Islamic scholars agree that Zakat is obligatory for all Muslims

Zakat or almsgiving is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with prayer, fasting, pilgrimage and declaring that there is only one God and that Muhammad is his final prophet.

Muslims believe that there is an absolute standard for morality in the Quran, known as Ma’ruf – which can be translated to mean ‘precepts’ or ‘norms.’ In addition to these core beliefs, Islam has a strong tradition of “Taqwa” -– a deep awareness of God’s presence at all times.

Islam divides charity into two main categories: Zakat and Sadaqa. Zakat refers to obligatory charitable giving based on accumulated wealth (“zakah”), while those in poverty or need can give Sadaqa. The Quran suggests different amounts for both giving categories and how charity should be distributed.

The practice of charitable giving forms an essential part of Muslim tradition, and the obligation is repeatedly mentioned in the Quran: “O you who believe! Spend [in charity] of that with which we have provided for you before the Day comes when no bargaining will avail, nor friendship nor intercession. It is God who has sovereignty over the heavens and the earth…” (Quran S2:254)

Muhammad prescribed Zakat as a compulsory payment by Muslims to be taken from certain kinds of wealth, typically 2.5% but not limited to this percentage.

According to some scholars, it should be paid at an individual level, while other Islamic scholars believe states can collect Zakat funds by assessing their respective citizenry. However, in the Quran and Sunnah, individuals are asked if they want to give more as a voluntary act beyond what is required. Muhammad said: “O people! Please give me your advice regarding my affair (religion). Behold! I am facing difficulty concerning my livelihood.” Asking how much someone has doesn’t imply asking about giving more than 2.5%.

Of all the types of funds that are eligible to be paid as Zakat, Islamic scholars agree that Zakat on currency is one of them. However, the Quran does not set the percentage for paying Zakat on money, nor does it mention whether its payment is compulsory or optional.

Islamic jurists have inferred from their sacred texts that the requirement of Zakat has been laid upon three kinds of assets: wealth, production and animals:

Accordingly, some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, undertake more than one waqf (trust) – e.g., under a 2-5-4 system – to collect Zakat funds and distribute them according to the Quranic obligation of specific and poor: “And they who hoard up gold and silver [Al-Kanz: the money], and spend it not in the way of Allah, -announce unto them a painful doom” (Quran 9:34).

On the other hand, Zakat is also believed to be due to specific property types. This includes crops or products that are irrigated using artificial or pumped water. However, this ruling has been subjected to differing opinions within Ijtihad. For example, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi bases his judgment on two principles accepted by Muslim jurists.

However, Ahmad Al-Nafrawi sees no prohibition to levy Zakat on land watered with pumped water as long as the property is still owned by its original owner (who paid Zakat on it when he first acquired it).

The amount of Zakat paid by an individual depends on the amount of money and property one possesses. The Quran does not prescribe a certain amount for either category; however, it has been noted that Zakat typically represents 2.5% of an individual’s net worth. For those unable to pay their Zakat, there is the concept of “Sadqa-e-Fitr”, which can be given as Sadaqah Da’ana – often translated as “charity”. This form of charity need not be monetary but rather in the form of feeding the poor. In Islam, this right is for those underprivileged who are only required to give the amount they can afford.

In addition to being obligatory for all Muslims, Zakat has been prescribed as one of the pillars of Islam – a “huqūqu” (right) which all believers must uphold if they wish their prayers to be accepted by God. Thus it is a religious obligation that the recipient has a right to receive Zakat funds and that these funds will not be shared with others who do not fulfil any other conditions (e.g., need).

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