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Zakat for Poverty Alleviation

Ahsan Habib

May 06, 2017

What is Zakat? 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). It 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 Nisaab and is the threshold at which Zakat becomes payable. The amount of Zakat to be paid is 2.5% of Nisaab . "The alms are only for the Fuqara' (the poor), and Al-Masakin (the needy) and those employed to collect (the funds); and to attract the hearts of those who have been inclined (towards Islam); and to free the captives; and for those in debt; and for Allah's Cause, and for the wayfarer (a traveler who is cut off from everything); a duty imposed by Allah. And Allah is All-Knower, All-Wise." [Al-Quran 9:60] "They ask you as to what they should spend. Say: Whatever wealth you spend, it is for the parents and the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer, and whatever good you do, Allah surely knows it." [Al-Quran 2:215] "(Alms are) for the poor who are confined in the way of Allah-- they cannot go about in the land; the ignorant man thinks them to be rich on account of (their) abstaining (from begging); you can recognize them by their mark; they do not beg from men importunately; and whatever good thing you spend, surely Allah knows it." [Al-Quran 2:273] Why do we give Zakat? Zakat is not charity, It is not voluntary charity not a tax but an obligation. By giving Zakat, a Muslim is acknowledging that everything we have is Allah’s and we do not really own it, and we should use it to remember Allah 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. When should we give Zakat? You should record the Islamic date on which you first became the owner of Nisaab - if, on the same date the following lunar year, you are still the owner of Nisaab, you will be obliged to pay Zakat. Many Muslims choose to give it during Ramadan as the rewards for good deeds performed in Ramadan are greater than in any other month. Who can receive Zakat? Zakat can only be paid to specific beneficiaries and projects. The Qur’an mentions eight groups of people on who Zakat should be spent: (Surat At-Tawbah 9:60) 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 How is Zakat calculated? Assets to include in your Zakat calculation are cash (in hand, in bank accounts or money lent to someone), shares, pensions, gold and silver. Personal items (your home, furniture, cars, food, clothing) are not included in Nisaab. There are two measures to determine Nisaab - gold or silver. Gold: The Nisaab by the gold standard is 3 ounces of gold (87.48 grams) or its cash equivalent. The price will vary with the current market value of gold. Silver: The Nisaab by the silver standard is 21 ounces of silver (612.36 grams) or its equivalent in cash.