'It is a beautiful act of worship'

The word ‘Zakah’ means the amount of wealth a Muslim must pay to particular categories of underprivileged people, if their annual wealth exceeds a specific amount. Zakah is the third pillar of Islam. Linguistically, it means “to purify.” By paying Zakah a Muslim purifies his or her wealth by sharing it with others.

Zakah is neither a tax nor a charity (although many people these days view Zakah as a religious tax, that view is very wrong), it is an obligation to fulfil for each and every Muslim that meets the criteria, and something for which we will be accountable to Allah directly on the Day of Judgment.

Zakah is the giving of 2.5% of one's possessions (surplus wealth) to the poor and needy.

When the Muslim ruled in Spain the administration collected Zakah from large wealthy land owners in the form of land, and redistributed this land directly amongst the poor farmers and people in society. This type of wealth distribution through Zakah reduced rural poverty and increased agriculture. The Islamic kind of social justice resulted in a fast growth of the population and made Islam the faith of choice for many of Spain's poor.

This Social justice and economic success of Zakah was perceived as a threat to Europe's feudal and papal economy at the time, which was deeply based on exploiting land monopolies, and much less successful in creating wealth. At the same time in Muslim Persia the third pillar of Islam paying of Zakah helped to achieve great social and economic progress and contributed to many of the non-Muslims to accept Islam as they perceived and benefited from the social, emotional and economical benefits it brought with it.

Hamza Yusuf Speaks on Generosity and Zakah Money

What is the nisab?

The nisab — is the minimum value of wealth one must possess for Zakah to become payable it is defined as 87.5g of pure Gold or its equivalent value in money. 

An adult Muslim who is sane is considered sahib-un-nisab; this person must pay Zakah as a duty. To be a sahib-un-nisab means you possess more wealth than the level of nisab for a period of one lunar year or more.  If you have Zakah to calculate for agricultural land, livestock or any produce from a mine, the nisab for this is different and should be worked out with an Islamic scholar.  To

The Zakah year begins on the date that your wealth first equals the nisab value. Each year on that date your Zakah should be calculated. If you can’t remember exactly when you became sahib-un-nisab then try your best to estimate the date on which your wealth became equal to the nisab value. 

On the other hand, many people choose to pay in the month of Ramadan every year for the extra blessings and so they don’t forget to pay each lunar year.  Make sure that you pay your Zakah before a year has passed otherwise Zakah will be overdue.

You can also pay Zakah in monthly instalments. Simply calculate your Zakah, divide this by 12 and set up a regular payment, specifying it as Zakah. You can pay your Zakah in monthly instalments for the year ahead but not in arrears, what does that teach us? It teaches us that a portion of our wealth belongs to our poorer brothers and sisters in humanity and therefore we must not withhold that which belongs to them. 

If only in society today everyone followed this principle then we would not have so many people around the globe starving or dying as a result of food and medication.

Zakah is due on the following types of wealth:

  • Gold and silver, including ornaments or
  • jewellery containing gold and/or silver
  • Cash held at home or in bank accounts
  • Stocks and shares owned directly or through investment funds
  • Money lent to others
  • Business stock in trade and merchandise
  • Agricultural produce
  • Livestock animals such as cows, buffaloes, goats, sheep and camels
  • Produce of mines
  • Pensions
  • Property owned for investment purposes


In this article I have covered:

(a)    What is Zakah?

(b)   What is Nisab?

(c)    Who must pay Zakah?

(d)   When is Zakah payable?

(e)   Types of wealth Zakah is due on

Zakah is a means to purifying your wealth; it is a way that Allah (God) has declared which distributes wealth to the not so fortunate people in the world. 

Everyone should view Zakah as a positive contribution to society by individual for the betterment of our world.  It gives us the opportunity to practice our religion and free our souls from the greed of money and wealth.  Worldly material possessions are nothing more than mere illusions of comfort and power, the true asset is a good heart and a pure soul, to purify our soul we must obey the commands of Allah and practice the methods taught by his Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Allaihi’Wassallam.