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The Obligatory Charity (Zakat)

This video clarification shows us:

  • why Zakat (Obligatory Charity) should be a publicly verifiable process
  • why it should be given from loanable wealth, and which portions of wealth are loanable
  • why it is 2.5%

And all of these will be found and presented to us from the Quran, the whole Quran, and nothing but the Quran. But first, let’s see where Zakat fits as a subcomponent of charity.


Types of Possible Charities

According to the Quran, we can divide the charities into Obligatory (4:77, 98:5, 9:5) or Voluntary (9:79), and Private (2:274, 13:22) or Public (2:274, 13:22). And by combining them we get four types of charities. So, we can have:

  • Private Obligatory Charity,
  • Public Obligatory Charity,
  • Private Voluntary Charity,
  • Public Voluntary Charity.

Public Voluntary Charity is any voluntary charity you might give through a human-made organization, which is allowed according to the Quran, but most of the money you give goes to waste, usually for strengthening those organizations, instead of the final goal.

Private Voluntary Charity is any charity you give yourself directly to those who need it.

Private Obligatory Charity is charity which you owe to certain people simply for the fact that you have been connected to them by God (9:8, 9:10, 4:36), like your parents, your spouse, your children. The amount which you owe to this group of people is as much as they need (4:34, 4:5, 6:151, 17:23, 31:14), if they don’t have it. And it is called obligatory, or a duty, “haqahu” (17:26) because it does not depend on how much you want to give, but on how much they need, and what everyone needs is at least food, clothes, and shelter, a basic living. By the way whenever the orders for “haqahu”, Private Obligatory Charity, are given in the Quran, they are given in singular “Thee shall give haqahu…” (17:26, 6:141), indicating that it is private matter, but when Zakat in general is mentioned, the order is always given in plural “You (plural) shall give Zakat…” (2:43, 2:110,…).

So, again, regarding the Private Obligatory Charity, if you have basic living conditions for yourself, and either your parents or your spouse or your children do not have food and shelter, you are just not a good human being. Let’s not even go any further. And in many cases in the civilized world, that job is done by the states through pensions, retirement homes, childcare centers or whatever means they have for older people or younger people, and that is fine in many cases (2:233), but it is your responsibility to know that they got what they needed, and if they did not, then you should do it (29:8). Then your siblings, and the children of your siblings, the blind, the crippled, you must share your food with them, if they ever need it (24:61). It’s an obligation, not voluntary (24:61). As you can see, the amount of the Private Obligatory Charity depends on how much the people around you need, not on a specific percentage which you want to give. If they don’t have food, and they need to eat every single day at your house, then that is how it is going to be. It’s an obligation. The Quran tells us that they have a full right to eat in your house (24:61). Of course, they must come to your house with your permission (24:61), and do the Contact Prayer when you do it, or they should leave, if the house is fully yours (22:41), but when they are in it, you are obliged to share your food with them if they are hungry, and you have food (24:61). Perhaps a better translation of Private Obligatory Charity “haqahu” would be to translate it as “Obligatory Sharing”, because it mostly has to do with everyday perishable items, like fruits, cooking, and so on, and one of its purposes is to avoid wasting perishable things (6:141), which is why we share them with them on same day when we ourselves get them. This is why this part of charity comes from our income, because we don’t wait to see how much of it is left before we share it with whom we have a duty to share it with. When we have it, they should have it, and this is different from Public Obligatory Charity, because in Public Obligatory Charity, first you wait to see whether enough was left from your income (2:219), and then you calculate a certain amount annually.

By the way, Private Obligatory Charity and Public Obligatory Charity are both subcomponents of Zakat. So Zakat (Obligatory Charity) consists of Private Obligatory Charity and Public Obligatory Charity. Zakat is whatever is obligatory. Traditionally, only the public part of Zakat was labeled as Zakat, because religious authorities were only interested in that, because they collected it, and they did the labeling. However, in reality there is one Zakat, and it has two subcomponents, the public and the private, just like the Contact Prayers which consists of the Public Friday Contact Prayer (62:9-11), and the other daily contact prayers.

So now, let’s talk about the Public Obligatory Charity. Public Obligatory Charity should be done in coordination with other submitters, and through the authorized public structures, just like the Public Friday Sermon should be done as a congregation with other submitters.  When I say authorized public structures, I am talking about structures authorized by God (4:59). And in case there is no authorized public structure in place, you give that portion to the same categories to whom you owed your Private Obligatory Charity. So, depending on which option is available, you give the Zakat in that option, but if both options are available, you have to fulfill both (3:200, 4:59). So, if you don’t have a family, for example, or relatives and friends, of course, you can not give Private Zakat. Similarly, if you don’t live with a community of submitters, you can not give the Public Zakat, and instead you give that portion as Private Zakat. And this where Public Zakat was not available was the case for all submitters who lived in democratic countries throughout the last century. Democratic states do not institute the Public Zakat, and therefore it should be given as Private Zakat, unless internet exists. Internet has changes the situation once again. Since the internet, we can live in a society of non-submitters, while at the same time being able to unite through the internet with other submitters. And because now we can do that, the Quran tells us that we should do that (9:41, 3:200), and since we should, we did. So, internet enabled Public Zakat because it once again enables the public verifiability of Zakat, which is a mandatory aspect of Public Zakat.



God tells us in verse 9:18 that the people who do not do the Contact Prayer and give Zakat should not be allowed to frequent God’s masjids. Now, let’s say you are in charge for a masjid’s maintenance. How would you know whether someone who comes in there observes the Contact Prayer and Zakat. Of course, you will be able to know whether the person does the Contact Prayer, because you would see him doing it at the masjid, but you can not see his Zakat, unless there is a way to verify it. This means that it is impossible to apply verse 9:18 unless Zakat is done through a verifiable process, and this means that Zakat must be verifiable, as it always was. So, one submitter should be able to know whether the other submitter gave his Public Obligatory Charity.

And this is how submitter are able to identify each other. Let’s say that someone in social media said that he is a submitter. Is this how you would know him? No. Verse 5:53 says that simply claiming or swearing that someone belongs with us is not sufficient to consider him part of our community. Verse 17:36 says that we should not accept any information, unless we verify it for ourselves. So, we do not accept anyone’s statement that he is a submitter until we verify it. And the Quran tells us exactly how to verify it. In verse 9:11. it says, if they repent and observe the Contact Prayers and give the Obligatory Charity (Zakat), THEN THEY ARE YOUR BRETHREN IN RELIGION. So, it is not possible to know whether someone belongs to the community of submitters, unless we can verify that they did the Contact Prayers and Zakat. The process of verification for contact prayers already exists through the weekly Friday Prayer, but there must be a second verification process, which is to verify whether they gave Zakat or not. So, Zakat is like a passport which is used to allow someone to join the community of submitters. We can not enter without that passport. You can claim that you are a submitter all you want, but if you don’t have that ‘passport’, you have not entered the community of submitters yet. And this is confirmed in other verses, like verse 5:55, and verse 9:5.

Now, how this Zakat verification process is administered is not that important. For example, in the past, it was simply done through two Zakat collectors, with a log book, who witnessed it. In the Internet age, it can be slightly different, and if electronic money becomes the main form of transactions around the world, that might still be slightly different, but the important thing is that it should always be verifiable, and this verification process is ensured by someone who is put in charge for that, in your local or online congregation (4:59, 42:38, 22:41). So, according to the Quran, Public Obligatory Charity should be verifiable (9:11) and in coordination with someone in charge for it (42:38, 4:59). And by the way, this is how Zakat maintained the “Obligatory” label. Many other things are obligatory like greetings for example (4:86), but they have not received this reputation as “Obligatory”, because when the ancient submitters said “Obligatory” in relation to Zakat, they mostly meant “Enforced” (19:55, 22:41), like taxes. It is an enforced ritual in the community of submitters. This does not mean that our religion goes by force (2:256), because if anyone does not want, he is absolutely free to leave the religion at any time, but he can not be part of the same religion and not give Zakat. This is why the word Zakat in Arabic means “purification”, because it is a precondition for the people to purify their wealth to be allowed to join and belong with submitters.

So, if anyone is in charge for administering a group of people, regardless of the type of group, if he does not enforce the Public Zakat, he is administrating the group unjustly, and the group will eventually fail, when the hype is gone, or it will constantly have hate and problems, and with this understanding in mind, we can see how verse 22:78 makes more sense now: It says:

You shall strive for the cause of GOD as you should strive for His cause. He has chosen you and has placed no hardship on you in practicing your religion – the religion of your father Abraham. He is the one who named you “Submitters” originally, that the messenger shall serve as a witness among you, and you shall serve as witnesses among the people. (Witnesses about what?) Therefore, you shall observe the Contact Prayers (Salat) and give the obligatory charity (ZAKAT), and hold fast to GOD; He is your Lord, the best Lord and the best Supporter.”.


Sources of Zakat

In order to know the sources from which Zakat is given, all we need to do is to see from what sources charity is given, and that also applies to Zakat, because we already established that Zakat is the obligatory subcomponent of charity, and whichever Quranic rule applies to charity, it also applies to Zakat. According to ten different verses in the Quran, charity, which includes Zakat, should be given from moveable wealth (2:177, 2:261, 2:262, 2:264, 2:265, 2:274, 4:38, 9:103, 51:19, 70:24), and the word used in these verses is “malahu” which in Arabic includes all types of wealth except for land and homes. The land and homes are distinguished from “malahu”, from the movable wealth, in verses 33:27, 59:8, 2:267. And by the way, we know that the word “malahu” means all types of movable wealth, and not just income, because this word is used in other verses where it can not mean anything else except wealth. For example, in chapter 4, verse 6, and in chapter 4 verse 10, it refers 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 did not have income, but they still had to give Zakat. That’s because they had wealth. Their movable wealth was either inherited from their parents, or given as a dowry, or from their earlier incomes, or as a gift.

So, now we established that charity, which includes Zakat, should be given from movable wealth. So, now let me present to you two verses which specifically mention zakat. Verse 92:18 says that we should give from our movable wealth (from malahu) for our purification (for zakat).

And here comes the verse which stamps and specifies this issue even more, by directly mentioning the word “Zakat”. Verse 30:39 says that what you give for usury to increase your movable 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, according to this verse, Zakat should come from loanable wealth, because whatever you can give as a loan for usury, you can also give it as Zakat (2:280). And loanable wealth is a big part of movable wealth. Loanable wealth is the uninvested and the unnecessary wealth, because you can only loan what is not absolutely necessary for you, and what you did not already invest. So, this means that business investments, like shares in a corporation, and your last income should be also excluded from Zakat, because they are not loanable, and your last income should be excluded because you still don’t know how much of it you will need for your Private Obligatory Charity, for provisions for yourself, your children, your spouse, and your parents, and potentially your relatives and friends. Only after you receive the next income, you can be sure how much of your previous income is left. And this exclusion of the last income is given in verse 2:219 which says, “They ask you what to give to charity: say, “The excess.” “The excess” means “what is left”, and only your previous incomes can qualify as “what is left”, but not your last income, because you still don’t know if enough will be left from it.

There is one final exception given in the Quran. Verse 2:262 tells us not to do harm when giving charity. For example, if you have a phone, you can not divide one fortieth (2.5%) of it and give it as charity. It would do harm to the phone. Or if you have 20 sheep, you can not give one fortieth of them, unless you cut one of them in half, which would destroy the other half as well. So, unless you have 40 sheep or more, or 40 phones or more, you do not owe Zakat for them. This is to avoid harm, which is a Quranic requirement (2:262). You must have 40 or more units from any of the things, in order for them to qualify for Zakat.

So, if we take all the verses of Quran into consideration we can conclude this:

Public Zakat is 1 from any 40 units of any type of wealth, excluding

  • land,
  • homes,
  • business investments,
  • corporate stock,
  • and your last income.

Everything else is included, like gold, silver, other precious metals, money in any form (including savings, money in your wallet, in the bank, cryptocurrencies, loans given to others (since loans prove that they were loanable wealth)), valuable products (3:92), anything from which you have 40 or more units of that – for example 40 or more dollars, 40 or more sheep, and so on.


The Amount

So, we already said that the amount of Public Obligatory Charity is one fortieth, or 2.5% of the specified types of your wealth, but how do we know that 2.5% is the correct amount? We can extract this exact percentage from the Quran. Here is how: Verse 6:120 says that those who commit sins will definitely have to pay for them. So, there is no way to Paradise without being completely purified from our sins. And to be purified completely, it means that you have to give up everything, 100% of your wealth, because ultimately we do not deserve anything, because everything good comes from God (4:79). However, in verse 6:160, God says that whoever does a good deed receives the reward for ten, which means that we can reach the same necessary purification with ten times less giving, with 10%. So according to this verse, if we give 10%, God will consider it as 100%, and this 10% has been the amount from the time of Abraham until Muhammad, and even the Jews until this day consider it to be 10%. So, for people before Muhammad to be saved, they had to deserve at least 10% of what God gave them (34:45). However, knowing that the generations after Muhammad were not as strong in belief as generations before Muhammad (56:13-14), God, the Merciful (1:1), made it easier for us (8:66), and revealed in sura 28, verses 52-54 that He will double the rewards for anyone who believes in the Quran. This means that we can now completely purify our wealth by giving half as much, 5%. But there is one last reduction which came to us through the Quran. In verse 57:28, God informs us that He will double the rewards for anyone who believes in His messenger, and here He is talking about any living messenger so far. It’s easy to believe in messengers who have gone to people in the past; even the Jews believe in them. The challenge and the double reward is to believe in the messengers which were sent to us (2:285). So, if we believe in the messengers which are truly sent by God to us, then we can completely purify our wealth by giving half as much as 5% which is 2.5%. And this is where the 2.5% comes from. So, when we give 2.5%, it is doubled if we believe in God’s messenger (57:28), and then doubled again if we believe in the Quran (28:52-54), and then multiplied tenfold because God rewards every good deed tenfold (6:160), and our 2.5% now has become 100%, which is the precondition to make it to Heaven. So 2.5% x 2 x 2 x 10 = 100%.

Someone might wonder why did we say earlier that we need to purify only some types of our wealth, when we can clearly see here that we need to purify all our wealth to make it to Heaven. Well, the types of wealth which are not loanable are automatically purified. For example, if we have a piece of land, the birds of the sky will eat from it, and the insects and wild animals will use it, and it will beautify the view of passersby, and so on, and that is charity. So, we don’t give Zakat from land because it was already given. Also, regarding homes, for example – we share them with our family members (24:61), and that is charity (2:215,), and it promotes modesty (33:33), enabling us not to roam around the streets (7:74), and all these are charity (59:9, 33:33), which is why we do not need to pay Zakat from our homes. So, the Zakat for your home is hospitability (59:9) within what is legal (2:235). There is also Zakat for our bodies. Even our bodies are wealth (2:247, 12:20, 4:92, 58:4). The souls are the true us (39:42), but our bodies are part of our wealth, and the Zakat for our bodies is fasting during the month of Ramadan (2:184) which is refraining from 2.5% of annual bodily pleasures (2:187), and this purification of our body is done once a year (9:36, 2:185), and as you can see, even though we have purified our bodies during the last year, we need to purify the same bodies again during this year, and this brings me to the cycle of Zakat. The Zakat cycle is every year, because it takes a year for the wealth to become impure again, and this is indicated in verse 9:28 which mentions how the commandment to prevent idol worshipers from approaching the Sacred Masjid came as a commandment to be implemented “after this year” which is how long it would take them to have their wealth impure again. So, the Public Obligatory Charity is given every lunar year, and it starts from whenever you decide to join the submitters, and then it repeats every lunar year. Of course, the Zakat for the perishable things like fruits, vegetables, and milk, should be given on the day of harvest (6:141), so they don’t go to waste (6:141), but the Zakat for the things which last longer than one year like our bodies, gold, silver, money, cattle, etc., that subcomponent of Zakat should be given once a year (9:28, 9:36, 2:135, 22:78).


The Abrahamic Religious Practices as Double Confirmation

Some people who have not examined the Quran with a complete approach might choose to understand a few of the verses presented in this video differently. However, there is another way to prove that Zakat, as presented in this video, is correct. Here is how:

The Quran informs us that Zakat is a religious practice which God instituted through prophet Abraham (21:72-73, 2:127-128), and then God guaranteed that He will keep it as a preserved tradition in practice among the descendants of Abraham (43:28, 16:123, 22:78, 42:13). This means that whatever we find in the Quran about Zakat must already exist at least somewhere in the world as a practical tradition. I am not talking about words and books (31:6, 68:37); I am talking about the actual practice in the field. I am talking about the religious practices of Abraham guaranteed by God to be preserved. And these Abrahamic religious practices are Salat (21:73), Zakat (21:73), Fasting (2:183), and Hajj (3:97). So, if anyone thinks that we should understand the Quranic verses about Zakat in a different way, he should also be able to show us from real life where such a type of Zakat existed among the descendants of Abraham throughout history and now. And the Zakat, as presented in this video, has been and is still in continuous practice in many places among the descendants of Abraham. Everything I presented here, you can find it as a tradition at least somewhere in the world. So any principles about Zakat can only be correct, if they are old and continuous. Of course, this rule only applies to the Abrahamic religious practices (Salat, Zakat, Fasting, and Hajj), but not for the other things in religion. And in agreement with this rule, this video does not present any new religious principles about Zakat. It simply shows us where to find them in the Quran.

Of course, everything in this video is concluded directly from the Quran alone, but it happens that the Abrahamic tradition and the Quran agree in this issue, as God promised Abraham. And this preservation becomes even more amazing, realizing that the Zakat details were kept intact throughout history, regardless of the fact that the people who carried those practices were more often disbelievers than believers, and they could never explain from the Quran why the details of Zakat are the way they are. For example, they could never explain why Zakat is 2.5%, and so on, and unfortunately they were convinced that you can not find these in the Quran, but this video shows us that you can find even the smallest details about Zakat in the Quran, because the Quran is complete and fully detailed in religious matters (6:113-114), and it actually also guides us on how to extend the Abrahamic practices in new circumstances which Abraham did not experience, like our circumstance which is a circumstance with internet and democracy, and cars, and bicycles, and stock markets, and paper money and so on (57:4).


The Process of Zakat and the Receivers

In the Quran, Zakat is called Zakat only in the moment when your wealth leaves your hand (purification from it), but in the moment when it gets into the hands of the poor, it is called Sadaqah (a good deed) (9:60, 9:58), and there may be steps in between, but the final recipients of Sadaqah which came from Zakat should always be

  • the poor,
  • the needy,
  • the workers who collect it,
  • those who are close to conversion,
  • to emancipate the dependents,
  • to those in sudden debt,
  • in the cause of God,
  • and to the traveler or immigrant (9:60).

This has always been common knowledge among the Muslim scholars.

And the distribution steps are not given in the Quran because they change. The internet has given us even more options regarding the distribution steps from Zakat to Sadaqah. For example, one option which we are implementing right now enables you to be both the giver and the distributor of Zakat. So you can give Zakat as Sadaqah directly to those who need it, as long as there is a way for other believers in the community to verify it, and internet has enabled it. And even this will be constantly updated depending on which distribution steps are deemed the best for the circumstances, and there might be several options available simultaneously to allow you to choose the most suitable one for you, and these are simply administrative issues, but the unchangeable religious aspects are in the Quran, and two of important aspects are that Zakat has to finally reach the needy categories mentioned in verse 9:60, and it has to be verifiable.


The Side Benefits of Public Obligatory Charity

Someone might say, “Why should zakat be a Public Obligatory Charity when private charity removes more sins than public charity (2:271)?”  Well, during Zakat, you do not make your charity public. The person who is responsible for the Zakat system makes it public. The purpose is to inform the others that you belong with them, and it is not bragging, because you did not do something exemplary like in the cases of voluntary charity. You only fulfilled the obligation like everyone else in the same community. And of course, we should make sure not to humiliate the poor people who received it, and that part can be kept private, but the fact that you gave the Zakat is better to be kept public, because the purpose of Zakat is not only charity; it has so many other purposes. One of the biggest purposes is the unity of submitters which can only be achieved with Public Zakat (5:12, 2:40). We can not leave our unity at the mercy of social media (4:139). We are not sheep. Verse, 2:104, says “O you who believe, do not say “Raa`ena” “Shepherd us”, but say, “Unzurna” “Watch over us”, and you can sense how even submitters act like sheep when using social media. First they flock in one group, then they flock to another group, and so on (4:83).

The other purpose of Zakat is to help submitters connect with each other. They can know about each other, promoting proper marriages, and so on. The only case of a marriage described in the Quran is the marriage of Moses, and he found his wife during a charitable deed, and that is the best occasion to find someone to marry, because this is the best deed you can do, while communicating with other people. We don’t need to seek partners in bars and social media and all that. Let’s just unite for charitable purposes, and the side social benefits will come on their own. The Zakat system is our official social media, together with the Friday Prayer. Creating groups through other social media is allowed in principle, but if they don’t have Zakat as an entry barrier, they attract people with secondary intentions, and then the groups become venues for arguments, hate, Quranic quotes out of context, dividing the Quran, disorientation, people with false identities, people who preach to the converted, and then, of course, the result is that instead of bringing people closer to the religion, it drives the religiously inexperienced people away from religion, since they fail to realize that religion can not be contained, codified and defined by social media groups, and internet webpages.

And finally, let me remind you that Zakat (Obligatory Charity) is the best deed a human can do after the Contact Prayers. While Contact Prayers are a sign that someone believes in God, Obligatory Charity is a sign that someone believes in the Hereafter (2:3, 24:37, 27:3, 41:7, 31:4), and both believing in God and the Hereafter are requirements to make it to Heaven (2:62). There is a large number of people who believe in God alone, but they do not truly believe in the Hereafter, in the next life, in the bodily resurrection after death. And some of them are convinced that they believe in the Hereafter, but they will be surprised in the next life when they realize that they really did not, and God will prove it to them by pointing out how they disregarded the obligatory charity. Because, if you are really convinced that you will have an eternal next life, wouldn’t you invest towards it? So, obligatory charity is the second most important religious ritual, because it proves our second most important belief, belief in the Hereafter.


By: Alban Fejza, the Clarifying Messenger