What is the zakat? It is charitable giving based on one's wealth.
Zakat is an obligation for all Muslims and is the third pillar of Islam. Zakat is done for the purification of the wealth one already has in one's procession. As all things come from Allah, it is the obligation of Muslims to reflect the mercy and generosity of Allah, and look after those who are suffering hardship. Zakat is based on one's accumulated wealth. It is to be calculated and given within one lunar year. It is most often given in the time of the Ramadan fast, a time of devotion to the Islamic law and reflection on the life of Muhammad.
Intention, Purpose, and Desire of Zakat
The intention of the zakat is to ensure that all of God's people are gathered into the communal embrace and cared for. It takes the focus off of a Muslim's own personal wealthy, and places it on the needs of the collective group. It is a reflection in the world of the compassionate and merciful nature of Allah. And, as no one is excused from the zakah, with the exception of those who need it, there is a creation of unity within the Muslim community. It is yet another intention to serve Allah in all matters.
Who must pay zakat?
All those who profess to be Muslims. All those who are adolescent or older. (Age 15 +). All those who are sane, free of slavery and understand about the obligation of zakat. All those who are the complete owners and possessor of wealth that is : in excess of their basic needs, beyond the minimum amount you are required to pay (the nisab), free from debt equal or more than capital currently in your possession, productive, whether intrinsically, such as gold and silver or physically such as breeding or accumulating profits.
Who is zakat given to? There are eight categories of recipients.
- the poor, who do not have the nisaab - the base amount specified that you must have before you can calculate the zakat, and who do not ask for assistance
- the destitute who cannot care for himself/herself and must ask for assistance
- the collectors of the zakat who have been appointed by an Imam to make the zakat collection
- the unsteady in faith who may need assistance to strengthen their faith
- those who are slaves and need to be freed
- those who are crippled by debt
- to help those who are on the path to Allah, soldiers on an Islamic military campaign, or religious schools for children for example
- stranded travellers - those who are away from home, and do not possess the necessary money to get there
How much is given in zakat? It depends on your income and circumstances.
Zakat is a very specific kind of charitable giving. It is not part of the general givings for the sake of goodness or kindness throughout the year. In Islam, all generosity towards others is encouraged. But this is not part of the zakat. The zakat is a specifically calculated tax on a Muslim's wealth to be paid every year. It is mentioned numerous times in the Quran, and was practiced and spoken about my Muhammad.
When and how to pay the zakat depends on two obligations: nisab and the due date of the zakat. The nisab is the minimum about that a Muslim must have before being obliged to pay the zakah. It is the amount a person would have in excess of what is required for them to live and work. See details below. (The current nisaab threshold in Canada is currently $448.48.) The zakat is due and payable within one lunar year of acquiring the nisaab.
In the simplest terms: add up all your assets, subtract all your liailities, multiply the difference by 2.5 and subtract the nisab. This is your obligatory zakah payment.