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You are paying your Zakaah, BUT are you doing it correctly?

Ebrahim Moosa – Cii Radio | 21 Muharram 1437/04 November 2015

It is a universally understood principle, that every action comes with its concomitant reaction.

In Islam, the concept gains further traction from Quraanic teachings such as those that mention that “corruption has appeared in the land and the sea on account of what the hands of men have earned[30:41] as well as the understanding that ‘whatever comes to us of good is from Allah, but what comes to us of evil, is from ourselves’ [4:78].

With specific reference to rain, and a shortage of water, Islam teaches us that these straitened conditions befall us because of some very specific sins.

It was related that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said,

“Five (actions) entail five (punishments)” They asked, “What does it mean?” He said, “Whenever some people break a covenant, Allah will entice their enemy to attack them. If they rule in other than Allah’s law, they will be plagued with poverty. If indecency (adultery) prevails them, there will be more deaths. If they give short scales or weights they will be deprived of tillage and will suffer the barren years, if they do not pay Zakat, there will be no rain.” (Abu Dawud and Ahmad)

The onset of one of the worst droughts South Africa has experienced in decades has got many Muslims conscientised on the dire repercussions of not paying Zakaat – a cardinal pillar of our faith.

Of late, however, as the rains continue to prove elusive, Ulama have been keen to highlight that the matter is not simply restricted to the discharging of Zakaat. A key question, they point out, is, ‘Is this Zakaah  being discharged correctly?’

“Often we say, we paid the Zakaat,” Durban based scholar, Mufti Zubair Bayat argued in a recent talk. “But, did we discharge the Zakaat correctly,” he asked.

The Mufti explained that the establishment of Zakaat did not end with its calculation, the withdrawal of funds or the writing of a cheque. Instead, he said, the follow up to determine whether the Zakaat reached its rightful recipients was most critical.

“Has the Zakaat reached the correct recipients, or have fraudulent people got their hands on it, who are enriching themselves?

“It is the onus and obligation on the giver of Zakaat to ensure that it reaches the hands of those who are deserving – the worthy recipients. When that Zakaat is not correctly discharged, then Allah SWT also withholds the rain”.

Elaborating on the subject, Moulana Muhammad Ilyas Patel – also of Durban – says many Muslims are discharging Zakaat without having acquired the fundamental Shar’i knowledge that governs this obligation.

“He hasn’t found out what is the proper manner of calculating his Zakaat, he hasn’t found out how he should be discharging it. As a result, he is thinking that he has done his obligation, whereas because of a lack of knowledge and having not found out, he is miscalculating – he is short paying,” he said.

Moulana Patel said such ignorance of the injunctions of Zakaah were widespread, and its consequences were dire.

He discussed an instance of a businessman who had consistently been discharging his Zakaat on February 28 each solar year, the date chosen to coincide with his annual stock take.

Unbeknown to him, the Aalim explained, “the effect of this is, that in every 30 year cycle, he would have short-payed for one entire year”.

“Zakaat is to be calculated, based on the lunar[Islamic] calendar not the solar calendar – every year the lunar year is 10 days shorter than the solar year.

“And it is not just an arbitrary day that a person decides on to pay his Zakaat – it is a very specific day,” he highlighted.

Moulana Patel painstakingly illustrated how the act of delaying the payment of Zakaat, even by just a single day, can result in the a short-payment of Zakaat to the tune of thousands of Rands.

“This is something the details of which have to be determined,” he said, advising on the centrality of consulting the Ulama.

“A person needs to check whether he is doing it correctly. If he is not doing it correctly on that particular day that he should be calculating it, it can make a huge difference”.

Zakaah: Do not shortchange the system!

shortchanging zakaah


Zakaah is the third pillar of Islam; every Muslim whose finances are above a certain specified minimum must pay 2.5 per cent of his Zakatable assets annually to a deserving fellow-being as determined eligible by the Quraan.

While many Muslims meticulously take the time to discharge their Zakaat at its appointed time each year –  for many coinciding this payment with the blessed month of Ramadan, authorities involved in the handling of Zakaah funds have recently raised the red flag on several  improper practices that are being used to shortchange the discharge of Zakaat or default in its payment.

On a recent edition of Ulama in Focus, Mufti Muhammad Ismail Haffejee of the Economics and Finance Desk of the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa highlighted some common areas of concern.

Considering discharge of state taxes as a compensation for Zakaah

Zakaat can at no level be considered a tax, and numerous academic studies including one by renowned scholar Sheikh Yusuf al Qaradawi have argued this point quite strongly. Considering discharge of state taxes as a compensation for Zakaah is thus clearly an erroneous notion.

Not discharging Zakaah on pretext of not having sufficient cash on hand

Some, moreso women, may have large amounts of gold and silver jewellery assets that make them eligible for Zakaah payment. They may however not have sufficient cash on hand to meet this obligation. This, however, does not absolve them of paying Zakaah. The owner has two options here: Liquidate some of their non-cash assets, and pay the necessary amount, or pay the Zakaat in kind

Not paying Zakaah on Hajj or Home Savings

While the above forms of savings are indeed legitimate, it needs to be borne in mind that as long as they remain savings, they are subject to Zakaah. The only instance when the individual will be absolved of this obligation is when the savings cycle has reached the point where the payment for the home or Hajj is imminent, and deposits could be made in a matter of days. In legal terms this is called ‘the materialisation of liabilities’.

‘I have no regular income, only savings’

This is a common sentiment sourced from elderly citizens who cite it as a reason for not paying Zakaah. However, the Shari’ ruling is that, regardless of the existence of a fixed income or not, when the individual is in possession of surplus Zakaatable assets over and above the value of Nisaab, Zakaah payment is considered compulsory. It could be considered natural that the elderly who do not have an adequate financial support structure in place from their families, may fear an erosion of their capital by payments such as Zakaah. But this fear is misplaced. Zakaah does not erode wealth, it only purifies it. Additionally, elder citizens may by all means grow their capital by investing it in legitimate financial schemes.

Ignorance of the Akhaam of Zakaah

Individuals may have a sincere intention to discharge their Zakaah, but are simply too unaware of the intricacies of Zakaah to facilitate its correct discharge. Issues such as: Which assets are subject to Zakaah, what is a liability in Zakaah, how much does one deduct of a liability, and the general rules of Zakaah, need to be learnt and applied timeously, since ignorance of Islamic fundamentals do not absolve a Muslim of his/her obligation


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