Zakaah is paid on assets–things that bring in money. This is important, because it means zakaah is not on things you use–like your only car, or your house. More on that next post inshallah ta’ala.
There are three requirements before zakaah becomes due:
- Islam: The person has to be Muslim. (Non-Muslims don’t pay zakaah.) We deduce this from the hadith of Mu’ad ibn Jabal (رضي الله عنه), who the Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) sent to Yemen. He (صلي الله عليه وسلم) said to Mu’ad: “Invite the people to shahada, and if they accept it, tell them Allah has enjoined on them five daily prayers, and if they accept it, tell them he has enjoined Sadaqah (the word used in the Qur’an and Sunnah for zakaah) on their assets.” [Bukhari 2/24/573]1
Nisaab: The asset in question–whether cash, land, cows, iPods, etc. has to reach a certain threshold, called nisaab.
Nisaab works like this: if you have a glass with a capacity of 500ml of water, you can fill it with 300ml, 400ml, 499ml of water, and nothing happens. But once you hit 500ml, it spills over. Like that, once you reach the nisaab, zakaah is due–but not before that.
Hawl: Hawl means a (lunar) year has passed. The person must have the assets for one year, and for the entire year. If the amount ever dips below the threshold, then the hawl restarts from when it reaches nisaab again.
So if hawl was hypothetically $1500, and you had it for eight months, then bought a $300 couch and dropped your savings to $1200, then cashed your paycheque two days later and brought it back up past $1500, the hawl would be due one year from the date you cashed the cheque. (Note: it is the Shafi’ee madhab specifically that states that the nisaab must be maintained throughout the year and restarts if it drops below the nisaab. Allah knows best about other opinions.)
(Note that there are two exceptions to the hawl:
Crops: Zakaah on crops is due at harvest time.
Buried Treasure: Zakaah is due immediately.
May Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) give us a proper understanding of this pivotal second pillar of Islam. I suggest you read (and memorize) that hadith, it’s key to multiple aspects of zakaah fiqh.
(1) “Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Book 24: Obligatory Charity Tax (Zakat).” USC-MSA Compendium of Muslim Texts. USC-MSA. 6 July 2006 <http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/fundamentals/hadithsunnah/bukhari/024.sbt.html#002.024.573>.
(2) Muhammad Alshareef. Lecture. AlMaghrib. Rizq Management. University of Toronto, Toronto. June 2006.