Date : 24-03-2020

Question :

What is the Islamic ruling on Zakah? What is the virtue of Zakah? When should Zakah be paid? And, is it permissible to pay Zakah before its due time?

The Answer :

Praise be to Allah the Lord of the Worlds.

Zakah (Alms-giving) is a pillar of Islam and one of the greatest types of worship. It is confirmed in the Book of Allah, the Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH) and the consensus of the Muslim nation. The word Zakah refers to purification, growth and blessing. Allah has enjoined it for the eligible recipients prescribed in the Glorious Quran. The share given from wealth is called Zakah because it blesses the wealth, from which it was given, with growth and prevents it from destruction. This is as reported by An-Nawawi from al-Wahidi.

Growth and purification aren`t limited to the wealth itself. Rather, Zakah is regarded as self-purification for the giver. The evidence on this is that Allah the Almighty says {What means}, "Of their goods, take alms, that so thou mightest purify and sanctify them; and pray on their behalf. Verily thy prayers are a source of security for them: And God is One Who heareth and knoweth."{At-Tawbah, 103}.

Moreover, Allah the Exalted asked all Prophets and Messengers (PBUT} to be kind to the poor and vulnerable. Prophet Esa (PBUH) said, in the Quran,{What means} "And He hath made me blessed wheresoever I be, and hath enjoined on me Prayer and Charity as long as I live;"{Maryam, 31}. Also, Allah the Almighty described Prophet Ismail (PBUH) in the following verse {Which means}, "He used to enjoin on his people Prayer and Charity, and he was most acceptable in the sight of his Lord."{Maryam, 55}.

Moreover, Allah the Exalted and His Messenger (PBUH) have threatened those who don`t give the Zakah of their wealth with the most grievous penalty, as reflected in the following verse{Which means}, "O ye who believe! there are indeed many among the priests and anchorites, who in Falsehood devour the substance of men and hinder (them) from the way of God. And there are those who bury gold and silver and spend it not in the way of God: announce unto them a most grievous penalty-"{At-Tawbah, 34}. Moreover, Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Messenger (PBUH) said, "Whoever is made wealthy by Allah and does not pay the Zakat of his wealth, then on the Day of Resurrection his wealth will be made like a baldheaded poisonous male snake with two black spots over the eyes. The snake will encircle his neck and bite his cheeks and say, 'I am your wealth, I am your treasure.' "Then the Prophet (PBUH) recited the holy verses:-- 'Let not those who withhold . . .' (to the end of the verse). (3.180).{Bukhari}. Also, Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "Any person who possesses gold or silver and does not pay what is due on it (i.e., the Zakat); on the Day of Resurrection, sheets of silver and gold would be heated for him in the fire of Hell and with them his flank, forehead and back will be branded. When they cool down, they will be heated again and the same process will be repeated during the day the measure whereof will be fifty thousand years. (This would go on) until Judgement is pronounced among (Allah's) slaves, and he will be shown his final abode, either to Jannah or to Hell."{Muslim}.

Since Zakah and charity are amongst the greatest good deeds, the believers should compete for giving them to their eligible recipients. This is attested to by the following Hadith : Ibn Mas'ud (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "Envy is permitted only in two cases: A man whom Allah gives wealth, and he disposes of it rightfully, and a man to whom Allah gives knowledge which he applies and teaches it." [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]." and he disposes of it rightfully" means he spends it in acts of obedience. In other words, Zakah purifies the wealth of the giver, frees him from the love of possessions and greed, reinforces his sense of social solidarity, eliminates envy of others, secures the basic needs of the eligible recipients and helps them live decently.

A person must pay the Zakah of his wealth once it reaches Nisab{Minimum amount liable for Zakah} and a whole lunar year passes over its being in his possession. However, it is permissible to pay Zakah before its due time. Al-Shirbini said, "It is permissible to give Zakah in advance before it became due because al-Abbas asked the Messenger of Allah to allow him to pay his Zakah before its due date and he gave him permission to do so (Related by Abu Dawoud)."{Moghni al Mohtaaj}.

In light of the corona virus pandemic, where a substantial proportion of the community is sitting idle and has no money to cover the basic needs of survival, we are of the view that the wealthy should hasten to pay the Zakah of their wealth before its due time and not to delay it till Ramadan. It goes without saying that Sha`ban is a blessed month, so a Muslim should be keen on doing as many good deeds in it as possible because in this month the deeds are taken up to the Lord of the Worlds. This is attested to by the Hadith: Usamah bin Zaid said: "I said: 'O Messenger of Allah, I do not see you fasting any month as much as Shaban.' He said: 'That is a month to which people do not pay much attention, between Rajab and Ramadan. It is a month in which the deeds are taken up to the Lord of the worlds, and I like that my deeds be taken up when I am fasting."'{Nsa`i}. Undoubtedly, people are more in need during the days of Sha`ban than any other months, which makes paying Zakah during them better and of greater reward.

On the other hand, it is worth drawing people`s attention to the importance of giving voluntary charity no matter how small it is since Abu Hurairah narrated that : the Messenger of Allah said: "None gives charity from Tayyib - and Allah does not accept but Tayyib - but that Ar-Rahman accepts it with His Right (Hand). Even if it is a date, it is nurtured in the Hand of Ar-Rahman until it is greater than a mountain, just as one of you nurtures his foal or young camel."{Tirmith}. And Allah the Almighty knows best.