Zakat is a charitable payment that is obligatory for all adult Muslims that meet and exceed the nisab threshold, making up the Third Pillar of Islam. As this form of charity is an obligation, rather than voluntary, there are certain restrictions on who can and cannot benefit from the donation of one’s Zakat.
Please note, Zakat should not be confused with Zakat al-Fitr, which is a compulsory payment to be made before Eid-al-Fitr commences.
For more Zakat facts, please keep reading for the main queries that are frequently asked both by those in and outside of the Muslim community.
Zakat is a charitable donation which is made annually under Islamic law. It is applicable on all assets, qualifying property and disposable income. Zakat is the fourth of the Five Pillars of Islam.
The literal meaning of Zakat is “that which purifies”, and it is considered to purify the wealth which is typically generated as income.
Zakat can be paid at any point in the year, as long as you are above the nisab threshold (which is the point you become eligible to pay Zakat). Payment is due after on full Hawl (lunar year) from when you went over the nisab threshold.
Zakat can be paid at any point in the year – before, after or during Ramadan. However, many Muslims choose to make their Zakat payment during the Holy month as they believe the rewards that come as a result of this are multiplied. Zakat should not be mistaken for Zakat al-Fitr (also known as Fitrana), which is a donation that must be made during Ramadan by every adult Muslim who has food in excess of their needs.
Zakat is permitted to be spent in eight ways as specified by Allah in the aayah, which are for:
As mosques are not listed amongst the eight categories, it is not permissible to use your Zakat donation to fund the building of a mosque.
It is not permitted for a mother to pay Zakat to her son as you cannot pay for your dependents’ expenses from this charitable payment. Paying for a dependent’s expenses when they do not have the financial means to do so is obligatory and if you are unable to do so, others (relatives or otherwise) are permitted to donate their Zakat as long as they are not obliged to provide for them.
It is permissible for a wife to give her Zakat to her husband assuming he is deserving of receiving the charity (i.e. is in debt). However, a husband cannot donate his Zakat to his wife as he is already obliged to spend money on her and pay for her expenses; if he is unable to support his wife, others not obliged to pay for her expenses are permitted to donate their Zakat to them.
You are permitted to donate your Zakat to aunts and uncles if they are worthy of the charity, as, while they are relatives, you do not have any obligation to support them financially. In turn, your aunts and uncles would also be able to donate their Zakat payment to you if you qualified to receive the charitable payment.
Zakat is not permitted to be paid to parents for the same reason as mothers and fathers cannot give their charity to their children. We have an obligation to support our parents as we enter adulthood as they, too, are obliged to support us as children– benefits between parents and children are shared and you are not entitled to benefit from your Zakat payment. Simply put, neither a son nor daughter can give Zakat to his/her parents.
As a sibling is not considered to be a direct responsibility to support financially, it is permitted to donate your Zakat to any of your brothers and sisters, on the assumption that they qualify to receive the charity.