Zakat is the mandatory giving of a fixed proportion from one’s wealth. It is a spiritual practice and worship which leads to the purification of the soul and a person’s wealth. Zakat is a way to remind ourselves that whatever fortune we own it is due to the blessings of the Almighty and we really do not own it and after death we will not be able to take anything with us. Zakat also helps to purify one’s character because it frees us from vices like desire and greed, envy, jealousy etc.
Who is Eligible to receive Zakat?
There are eight kinds of people in Islam who are eligible to receive Zakat. The criteria are as followed:
Masakeen (The destitute):
Masakeen means the destitute. These are the people who have no money, cannot afford a two times meal and have no shelter. They are living a life without human dignity so they should receive Zakat.
Fuqara (The poor and needy):
Fuqara refers to the poor who have money but not sufficient enough to support their families for even half a year and they should be given Zakat.
Amil Zakah (Zakat Collectors):
This category refers to the employees who are appointed by the authorities to collect the Zakat funds, keep records of it and are responsible for its distribution. All of these employees are eligible for Zakaah.
Mu-Allaf (Those inclined towards Islam):
These are the people who may be given Zakaah in order to attract their hearts towards Islam or to strengthen their faith on Islam. Newly turned Muslims are eligible for this criterion. You can also give Zakat to desperate people who are in dire need of money and can go astray or commit crimes. To keep them away from the wrong path you can give them Zakat.
Zakat funds can be used to free a slave from the bondage of slavery by paying his master. Zakat money can be used to free a Muslim prisoner who has been captured in a war. Zakat money can be given as ransom to free the victim who has been kidnapped.
We can give Zakat to the person who is in debt. If the man is careless that he will spend the money somewhere else then we can pay directly to the person who owes money from him.
Fi-sabi-Lillah (In the path of Allah):
We should give Zakat to those who are struggling for a right cause in the path of Allah. We can also give to those under this category who are supporting or working towards a charitable cause.
We can give Zakat to the lawful travelers who are currently in the foreign land and need money. In today’s world keeping the political circumstances in mind refugees are mainly eligible to receive Zakat under this category.
When To Pay Zakat:
When your wealth reaches the Nisaab amount in one lunar year you will be eligible to pay Zakat. Nisab is the cut-off amount. When the valuation of your personal wealth exceeds the Nisaab amount you will have to pay Zakat. However, it is not necessary to pay the money on that date itself. Nisaab is counted on the current market value of gold or silver rate, not both. The Nisab is the cash equivalent of 3 ounces/87.48 grams of gold or 21 ounces/612.36 grams of silver.
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People often get confused when or how they should pay Zakat. Consider this example.
You have savings of $1000. Now your Nisaab amount based on the current rate of silver will be ($15x 21ounces) which equals to $315 on your Zakat anniversary and you have no debts. In this case you will be paying Zakat.
After that one lunar year passes and your Zakat anniversary arrives again. Now if you are on a financial crisis and your savings have decreased to $800. Over this one period of time your Nisaab amount has risen to $357. Though you are on a crisis you will have to pay Zakat because your savings is more than the Nisaab amount. If your savings were below the Nisaab amount on your Zakat anniversary then you need not pay any Zakat even after one lunar year has passed.
It is possible to give Zakat in advance before your Zakat anniversary date if you are sure that your wealth will remain stable during the year. You can also pay Zakat on installments but it is a good practice to pay it in one single transaction.
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