SHAFAQNA | by Mohammad Saeid Taheri Moosavi*: The history of Zakat goes back to other monotheistic religions, but Islam, by establishing a very precise system of Zakat, has determined not only the method of paying it, but also the way of consuming it, so that the Islamic government, with the responsibility of supervising the administrators of Zakat-related affairs, do this religious duty. Of course, in several verses, the Holy Quran, by making the principle of Zakat obligatory and determining its uses, has entrusted the responsibility of determining the exact conditions of paying Zakat to the Sunnah of the Prophet and the Infallibles (A.S).
In verse 43 of Surah Al-Baqarah, as the first verse that mentions the obligation of Zakat in the Holy Quran, it is stated:
“And establish prayer and give Zakat and bow with those who bow [in worship and obedience]”
The Holy Quran in verse 60 of Surah At-Tawbah has determined the seven uses of Zakat:
“Zakat expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed for it and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah (SWT) and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah (SWT). And Allah (SWT) is Knowing and Wise.”
According to Islamic traditions, in practice, Zakat has two types: “Zakat of the body” which is obligatory on every Muslim at the end of the holy Month of Ramadhan, and it means paying for the gratitude of completing a month of fasting, and it is also called Zakat Al-Fitr or Fitrah. The amount of this zakat is three kilograms of four grains subject to zakat on property or the equivalent of its monetary value, which the head of the family pays for the number of people under his care, including his wife and children, even dependent children. But “Zakat on property” is given to nine things and its payment is subject to the general and specific conditions of each of the following cases:
A) Four grains (wheat, barley, dates and raisins).
B) Three types of livestock (camel, cow and sheep)
C) Two types of coin (gold and silver).
Regarding the examples of Zakat, it should be noted that some jurists consider Zakat to include only these nine cases, but others consider them as examples of Zakat cases and believe that Zakat can be received for other similar activities, for example for aquaculture or horse breeding and so on. It seems that the cases subject to the payment of Zakat are all the cases that are considered as assets or activities like the above nine cases. Also, general and specific conditions have been set for the payment of Zakat. The general conditions of Zakat are: maturity, reason and freedom, the latter condition of which is no longer applicable.
The specific conditions of Zakat are the ownership of the above items and reaching the value of the Nisab (minimum threshold) for each: for example, Zakat on grains which their Nisab value is about 847 or 885 kilograms), the portion of the grains that have to be paid as Zakat is, given different conditions of irrigation, from 1⁄10 to 1⁄20 of the crop. Or in the case of Zakat of livestock (camel, cow, and sheep), the special conditions are:
1. One year must have passed from having them.
2. The animals must have been pastured in the ranch or grasslands, and they should not be fed by cropped fodders.
3. The animal must have not been employed for any task during the year.
4. Reaching the lower limit: the first lower limit of camel is six whose zakat is one sheep. The first zakat of cows is thirty ones whose zakat is a two-year old calf. The first zakat of sheep is forty ones whose zakat is one sheep.
There are three conditions for the zakat of gold and silver:
1. It is obligatory to pay the zakat of gold and silver when they are minted as coins transaction with which is common.
2. One year must have passed from having them.
3. Reaching the lower limit: the first lower limit of gold is about ninety six grams and the first lower limit of silver is about seven hundred grams and their zakat is 1⁄40.
What is important in certain cases of Zakat is that it should be spent in the following seven items, and therefore the Islamic government can not use it for its own purposes. In other words, the Islamic government will monitor its usage only through the officials responsible for Zakat affairs and refrain from interfering in Zakat affairs as much as possible, unless the consumption of Zakat on the following seventh option necessitates government intervention:
1. The poor and the needy,
2. Zakat brokers (the government may set up a special office for managing zakat income and consumption and even pay their salaries itself, otherwise their salaries will be provided from the Zakat),
3. For the liberation of slaves (which is not applicable today),
4. In order to pay the debts of debtors who have been indebted to others without exaggeration in their property,
5. Those who are left behind (or those who are trapped in a strange country and have no financial affordance),
6. New Muslims in need,
7. Any action in the way of God (construction of schools, Mosques, roads and public places).
It goes without saying that the rules of Zakat represent a modern social system in the administration of society based on religion that has paid attention to all social, economic and moral details. In addition, this necessitates public participation in sectors where citizens can assume many of the responsibilities assigned to governments today without or with minimal government intervention, thereby consuming their property in accordance with Islamic law they can show their social solidarity.
*Dr. Mohammad Saeid Taheri Moosavi is a specialist in Public Law and Political Sciences. This article is written for Shafaqna French and translated by Fatemeh Aghaei for Shafaqna English.