Surah 9 (Al-Tawbah/Repentance): 60

Zakat is but a vehicle of prayers. It is due only to:

    • the poor who are destitute of means of livelihood, and
    • the needy who are in temporary distress due to sickness, disability or the like,
    • those who are engaged as collectors and administrators thereof, and
    • those who have just reconciled themselves with their own hearts and with Allah,
    • those in bondage who are eager to buy their freedom,
    • those in debt who are genuinely unable to pay what is owed to others,
    • the support of the cause of Allah,
    • and the wayfarer – who does not have the means for transportation and has to travel on foot.

This is an obligation incumbent on Muslims and dutiful to Allah.


Paying a sum of money as zakat (‘zakāh’, literally ’that which purifies’) is another of the ‘five pillars’ of Islamic piety. In the mercantile language of the Qur’an the donation of funds is on several occasions – {5.12} and {73.20} specifically associated with zakat, see also {2.245}, {57.11} and {64.17}  – described as the making of a ‘goodly loan’ to God.


A general duty of almsgiving is instructed in several verses of the Qur’an, as set out in 〈82.〉 However, the obligatory requirement to make a payment of zakat appears to be distinct from this general exhortation to give alms, and is expressed in specific, formal terms. ‘Zakat’ is often paraphrased as ‘regular’ or ‘compulsory’ alms/charity, although, of course, ‘compulsory charity’ is an oxymoron, and what is being described is, in reality, taxation.


To emphasise its nature as a regulated and enforced payment, {9.60} makes provision for the ‘collectors and administrators’ of zakat to take a share of the money they collect. In several places, including {17.26}, the recipient’s share is described as his ‘entitlement’ (‘haq’ahu’); and in {6.141} a set time is prescribed for its donation: ‘Eat of (various listed) fruit when they grow and pay the due thereof on the day of its harvest’.


In {4.77}, {9.5} (〈51.〉), {9.11} and {22.41} (〈36.〉), paying zakat is presented as an essential condition of being recognised as a member of the Qur’anic community. In {41.7} failure to make the payment is equated with disbelief. The quantum of zakat is not prescribed in the Qur’an but it is traditionally levied at one fortieth of a Muslim’s capital assets, paid annually on the first day of each Islamic new year.