Zakat

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. 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 believer. 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.