Whom and How to give Zakat

Zakat may be assessed and returned in two ways:

a) Make a record of all money earned, either daily or monthly, which has reached the nisaab and remains in the treasury. The Zakat of that money would be due one year later on the same day the money was earned and reached nisaab. This means every month's income must be set aside and assessed for Zakat and so will be the case for the rest of the months. For instance, the income of January, 1991 will be assessed for Zakat in January, 1992, and the income of February, 1991 will be assessed for Zakat in February 1992, etc. This method of assessing Zakat is very difficult because it entails complete bookkeeping of daily or monthly earnings.
b) The best way is to set a day or a month, preferably Ramadan, for your annual Zakat return calendar, say Ramadan 1st, 1412. One year later on the same day Ramadan, 1413, your Zakat is due and payable. Whatever is in the savings is due for Zakat, regardless of whether all the amount in the savings reaches a year or not. For instance: if you have $20,000.00 in the savings account on the 1st of Ramadan, 1412 and one year later by the 1st of Ramadan, 1413 there is $50, 000.00, your Zakat will be assessed for $50,000.00, that is: $50.000.00 x .025= $1,250.00. If, on the other hand, by the 1st of Ramadan, 1413 the amount in the savings is $15,000.00, your Zakat will be for the amount in the savings, that is $15,000.00 x .025= $375.00. This method is the best because it is easy to assess, meets one's obligation and relieve one's conscience.

The Recipient Of Zakat

Knowing who qualifies as recipient of Zakat is an important aspect of Zakat collection in Islam. Fortunately, Allah (SWT) has been merciful to us in that He Himself spelled out the people eligible to receive Zakat. In Surah Tawbah He stated:
"Alms are for the poor and the needy; and those employed to administer (the funds); for those whose hearts have been (recently) reconciled (to truth); for those in bondage and in debt; in the cause of Allah; and for the wayfarer: (thus is it) ordained by Allah, and Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom." (Al-Qur'an, 9: 60) In this verse Allah enumerated the people who deserve this divine welfare, and they are as follows:
The poor and the needy. These are individuals, and those under their care, to live on. By the poor and needy is meant the people whose income or salaries, or whatever material goods they have, fall short of the cost of living in a given environment and economy. The poor and the needy should be given what will suffice them and their families for one full year. The needy who want to get married and have no means should be given enough for this purpose, and so, too, the student who needs money for tuition, rent, food, and books. The working poor should be given supplementary Zakat. But the wealthy, or any person with enough income to live on should not be given Zakat, even if they asked for it. Instead, they should be warned and admonished for asking for what does not belong to them.
In a hadith reported by Abdullah bin `Umar, the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W) stated: "A man keeps on asking others for something till he comes on the day of Resurrection without any piece of flesh on his face." (Bukhari/Muslim). This hadith indicates a humiliating appearance before Allah (SWT) that awaits a person who asks illegally.
Some said: this hadith implies Allah will punish a person with the very limb, the face, that he used to impress on others to give him their money unlawfully.
In another hadith reported by Abu Hurairah, the Messenger of Allah said: "Whoever asks people for their money so as to get rich, he is asking for flames of fire. It is up to him to ask for more or less (he should beware)." (Muslim) This hadith indicates the severity of the punishment, the more one asks the more punishment, the less one asks the less the punishment.
In another hadith, reported by Hakeem bin Hizaam said: I begged the Messenger of Allah and he gave me. I begged again, and he gave me. I begged again and he gave me. He then said: "This money is green and sweet; he who receives it from people with a cheerful heart, Allah will bless him in it; he who receives it, with an avaricious mind would not be blessed in it. He will be like the person who eats without being satisfied; and the upper hand is better than the lower hand" (Muslim)
This hadith gave an analogy between money and green, ripened fruit that people love to eat. Thus, it indicates that both are greatly loved but easily finished. For money that is easy come easy go, one must be careful about the punishment that awaits the illegal eater. If a person asks for Zakat and there are no signs of wealth, and he does not know that he should not ask, or a person who is well and able, who can work, but does not; if these people do not know that it is not permissible for them to ask, it may be given anyway.
In a hadith reported by Ahmed, Abu Dawud, and Nasa'e, two men came to the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W) and asked for Zakat. He looked at them closely and found them strong and able, he said, "If you want I will give you. But you should know that the wealthy or an able person who can work has no share in Zakat" (Ahmad)
Those who administer the Zakat department, assigning people for collecting, bookkeeping, making lists of people eligible for Zakat, and a financial calendar. These people will receive Zakat as compensation for their work, even if they are wealthy. This does not include a person who works as an agent for one or two wealthy people to take Zakat for himself. They should donate their time for Zakat disbursement and do it with honesty and truthfulness. If they can not, they should be paid or rewarded for their time. In a hadith related by Abu Musa Al-Ashi`ari (R.A.A), the Messenger of Allah said: "A trustworthy Muslim executor is the one who executes completely what has been entrusted to him of Zakat money in good faith." (Bukhari)
That is, he will give the Zakat money to any of the eligible recipients of Zakat. He should carry on the duty voluntarily, but if he can not distribute the money without being paid, the Zakat payer should pay him for his work. The payment for the service of distributing Zakat should not come out of Zakat money.
The new converts to Islam whose hearts we want to harmonize into the fold of Islam, either because their faith is weak or we are afraid of their being harmed, should be given Zakat to strengthen their Iman or until we no longer fear their harm.
The bonds person who has contracted with his master to buy himself out of bondage deserve Zakat and should be given enough to pay off their debt to the master and be freed themselves; similarly, Muslim prisoners of war if their freedom is tied to monetary payment, deserve Zakat sufficient enough to secure their release.
On the other hand, if a person accidentally killed someone and have no means to pay off the blood money, he should be helped from Zakat funds.
The people in debt are of two kinds:
(A) The guarantor, who takes the responsibility of someone else's debt so as to reconcile the two warring parties, to extinguish the fire of fitnah between them. If the person requests Zakat money to pay off this debt he should be given it, which will encourage him to continue in this noble cause.
In a hadith reported by Qubaysah Al-Hilaaly (R.A.A), he said I was under debt (hamaalah) and I came to the Messenger (S.A.W) and begged him to help me pay it off. The Messenger told him: "Wait until we receive charity, so we will command that it be given to you." However, the Messenger stated: "O Qubaysah, begging is not permitted except for one of three categories of people:
A man who has incurred debt (as guarantor to reconcile blood wit) for him begging is permissible till he pays that off, after which he must stop it; a man whose property has been destroyed by calamity which has smitten him; for him begging is permissible till he gets what will support life or will provide him reasonable subsistence; and a man who has been smitten by poverty, the genuineness of which should be confirmed by three knowledgeable members of his people; for him begging is permissible till he gets what will support him, or will provide him subsistence. Besides these three, Qubaysah, begging is forbidden for every other persons, and one who engages in such consumes that which is forbidden." (Muslim)
(B) Whoever incurs debt and has no money to pay it back will be given from Zakat to help pay his debt, whether the amount is large or small; or his creditor should be paid directly on his behalf, so long as it is paid off.
Zakat can be given in the path of Allah. By this is meant to finance a Jihad effort in the path of Allah, not for Jihad for other reasons. The fighter (mujahid) will be given as salary what will be enough for him. If he needs to buy arms or some other supplies related to the war effort, Zakat money should be used provided the effort is to raise the banner of Islam.
The wayfarer. This is the traveller who in a strange land runs out of money. He or she deserves Zakat, enough money to take him back to his country, even if he is wealthy and can find someone to loan him the money. On his part, he should take with him on his trip sufficient money, if he is wealthy, so that he will not need Zakat. Zakat money can not be used to pay off other obligations, such as giving Zakat money to people you are obligated to take care of by law; or Zakat money can not be used to pay for hotel and food expenses.
It is, however, permissible to give Zakat to a wife or family member, provided it is not part of their daily living expense money, but is needed to pay off a debt for one's wife if she can not pay it. So is the case for one's parents if they can not pay their debt.
Zakat money may be given to members of the family for their expenses if one is not obligated to take care of them financially. The wife can pay off a debt of her husband with Zakat money, because he may be among the eight eligible recipients and she is not obligated to spend on him as he is on her.
The eight eligible recipients of Zakat can be denied their right to Zakat without proof from Al-Qur`an or Sunnah. In a hadith reported by Ibn Mas`ud, his wife Zaynab heard the Messenger of Allah order women to give Zakat, so she asked the Messenger (S.A.W): " O Messenger of Allah, you commanded us to give Zakat, and I have jewellery that I wanted to assess for Zakat, but my husband Abdullah bin Mas`ud claimed that his son deserves it more than anyone." The Messenger replied: Your husband Ibn Mas`ud is right. Your son deserves your charity more than anyone." In another hadith reported by Salman bin `Aamir, he said the Messenger of Allah said: " Charity to the poor is only charity, but charity to the rest of kind is charity and maintenance of relations (sillah)." (Nisaee)
No loan should be written off as Zakat because Zakat is taken and given. Allah (SWT) said: "Of their goods take alms...." (Al-Qur'an, 9: 103) And in a Hadith the Messenger has been reported as saying: "Allah has mandated on you Zakat to be taken from the wealthy and to be given to the poor." Thus, writing off debt is not taken. For instance, If you loan a person money, you can not write off that loan as a Zakat. However, it could be written off as sadaqah charity. Furthermore, loan, delinquent or not, is considered an absent money, therefore, it should not be transacted in Zakat. for Zakat is assessed only in cash in hand. Besides, debt money is valued less than cash in the hand, and using that money for alms is like exchanging good money for bad.
The assessor of alms should try to give his Zakat to an eligible person, but if he makes a mistake and gives it to an ineligible person it is accepted. In a hadith related by Abu Hurairah, he said the Messenger said:
"A man expressed his intention to give charity, so he came with his charity and placed it in the hand of an adulteress. In the morning the people were talking and saying charity was given to an adulteress last night. The donor said: O Allah, to thee be the Praise - charity to an adulteress! He then again expressed his intention to give charity, so he went out with it and placed it in the hand of a rich person. In the morning the people were talking and saying charity was given to a rich person. The donor said, O Allah to You be the praise - charity to a rich man! He then expressed his intention to give charity, so he went out with his charity and placed it in the hand of a thief. In the morning the people were talking and saying charity to the thief. So the man said, O Allah to You be the praise (what a misfortune that charity has been given) to the adulteress, the rich and the thief! Then someone came to him and told him your charity has been accepted. As for the adulteress the charity might become the means whereby she might restrain from fornication. The rich man might perhaps learn a lesson and spend from what Allah has given him, and the thief might thereby restrain from committing theft. (Muslim/ Bukhari)