Translated by : A.J. Kassem

Giving zakah, or obligatory alms, is considered the third pillar of Islam.  Allah has made it obligatory on people who have accumulated certain amounts of savings for at least a year to give set amounts of their wealth to certain types of people in need or a distributing authority responsible for distribution.  Other names for the zakah mentioned in the Quran and prophetic traditions are sadaqah (charity), and nafaqah (spending).


Legitimate Recipients of Zakah


There are eight categories of people who are legitimate recipients of zakah. Allah says in the Quran,

{إِنَّمَا الصَّدَقَاتُ لِلْفُقَرَاءِ وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَالْعَامِلِينَ عَلَيْهَا وَالْمُؤَلَّفَةِ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَالْغَارِمِينَ وَفِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ فَرِيضَةً مِنَ اللَّهِ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ }

[سورة التوبة: الآية رقم 60]


(Verily, the sadaqaat are for the fuqarah (poor people), masakeen (people in need), al’amileen aleiha (those who work in zakah collection, storage and distribution), almualafiti qulubuhum (those who could be brought closer to Islam), to free a person, those in debt, for Allah’s cause, and for travellers, [giving zakah is] an obligation from Allah, and Allah is all-knowing and wise. [9:60]


  1. Poor People

These are people who do not have money of their own, nor any apparent legitimate way to get money, such as job opportunities or capital and ability to trade.  They rely on donations and humanitarian efforts just to eat and survive.


  1. Those in Need

These people have some money, possessions, and means to earn legitimate money, however they do not have enough to meet all of their basic needs.


  1. Those Who Work in Zakah Collection, Storage and Distribution

These people collect zakah from Muslims who are required to pay it, make sure that it is safely stored, and distribute it to qualifying people who are in need.  The Muslims who are in positions of authority should agree on appropriate amounts of money for these people to be paid in lieu of the income that they could have been expecting from trade or other employment.


  1. People who are Brought Closer to Islam by Giving them Zakah

This category of people includes the well-off and wealthy as well as the poor non-Muslims who are hoped to embrace Islam with some encouragement. It also includes especially influential personalities and authority figures.  This is because these people and those associated with them are actually in need, but their need is not material. It is a need for guidance, so this is why Muslims are encouraged to give them from their Zakat money with wisdom in order to bring them closer to Islam.


  1. People who are in Need of Rescue

These are people who find themselves imprisoned or in bondage and are not able to find freedom on their own. They are given zakah money with the intention using it to gain their freedom.


  1. People in debt

These are people who are responsible for paying back money to others, but do not have the means to do so.  They may be given zakah money to assist them to become free of their debts.


  1. Those who fight in Allah’s cause

These people may be given zakah money because they have left other occupations and means of trading and earning an income in order to defend Allah’s religion, people, and their rights.


  1. Travellers in Need

This category includes all travellers in need of assistance, regardless of their financial status at home.



Zakah Requirements on Various Types of Wealth


  1. Zakah on Agricultural Products

Zakah becomes obligatory on agricultural products owned by Muslims if they reach a volume of five wasqs, which is a traditional unit of measurement.  Five wasqs is equivalent to approximately 612 kilograms. Zakah on agricultural products should be paid at the time of harvest, 10% of non-irrigated products (with access to rain or river water), or 5% of irrigated products. Allah says in the Quran,

{وَهُوَ الَّذِي أَنْشَأَ جَنَّاتٍ مَعْرُوشَاتٍ وَغَيْرَ مَعْرُوشَاتٍ وَالنَّخْلَ وَالزَّرْعَ مُخْتَلِفًا أُكُلُهُ وَالزَّيْتُونَ وَالرُّمَّانَ مُتَشَابِهًا وَغَيْرَ مُتَشَابِهٍ كُلُوا مِنْ ثَمَرِهِ إِذَا أَثْمَرَ وَآتُوا حَقَّهُ يَوْمَ حَصَادِهِ وَلَا تُسْرِفُوا إِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُسْرِفِينَ (141)} [الأنعام: 141]


“And He it is who causes gardens to grow, [both] trellised and untrellised, and palm trees and crops of different [kinds of] food and olives and pomegranates, similar and dissimilar. Eat of [each of] its fruit when it yields and give its due [zakah] on the day of its harvest.” (6:141)


It was reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said that, “whatever has been naturally irrigated by rain and running water, a tenth should be taken from it, and whatever has been irrigated by man-made means, then half of that (5%).  (Narrated by AlBukhari)


  1. Zakah on Livestock

A Muslim who owns at least 40 sheep or five camels for a period of one year should pay one grown sheep in zakah, and an owner of at least 30 cows should pay one cow that is at least one year old in zakah.


  1. Zakah on Gold

If a Muslim owns at least 85 grams of gold for at least one year, then he or she should pay 2.5% of it, or the equivalent value based on current rates, in zakah every year.


  1. Zakah on Silver

If a Muslim owns at least 595 grams of silver for at least one year, then he or she should pay 2.5% of it, or the equivalent value based on current rates, in zakah every year.


  1. Zakah on Currency, Monetary Instruments, and Commercial Inventory

If a Muslim has possessed currency, monetary instruments, or business-related inventory equal to or greater than value of the minimum requirements for gold (85 grams) or silver (595 grams) for one year, then he or she should pay 2.5% of the value of what is possessed in zakah every year.


  1. Zakah on Found Valuables

If a Muslim finds valuables that don’t apparently belong to any particular living person on his or her private property, such as a hidden treasure etc…, then he or she should keep four-fifths and give one-fifth of them to legitimate recipients of zakah or the authorities.  If the valuables are found in public, then an attempt to contact its owner should be made by making an announcement and allowing a period of a year to pass or notifying the authorities before claiming it as his or her own.


A Note on Non-Obligatory Charities

Anything that exceeds the specified amounts that a Muslim should give in zakah is considered sadaqah, or voluntary charity.  Moreover, sadaqah is not limited to the specified forms of wealth that zakah is. Any sacrifice or effort done for others’ benefit is considered to be sadaqah.


Allah says in the Quran,

{الَّذِينَ يُنْفِقُونَ أَمْوَالَهُمْ بِاللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ سِرًّا وَعَلَانِيَةً فَلَهُمْ أَجْرُهُمْ عِنْدَ رَبِّهِمْ وَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ [274]} [البقرة:274].

Those who spend their wealth [in Allah's way] by night and by day, secretly and publicly - they will have their reward with their Lord. And they will experience no fear, nor will they grieve. (2:274)


It was reported that the Prophet said, “The first person that you should assist (i.e. give sadaqah to) is yourself, so if there remains anything from your wealth after doing so, then that is for your family, and if there remains anything after assisting them, then it is for your relatives, and if there remains anything after assisting your relatives, then it is like this (meaning the begin with the closest people to you)”.  (Narrated by Muslim).

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