Zakah (Obligatory Charity)
What is Zakat?
Giving money for charity is highly commendable, and
the sky is the limit, but Zakat is different because
it is obligatory and is given in a calculated amount.
Zakat represents the unbreakable bond between members
of the community, whom prophet Mohammad described to
be "like the organs of the body, if one suffers
then all others rally in response."
One of the most important principles of Islam is that
all things belong to God, and that wealth is therefore
held by human beings in trust. The word zakat means
both 'purification' and 'growth'. Our possessions are
purified by setting aside a proportion for those in
need, and, like the pruning of plants, this cutting
back balances and encourages new growth.
Zakah does not only purifies the property of the contributor
but also purifies his heart from selfishness and greed.
It also purifies the heart of the recipient from envy
and jealousy, from hatred and uneasiness and it fosters
instead good-will and warm wishes for the contributors.
As Muslims pay the Zakat they have the genuine feeling
that it is an investment and not a debit helping to
establish economic balance and social justice in the
In general terms, what remains over and above the meeting
of needs and expenses, and is hoarded for the full span
of one year, is liable to Zakat. Zakat is the right
of the poor in the wealth of the rich and is neither
optional charity nor philanthropy.
Zakah has a deep humanitarian and social-political
value; for example, it frees society from class welfare,
from ill feelings and distrust and from corruption.
Although Islam does not hinder private enterprise or
condemn private possession, it does not tolerate selfish
and greedy capitalism. Islam adopts a moderate but positive
and effective course between individual and society,
between the citizen and the state, between capitalism
and socialism, between materialism and spiritualism.
How is it Calculated?
Zakah is a proportionately fixed contribution collected
from the surplus wealth and earnings of the Muslim.
Each Muslim calculates his or her own zakat individually.
Zakah is paid on the net balance after paying personal
expenses, family expenses, due credits, taxes, etc.
Every Muslim male or female who at the end of the year
is in possession of the equivalent of 85 grams of gold
(approx. $1400 in 1990) or more in cash or articles
of trade, must give Zakah at the minimum rate of 2.5%.
Taxes paid to government do not substitute for this
religious duty. The contributor should not seek pride
or fame but if disclosing his name and his contribution
is likely to encourage others, it is acceptable to do
Other gains and profits have their respective formulae,
such as proceeds from industry, agriculture and animal
husbandry, real estate, etc. as thoroughly detailed
in specialized references.
Note the obligatory nature of Zakah; it is required.
Muslims can also go above and beyond what they pay as
Zakah, in which case the offering is a strictly voluntary
charity (sadaqa). Sadaqa is given preferably in secret.
Although this word can be translated as 'voluntary charity'
it has a wider meaning. The Prophet said 'even meeting
your brother with a cheerful face is charity'.
The Prophet said: 'Charity is a necessity for every
Muslim'. He was asked: 'What if a person has nothing?'
The Prophet replied: 'He should work with his own hands
for his benefit and then give something out of such
earnings in charity'. The Companions asked: 'What if
he is not able to work?' The Prophet said: 'He should
help poor and needy persons.' The Companions further
asked 'What is he cannot do even that?' The Prophet
said 'He should urge others to do good'. The Companions
said 'What if he lacks that also?' The Prophet said
'He should check himself from doing evil. That is also