Is Zakat Due on All Wealth?

The Short Answer

No. Zakat is paid yearly on four general categories of “growing and producing” wealth that reach established thresholds (nisab) after a complete lunar year of the Islamic calendar (hawl) has passed on them or at harvest:

  1. Livestock
  2. Currency
  3. Crops and Produce
  4. Treasure Troves and Minerals

Does the Quran list the kinds of wealth to pay Zakat on?

The Quran mentions some kinds of Zakatable wealth generally — gold and silver, crops and produce, business earnings, and extracts from the earth — but it neither itemizes all types of wealth on which one must pay Zakat nor sets Zakat’s percentages on the various kinds of wealth. These details come from the Prophet, on him be peace.

(This is, for the most part, how Heavenly Revelation translates into rules in the two main categories of God’s Law for man: (1) The beliefs and due rites of God’s worship (‘ibadat), and (2) worldly transactions (mu’amalat). God decrees the cardinal truths, moral principles, and dictums of conduct. His human Messenger instructs us in their particulars, exemplifies them, and affirms or corrects our perceptions and performance of them.)

How does this process of Revelation-to-rules apply to Zakat?

Regarding Zakat, God sent down to His Prophet, on him be peace, in the Quran (and to us) the general commandment to take from their wealth a ‘sadaqah’ (charitable offering) to cleanse them and purify them thereby (Surat Al-Tawbah, 9:103). ‘Take’ means that the Prophet, on him be peace, as the authority over the community of believers, is to collect from its individuals a sadaqah, an obligatory alms, remembering that the word ‘sadaqah in the Quran is synonymous with ‘Zakat.’

This “due alms” is to come direclty out of their personal amwal, which is a plural word form (s. mal) that literally means ‘wealths of possession.’ In other words, the ruling authority is to remove “something of” each of the various kinds of material things individual Muslims have taken tangible hold of and own.

Why does God make us pay an obligatory charity?

God explicitly expresses His divine reason for this mandated charity: It acts as a “cleanse” for the individual soul of the believer from the defilement of his or her own sins. Simultaneously, it works to purify the believer’s actual wealth by removing from the stuff of this world that one has taken hold of — expressly because these articles carry tangible bounties of earthly value — the materialistic contaminants that the interaction between their physical substance and our fleshly desire vests them with.

Yet we are, after all, corporeal beings with material needs and subject to the conditions of this world and the constraints of earthly life. The Prophet, on him be peace (who, it must be stressed, is a medium of Revelation) specifies God’s intent in the matter of Zakat in its four dimensions:

  1. The kinds of wealth on which God obliges Zakat
  2. The amounts we must give of these select assets
  3. The thresholds at which He obliges us to pay out from them
  4. The times these alms become due

We should note here that when it comes to the Zakat-Charity’s permissible recipients, this determination God did not leave to His Prophet, on him be peace, or any one else. He specified them Himself.

What Requirements Qualify Wealth for Zakat?

Six conditions of a Muslim’s wealth determine if he or she must pay Zakat from it:

  1. Absolute Ownership (no other has a share or say in it)
  2. Growth (assets that provide profit or that come from increase)
  3. Minimum Quantity (the threshold for Zakat)
  4. Abundance Above Need (wealth begins after basic necessities)
  5. Solvency (Freedom from Debt)
  6. Lapse of a Lunar Year or Time of Harvest as Zakat Due Dates

(see Zakat Conditions and Calculation for more explanation)

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