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What Is Zakat? – Meaning, Importance, Who Is Eligible, And Facts


There are five essential pillars in Islam which are shahada, salat, zakat, sawm, and hajj. It is the obligation on every Muslim to adhere to these five pillars and live life with purity in hearts. If searching for what is zakat, it is the third pillar of Islam that orders a person to do charity and give a portion of wealth to the poor and needy. It is a form of praying and leading the life on the path shown by Allah. Not all have to perform annual donation, but only those who are eligible can pay zakat as a religious obligation.

What is zakat: zakat meaning

Zakat literally means ‘to increase’, and technically it means ‘that which purifies’. Therefore, it is a basic tenet in Islam that purifies the earning of an individual in a year. It has to be donated on excess wealth including money in the bank account or at home, possession of gold/silver, agriculture produce, livestock earnings, and profits from stocks and investment. In turn, it liberates an individual from greed and selfishness. It is a way to be at peace and maintain harmony in society.

Importance of zakat

The importance of zakat in Quran is mentioned more than 80 times. It obliges an individual to be sincere in its proper calculation and donation. Their adherence to faith brings them closer to Allah, the only truth in the world. It is a highly significant factor in maintaining social order and removing beggary. Further, a balanced distribution of wealth among the rich and poor removes social evils like slavery, exploitation, and crime. The basic concept of annual donation is to promote brotherhood and Muslim unity worldwide in the name of Allah, the almighty.

Types of Zakat

1. Zakat al Mal: The most common type of Zakat, Zakat al Mal is the annual donation made on the the wealth of an individual. The wealth include money in cash, gold, silver and property.

2. Zakat al Fitr: Another significant donation that is obligatory for Muslims is Zakat al Fitr. The donation is made before the Eid in the fixed time limit for making it valid.

Must Read: The Necessary Donation Of Zakat Al Fitr On Eid Al Fitr

Zakat hadith

Charity acts as an investment with greater profits than any other system. Allah mentions the virtues of the profits in a hadith narrated Abu Huraira:

“If one gives in charity what equals (the size of) one date-fruit from the honestly-earned money and Allah accepts only the honestly earned money –Allah takes it in His right (hand) and then enlarges its reward for that person (who has given it), as anyone of you brings up his baby horse, so much so that it becomes as big as a mountain.”

– Sahih Bukhari, Vol 2, Book 24, No. 491

Benefits of zakat

Charity in the name of Allah has many impacts and benefits for an individual doing it and the society they live in. Some of these are:

  1. Unification in the cause of Allah: As mentioned in a hadith, an Angel prays Allah to provide for the person who donates for the divine cause. Donation makes the two ends meet that are a path led by an individual and the one shown by Allah.
  2. Protection from hellfire: Allah loves those who are righteous and obey Him with complete faith. Islamic scholars suggest that a person remains safe from hellfire, and Allah provides a home on the Judgment day who donates wealth on time.
  3. Promote belongingness in a society: Donation lays the foundation for balanced wealth distribution and uplifts the poor and needy. Hence, it removes the social difference between rich and poor and makes every individual, as Allah made them, equal to each other.

Zakat Rules

The annual donation has several basic rules that every Muslim must be aware of. Therefore, here are the essential rules to pay the annual donation:

Who is eligible for zakat?

An individual has to donate wealth as a responsibility if their annual income increases the minimum amount. The individual will have to donate their wealth every year from that day on. The charity should not be delayed as it is an obligation on the individual. Additionally, Zakat al-Fitr is to be paid by the head of the family at the end of Ramadan. One has to give Zakat al-Fitr for every fasting member of the family in terms of money or food, which equals the amount of one-day fasting of the member.

Suggested Read: Dos And Don’ts Of Ramadan: A Complete Etiquette Guide

Who is eligible to give zakat?

The donation is due whenever a person’s wealth becomes more than the nisab.

Nisab Meaning

The minimum amount of an individual’s wealth at which they are eligible to pay Zakat. The different sources and assets of wealth have different calculations for the total nisab. Also, if the wealth of an individual drops below the nisab at any time in the zakat year, the calculation of the year will restart once the wealth becomes more than nisab.

Who is eligible to receive zakat?

There are eight categories of people who can receive the donated wealth. These are:

  1. Fakir – poor and needy
  2. Miskin – hungry and have nothing to eat
  3. Amil – zakat collector who distributes it on behalf of others
  4. Riqab – enslaved people or captives
  5. Gharmin – people in debt
  6. Fisabilillah – individuals who work towards the cause of Allah
  7. Ibnus Sabil – stranded travelers
  8. Muallaf – new members or converts

How to calculate Zakat


To calculate it, one needs to know the Zakatable income first. Muslims can calculate their total income by adding all the sources of income such as gold and silver, cash, stocks, shares, property, etc. Now, one must calculate their needs and living expenses of the year. The expenses now will have to be subtracted from the total income resulting in the total Zakatable amount. If the amount is above the threshold or nisab, the Zakatable wealth is then multiplied by the Zakat percentage to find the yearly donation of the individual. However, one will not have to pay the donation if the Zakatable amount is lesser than nisab.

How to calculate zakat on salary

Zakat on salary is not calculated on how much one earns but how much they are able to save as wealth. Therefore, one should calculate zakat on their saving from the salary. If the savings is over nisab, one will have to pay the donation. In case, the salary of an individual is not constant one can calculate the total amount saved over the year and pay the obligatory donation accordingly.

Zakat facts

  • Only the person who holds wealth for complete year are eligible to donate
  • It is the right of every poor to receive as ordered by Allah
  • It’s main intention is to make the poor self-reliant and provide equal status next to the rich
  • When talking about the five pillars of Islam, it is second only to five daily prayers
  • All the calculations have to be done in a specified manner and not as per individual’s will
  • People should prioritize neighborhoods for charity

Must Read: Five Pillars Of Islam: The Fundamental Islamic Beliefs For All

To simplify the concept and relevance of Zakat, it is an obligation on Muslims to preserve the poor against the evil of greed and riches. It is a way to maintain balance and order in society by eliminating immoral and sinful acts and replacing them with goodness and truth. Pay obligatory donation as per your ability and make your contribution to restoring prosperity to Ummah.


Zakat FAQs

Can an individual give zakat to family members?

Yes, one can donate wealth to family members if the member falls in the receiving criteria.

What is nisab?

The threshold of wealth above which one has to pay obligatory donation is nisab.

What is Zakat al-Fitr?

It is the charity done at the end of Ramadan on behalf of fasting family members by the head of the family. It is an additional charity separate from annual donation.

What are the benefits of zakat?

It helps in establishing balance in the society and bringing an individual close to Allah.

How does zakat work?

It is different from general charity. For donation to work, the sole intention or niyat should be to pay zakat alone.

Zakat is given in which month?

People can donate in any month of the year but should maintain the date to give the next donation on the same date in the following year.

Can zakat be given to siblings?

Yes, one can pay it to siblings in need.

Can you pay zakat on behalf of someone else?

Yes, head of the family can pay the donation on behalf of other family members.

Do I need to pay zakat on land?

Yes, one will have to pay donation on land if it is generating or adding to the wealth of the individual.

Can zakat be given to masjid?

Most of the scholars do not promote the idea of giving obligatory donation to mosques. However, there are some scholars who suggest that individuals can donate it to mosques.

Dr Omar Ayoub

Dr. Omar Ayoub is a tech enthusiast and a part time researcher and accounts authorship of several international publications. He holds a PhD in Computer Science from USA and has an experience of more than 10 years in Saudi Arabia working in tourism, hospitality, education, technology and retail sector. His interests include traveling, writing, and exploring trending technologies.

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