally, these people, as reflected in al-Hajj 41, are: "Those who, if we give them power in the land, perform prayers and pay zakah, and enjoin kindness and forbid inequity." Giving zakah is, therefore, one of the reasons for which the righteous are given authority on earth.

Volume 3, Page 3: Exhortation to Give Zakah in the Hadith

At-Tirmizhi relates from Abu Kabshah alAnmari that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: "I swear upon three (things) and ask you to memorize my words: Sadaqah taken from a property never decreases it; a man who suffers injustice and is patient with it, Allah will grant him strength; a man who starts begging, Allah will cause him to be poor."

Ahmad and at-Tirmizhi relate (and the latter graded it sahih) from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said: "Allah receives charity by His right hand, and then He causes it to grow for each of you. Just as you raise a horse, colt, foal, or young weaned camel, so that morsel becomes as large as the Mount of 'Uhud."

Of this hadith's content, Waki' says: "This is sanctioned by the Qur'an: 'Do they not know that it is Allah alone who can accept the repentance of His servants and is the (true) recipient of whatever is offered for His sake - and that Allah alone is an acceptor of repentance, a dispenser of grace?' [at-Taubah 104]. 'Allah deprives usurious gains of all blessing, whereas He blesses charitable deeds with manifold increase.' [al Baqarah 276]."

Again, Ahmad relates, with a sound chain of narrators, that Anas said: "A man from the tribe of Tameem came to the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, and said: 'O Messenger of Allah! I have plenty of property, a large family, a great deal of money, and I am a gracious host to my guests. Tell me how to conduct my life and how to spend.' The Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, replied: 'Pay zakah out of your property, for truly it is a purifier which purifies you, and be kind to your relatives, and acknowledge the rights of the poor, neighbors, and beggars'."

It was reported from 'Aishah that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said: "I swear upon three things: Allah does not equate one who has a portion in Islam with one who does not. The portions of Islam are three: prayer, fasting, and zakah. If Allah takes care of a man in this world, He will take care of him on the Day of Judgment. If a man likes a group of people, Allah will certainly include him among them. As for the fourth, if I swear on it, I hope I will not commit a sin: that if Allah conceals a man's sin in this world, He will certainly not expose him on the Day of Judgment."

At-Tabarani relates in al-'Awsat, that Jabir reported: "A man said: 'O Messenger of Allah! What will be the gains for a man who pays zakah on his assets?' The Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said: 'For one who pays zakah on his asssets, he will be removed from the evil in them'."

On the same subject, al-Bukhari and Muslim relate that Jabir ibn 'Abdullah reported: "I gave my allegience to the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, that I will establish salah (prayers) and zakah, and I will give advice to every Muslim."

Volume 3, Page 4: Punishment in the Qur'an for the Delinquents of Zakah

Allah says: "O you who believe! Most surely many of the doctors of law and the monks eat away the property of men falsely and turn them from Allah's way; and as for those who hoard treasures of gold and silver and do not spend them for the sake of Allah--warn them of grievous sufferings [in the life to come]. On the Day when that [hoarded wealth] shall be heated in the Fires of Hell and their foreheads and their sides and their backs branded with it, [it will be said to them:] 'These are the treasures which you have hoarded for yourselves. Now taste of what you used to accumulate!' [at-Taubah 34-35]." He also says: "And they should not think--they who avariously cling to all that Allah has granted them out of His bounty--that this is good for them. No, it is bad for them, for that which they hoard will be hung about their necks on the Day of Judgment" [al-'Imran 180].

Volume 3, Page 4a: Punishment in the Hadith for the Delinquents of Zakah

Ahmad, al-Bukhari, and Muslim relate from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said: "No owner of a treasure who does not pay zakah will be spared, for his treasure will be heated in the Fires of Hell and then made into plates. His flanks and his forehead will be branded with them until Allah pronounces judgment on His servants during a day lasting fifty thousand years.

[The individual] will be shown his path, leading him either to Paradise or to Hell. A camel owner who does not pay zakah will not be spared (either). He will lay flat on a sandy, soft plain and they will run over him heavily one after another until Allah pronounces judgment on His servants during a day lasting fifty thousands years. [The individual in question] will then be shown his path, leading him either to Paradise or to Hell. Equally, no owner of goats who does not pay zakah (will be spared). He will lay flat for them on a sandy plain, and the goats will run over him as heavy as they will come and they will trample him with their hoofs and gore him with their horns--with twisted horns or with no horns--one after another until Allah pronounces judgment on His servants, during a day lasting fifty thousand years, and [the individual in question] will be shown the path, leading him either to Paradise or to Hell. They [the Companions] asked: 'O Messenger of Allah, what about the horses?' He said: 'Horses have goodness in their foreheads (or he said 'Goodness lies in the foreheads of the horses') until the Day of Judgment. Horses are of three kinds: they are a source of reward for the owner, they are a cover, or they are a burden to a person. As to those [horses] that bring rewards, one who raises and trains them for the sake of Allah will get a reward from Him as well as all that they consume will be considered a reward for him from Allah. For every stalk of grass in the meadow that one lets them graze, there is a reward for him. For every drop of water that one lets them drink from the creek, there is a reward.' He went on describing until a reward was mentioned even for their urine and their feces.

'And for every step that they prance on elevated ground, there is a reward. As for the one to whom they will provide cover [in the life hereafter], he is the one who raises them for honor and dignity and remembers the right of their backs and stomachs in plenty and adversity. As for the one to whom they are a burden, he is the one who raises them for glory and showing off to people.' They asked: 'O Messenger of Allah, what about donkeys?' He said: 'Allah has not revealed to me anything in regard to them except this one comprehensive verse: 'He who does an atom's weight of good will see it, and he who does an atom's weight of evil will see it' [az-Zalzalah 7]."

Al-Bukhari and Muslim relate from Abu Hurairah that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: "Whoever is made wealthy by Allah and does not pay zakah on his wealth, on the Day of Judgment it will become a bald-headed, poisonous, male snake with two black spots over his eyes. The snake, on the Day of Judgment, will encircle his neck, and bite his cheeks and say: 'I am your treasure, I am your wealth.' " Then he [the Prophet] recited this 'ayah: " 'And let not those who hoard up that which Allah has bestowed upon them of his bounty...' [al'Imran 180]."

Ibn Majah, al-Bazzar, and al-Baihaqi relate from Ibn 'Umar that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said: "O Muhajirun, beware of five traits: if ever immorality spreads in a community and there is no sense of shame on its occurrence or mentioning it [and people talk about it as if nothing bad has taken place], diseases which were not present in the time of their predecessors will spread among them. If they decrease the measure and weight (of sold grains or food), they will be overcome by poverty, their provisions will decrease and their ruler will be unjust. If they refrain from paying the zakah due on their properties, they will be deprived of rain, unless they get it only for the sake of their cattle. If they renounce their commitment to Allah and His Messenger, they will be governed by an enemy who is a stranger to them and who will take away some of what they possess. If their rulers do not rule according to Allah's Book, they will be afflicted by civil war. Allah forbid that these should happen to you."

Al-Bukhari and Muslim relate from al-Ahnaf ibn Qays that he said: "I was in the company of some men of Quraish, when a man (Abu Zharr al-Ghafari, a companion of the Prophet) came with coarse hair, clothes, and appearance. He stood up, greeted them and said: 'Inform those who hoard property that a stone will be heated in the Fires of Hell and then placed on the nipples of their breasts until it comes out from the top of their shoulders. It will then be placed on the top of their shoulders until it comes out again from the nipple of their breasts, and they will be shaken.' Then he left. I followed him and sat near him, not knowing who he was. I said: 'These people disliked what you said to them.' He observed: 'They do not understand anything that my friend said to me.' I asked: 'Who is your friend?' He replied: 'The Prophet, upon whom be peace. [One day he asked me]: 'Do you see the Mount of Uhud?' I looked at the sun to see how much of the day was left, as I thought that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, wanted to send me on an errand for him. I said: 'Yes.' Upon this he said: 'Nothing would delight me more than having gold equal to the bulk of Uhud and spending all of it (in Allah's way) except three dinars.'

'Indeed, these people do not understand and go on accumulating riches. By Allah! I neither ask them for this world, nor do I ask them anything about religion until I meet Allah, The Exalted One.' "

Volume 3, Page 7: Judgment on the Zakah Refrainer

As an obligation upon Muslims, zakah is one of the essential requirements of Islam. If somebody disputed its obligation, he would be outside of Islam, and could legally be killed for his unbelief unless he was a new Muslim and could be excused for his ignorance.

As for the one who refrains from paying it without denying its obligation, he would be guilty of committing a sin. Yet, this act does not place him outside of Islam. It is the ruler's duty to take zakah from the defaulter by force and rebuke him, provided he does not collect more than the stipulated amount. However, in the views of Ahmad and ash-Shaf'i (in his earlier opinion) the ruler could take half of the defaulter's money, in addition to the calculated amount of zakah, as a punishment. This view is based on what Ahmad, anNasa'i, Abu Dawud, al-Hakim, and al-Baihaqi have recorded from Bahz ibn Hakim all the way back to his grandfather who said: "I heard the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, say: 'Whether the camels of the zakah payer are grown or baby camels, it makes no difference in his reward if he gave them willingly. (However,) if someone refrains from paying it, it will be taken from him along with half his property, for it is a right of our Lord, the Blessed and the Exalted, not a right of the house of Muhammad.'"

Asked about its chain, Ahmad ruled it good (hassan). Of Bahz, al-Hakim says: "His traditions are authentic." Ash-Shaf'i, as alBaihaqi says, did not include it for fiqhi consideration because . . . "this hadith is not confirmed by the scholars of hadith."

If some people refrain from paying zakah knowing that it is due and that they can afford to pay, they should be fought until they yield and pay. Al-Bukhari and Muslim report that Ibn 'Umar heard the Prophet say: "I have been ordered to fight people until they say that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah, and that Muhammad is His Messenger, and they uphold the prayers, and pay the zakah. If they do this, their lives and properties will be safe, except for what is due to Islam, and their accounts are with Allah."

Abu Hurairah is reported to have said: "When Allah's Messenger, upon whom be peace, died and Abu Bakr succeeded him as caliph, some Arabs apostasized, causing Abu Bakr to declare war upon them. 'Umar said to him: 'Why must you fight these men?', especially when there is a ruling of the Prophet, upon whom be peace: 'I have been called to fight men until they say that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah, and whoever said it has saved his life and property from me except when a right is due in them, and his account will be with Allah.' Abu Bakr replied: 'By Allah! I will fight those who differentiate between salah and zakah because zakah is the due on property. By Allah! If they withheld even a young she-goat ( 'anaq) that they used to pay at the time of Allah's Messenger, upon whom be peace, I would fight them.' Then 'Umar said: 'By Allah! It was He who gave Abu Bakr the true knowledge to fight, and later I came to know that he was right.' "

The same hadith narrated by Muslim, Abu Dawud, and atTirmizhi has the following variant: "If they witheld the 'iqal, the rope of the camel," instead of "'anaq, young she-goat."

Volume 3, Page 8: Who is Obliged to Pay Zakah

Zakah must be paid by every Muslim who has a nisab, which is the minimum of one's holdings liable to zakah. The nisab is conditioned by the following:

-1- Zakah should be paid on any amount of money remaining after meeting the expenses for such necessities as food, clothes, housing, vehicles and craft machines.

-2- A complete year of Islamic calendar should pass, starting from the very day of the nisab's possession, without any decrease during the year. In case of its decrease (being less than nisab), the year count (hawl;) starts from the day of the nisab completion.

Commenting on the issue, an-Nawawi said: "In our view and the views of Malik, Ahmad, and the majority of scholars, the amount of property liable for payment of zakah, such as gold, silver, or cattle, is tied to the completion of nisab through the turn of a whole year. If the nisab decreases in any time of the year, [the counting of] the year discontinues. Later, if the nisab is completed, the year count is resumed from the time of its completion."

On the same subject, Abu Hanifah holds: "What matters isthe availability of nisab at the beginning and end of the year. Its decrease at any time in between does not matter, even though the zakah payer had two hundred dirhams and he lost all but one dirham during the year, or if he had forty sheep, all of which died except for one during the year. If, at the end of the year, he had two hundred dirhams, or forty sheep, then he must pay zakah on all of that. This condition is not applicable to the zakah of plantations and fruits, for their zakah should be paid on the harvest day. Allah, the Exalted One, says: 'And pay the due thereof upon the harvest day' [alA'raf 142]."

Al-'Abdari elaborated that: "The holdings subject to zakah are of two kinds. The first kind grows by itself: crops and fruits. The second kind is used for growing and production: money, merchandise, and cattle. In the former case, zakah should be paid at the time of harvest. In the latter case, it should be paid at the end of the haul. This was the opinion of all jurists as reported in anNawawi's al-Majrnu'."

Volume 3, Page 9: Zakah on the Holdings of Infants and Mentally Retarded People

The guardian of a child or of a mentally retarded person must pay zakah on his behalf from his property if it constitutes a nisab.

'Amr ibn Shu'aib reported from his father backed up by a chain of sources going back to 'Abdullah ibn 'Amr that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said: "One who becomes the guardian of an orphan with property must trade on his behalf and not leave it passive in order to avoid depletion of the property by sadaqah."

However, this hadith has a weak link. Still, al-Hafiz affirms that: "There is a similar hadith of the mursal type in the compilation of ash-Shaf'i, who confirmed that it is considered a sound one. 'Aishah used to set aside zakah for the orphans who were under her protection."

At-Tirmizhi concludes that: "Jurists differ on this issue. More than one companion of the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said that zakah may be taken from an orphan's property. Among these are: 'Umar, 'Ali, 'Aishah, and Ibn 'Umar. This view is also supported by Malik, ash-Shaf'i, Ahmad, and Ishaq. Another group, including Sufyan and Ibn al-Mubarak, hold that: 'Zakah should not be taken out of an orphan's property.' "

Volume 3, Page 9a: The Insolvent Debtor

Whoever has property must pay its proper zakah. If the property is indebted, he may first pay off his debt, then in case the remainder is enough to constitute a nisab, he must pay zakah. If he does not hold the nisab, he does not have to pay it since he is poor. The Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said: "Only the wealthy are required to give charity." This hadith is related by Ahmad and al-Bukhari. The latter records it in mu'allaq form. The Prophet also said: "Zakah is levied on the rich and paid to the poor." It is all the same, whether he is indebted to Allah or to man, because one hadith states: "Allah's debt is more deserving of fulfillment."

Volume 3, Page 10: Zakah Owed by a Deceased Person

If a person dies before he pays zakah, then it must be taken from his estate.

According to ash-Shaf'i, Ahmad, Ishaq, and Abu Thaur, it is obligatory that zakah be paid from the property of the deceased, and this payment receives preference over debt, legacy, and inheritance for Allah says: "... after payment of legacies and debts is what you leave ..." [an-Nisa' 12]. Zakah is a debt payable to Allah.

A man came to the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, and said: "My mother died while she still had to make up one month of fasting. Shall I make it up for her?" The Prophet replied: "If there was any debt upon your mother, would you pay it off for her?" The man answered: "Yes." The Prophet then observed: "A debt to Allah is more deserving to be paid off." This is related by alBukhari and Muslim.

Volume 3, Page 10a: The Niyyah (Intention)

Since the payment of zakah is an act of worship, its validity depends upon the expression of one's intention. That is, the zakah payer should pay it for the sake of Allah; he should make up his mind, with all of his heart, that zakah is an obligation to be discharged. Allah says: "And they are commanded no more than this: to worship Allah, sincere in their faith in Him alone" [al-Bayyinah 5].

It is related in al-Bukhari and Muslim that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: "The value of [one's] deeds is determined by [one's] intentions; and thus for each shall be according to his intentions." Malik and ash-Shaf'i say that the intention is to be made at the time of rendering zakah. Abu Hanifah holds that the intention must be present at the time of payment or when zakah is being set aside from one's assets. Ahmad's view is that it is permissible to express the niyyah a little earlier before payment.

Volume 3, Page 11: Payment of Zakah in Due Time

Zakah must be paid immediately at its due time. Deferring payment of zakah is prohibited, unless the payer for some valid reason cannot pay it on time. In such a case, he may wait until he is able to pay it. It is related by Ahmad and al-Bukhari that 'Uqbah ibn al-Harith said: "Once I performed the 'asr prayer with the Prophet, upon whom be peace. When he concluded the prayer, he hurriedly went to his house and retumed immediately. Noticing the amazed faces, he said: 'I left at home a piece of gold which was meant for sadaqah, and I did not want to let it remain a night in my house, so I ordered it to be distributed.'"

Ash-Shaf'i and al-Bukhari (the latter in his Tarikh) relate from 'Aishah that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: "Whenever sadaqah which is payable is mixed with a property, it will destroy that property." The same hadith is related by al-Humaydi with this addition: "If you have to pay sadaqah which is payable, then it must be set aside, or the unlawful [property] will destroy the lawful one."

Volume 3, Page 11a: Paying Zakah in Advance

It is permissible for zakah to be paid for even two years in advance. Al-Zuhri did not see any problem in paying his zakah before the hawl. Al-Hasan was once asked if a man who had paid his zakah for three years in advance fulfilled his obligation. Al-Hasan answered in the affirmative. Of this view, ash-Shaukani said: "This was the view of ash-Shaf'i, Ahmad, and Abu Hanifah. It was supported by al-Hadi and al-Qasim." Al-Mu'ayyad-billah also subscribes to this opinion as being better, but he says that Malik, Rabi'ah, Sufyan ath-Thauri, Dawud, Abu 'Ubayd ibn al-Harith, and an-Nasir (who comes from the Prophet's family) held that one's obligation is not discharged if the zakah is paid before the expiration of the year. They formulated their stance on the Prophet's hadith, already mentioned, which makes the zakah mandatory for the payer only when he has his possessions for a year. However, this does not invalidate the view of those who maintain that paying zakah in advance is lawful, for undeniably the obligation of zakah is associated with the expiry of one full year. The difference is only on the point of whether one's obligation is discharged if the zakah is paid before the year has expired." Ibn Rushd sums up the subject: "The controversy arises from the question whether it is an act of worship or an obligation owed to the poor. The group which considers it an act of worship, like salah (prayers), does not agree that it should be paid before its time. On the other hand, the group which views it as similar to the case of deferred obligatory dues approves its voluntary payment in advance." In support of his view, ashShaf'i relates a hadith from 'Ali that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, asked for al-'Abbas' sadaqah before its due date.

Volume 3, Page 12: Invoking Blessing for the Zakah Payer

It is desirable that the recipient invoke blessing for the zakah payer at the time of its payment, for Allah says: "Take alms of their property that you may purify and sanctify them and pray for them. Verily, your prayers are a comfort for them" [at-Taubah 103]. It is related from 'Abdullah ibn Abu Awfa that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, on receiving sadaqah would say: "O Allah, bless the family of Abu Aufa." This is related by Ahmad and others.

Wa'il ibn Hajr reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, prayed for a man who had offered a fine she-camel in his zakah payment: "May Allah bless him and make his camels beneficial to him." This is related by an-Nasa'i.

Ash-Shaf'i says: "According to this hadith, the leader may pray for the almsgiver upon receiving his payment by saying: 'May Allah reward you in turn of what you have offered, and may Allah bless what you still possess.' "

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