Zakat, the giving of alms to the poor and needy, is one of the five pillars of Islam.
The others are declaration of faith, prayer, fasting in Ramadan and Hajj. Zakat is obligatory upon every adult Muslim of sound mind and means.
The individual must own a specific amount of wealth or savings – after living costs, expenses etc. This is referred to as Nisab and is the threshold at which Zakat becomes payable. The amount of Zakat to be paid is 2.5% of Nisab.
Zakat is not charity, it is not voluntary charity nor a tax but an obligation. By giving it, a Muslim is acknowledging that everything we have is Allah’s ﷻ and we do not really own it, and we should use it to remember Allah ﷻ and help those who are in need. It is also an act to help free us from excessive desire and greed, learn self-discipline and honesty.
Zakat can only be paid to specific beneficiaries and projects.
The Quran mentions eight groups of people on whom it should be spent:
- The Fuqara’ (the poor)
- Al-Maskin (the needy)
- Aamileen (Zakat collector)
- Muallafatul Quloob (poor and needy who recently converted to Islam)
- Ar-Riqaab (slaves; Zakat can be used to purchase their freedom)
- Ibnus-Sabeel: A stranded traveller in need of financial assistance
- Al Ghaarimeen: A debtor
- Fi Sabeelillah: Those who are away from home in the path of Allah ﷻ