[search-in-place-form in_current_page="1"]


Does Zakat Come From Wealth or From Income?


Praise be to God. There is no other god except God.

He has made charity obligatory for us, which is called Zakat in Arabic. Zakat givers generally agree that Zakat is 2.5%. But 2.5% of what? 2.5% of Wealth? Or 2.5% of Income? Or 2.5% of Gold? or 2.5% of Crops? or 2.5% of Livestock? Or maybe all of them? or maybe some of them? There are so many opinions about this. If you ask the partial followers of Rashad Khalifa, for example, they will tell you that Zakat comes only from income. If you ask the ignorant followers of Hadith, they will tell you that Zakat must be given basically from gold and silver, and a few other things, but not from money, or cars, or anything modern. The majority of Muslims agree that Zakat comes from wealth, but they do not know how to base this on anything, on any acceptable source. Isn’t it strange that the followers of the Quran did not manage to get the correct answer about this, and also the literal followers of Hadith did not manage to get the correct answer about this, and people who just did not think about it too much, they got it mostly right. How is this possible?

Well, it’s possible, because Zakat is an Abrahamic tradition. It was given correctly before the Quran existed, it was given correctly before the Hadith existed, and it was given correctly before the Bible exited. It’s a tradition which God guaranteed to preserve. It’s not kept in books. It’s kept intact in the actions of the people. It’s controlled by God, even if people don’t understand it, even if people don’t know how to support it with their scripture, even if they lose their way in other things, God makes sure that there is always a small group of people who will do it correctly and carry the tradition forward, whether they understand it or not, whether they do it intentionally or not. It’s very hard for some people to wrap their minds around this fact, and it probably gives them an uneasy feeling, because as part of this enlightened generation, we do not wish to do things which we do not understand. So, let me explain it from the Quran and hopefully this will help to calm down your heart about this. The correct method to find the answer for this is to find it in the Quran, of course. But, I have not seen anyone until today who could lead us to the correct solution by using the Quran. This is because they only used part of the Quran. They tried to find it in this verse or that verse, but that’s not how it works. You have to use the whole Quran. You have to take all verses (about 6000 of them), you have to select and gather the ones which a related to this topic (about 500 of them), list them, order them, classify them, double check them, find the connections, avoid shortcuts, be precise, go step by step without skipping any step, be systematic, check the contexts of those verses, by looking at the verses around them, check how those words are used in other verses, and this takes months to do properly, and you might not have time to do that, so I did it for you, and I found the correct answer from the Quran, which turns out not to be very different from what people already knew, but now we have additional assurance because we are finally able to find it in the Quran, in God’s word, and let me tell you the key points.

Verse 39, in chapter 30, says that what you give for usury to increase your WEALTH, it will not increase with God, but if you give Zakat (from that same wealth), seeking God’s pleasure, you will receive your reward manifold.

So, here we see that Zakat should be given from your wealth which can be theoretically be loaned to others. I am going to call it, “loanable wealth” or “excess wealth”. And loanable wealth or excess wealth is the uninvested wealth and the unnecessary wealth, because you can only loan what is not absolutely necessary for you, and what you did not already invest. If you have your wealth stuck in an investment, or if it is absolutely necessary for your survival, you would not be able to loan it, and therefore you are also not required to pay Zakat from it. So Zakat is 2.5% of the loanable wealth, which 2.5% of the uninvested and unnecessary wealth, or 2.5% of the excess wealth. It’s the same thing, whether you call it loanable wealth, or excess wealth, or uninvested and uncecessary wealth, we are talking about the same part of wealth.

By the way, we can know that this verse talks about wealth, and not just income, because the word used in this verse is “amwali”. And this word in other verses means “wealth”. For example, in chapter 4, verse 6, and in chapter 4 verse 10, we see the same word being used to refer to the wealth which orphans inherited from their parents. This cannot possibly be income. Orphans do not work to get income. They inherit wealth from their parents. Also, verse 155, in chapter 2 makes a distinction between wealth and harvest/crops (income). It says that you might be tested with loss of wealth, lives, and crops (harvest/income). Here again, we see that there is a difference between wealth and income.

Verse 33, in Chapter 33 tells the wives of prophet Muhammad to stay in their homes and give Zakat. Well, if they stayed in their homes, they could not have income, but they still had to give Zakat. That’s because they had wealth. Their wealth was either inherited from their parents, or given as a dowry, or from their earlier incomes, or as a gift.

So, clearly Zakat comes from wealth, not just from income, and this is supported by many other verses. Verse 2:177 mentions charity from wealth, Verse 2:261, charity from wealth, verse 2:262, charity from wealth, verse 2:264, charity from wealth, verse 2:265, charity from wealth, verse 2:274, charity from wealth, verse 4:38, charity from wealth. Let me give you some more indirect verses: Verse 4:95, striving in the cause of God with our wealth, not just our income, verse 9:20, striving with our wealth, not just income, verse 9:41, striving with our wealth, not just income. Verse 9:44, striving with our wealth, not just income, verse 9:81, striving with our wealth, not just income, verse 9:88, striving with our wealth, not just income, verse 9:103, charity from wealth, not just income, verse 49:15, striving with our wealth, not just income, verse 51:19, set aside a portion of your wealth for the poor, not just a portion of income, verse 61:11, striving with our wealth, not just income, verse 70:24 says that WEALTH should be set aside for charity, not just income. So we can clearly see from all these verses, that charity comes from wealth, and Zakat is charity and therefore Zakat must also come from wealth, not just from income. Verse 92:18 uses the phrase “He who gives from his WEALTH, to purify himself”. Both the word “malahu” (wealth) and “zakat” are used in this verse. This verse basically tells us to give wealth for purification, for attaining Zakat.

And the Quran actually even gives us the details from which portion of wealth Zakat should be given. Verse 219, in chapter 2, says “They ask you what to give to charity: say, “The excess.” GOD thus clarifies the revelations for you, that you may reflect.” So God is giving a clear answer about this issue. He already told us in many other verses that charity comes from wealth, and here He tells us that it is only from “the excess” part, and therefore charity must be given from “Excess Wealth”, the excess part of the wealth. And here God is talking about any type of charity, which includes Zakat. Therefore, Zakat, just like other charities, must be given from the “Excess Wealth”. God gives us even more details about which portions of wealth are for Zakat. In chapter 2, verse 267, we can see that land should be excluded from Zakat. The verse says, “O you who believe, you shall give to charity from the good things you earn, and from what we have produced for you FROM THE LAND.” This means that the land does not count, only the things which come from the land. All material things of value come from the land. By the way, in this verse we can see again that Zakat should be given from all types of wealth, whether it came from income (from what you earned) or whether you produced it yourself, or whether you inherited it. In any form you get your wealth, if you have it now, and it is not land, and it is not necessary for your survival, then Zakat should be given from it.

So, if you take all the verses of the Quran into consideration, not just one verse, but all the verses, you can conclude that Zakat should be given from all your wealth, except from land, the necessary wealth, and the wealth invested in a business. And I give you the details and the reasons why these three parts of wealth are excluded, but here I first wanted to establish that Zakat comes from wealth, not just from income.

Now, let’s think about it logically. Imagine two people. One of them worked all his life to earn 1 million dollars, while the other one was born with 1 million dollars. Let’s say that his father died and left 1 million dollars for him. Now, does it make sense that the one who earned it as income should pay Zakat, while the other one who did not get it as income should not pay Zakat at all. He can live all his life without paying Zakat, and he is rich. Does this make sense? Does it make sense to make life harder for the worker, and make it easier for the one who did not work? And they both have the same wealth? If anything, it should be the opposite. We should encourage work, not punish work. So, if two people have 1 million dollars in the bank, they should pay Zakat equally. And actually, I can prove this whole thing with one question. What is the opposite of poverty? It’s wealth, not income. The opposite of loss is income, but the opposite of poverty is wealth. God does not tell us to give to those who lost, but to those in poverty. Those who lost money, they can still be rich, but God tells us to give to the poor. The poor are poor, not because someone has a large income and is hardworking, but because someone is wealthy, and he is staying. If someone is hardworking and gets an income, the poor are being helped by getting cheaper products. On the other hand, if someone has lots of wealth, and does not invest it, that creates poverty, by denying the other people the right to work for it. He is taking something from the world, and keeping it outside of the economy, and thus the economy of the world becomes smaller because of that, and that causes poverty. But someone who has a large income by working for it, he actually makes the economy of the world bigger. So, the poor are poor not because of people with large incomes, but because of people with large wealth, who did not invest it.

Let’s do another thought experiment. If you take all the incomes of the people of the world and give it to the poor, would it solve poverty? No, because these people who worked for income, now would be poor, and people who did not work will be ok, and the rich will still have the same amount of wealth. And actually, the next year, the whole economy of the world would collapse, since people, knowing that all their income will be taken, will not work anymore, and production will stop, and the poor will become poor again, and those who used be average will also become poor without income, while the rich will hold on to their wealth, and now it will have no value, since it will be out of production, and no one will have money to buy it. So, if you take all the incomes of the world, and give it to the poor, the next year, everyone will be poor. Now, let’s imagine the other case. If we take all the uninvested wealth of the world and give it to the poor, now would it solve poverty? Yes. The rich will still have enough wealth, because you took away only the part of wealth about which they had no idea what to do with it, the poor will have enough money to spend, and the working people will keep on working to earn income, and now there will be more money in the economy, because both the poor and the working class are now capable of buying things, and the money will go back to the wealthy who will sell those things, except that now the whole world has become wealthier. The poor, the middle class, and the rich, they have all become wealthier. So, Zakat makes everyone wealthier, not just the poor. Everyone has more, and the rich did not lose anything. The is only possible in God’s system. In other economic systems proposed by the greatest economists of the world, you have to lose something, to gain something, but in God’s economic system, you gain something, without losing anything.

So, the Collective Obligatory Charity (Zakat) should be calculated and given from your uninvested excess wealth, and God willing, I will give you the details of what is included in that and what is excluded from that, in another sermon, but first we need to make sure that we have the principles correct, and that we have the values in the correct order. The correct values are: If you chill and have, you pay. If you work and invest, then you are excused not to pay. This are the correct values. And by the way, many historians have attributed the rise of Islam just to this small detail. They say that Islam dominated Christianity in the early days after Muhammad, because muslims collected the charity as a tax from wealth, and made deductions for those who work and trade, while the Christians collected their taxes from trade and income (from those who work) which encouraged their people to work less, to avoid the taxes, and this caused the Islamic world to outperform the Christian world. Of course, the muslim dominance has vanished today, because most Muslims do not give Zakat, and even when they do, they come up with unreasonable deductions for themselves, and it’s not monitored by anyone, so effectively they are not really giving it, but that’s for another video. But, the correct system is known now. It is the one which fights poverty by promoting work and investment, and not the one which fights poverty by promoting laziness and saving. And by the way, the world has more wealth than income, which means that more people are helped when Zakat is given from wealth, rather than from income.

Now, after more than 30 verses which I provided you, and many logical arguments, the people who believe that Zakat should be given only from income have only one verse on which they rely on, and even that verse does not mention the word Zakat. They bring up verse 141, in Sura 6, which says “Eat from the fruits of gardens and give the due alms on the day of harvest”. They interpret this as Zakat, when in fact this is only talking about the smallest part of Zakat – the Zakat of the Harvest. Even Rashad Khalifa defined this as Zakat of the Harvest, a very small subcomponent of Zakat. Listen to him.   As you can see, he defines the word “Haqahu” as the “Zakat of the harvest”. This small subcomponent of Zakat is specifically defined in the Quran, because it has to do with fruits which do not stay fresh for a long time, and therefore a special instruction is given to give away the harvested fruits on the same day when you harvest them, so that they do not get spoiled. And this small part of Zakat should be given directly to the relatives and the poor people near you, because you until the Zakat collectors come to contact us. The fruits would be spoiled by then. But this is only the Zakat of the harvested fruits. The general Zakat, the Zakat of the other parts of wealth, the unperishable wealth, that is the main part of Zakat. So, Haqahu is a small part of Zakat, but Zakat is more than just haqahu.

Someone might ask “Are you saying that Rashad Khalifa was wrong?”, their favorite question, their only argument, if that counts as an argument. Well, this is what I am saying. Rashad Khalifa did believe for a short while that Zakat should be given from income, and he made what he thought to be a correction in a friday sermon which he intended only for the local congregation and only for the people of his time, but in his video which he intended for the whole world and for all times titled “Essentials of Islam” he says that Zakat should be given from wealth, and he never corrected this video. He kept it published just like that. So, God knew what should be kept published for the whole world, even though Rashad Khalifa did not have the correct understanding. Anyway, he did not fully understand this issue, but for the right reason; and the reason is this. The first generation of people who believed him should not have had a bigger wealth than income, anyway, in any case, because in principle, the submitters do not inherit wealth from non-submitters, and all the parents of the first generation of submitters are by definition non-submitters. So, the wealth of submitters during their early days could not be bigger than their income (if they did not steal, of course), and therefore giving money from income in the early days was not worse than giving money from wealth. If they were truly perfect people, all their wealth should have been their income. This is always the case with the early believers, if they are perfect believers. But, once a second generation of submitters comes into existence, they inherit wealth from the previous submitters, and now they can have more wealth than income, and this means that now we have to fix this understanding. Otherwise, we are not paying enough. So, they did not understand this issue, but it did not hurt the poor people anyway, but now, if we insist on not understanding it, poor people will get hurt. So, don’t blame the poor for not understanding Zakat. It’s the responsibility of the rich to understand Zakat. So, regarding this issue, the example of Rashad is like a man who aimed the gun in the wrong place, but the gun had no bullets, and no one got hurt. But now the devil has loaded the gun, and I am telling you, “please aim toward the right place”, towards wealth, not towards income. We can not afford carelessness with a loaded gun anymore. Our wealth is bigger than our income now, and we can not be careless with Zakat anymore. God is displeased with a careless person who owns a gun, and God is displeased with a wealthy person who does not understand Zakat. We are talking about people’s lives here. Poverty kills people. Poverty pushes people to kill other people. Let’s save lives by helping poor people.

By the way, “What’s wrong with being smarter than Rashad Khalifa?” Among every knowledgeable one, there is someone who is more knowledgeable. I am not saying this to exalt myself, but because this is the only explanation why two believers might reach slightly different conclusions. This happens when one of them is smarter. Like the case of Solomon and David. They both were right for their own time, but Solomon was smarter. But still, God loved David more. David had more heart. I certainly appreciate Rashad’s guidance and I am quite sure that he would appreciate my wisdom. We are not jealous of each other’s strengths. Some people hate it when they hear me saying that I am smarter than Rashad, but they fail to realize that I am saying this to save Rashad’s reputation, while at the same time improving our understanding of religion. See, people will eventually see anyway that I have a deeper and more precise understanding of issues, and if I don’t say that I am extremely smart, what will it mean for him? That he is average? No. The truth is that he was extremely smart, and I can only improve on his ideas because I am slightly smarter, and not because he was wrong. When Jesus claimed that he is smarter than Solomon, who was known to be the smartest, Jesus was not saying this to elevate himself. He was trying to save Solomon’s reputation. Otherwise, his new deeper revolutionary ideas would belittle Solomon’s wisdom. God is the giver of wisdom, anyway. Our smartness is not our own merit. I have nothing to brag about. God will reward us according to our heart, not according to our mind. So, let’s purify our hearts, and let’s purify our wealth. Let’s give Zakat (the purification) the correct way. Let’s not let our conflicts with some groups of people, lead us into making the wrong decision.

Verse 8, in chapter 5, says, “O you who believe, you shall be absolutely equitable, and observe GOD, when you serve as witnesses. Do not be provoked by your conflicts with some people into committing injustice. You shall be absolutely equitable, for it is more righteous. You shall observe GOD. GOD is fully Cognizant of everything you do.” So, this verse is reminding us that just because some extremist so-called Muslims think that Zakat should be given from wealth, our conflicts with them should not push us to disagree with them about this issue. What is right is right. After all, charity is charity. We do not need to attach dogmatic undertones to it. For God’s sake, it’s charity. It’s not the fault of poor people that the Muslims have disagreements. Poor people don’t have time to wait until we resolve our disagreements. Let’s feed the poor people first, and then we can discuss the disagreements. I am willing to cooperate in matters of charity with anyone, even in extreme cases when we have deep disagreements about other issues, because verse 2 of chapter 5 tells us to cooperate in matters of righteousness and piety, and verse 114 of chapter 4 tells us that charity is still a good thing to cooperate on, even if the other cooperation aspects might be a bad thing in a given group of people. If we reject the correct way of charity, just because we have disagreements with some people, maybe we just don’t have a good heart. The rich might need your preaching, but the poor need your bread.


By: Alban Fejza, Online Congregation Director