About the Observance
“Truly, those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness, and perform salah and give zakah, they will have their reward with their Lord. On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.”
—Holy Qur’an, surah 2, ayah 277
“Oh son of Adam, spend in charity, and I shall spend on you.”
—said by Allah (swt) as reported by Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) in a narration in Sahih Muslim, Book of Zakah
“Verily, those who give charity, men and women, and lend Allah a goodly loan, it shall be increased manifold, and theirs shall be an honorable good reward.”
—Holy Qur’an, surah 57, ayah 18
Offering zakah is a religious obligation of all Muslims, and is the third of the five pillars of Islam (right after prayer). In Arabic, zakah means purification, growth and blessing. Paying zakah is meant to remind Muslims to be appreciative of the blessings that Allah (swt) has bestowed upon them, and to help empower those who have less.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about zakah. Please remember that there are many rulings and differences of opinion regarding zakah. The following answers—derived through the consultation of a council of imams who follow the Fiqh Council of North America—are meant to provide a basic understanding of zakah. It is advised that you consult with your local imam or scholar for more detailed inquiries.
What is zakah?
In Arabic, zakah means purification, growth and blessing. It is a charitable practice that requires all able Muslims (those who meet the requirement of zakah as dependent upon nisab and hawl—see below) to contribute a fixed portion of their wealth to help the needy—generally, 2.5% of savings—to help the needy.
What is nisab?
Nisab is the minimum amount of wealth a Muslim must have—after calculating necessary expenses—to be eligible to contribute zakah. Nisab is equivalent to the value of 3 ounces of gold. The nisab we’ve calculated for our zakah calculator is based on the most-recent report available to us (disclaimer: this number may change daily depending on fluctuations in the gold exchange rate).
What is hawl?
Hawl is defined as the completion period for a zakah asset, which is one lunar year. In other words, the wealth on which zakah should be paid must have been held for at least one full year. There are some forms of zakah that do not require hawl, such as for crops, when zakah should be paid at the time of the harvest. For clarification, it is recommended that you consult with your local imam or scholar.
Who is obligated to pay zakah?
Every adult Muslim who meets the requirements of nisab and hawl in a calendar year must pay zakah for that year. There are some conditions that may require others, a wali (guardian) of a minor for instance, to pay zakah too. As always, it is best to consult with your local imam or scholar for clarification.
Must I have the intention to pay zakah for it to be accepted?
Yes. In Islam, intention is an essential part of any act of worship, including the payment of zakah. The intention must be made at the time the zakah is paid.
What kinds of wealth are included in the calculation of zakah?
For a detailed list of wealth to include, please see IRUSA’s zakah calculator.
These stipulations delineate the type of wealth that should be accounted for when calculating zakah:
- The wealth is yours and under your control. You do not need to include outstanding debts when calculating zakah.
- The wealth is subject to development and increasing.
- After calculating necessary expenses, the wealth meets the requirements of nisab.
- Personal belongings, such as clothes, primary homes, food, cars, are exempt from zakah.
When can I pay my zakah?
Zakah should be paid as soon as possible prior to or at the time that you’ve earned the requisite amount of nisab each lunar year, or one year after you last paid it. Tip: A good way to ensure zakah is made in a timely fashion is to pay your zakah during Ramadan.
Is it acceptable from a religious perspective to give zakah toward any of your funds, or does the fund have to specify zakah?
You may make your zakah contributions toward any of our funds or projects. It is your intention that counts in this case. However, if your contribution is specifically made to our zakah fund, then we will follow specific zakah guidelines.
Who can my zakah be given to?
According to the Holy Qur’an (9:60), there are eight categories of people who qualify to be beneficiaries of zakah:
- The poor
- The needy
- The collectors of zakah
- Those who hearts are to be won over
- A mediator or someone who pays from personal monies to fix or mediate problems among the people
- In the cause of Allah (swt)
Most scholars agree that the poor and needy are the most important categories of people to receive zakah. Given that, it is acceptable to give your entire zakah allotment to individuals who are in those groups.
Do I have to pay my zakah on my home?
One does not have to pay zakah on a primary place of residence. If the house qualifies as a secondary residence that sometimes get rented out, however, zakah is due on it after subtracting necessary expenses from the income generated.
Do I have to pay my zakah on jewelry?
Yes, on jewelry you do not regularly wear and that you own for investment purposes.
Do I have to pay my zakah on stocks?
Yes. You may use the current value on stocks.
What’s the difference between zakah and sadaqah?
In the language of the Holy Qur’an, zakah and sadaqah are the same. In practice, however, sadaqah is the term used to indicate voluntary charitable giving while zakah is obligatory.
What is the difference between zakah and Zakat al-Fitr?
Zakat al-Mal (commonly called “zakah“) is due when a person’s wealth reaches the nisab amount and can be paid anytime during the year. Zakat al-Fitr is paid by the head of the household for each member of the family, before Eid al-Fitr prayer. Zakat al-Fitr is about the price of one meal—estimated at $10 in 2014.
On whose behalf do I have to pay Zakat al-Fitr? What if I have young children?
Zakat al-Fitr should be paid on behalf of everyone in the family. There are some scholars that recommend that Zakat al-Fitr is also paid on behalf of unborn children after the 120th day of pregnancy, but do not view it as obligatory. Most scholars do agree, however, that Zakat al-Fitr should be paid on behalf of the baby after his/her birth. Please do consult with your local imam or scholar for further clarification.
When should I pay my Zakat al-Fitr?
It should be paid before Eid prayer (or any day during Ramadan). There are some schools of thought that also allow for Zakat al-Fitr to be paid even before Ramadan. Consult with your local imam or scholar if you need additional information.
Your Zakah + Islamic Relief = Helping Others
Islamic Relief USA has a fund dedicated to zakah contributions to ensure that any zakah that is paid to IRUSA is distributed in accordance with Islamic tradition.
Islamic Relief puts your zakah donations to work toward development projects in education, health care, and water and sanitation that will create long-lasting opportunities for our poor and needy brothers and sisters all around the world.
Islamic Relief’s zakah fund has been used to support projects such as these:
- Improving water and sanitation in Africa
- Sustaining orphans in Afghanistan
- Feeding families in Palestine
- Renewing community livelihoods in Pakistan
How You Can Help
Here are three ways you can help us help more people around the world benefit from your zakah: