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The Islamic Shari‘ah of Zakah
Economic Issues
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)


وَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ وَأَقْرِضُوا اللَّهَ قَرْضًا حَسَنًا وَمَا تُقَدِّمُوا لِأَنْفُسِكُمْ مِنْ خَيْرٍ تَجِدُوهُ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ هُوَ خَيْرًا وَأَعْظَمَ أَجْرًا (٢٠:٧٣)

And [in the daytime and at night] be diligent in the prayer and pay zakah and [for the cause of your religion and state] lend to Allah a befitting loan, and [remember] whatever good you send forth for yourselves you shall find it with Allah better than before and greater in reward. (73:20)

 In the verse quoted above, and at numerous other places in the Qur’an, Muslims are directed to pay zakah from their wealth. After the salah (the prayer), it is the second important worship ritual in Islam. Among the various mannerisms which man has generally adopted to worship deities, one is to present before them a part of their wealth, livestock and produce. In the religion of the prophets, this is the essence of zakah, and on this very basis, it is has been regarded as a ritual of worship. The names like sadqah and nadhr are also used for it. The Qur’an has used the word sadqah for it in various verses, and has explained that it should be paid with humility:

الَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ الصَّلاَةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُمْ رَاكِعُونَ (٥٥:٥)

Those who are diligent in the prayer, pay zakah such that [their hearts] bow [down in humility]. (5:55)

وَالَّذِينَ يُؤْتُونَ مَا آتَوا وَّقُلُوبُهُمْ وَجِلَةٌ أَنَّهُمْ إِلَى رَبِّهِمْ رَاجِعُونَ (٦٠:٢٣)

And those who whenever give, give such that their hearts are filled with awe  knowing that they will have to return to their Lord. (23:60)

 Zakah is a share imposed on one’s wealth and has been reserved for Allah. The Qur’anic directive: ‘وَآتُواْ حَقَّهُ يَوْمَ حَصَادِهِ’ (give away what is due of them upon the harvest day, (6:141)) refers to this very aspect. The general custom about it has been that once it has been presented, it is taken from the place of worship and given to its keepers so that they are able to serve the needs of the worshippers from this money. In our shari‘ah, this practice has been discontinued. We have been directed to give this money to our rulers so that the needs of the state can be met; however, this change does not effect the essence of zakah. It is reserved for the Almighty and when His servants pay it, the decision for accepting it also comes from Him. The Qur’an says:

أَلَمْ يَعْلَمُواْ أَنَّ اللّهَ هُوَ يَقْبَلُ التَّوْبَةَ عَنْ عِبَادِهِ وَيَأْخُذُ الصَّدَقَاتِ (١٠٤:٩)

Do they not know that God Himself accepts the repentance of His servants and takes their charities? (9:104)

 The importance of this ritual of worship can be understood from the fact that like the prayer the Almighty has regarded it as a pre-requisite for a person to be a Muslim. The Qur’an says: فَإِنْ تَابُوا وَأَقَامُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوْا الزَّكَاةَ فَإِخْوَانُكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ’ (If they repent, become diligent in the prayer and pay zakah, they are your brethren in religion, (9:11)). It is evident from the Qur’an that after the prayer, it is the second manifestation of faith. It is apparent from the verses of Surah Mu’minun and Surah Ma’arij, which have been quoted earlier in the section on the prayer, that among righteous deeds, paying zakah is second to offering the prayer. Consequently, it is stated in the Qur’an with this very status, and at one place while mentioning the idolaters the Almighty has said that they do not pay zakah; for this very reason, they are the ones who are the real rejecters of accountability in the Hereafter:

وَوَيْلٌ لِّلْمُشْرِكِينَ  الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُم بِالْآخِرَةِ هُمْ كَافِرُونَ (٤١: ٦-٧)

And woe betide the idolaters, who do not pay the zakah, and it is these who reject the Hereafter. (41:6-7)

The Prophet (sws) has also delineated the importance of zakah:

Abu Hurayrah (rta) narrates that the Prophet (sws) said: “He who was given wealth by the Almighty and he did not pay its zakah, this wealth will be made into a bald snake for him, on whose eyes there will two black dots, and on the Day of Judgement his neck shall be shackled with this snake. Then he will clasp his cheeks and say: ‘I am you wealth; I am your treasure’ ”.1

Abu Dharr (rta) narrates that the Prophet (sws) said: “A person who has camels, cows and goats and he does not pay the right imposed them, then these [animals] will be brought before him on the Day of Judgement such that they will be very large and fat; they will stamp him below their feet and strike him with their horns. When the first will pass, the next will take its place. This will keep happening until the judgement is delivered for all the people”.2

It is stated in the Qur’an that similar will be the case of those heads and instances in which wealth should be spent besides zakah about which the Almighty directed people to spend money:

وَالَّذِينَ يَكْنِزُونَ الذَّهَبَ وَالْفِضَّةَ وَلاَ يُنفِقُونَهَا فِي سَبِيلِ اللّهِ فَبَشِّرْهُم بِعَذَابٍ أَلِيمٍ  يَوْمَ يُحْمَى عَلَيْهَا فِي نَارِ جَهَنَّمَ فَتُكْوَى بِهَا جِبَاهُهُمْ وَجُنوبُهُمْ وَظُهُورُهُمْ هَـذَا مَا كَنَزْتُمْ لأَنفُسِكُمْ فَذُوقُواْ مَا كُنتُمْ تَكْنِزُونَ (٩: ٣٤-٣٥)

And to those who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah give them glad tidings of a dreadful punishment. The day when in Hell their treasures shall be heated, then their foreheads, sides, and backs branded with them: “These are the riches which you hoarded. Taste then what you were hoarding”.(9:34-35)

History of Zakah

 The history of zakah is the same as that of the prayer. It is evident from the Qur’an that like the prayer its directive always existed in the shari‘ah of the Prophets. When the Almighty asked the Muslims to pay it, it was not something unknown to them. All the followers of the religion of Abraham (sws) were fully aware of it. For this very reason the Qur’an has called it ‘حَقٌ مَعْلُوْمٌ’ (a specified right, (70:24)). Thus it was a pre-existing sunnah which the Prophet (sws), with necessary reformations, gave currency at the behest of the Almighty. The Qur’an says that just as the Prophet Ishmael (sws) directed his household to offer the prayer, he also directed them to pay zakah: ‘وَكَانَ عِندَ رَبِّهِ مَرْضِيًّا وَ الزَّكَوةِ وَكَانَ يَأْمُرُ أَهْلَهُ بِالصَّلَاةِ’ (He would instruct his family to pray and to give zakah and his Lord was pleased with him, (19:55)). The Almighty pledged a promise with the Israelites in the words: ‘وَ آتَيْتُكُمْ وَ الزَّكَوة اِنِّي مَعَكُمْ لَئِنْ اَقَمْتُمُ الصَّلاَةَ’ (I am with you if you are diligent in the prayer and pay zakah, (5:12)). About the Prophets that belong to the progeny of Isaac (sws) and Jacob (sws), the Qur’an says:  ‘الزَّكَوة وَ إيْتَاءَ  وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْهِمْ فِعْلَ الْخَيْرَاتِ وَإِقَامَ الصَّلَاةِِ’ (And We sent them inspiration to do good deeds and to be diligent in the prayer and pay zakah, (21:73)). The Prophet Jesus  (sws) said about himself:  ‘وَ الزَّكَوة مَا دُمْتُ حَيّا وَأَوْصَانِي بِالصَّلَاةِ’ (And God has directed me offer the prayer and pay zakah as long as I live, (19:31)). The Almighty says in the Qur’an:

وَمَا تَفَرَّقَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ إِلَّا مِن بَعْدِ مَا جَاءتْهُمُ الْبَيِّنَةُ  وَمَا أُمِرُوا إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّينَ حُنَفَاء وَيُقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَيُؤْتُوا الزَّكَاةَ وَذَلِكَ دِينُ الْقَيِّمَةِ (٩٨: ٤-٥)

And [those among them] who were given the Book [before] became divided only after such a clear sign had come to them. And [in this Book also] they had been directed to worship Allah, obeying Him exclusively with sincere devotion and to be diligent in the prayer and to pay zakah [and the truth is that] this is the religion of the Upright Nation. (98:4-5)

It is recorded in Leviticus:

A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD. If a man redeems any of his tithe, he must add a fifth of the value to it. The entire tithe of the herd and flock – every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod – will be holy to the LORD. (27:30-31)

It is recorded in Numbers:

The LORD said to Moses, Speak to the Levites and say to them: When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the LORD’s offering. (18:25-26)

It is recorded in Deuteronomy:

Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. (14:22)

At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. (14:28-29)

When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied. (26:12)

Jesus (sws) while referring to it said:

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. (Mathew 23:23-24)

The Objective of Zakah

The objective of zakah can be determined from its very name. The root of the word zakah in Arabic has two meanings: ‘purity’ and ‘growth’. It thus means the wealth given in the way of Allah to obtain purity of heart. It is evident from this that the objective of zakah is the same as that of the whole of Islam. It cleanses the soul from the stains that can soil it because of love for wealth, infuses blessings in the wealth and is instrumental in increasing the purity of the human soul. Zakah is the minimum financial obligation on a person of spending his wealth in the way of God; thus it does not win what spending in the way of God beyond it wins, and which has already been discussed in an earlier article; however, merely paying zakah is enough to attach a person’s heart with the Almighty and greatly does away with indifference to the Almighty which so often comes in a person because of love for this world and its resources. In the words of the Prophet Jesus (sws): “For wherever your treasure is, your heart will also be”.3 This claim needs no arguments. One can experience it by spending his wealth anytime in the way of God.

The Qur’an has stated this objective of zakah in the following very appropriate words:

خُذْ مِنْ أَمْوَالِهِمْ صَدَقَةً تُطَهِّرُهُمْ وَتُزَكِّيهِمْ بِهَا (١٠٣:٩)

Take zakah from their wealth [O Prophet!] in order to purify them with it. (9:103)

وَمَا آتَيْتُمْ مِنْ زَكَاةٍ تُرِيدُونَ وَجْهَ اللَّهِ فَأُوْلَئِكَ هُمْ الْمُضْعِفُونَ (٣٩:٣٠)

And that which you give as zakah, seeking Allah’s countenance, it is these people who will increase their wealth [in the Hereafter]. (30:39)

The Law of Zakah

Irrespective of the differences of the jurists in understanding the concept of zakah, if the details of this directive which have reached us through the consensus of the Companions of the Prophet (sws) and their practical adherence, and which now stand validated through the consensus of the ummah are studied as regards their bases in the shari‘ah, then they can be stated as:

1. Nothing except the tools of production, personal items of daily use and a fixed quantity called nisab are exempt from zakah. It shall be collected annually on wealth of all sorts, livestock of all types and produce of all forms of every Muslim citizen who is liable to it.

2. Following are its rates:


(a) Wealth: 2 ½  annually

(b) Produce: (i) 5 : on all items which are produced by the interaction of both labor and capital, (ii) 10  on items which are produced such that the basic factor in producing them is either labor or capital and (iii) 20  in items which are produced neither as a result of capital nor labor but actually are a gift of God.

(c) Livestock


– From 5 to 24 (camels): one she-goat on every five camels

– From 25 to 35: one one-year old she-camel or in its absence, one two-year old camel

– From 36 to 45: one two-year old she-camel

– From 46 to 60: one three-year old she-camel

– From 61 to 75: one four-year old she-camel

– From 76 to 90: two two-year old she-camels

– From 91 to 120: two three-year old she-camels

– Over 120: one two-year old she-camel on every forty camels and one three-year old on every fifty camels

(ii) COWS

– one one-year old calf on every thirty cows and one two-year old calf on every forty cows

(iii) GOATS

– From 40 to 120: one she-goat

– From 121 to 200: two she-goats

– From 201 to 300: three she-goats

– Over 300: one she-goat on every hundred goats


3. The heads for which zakah is to be spent were never unclear. It was always spent on the poor and needy and on the collective requirements of the Muslims. However, when the hypocrites in the time of the Prophet (sws) raised certain doubts about these heads, the Qur’an unequivocally stated them:

إِنَّمَا الصَّدَقَاتُ لِلْفُقَرَاءِ وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَالْعَامِلِينَ عَلَيْهَا وَالْمُؤَلَّفَةِ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَالْغَارِمِينَ وَفِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَاِبْنِ السَّبِيلِ فَرِيضَةً مِنْ اللَّهِ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ (٦٠:٩)

Zakah is only for the poor and the needy, and for those who are ‘amils over it, and for those whose hearts are to be reconciled [to the truth], and for the emancipation of the slaves and for those who have been inflicted with losses and for the way of Allah and for the welfare of the wayfarers. This is an obligation decreed by the Almighty, the All-Knowing and the Wise. (9:60)

Here are some details of the heads of zakah mentioned in this verse:

(a) ‘الْفُقَرَاءِ وَالْمَسَاكِينِ’ (al-fuqara wa al-masakin): The poor and the needy.

(b) ‘الْعَامِلِينَ عَلَيْهَا’ (al-‘amilina ‘alayha):4 the salaries of all employees of the state.

(c) ‘الْمُؤَلَّفَةِ قُلُوبُهُمْ’ (al-mu’allafat-i-qulubuhum): all political expenditures in the interest of Islam and the Muslims.

(d) ‘فِي الرِّقَابِ’ (fi al-riqab): for liberation from slavery of all kinds.

(e) ‘َالْغَارِمِينَ’ (al-gharimin): for helping people who are suffering economic losses, or are burdened with a fine or a loan.

(f) ‘ِفِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ’ (fi sabilillah): for serving Islam and for the welfare of the citizens.

(g) ‘اِبْنِ السَّبِيلِِِ’ (ibn al-sabil): for helping travelers and for the construction of roads, bridges and rest houses for these travelers.

4. One form of zakah is the sadqah of fitr. It is the food of a person that he consumes in a day and is obligatory on every person whether young or old, and is given at the end of ramadan before the ‘id prayer is offered. As per a narrative of Ibn ‘Abbas the purpose of the Prophet (sws) in making this mandatory for every Muslim was to cleanse the fasts from the effects of lewd and nonsensical talk and to provide food to the poor on ‘id day.5 In the time of the Prophet (sws), it was generally given in the form of grain. Consequently, he had fixed its quantity at one sa‘ which is equivalent to about 2.5 kg:

فرض رسول الله زكاة الفطر صاعا من تمر أو صاعا من شعير على العبد والحر والذكر والأنثى والصغير والكبير من المسلمين وأمر بها أن تؤدى قبل خروج الناس إلى الصلاة  (بجاري رقم: ١٤٣٢)

The Prophet has regarded the sadqah of fitr as obligatory on every Muslim. It is one sa‘ of dates or one sa‘ of barley for every individual whether he is a free man or slave, man or woman, old or young and directed Muslims that it should be paid before people go out for the prayer. (Bukhari, No: 1432)

If a state takes zakah from its Muslim citizens, then there will be those who would collect it and those who would be its recipients. The Prophet (sws) has given advice to both: the recipients should try to please collectors who come to them even if they are subjected to some excess6 and the collectors should not embezzle the money7 and instead of calling the recipients to them, they should go to them and collect zakah8; moreover, they should not try to extract the best things owned in wealth and should save themselves from the prayer of the oppressed because there is no barrier between it and the Almighty.9

This is all as far as the shari‘ah regarding zakah is concerned. However, since there exist some general misconceptions about it, the following points must remain in consideration:

Firstly, there is no basis in the Qur’an and sunnah for the condition of ‘تمليك ذاتى’ (personal-possession) imposed by our jurists. Therefore, just as zakah can be given in the personal possession of an individual, it can also be spent on projects of his welfare10.

Secondly, the reason for the Prophet’s (sws) prohibition for receiving zakah for himself was that a portion from the fay wealth was reserved for him and his family. This portion remained reserved for this purpose for a long a period after him; however, such an arrangement could not have been forever nor was there any need for it to be forever. Consequently, the needs of the indigent and the poor of the Banu Hashim can now also be fulfilled without any hesitation with the zakah money.

Thirdly, a state can exempt certain things from zakah keeping in view the circumstances. It also has the authority to fix a statutory exemption (nisab) on things on which it collects zakah. It is evident from various narratives that the Prophet (sws) exempted horses and slaves from zakah and fixed a nisab for it in wealth, produce and livestock.

This nisab is as follows:


(a) Wealth: 5 uqiyahs / 642 grams of silver

(b) Produce: 5 wasaqs / 653 kilograms of dates

(c) Livestock: 5 camels, 30 cows, 40 goats


He is reported to have said: ‘قد عفوت عن الخيل والرقيق’ (I have exempted zakah on horses and slaves)11. He has similarly reported to have said:

ليس فيما دون خمسة أوسق من التمر صدقة وليس فيما دون خمس أواقي من الورق صدقة وليس فيما دون خمس ذود من الإبل صدقة (مؤطا رقم: ٥٧٨)

There is no zakah below five wasaqs of dates; there is no zakah below five uqiyahs of silver and there is no zakah below five camels. (Mu’atta, No: 578)

Fourthly, if the basis of the directive is taken in consideration, industrial produce of all forms, production of all forms based on various skills, rent of various items or buildings of all forms, salaries (reward for labor) and fees of all forms obtained in various ventures must be classified as produce and not as wealth; therefore, the zakah imposed on them should be based on the rates specified by the shari‘ah for land produce.

Fifthly, according to the above mentioned principle, zakah on leased-out houses, properties and other rented items should be that which is levied on produce, and if they are not rented out, its rate should be that which is levied on wealth.


(Translated from Qanun-i-’Ibadat by Shehzad Saleem)




1. Bukhari, No: 1338

2. Bukhari, No: 1391

3. Mathew, 6:21; Luke, 12:34

4. A little deliberation on the expression shows state employees in reality are ‘العاملين على اخذ الضرائب وردها الى المصارف’ (those who collect Zakah and disburse it in its heads). Consequently, this is a very subtle expression the Qur’an has adopted here to convey its purport. No doubt, generally people have not been able to comprehend this expression; however the construction I have referred to above unfolds this meaning upon very little deliberation.

5.. Abu Da’ud, No: 1609

6.. Muslim, No: 989; Abu Da’ud, No: 1589

7. Muslim, No: 1833

8.Abu Da’ud, No: 1591

9. Muslim, No: 19

10. For a detailed discourse on this topic, see Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tawdihat, 1st ed. (Lahore: Islamic Publications, 1956), 107-173

11. Abu Da’ud, No: 1574

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