The Short Answer
Zakat redeems hundreds of times its worth in purifying reward. Allah multiplies this already rich recompense – and every sincere worship and righteous act – exponentially in Ramadan. In addition, Zakat alone among the Five Pillars the Prophet, on him be peace, characterized Islam as built on counts both as a rite of worship and a righteous fiscal charitable transaction.
Islam, however, does not require Muslims to pay their Zakat Al-Mal, the yearly obligatory “Alms of Wealth,” in Ramadan (see How is Zakat Calculated on Wealth?).
It does oblige every Muslim, regardless of age or gender to pay Zakat Al-Fitr, the “Zakat of Fast-Breaking,” in Ramadan.
Did the early Muslims pay their Zakat in Ramadan?
From the days of the Prophet, on him be peace, Muslims have preferred to pay their Zakat in Ramadan.
The noble Companion and third Caliph ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan, God be pleased with him, advised the Muslims of his time about Ramadan: “Here is the month for you to pay your Zakat. If you have debts, then pay them off so that you can sort out your wealth and take Zakat from it” (Malik’s Muwatta).
The presence of urgent need, however, can make one’s Zakat payment at other times superior to remitting it in Ramadan – to ease crises of famine or plague, for example, or the human losses of war and natural disaster, or in seasons when the poor suffer more due to a dearth of charitable giving.
Why Is Ramadan the best month for Zakat?
This ninth lunar month of Islam’s hijri calendar holds an excellence over all the other months on three counts:
- Allah multiplies the divine reward He accords righteous deeds done in it in untold measure. The Prophet, on him be peace, said:
Allah has said: “All the works of the Son of Adam are for himself but fasting. It is for Me alone, and I shall grant reward for it.” (Bukhari)
Allah is the One who rewards all our good deeds, which He says in the Quran He counts from 10 (Surat Al-An’am, 6:160) to 700 times (Surat Al-Baqarah, 2:261) their individual divine value. Yet He singles out fasting with the words, “Fasting is for Me, and I shall grant reward for it,” without specifying its amount, meaning none but He knows its quantity, indicating it he will award it magnitudes of blessings more than other good deeds.
- Allah has imbued it with incomparable distinctions.In it is a night better than a thousand months. The Quran says:
Indeed, it is We who have sent this Quran down from on high on the Night of Empowering Decree. And do you realize what is the Night of Empowering Decree? The Night of Empowering Decree is better than a thousand months! Therein do the angels and the Spirit Gabriel descend, by the permission of their Lord, with every divine commandment. Peace it is till the rise of dawn! (Surat Al-Qadr) 97:1-5
In it, Allah revealed other Heavenly Books. The Prophet, on him be peace, said:
The Scriptures of Abraham were sent down on the 1st of the month of Ramadan. The Torah [of Moses] was sent down on the 6th of Ramadan. The Evangel [of Jesus] was sent down on the 13th of Ramadan. The Psalms [of David] was sent down on the 18th of Ramadan, and the Quran was sent down on the 24th of Ramadan. (Ahmad)
In it, the doors to Paradise are opened, the ones to Hell closed, and devils fettered:
In it, the Gates of the Garden are opened. In it, the Gates of Hell are closed. In it, the demons are chained. (Agreed upon)
Its last ten nights stand superior in divine blessing to all other nights (see Ibn Al-Qayyim, Zad Al-Ma‘ad, Provisions for the Journey)
- The Prophet, on him be peace, strove in overabundant worship and acts of communal good-doing in it and exhorted Muslims to do the same.Said the close Companion Ibn ‘Abbas, God be pleased with him:
The Messenger of Allah, God bless him and grant him peace, was ever the most generous of people. Yet he was more generous than ever in Ramadan, for then he would meet [the Archangel] Gabriel. Indeed, Gabriel, on him be peace, would meet him in every night of Ramadan, and the Prophet would review with him the Quran. Then would the Messenger of God, on him be peace, become more generous in doing good than the gusting of a giving-wind. (Bukhari, no. 3554)
At the appearance of Ramadan’s new moon, the Prophet, on him be peace, exhorted His Companions:
Ramadan has come to you, a blessed month. Allah has obliged you to fast it. In it, the Gates of the Garden are opened. In it, the Gates of Hell are closed. In it, the demons are chained. In it is a Night better than a thousand months. One deprived of its good is deprived indeed. (Nasa’i, Ibn Majah)
What makes Ramadan spiritually special?
This relates to the preceding question.
First, Allah says in the Quran:
It was the month of Ramadan in which the Quran was first sent down as guidance for all people, having in it clear proofs of divine guidance and the criterion for right and wrong. (Surat Al-Baqarah, 2:185)
So He commanded Muslims to fast Ramadan in commemoration of this unparalleled gift of guidance to humanity:
So whoever among you bears witness to the month shall then fast it. (Surat Al-Baqarah, 2:185)
In addition, Allah honored the month of Ramadan by connecting it to the ancient spiritual devotion of fasting. And with this, He has also honored Muslims by reintroducing them to fasting’s proper and sanctified observance and point.
Allah Himself tells us in the Quran the fasting rite’s divinely intended function. It shifts a godly servant’s mind from the focus-fracturing distractions of the world back to his or her true life-purpose; namely, taqwah, heedful worship of the world’s Sole Creator.
This connects to paying Zakat in Ramadan because of the divine statement: “Fasting is for Me,” which implies that Allah has ranked it as the religious observance “dearest” to Him. In the words of the great eleventh-century Maliki judge of Lisbon, Ibn ‘Abd Al-Barr: This is “sufficient to indicate fasting’s superiority over all other acts of worship, which is supported by the Prophet’s authentic statement, on him be peace: ‘Fast, for there is nothing like it’” (Nisa’i no. 2220).
Can the virtue of paying Zakat in Ramadan be summed up?
Combining the unique, obligatory “worship rite-cum-financial charitable act” of Zakat with the “dearest” form of devotion to Allah, fasting, in the month He hallowed above all others, Ramadan, with the revelation of His Celestial Books – and especially His last and culminating one to guide all humankind, the Quran – makes Zakat paid at this time an absolute windfall of heavenly blessings for its Ramadan payer.