‘Establish the prayer and pay zakat and obey the Messenger
so that perhaps you may gain Mercy.’
(and 28 other similar references)
‘The men and women of the believers are friends of one another.
They command the right and forbid the wrong,
and establish the prayer and pay zakat,
and obey Allah and His Messenger.
They are the people Allah will have Mercy on.
Allah is Almighty, All-Wise.’
‘Take sadaqa from their wealth
to purify and cleanse them.’
‘Collected sadaqa is for:
those who collect it,
reconciling people’s hearts,
those in debt,
spending in the way of Allah,
An obligation imposed by Allah.
Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.’
“Islam is based on five: testifying that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, establishing the prayer, paying the zakat, the fast of Ramadhan and the Hajj.”
Ibn ‘Abbas said, “The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, sent Mu’adh to Yemen and said, ‘Call on them to testify that there is no god but Allah and that I am the Messenger of Allah. If they obey you in respect of that, then tell them that Allah has made the five prayers obligatory for them every night and day. If they obey you in respect of that, inform them that Allah has made it obligatory for zakat to be taken from their property and given to their poor.’”
Ibn ‘Umar reported that the Messenger of Allah may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “I have been commanded to fight people until they testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah and establish the prayer and pay the zakat. If they do that, their lives and property are protected from me except for the right of Islam; and their reckoning is up to Allah.”
1. The Present Mishandling of Zakat
These ayats and hadiths referring to zakat are accepted by every Muslim. No Muslim denies the central role of zakat in Islam as an indispensable pillar of equal importance to the prayer, denial of which is tantamount to unbelief. Indeed, Allah couples prayer and zakat together in the Qur’an nearly thirty times and the mufassirun say that this indicates that the two actions are interdependent, meaning by that that your prayer is not acceptable unless your payment of zakat has been properly discharged and vice versa. Yet in spite of its pivotal nature and people’s nominal affirmation of it, it is absolutely clear that the vast majority of Muslims do not give zakat the prime importance it is due.
Most Muslims realise that they should pay something called zakat. Some think that they have fulfilled their obligation in full by paying their zakat al-fitr at the end of Ramadan. Many more know that zakat has something to do with two and a half percent though few know exactly of what. A large number even attempt to pay zakat, though usually in a very haphazard way, and, at best, it is considered in the light of an obligatory act of private charity. People certainly do not treat zakat as if the validity of their prayers depended upon its correct disbursement and many pay no attention to it whatsoever. There are several reasons for this current disregard of zakat.
Foremost among them is the present dislocated political situation of the Muslims throughout the world. As long as the Dar-al-Islam remained a unified political reality the institution of zakat retained its integral role as part of the economic fabric of Muslim society. With the fall of the Khalifate, however, under the treacherous onslaught of Arab and Turkish constitutionalists and nationalists assisted and egged on by their kafir paymasters, and the subsequent dismemberment of the Muslim Ummah, the shari’a lost its central position in Muslim society and one of the major casualties of this was the institution of zakat.
The new post-colonial “Muslim” nation states were all founded upon kafir constitutions. All constitutions in the world are based on three universal pillars that preserve capitalism as the motor of the political and economic system. Those three pillars are:
2.Law of Legal Tender
These three elements are alien to Islam and forbidden by the Sharia. The first one institutionalises the banks even in so-called Islamic constitutions. The existence of the Central Bank, which is the mother of riba institutions in every Muslim country guarantees the preservation in the law, of all other banks. The Law of Legal Tender, is against the fundamental principle of trade in the Shariah, that stands for “a an tarad dim minkum”, that is, [trading] with mutual consent. It is forbidden in Islam to impose any particular merchandise as a means of payment, even the Dinar. The fundamental principle that governs ALL commercial transactions is freedom to choose. Thus the present system of paper money which has no value other than by the compulsion of the State is in direct conflict with the fundamentals of freedom.
Legal Tender Law guarantees that the population is enslaved through inflation to a system of credit money dominated by the banks. The system also preserves the domination of foreign currencies in the international arena. And the Law of National Debt makes every citizen liable to the debt incurred by the State. This, needless to say, not only is forbidden because the debt carries riba, but as a principle making somebody else liable to someone else’s debt has no basis in Islam.
This constitutional model has served to preserve capitalism as the ruling mechanism of our economic life. This inevitably denied zakat its vital fiscal status and turned it into the matter of private personal piety. But zakat is definitively a political matter not a private one. It is a matter of the public sphere not the private sphere. Its collection and distribution are a matter of Muslim governance not private charity. This cannot be overstated because not only has zakat now been removed from the public arena but nearly all the Muslims think that this is the way things should be. This is categorically not the case. Failure to grasp this has been a main contributory factor to the political weakness of the Muslims in the world today.
In one of the ayats from Surat at-Tawba quoted above, Allah, tabaraka wa ta’ala, says to His Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace,
“Take sadaqa from their wealth to purify and cleanse them.”
The word “sadaqa” is used in the Qur’an both in the general sense of all charitable giving and also in certain contexts with the specific meaning of the obligatory act of zakat and the mufassirun are agreed that this ayat can be taken as referring to zakat.
The important point about it in the light of what we have just been discussing is the use of the imperative tense in the verb “take”. Allah ta’ala orders his Messenger to take zakat from the people. He could have ordered people to give it, as He does in other ayats. ‘Order people’ in a general sense, to take from what they have, and in this specific instance where zakat is intended, He orders it to be taken.
Confirmation that this was the generally understood meaning of the ayat can be gleaned from the fact that after the death of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, the Arabs who refused to pay zakat to Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, did so on the basis of this ayat, saying that because it was in the singular tense it only referred to the Prophet himself and was, therefore, abrogated by his death. This was of course not applicable since there are many ayats addressed to the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, which bear a general significance. The point here, however, is that it was a recognised fact that the nature of zakat is that it is not something left to be given by those who owe it but something which is taken by the leader of the Muslims.
This construction is further strengthened by the famous words of Abu Bakr, the Khalifa of the Muslims, to Umar ibn al-Khattab during the incident referred above when Umar counselled him against fighting the tribes who were refusing to pay zakat. Abu Bakr said, “By Allah, I will fight anyone who makes a distinction between the prayer and zakat. Zakat is the right which is due on wealth. By Allah, if they refuse me a hobbling rope which they used to pay to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, I will fight them for it!”
The important words for us in the present context from this great statement are “refuse me”. Abu Bakr was obviously not referring to himself here as an individual but as the political leader of the Muslims and by doing so clearly shows the inextricable link between zakat and Muslim governance.
This link is also affirmed in the sources in the hadith quoted above from Ibn Abbas about Mu’adh being sent to the Yemen. Among the instructions he was given by the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, are the words,
“Allah has made it obligatory for zakat to be taken from their property and given to their poor.”
The use of the passive tense “to be taken… and given” demonstrably reveals the governmental nature of the institution of zakat both in its collection and its distribution.
It may seem that I am laying a great deal of stress on this point but it is necessary to do so because the organic connection between zakat and Muslim governance has been all but completely lost. It is not that zakat may be collected and distributed by the Muslim authorities, it is that from the very beginning it has been in the very nature of zakat that, that is the case. There is certainly an aspect of zakat whereby it is an individual act of worship, in the words of a well-known definition, “the giving, as an act of piety, of a legally stated portion of one’s wealth to be distributed among those categories designated by Allah in His Book,” and certainly its payment is a purification of the wealth of the payers and a means of reward for them in the Next World just as its withholding is a cause of terrible punishment, but unlike other acts of worship it is inextricably binded with the governance of the Muslim community.
All the books of fiqh of all the schools and all the books of history of the Muslims show that this connection was taken for granted throughout all the centuries of Muslim rule until the present time. Centrally appointed collection and distribution is assumed in all the traditional literature on the subject.
Imam al-Sarakhsi says in his book al-Mabsut:
“Zakat is a right of Allah and is to be collected and distributed by the leader of the Muslims or his appointees. If anyone pays his zakat to anyone else, it does not remove from him the obligation of zakat.”
Imam Malik says in the Muwatta’:
“The distribution of zakat is up to the individual judgement of the man in charge. There is no fixed share for the collector of zakat except as the leader of the Muslims sees fit.”
Imam ash-Shafi’i says in al-Umm about the Qur’anic category, “those who collect it”, that they are those appointed by the Khalifa of the Muslims to collect and distribute zakat.
Imam Ahmad is quoted in the book ash-Sharih ar-Rabbani li Musnad Ahmad as saying, “The khalifa alone has the authority and responsibility to collect and distribute zakat, whether by himself or through those he appoints, and he has the authority and responsibility to fight those who refuse to pay it.”
These are merely four representative examples from literally thousands of other possibilities.
From all this it must be abundantly clear that from its origins that the collection and distribution of zakat was an integral and inseparable function of Muslim governance. All the other pillars of Islam have an interface which connects them with the central authority: the shahadatayn through its explicit acknowledgement of the acceptance of the authority of Muslim governance; the prayer through the official appointment of khatibs to take the jumu’a prayer; the fast of Ramadan for the official announcement of its beginning and end; and the hajj for its appointed leadership.
It is, however, possible for all these rites to be carried out by Muslims who are not being governed according the the shari’a, as the present secularisation of the Muslim world and the many Muslims subject to kafir rule in the world today make plain, though the lack of recognised Muslim authority makes itself painfully felt at the beginning and end of every Ramadan. Only in the case of zakat is this not possible. Zakat cannot be divorced from active Muslim governance.
Once the vital link between zakat and governance has been severed it means that the pillar of zakat, as it has always been understood by all the Muslims throughout the whole history of Islam, has been eliminated. Any pretence of the payment and distribution of zakat in the present circumstances can only be precisely that – nothing more than a well-intentioned pretence. Denial of the integral connection between zakat and central Muslim government necessarily means that the nature of zakat has been altered beyond any recognition from its original function and practice.
Another major factor in the subversion of zakat has been the change in the nature of wealth and money during the last two centuries, which also has more than an incidental connection with the change in the political situation of the Muslims we have just noted. The institution of zakat was originally prescribed for, and within, a human situation in which wealth was measured by the natural factors which had always been considered the gauge of human prosperity and indeed continued to be throughout the world up until the end of the 18th century. Allah ta’ala delineates these things clearly in Sura Al-’Imran when He says:
“To mankind the love of worldly appetites is painted in glowing colours: women and children, and heaped-up mounds of gold and silver, and horses with fine markings, and livestock, and fertile farmland. All that is merely the enjoyment of the life of this world.”
In every traditional human society the basic measures of wealth were always land, livestock and gold and silver, and it is these things on which zakat on superfluous wealth, is levied. For this reason, all the texts dealing with zakat concentrate on these things. They talk of the different kinds of agricultural produce and the details of the zakat due on them with all the variable factors dependent on the type of produce, the quantity, the type of land and whether it is irrigated or not and many other factors. They go into immense detail about livestock and exactly what animals must be taken for zakat given the numbers and ages of the animals in each herd or flock under consideration.
With respect to gold and silver the texts specify the exact weight of each on which zakat is due and make it clear that it is the metal itself which is being taxed since it does not matter whether it takes the form of coins, bullion, nuggets or dust. The only other thing subject to zakat is trade goods under certain circumstances and the zakat on those must also be paid in either gold or silver.
The problem is that most of this has little, if any, relevance to the 20th century urban lives of 90% of the Muslims in the world today. They have no land or animals or gold or silver. That is because the vast majority of the human race no longer have any access to wealth in its natural or real forms. Any wealth we may have is in fact unnatural, or you might say unreal, wealth.
Beginning with the legalisation of usury in Europe in the 16th century and expedited by the growth of banking and the unrestricted use of usurious financial instruments and techniques ever since, the nature of both political power, personal wealth and money itself has undergone a total change in the course of the last three centuries. Real wealth, that is the ownership of the earth’s natural resources, has fallen into fewer and fewer hands, while most people are left with, at best, tokens of wealth in the form of bank balances, share certificates, insurance policies and other financial instruments, with now frequently no more real existence than flickering figures passing electronically from one computer screen to another. At the same time money has turned from being gold and silver coins to being paper representing gold and silver coins to being simply paper tokens whose value is totally dependent on the whims of international speculators.
There is no doubt that usury penetrates every aspect of the financial system which now dominates every part of the globe, which means that all its instruments and institutions – paper money, credit cards, bonds, stock markets, currency exchanges – are in fact also haram. This is not the place to go into this subject in detail but a good deal of work has been done on it and is essential reading for every Muslim.
For some time the Muslims, under the protection of the shari’a, managed to stay free of the tentacles of the usurers but first Egypt, through an unholy alliance between the British and constitutionalist Muslims, and then the heart of the Khalifate in Istanbul fell into the banker’s trap and within a short time sovereignty over the Muslims had passed into the financiers’ hands where it remains to this day.
So there is no doubt that the world financial system has had a devastating effect on the Muslims. It has been the means by which political autonomy has been rested from their hands and it has removed Islam from all the day to day business, trading and shopping transactions which form such a large part of most people’s lives. It is clear that it represents the main bastion of the enemies of Islam and it is where their spurious power resides. It constitutes, therefore, the major battle-ground on which the fight to re-establish Allah’s deen in this time, is going to be fought.
In the case of zakat, however, we can see how it strikes at the very foundations of Islam because it has made it virtually impossible for the vast majority of the Muslims to fulfil one of the primary, foundational obligations of their Deen.
This has been done by changing the nature of monetary wealth, exchanging gold and silver coinage for paper currencies. As we have noted above, the zakat of wealth has to be paid with gold and silver. That it is the metals themselves which are subject to zakat and not their value as money is conclusively shown by the fact that zakat is owed on them no matter what form of wealth they take. It is further substantiated by the traditional way of treating fulus which were coins made of base metal used for lesser transactions when only fractions of gold and silver coins were required.
If someone possessed a large number of fulus coins which together added up to an amount equivalent to the nisab in gold or silver, then according to some ‘ulama zakat would have to be paid on that amount in gold or silver. But even if they had ten times the amount by weight of the same base metal of which the coins were made then no zakat would be due. In this case it would mean that the fulus coin concerned was being considered as a kind of receipt exchangeable for a certain weight of gold or silver. Other ‘ulama held them to be simply numbered symbolic tokens of no intrinsic value whatsoever and maintained that no zakat was due on them whatever quantity they reached.
Paper money should be considered in exactly the same light. One great traditional ‘alim who saw paper money as worthless tokens was the last great Shaykh al-Azhar, Shaykh ‘Illaysh, before the British succeeded in corrupting that great institution of learning in the mid 19th century. He said in a landmark fatwa on the subject:
‘I was asked what is your finding as to the role of the Sultan’s seal (a kind of paper money used in the Osmani khalifate) which circulates as dirhams and dinars? Must Zakat be paid on it, as if it were gold or silver or merchandise, or not?
I replied as follows: Praise be to Allah and may blessings and peace be upon Our Lord Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah. No Zakat is paid on it, as Zakat is restricted to cattle, certain types of grain and fruit, gold, silver, the value of turnover stock and the price of stored goods. The items mentioned are not included in any of the above categories. ‘
You will find an explanation for this in the fractionary copper coins minted with the seal of the Sultan which are in circulation, on which no Zakat whatsoever is paid, as they are not included in any of the categories mentioned.
The Mudawwana states that:
“Whoever possesses minor coins amounting to two hundred dirhams during one year, is not obliged to pay any Zakat whatsoever on them, unless they are turnover stock. Then, what he would do is to value it as if it were merchandise”.
In Al-Tiraz, after mentioning that Abu Hanifa and Ash-Shafi’i demanded payment of Zakat on minor coins, as both considered that what is of importance in payment of Zakat is their value, and mentioning that Ash-Shafi’i has two contradictory opinions thereon, he affirms that the posture of the madhhab is that it is not obligatory to pay Zakat on minor coins, as there is no disagreement whatsoever that what is of importance in minor coins is not their weight, or their amount, but their value. If Zakat were obligatory, whatever substance were concerned, the nisab would not be stipulated according to the value thereof, but according to the substance and amount, as in the case of silver, gold, grain, fruit. As its substance lacks relevance as far as Zakat is concerned, it is treated in the same manner as copper, iron and similar substances.
And Allah, to whom praise and worship are due, is most Wise. May Allah bless and grant peace to Our Lord Muhammad and his family. ‘
From this it is clear that in the opinion of Shaykh ‘Illaysh, no zakat whatsoever should be paid on paper money. It must be remembered, however, that at the time this fatwa was pronounced, the shari’a was still in place and gold and silver coinage in plentiful circulation.
The other way of looking at paper money, equivalent to the first view of fulus outlined above, takes it back to its avowed origins as representing gold and silver. It was initially issued as so-called bankers money in the form of a fully redeemable receipt for a certain quantity of gold or silver. In other words any bank note could be taken to the bank which issued it and exchanged for the amount of gold or silver it purported to represent. Some banknotes still retain the echo of this original function, so you find the words “I promise to pay the bearer” or some similar statement printed on them. Seen from this perspective, banknotes are in reality acknowledgements of debt – the bank owes the possessor of the note the stated value printed on it. This constitutes, of course, further evidence of its status being haram. The status of paper money under the shari’a, as debt, is only permitted to be used in very specific and restricted circumstances.
From the viewpoint of Shaykh ‘Illaysh and those like him the only possible way of taking zakat from paper money would be to treat it as merchandise, in other words waste paper. The value you would need to make up the nisab makes it, it is for what it is, where zakat is concerned. If, however, paper money is understood to be a debt, then zakat definitely does come into the frame. In that case any paper money you have in your possession represents gold or silver which you in fact own but which is held for the moment by someone else. The authority which has issued the paper money owes you the amount of gold and silver it represents.
Zakat is owed on debts due to you so if the amount of paper money in your possession reaches the nisab and remains with you for a year or more then you owe zakat on it even though it in fact remains in the form of an unpaid debt. But zakat may only be paid in gold and silver; it is not permitted to pay zakat with a debt. In this situation the only way for people to pay zakat is for them to exchange some of the paper money in their possession for the specific amount of gold or silver needed to cover the zakat owed by them on the unpaid debt owed to them, which is represented by the total amount of paper currency in their possession.
From all of this it is clear that the present world dominating kafir economic system of banking capitalism has destroyed the pillar of zakat. This is partly because it has displaced all economic transactions into the arena of the haram by involving them inextricably in a usurious web which it is at present virtually impossible to escape. But it has done it more directly by redefining the nature of wealth and specifically by changing the nature of money in a way which prevents Muslims from paying their zakat in accordance with the conditions laid down by the shari’a.
A further factor in the subversion of the socially beneficial and politically unifying role played by zakat in the Muslim community has been a particular method of categorising and dealing with different kinds of property developed by the Muslims themselves. In the earliest days no distinction was made between the various kinds of wealth but at a comparatively early stage wealth became divided into two categories: apparent wealth (amwal dhahira) and non-apparent wealth (amwal batina).
Apparent wealth constituted animals and agricultural produce, which were basically in the open and there for all to see, and non-apparent wealth constituted gold, silver and trade goods, which were not open to public inspection in the same way. Non-apparent wealth could become apparent if its possessor took it out of the city on the public highway to sell it or trade with it elsewhere.
At first all categories of wealth were treated in the same way with regard to the collection and distribution of any zakat which was was due on them and it was the duty of the officially appointed zakat collectors to collect all the various types of zakat from all Muslims who owed it. It was their responsibility to make sure that it reached the governmental institution of the bayt al-mal which was the acknowledged official repository into which zakat was collected and from which it was distributed to the eight categories of people entitled to receive it. Where apparent wealth was concerned this continued to be the case by the agreement of all the Muslims until the fall of the Khalifate and the concomitant abandonment of the shari’a at the beginning of this century. But in the case of non-apparent wealth a dispensation was made allowing people, under certain circumstances, to distribute their own zakat on the gold, silver and trade goods they possessed.
This dispensation was certainly not an instruction, and indeed never took the form of anything more than a qualified permission, yet it is now used by many Muslims to justify the present privatisation of zakat which in the present situation is tantamount to abandoning zakat altogether since the other types of zakat are not being officially collected anywhere. Certainly those who take this position have played right into the hands of the secularists who now rule the Muslims in every Muslim land and has made it far easier for them to gain and retain power.
We must first remember that the dispensation was given in an environment where the rule of shari’a was total and the political reality of zakat on all types of wealth was established beyond doubt so that there was no question of the individual distribution of non-apparent wealth endangering the existence of the the whole institution of zakat as is now the case. Although it was accepted as a possibility by some scholars, all allowed, and many preferred, the zakat of non-apparent wealth to be paid to the official collectors.
The great Shafi’i scholar al-Mawardi said that the collector should accept the zakat of non-apparent wealth and assist people in assessing it, and some Shafi’ites say that zakat should be paid to the leader of the Muslims in every case. The Hanafi al-Sarakhsi was of the opinion that no property owner has the authority to invalidate the right of collection which belongs to the leader of the Muslims, having been bestowed on him by the shari’a, and even goes so far as to say that if it is not paid to him then the obligation of zakat has not been settled. Although the people of Imam Malik recognised the distinction between apparent and non-apparent wealth, as far as collection was concerned they considered virtually all wealth to be apparent. In their view all zakat of every type is required to be paid to the leader of the Muslims via the official collectors unless he is known to be unjust in the sense of not distributing it correctly.
Another very unfortunate factor in the corruption of zakat has been the recent part played by Islamic charities and other similar organisations who purport to collect and distribute zakat. It is particularly detrimental because they make other Muslims think that by giving them their money they are discharging their zakat obligation, whereas, as we have seen, they are in reality doing no such thing. In their literature these organisations specifically ask people for their zakat and go as far as telling them how to assess it. This means that they are explicitly appointing themselves as zakat collectors. But it is absolutely clear in the shari’a that zakat collectors may only be appointed by the legitimate political leader of the Muslims; no one may appoint themselves to this duty.
According to most authorities if a person pays zakat to someone who has no right to collect it, they have to pay it again, so not only do charities who pretend to collect people’s zakat not do so, they may even have prevented other Muslims from fulfilling their obligation correctly and by doing that commit a very grave wrong action in the process. Also since they have no right in the shari’a to call themselves zakat collectors, they certainly have no right to any zakat funds on that basis, and any money collected as zakat which they then use for their own expenses has been misappropriated.
Worst of all, however, is the fact that by doing what they do these organisations actively aid the enemies of Islam by preventing the true position of the Muslims from coming to light. By making it appear to the generality of the Muslims that it is correct and even desirable to pay zakat in the way they suggest, they collude with the enemies of Islam, whether consciously or not, by actively confirming that the present political subjugation of the Muslims under non-Muslim rule is an acceptable state of affairs.
The only way that a charity could justify its right to collect zakat would be for it to claim political leadership of the Muslim community which is impossible because to do so would entail immediately forfeiting its charitable status. Therefore Islamic charities should cease forthwith from their false claim to be collectors of zakat.
Anyway what has hopefully be made very clear by all that has preceded is that, notwithstanding the undoubtedly sincere intentions of many millions of Muslims throughout the world, who do their best to put aside an amount of their wealth every year to fulfill their obligation to Allah of paying zakat – and Allah best knows our hearts and is able to do what He wills – the truth is that the obligation of zakat, as it has always been understood by the Muslims, is not being correctly discharged anywhere. This is because the necessary connection between zakat and Muslim governance has been severed and because the zakat of non-apparent wealth, that of money and merchandise, is not being paid in the only acceptable form in which it is permitted to be paid – gold and silver.
Zakat truly is the missing pillar of Islam.
2. The Fiqh of Zakat
Linguistically zakat means growth, increase and purification. In the shari’a the term refers to the amount of money or kind taken from specific types of wealth when they reach a specific amount at a specific time which must be spent on specific categories in specific ways. It is called zakat because the wealth of the the one who pays it is purified by it and because the payer gains increase with Allah Almighty by it, in that his rank with Allah is raised through it. This is attested to by the words of the Almighty,
“Take sadaqa from their wealth to purify and cleanse them” (9:103) and “But anything you give as zakat, seeking the Face of Allah – whoever does that will get back twice as much.”
Qur’an 30: 40
The types of wealth on which zakat must be paid are monetary wealth, crops and livestock. Monetary wealth refers to gold and silver, in whatever form they take, and trade goods; crops comprise agricultural produce of the kind which can be stored for extended periods; and livestock refers to camels, cattle, and sheep and goats.
Zakat became a legal obligation in the second year of Hijra. The evidence of its obligatory nature is the Book, the Sunna and the consensus of all the Muslims. Anyone who disputes the fact that it is obligatory, is an unbeliever. If someone affirms that it is obligatory and then refuses to pay it, he should be punished and it should be taken from him by force, but he is not considered an unbeliever.
There are certain conditions which make zakat obligatory and certain other conditions which make it valid. The conditions which make zakat obligatory are five in number.
1.Islam: non-Muslims do not pay zakat.
2.Freedom: slaves do not pay zakat.
3.Nisab: all types of wealth must reach a certain minimum amount before zakat becomes applicable
4.Ownership: zakat is only owed on wealth which is completely owned by the payer and completely at their disposal.
5.A year’s possession: monetary wealth and livestock must have been owned for a complete lunar year before zakat is owed. This condition does not apply to agricultural produce.
There are five conditions which make zakat valid.
1.Intention: it must be remembered that zakat is an act of worship and requires a specific intention like all other acts of worship.
2.Collection: zakat should be paid to a collector appointed by the leader of the Muslim community.
3.Local distribution: zakat should be distributed among the community in which it is collected unless it is not possible to do so because none of the recipient categories exist there when it may be sent elsewhere.
4.Correct time: zakat should be paid promptly at, but not before, the time it falls due.
5.Correct elements: zakat should be paid with the correct means according to the type of wealth in question: the right age and kind of animal in the case of livestock; the right quality in the case of agricultural produce; and the right weight of gold and silver in the case of monetary wealth.
Although it is true that the nature of wealth has changed and that for the vast majority only monetary wealth will come into the frame as far as zakat is concerned, there are still millions of Muslims throughout the world who are involved in agriculture and animal husbandry and so, without going into too much detail, it is appropriate to give the basic rules of zakat for these kinds of wealth. The quite complex specifications involved in the zakat on these types of wealth, which are outlined in many traditional books of fiqh, show how essential it is to have officially appointed collectors who have the knowledge and experience necessary to ensure that correct and fair assessments are both made and carried out.
The Zakat of Livestock
As mentioned earlier zakat must be paid on camels, cattle, sheep and goats provided that they reach the minimum number on which zakat is due. It makes no difference whether they are foddered or put out to grass nor whether they are used for milk, wool, meat, riding, as work animals or for any other purpose. As with monetary wealth, no zakat is owed unless the minimum (nisab) number of animals has been in the possession of the owner for a full year. No zakat is due on horses unless they are kept or bred for trading purposes in which case they become classified as trading goods, enter the category of monetary wealth, and are assessed accordingly.
The minimum number of camels on which zakat is due is five. Between five and twenty-five, depending on the number, a certain number of sheep or goats must be paid as zakat. After twenty-five the zakat must be paid in camels of a particular age and sex depending on the number in the herd.
All types of cattle are considered together for zakat purposes. The minimum number of cattle on which zakat is due is thirty. Thereafter zakat must be paid in cows of particular ages according to the number in the herd.
Sheep and Goats
Sheep and goats are considered together for zakat purposes. The minimum number on which zakat is due is forty, when one animal of a particular age must be paid as zakat. Another animal is due when the herd reaches one hundred and twenty in number and then more according to the size of the herd.
In the case that animals are jointly owned by two or more partners zakat is owed on the whole flock or herd provided that each partner is a free Muslim and that their share individually reaches the minimum number on which zakat is due. The zakat should be shared between the partners according to the proportion which each owns of the whole flock or herd.
The official collector should visit each location at a given time each year in order to assess and take the zakat from every flock and herd. The animals taken as zakat should be of average size and in good condition. If the collector is late, zakat only has to be paid on the number of animals he finds, not on the number that may have been there when zakat fell due. If the owner has died and the animals have been inherited by a new owner he only pays zakat after the animals have been in his possession for a full year. It is not permitted for the owner of animals to assess his own zakat and give it out before the arrival of the collector, but if two years or more elapse without the collector coming then the owner of the animals may assess and pay the zakat he owes to the appropriate recipients.
The Zakat of Agricultural Produce
Various types of agricultural produce are subject to zakat and they are largely those foodstuffs which can be stored for extended periods. No zakat is due on fresh fruit and vegetables intended for immediate consumption. In agricultural zakat the nisab is the same for every type of produce namely five wasqs. The wasq was a measure which corresponded to roughly a camel-load and was a measure of volume made up of sixty sa’as. The sa’a is equivalent to 2.035 litres so one wasq equals 122 litres. So this makes the minimum amount of any type of agricultural produce on which zakat is due 610 litres by volume. This is sometimes expressed in terms of weight as 610 kgs. The problem is that the same volumes of different kinds of produce vary considerably in weight so that it is better to hold to the volume measure whenever possible.
The amount of zakat payable on agricultural produce varies according to how the land in which the particular crop is being grown is irrigated. The basic rule is that when the land is naturally irrigated, whether by rain or surface water such as rivers or springs, then one tenth of any crop which reaches the amount of the nisab is taken as zakat. When artificial means of irrigation have to be used at the expense of the cultivator to bring water to the land the zakat is only one twentieth of the crop. The zakat of agricultural produce should be assessed and collected by an officially appointed collector and none of a crop on which zakat is due may be consumed or sold until the zakat on it has been properly assessed.
Where cereals are concerned, zakat is assessed on the amount of actual grain which has been harvested after threshing has taken place. The zakat on cereals falls due once the crops have ripened in the field and should be paid immediately the harvest process has been completed.
Certain grains are considered as forming a single category for zakat purposes, namely wheat, barley and rye. These are added together and if the combined quantity reaches the nisab, zakat is taken proportionally from each type of grain.
Other types of grain are considered as forming separate categories and are not added together for zakat purposes, namely rice, sorghum, millet and maize, so that crops of these must each individually amount to the nisab before any zakat falls due on them.
Lentils, chick-peas, peas, and various kinds of beans are also considered as forming a single category for zakat purposes and so crops of these grown by a single grower should be added together when calculating zakat. If the combined crop reaches the amount of the nisab, zakat is due on it and should be taken proportionally from each individual type of pulse.
Zakat is due on olives and various types of seed grown for their oil content. They are not added together, each being considered separate for zakat purposes. The nisab is calculated on the basis of the amount of actual fruit or seed harvested but the zakat should be paid in oil after pressing has taken place.
Dates and raisins
Zakat must also be paid on dates and grapes when they are intended to be consumed as dried fruit. The zakat on them falls due when they are ripe on the branch but is, of course, paid after they have dried.
The Zakat of Monetary Wealth
The Problem of Paper Money
As was noted above the last couple of centuries have witnessed a radical change in the way that wealth is viewed and that rather than being seen in terms of ownership of land, and thus expressed largely in agricultural produce and livestock holdings, wealth is now seen in almost exclusively monetary terms. The whole subject is, however, from the zakat point of view, further complicated by the fact that the nature of money has also concurrently undergone a total transformation, gold and silver having been replaced by paper and electronic currencies. Since it is also clear that the zakat of monetary wealth may only be paid in gold and silver, it now becomes a question, given the current nature of money, of how that can, and indeed if it should, be brought about.
To start with it must be understood that, economically speaking, the current situation of the Muslims throughout the world, both because of our inextricable relationship with the openly usurious global economic system and also because of the nature of paper money itself, has clearly moved us into the realm of the haram. This puts us in what should be experienced by all of us as an absolutely intolerable situation and it must be the explicit intention of every Muslim to do everything in his power to combat this abominable system and take all the necessary steps to disconnect from it in the shortest possible time. Only then will it be possible to re-establish the pillar of zakat in a complete way.
We must, however, start from where we are, and so we must deal with the change that has taken place in the nature of money and see how zakat can be best applied to the type of currencies we are at present faced with. As we saw with the fatwa of Shaykh ‘Illaysh, if paper money is viewed logically as numbered tokens worth in reality no more than the value of the paper they are printed on, then zakat does not come into the picture at all. But as we also saw, paper money was originally intended to directly represent certain specific amounts of gold and silver and if we take that view of it banknotes are, as was noted earlier, in reality acknowledgements of a debt owed by a bank to the bearer of the note.
From the standpoint of zakat there are two difficulties in taking this position. The first is that while this specific gold/silver equivalence was the initial intention of paper money, it is clearly no longer the case since paper currencies have long since given up any pretence of being tied to their original direct connection with gold and silver coinage. The second is that while it is true that creditors must pay zakat on debts owed to them they do not have to do so until the debt has been repaid, since, although they own the money, they do not have full use of it until it returns to their possession. But in the case of paper money no such restriction exists because the possessors of the banknotes have full use of the value they represent, by their use of them as a medium of exchange in the country in which they live, even though they do not have possession of it in real terms.
So for zakat purposes it is better to view paper money as being like bond certificates whose value is more or less guaranteed by the government. This does not legitimise their use as a medium of exchange, since there is no way under the laws of Islam that such financial instruments can be employed to replace gold and silver coinage as money, but it does give us a way of understanding their usage and of making it possible to assess them for zakat purposes. This is because although they are forbidden by the shari’a they have been imposed on us by force as being the sole means of exchange whereby we are able to conduct all the financial transactions necessary for our lives. This brings the principle of darura into play, whereby the forbidden becomes temporarily permissible if it is a question of preserving life. On this basis alone the use of paper money has gained a temporary, but extremely reluctant, permissibility for the Muslim community.
Other examples of the application of the principle of darura are the drinking of wine to preserve one’s life in the absence of water or any other permitted beverage or eating pig-meat when absolutely no other food is available. In such extreme situations these otherwise forbidden and abhorrent acts become not only permitted but in the eyes of some authorities mandatory. They are, of course, conditional on the fact that no other means exist and they must be abandoned the moment that any permitted forms of sustenance appear.
Paper money should be viewed by the Muslims in exactly the same light, something abhorrent which no Muslim would use unless absolutely forced to do so, and even then with extreme reluctance, and something for which a halal replacement must be found at the earliest possible opportunity. Although paper money may be used and assessed for zakat purposes on this basis, that still does not make it permissible to pay any zakat owed in any other form than the actual gold and silver which the shari’a requires, since for one thing there has never been any evidence that anything else has ever been acceptable and secondly there is no difficulty in obtaining the gold and silver necessary to fulfil the obligation.
The nisab for the zakat of monetary wealth
The nisab for monetary wealth in silver is two hundred dirhams and in gold it is twenty dinars. Records of the respective weights of the silver dirham and the gold dinar have been kept from the earliest times and it is known that a dirham weighed the equivalent of 2.965 grammes and a dinar the equivalent of 4.235 grammes on the basis of a ratio of seven dinars to ten dirhams. This means that the nisab in terms of silver is 593 grammes or 20.92 ounces and in terms of gold it is 84.7 grammes or 2.99 ounces.
Zakat on savings
In the light of the above it is, therefore, appropriate for zakat to be taken from wealth held in paper currencies, whether in the form of actual banknotes, bank accounts, or other kinds of savings accounts, provided they amount to at least the value of the nisab and have been continuously in the possession of their owner for at least a year. If that is the case then one fortieth or two and a half percent of their value must be paid in gold or silver as zakat. In view of the current extremely low price of silver it would seem better to take the gold nisab for zakat purposes, but which ever nisab is chosen zakat should be paid in the metal whose nisab is selected, so that if zakat is calculated using the silver nisab it must be paid in silver and if zakat is calculated using the gold nisab it must be paid in gold.
Zakat on trade goods
As we saw at the beginning of this section trade goods are also considered by the shari’a as monetary wealth on which zakat is due. Trade goods are all goods which have been purchased or acquired or manufactured with the primary intention of resale. There are basically two kinds of trade goods.
The first are the kind of goods which are bought with future resale in mind but which may stay in the possession of the purchaser for a considerable period before he sells them. If the value of such goods amounts to the nisab or more and they remain in your possession for at least a year then zakat should be paid in gold or silver on the price received when they are sold.
The second type of trade goods are those goods subject to constant turnover, such as the stock of a shop or a market stall or any other kind of trading or manufacturing business. When someone has such stock zakat is assessed on the basis of a regular annual valuation on a particular selected date of the stock and liquid capital in hand. The valuation is made on the current market price of the goods concerned. If the stock and accumulated capital combined amount to the nisab or more, then one fortieth of their value must be paid in gold or silver as zakat.
There are two kinds of debts, those you owe to other people and those other people owe to you, and both kinds of debts have a bearing on the zakat of monetary wealth.
If you owe money to others then the amount you owe is subtracted from the amount of monetary wealth you possess before your zakat is assessed so that, for instance, if you possess monetary wealth adding up to more than the nisab but when your outstanding debts are taken into account the amount is reduced to less than the nisab, then you dont have to pay zakat. If, however, you have disposable assets, which are not liable to zakat and which could be sold to pay off all or some of what you owe, then your debt is considered to have been reduced by the amount of the combined market value of those assets.
In the case of agricultural produce and livestock debt is not taken into account when assessing the amount of zakat owed.
If money amounting to the value of the nisab or more is owed to you and remains outstanding for a year or more, you owe zakat on it but do not have to pay that zakat until the loan is repaid to you.
Investments are basically of two kinds, those whose primary purpose is to produce profit through resale and those whose primary purpose is to produce income. They are treated for zakat purposes in a similar way to trade goods. So that if, for instance, you owe a property company whose principal activity is buying and selling houses then your whole property portfolio is viewed as turnover stock which should be valued annually and zakat paid on the total value. If, however, your main intention is to produce income through letting out the properties you own, then you will only pay zakat on the price you receive if and when you sell one of those properties. The basic principle applies that zakat is only due on goods or property acquired with the intention of resale in mind.
Going by this principle no zakat is owed on personal property such as house, furniture, household goods, transport, land which are regularly used by you and your family and not intended for trade. The same applies to gold and silver jewellery which are regularly worn and not intended for trading purposes. The same also applies to tools you own which you use to earn your living and, in the case of a business, buildings and plant used in the carrying on of the business. As mentioned earlier, however, the value of disposable personal assets which could be sold to pay debts is set against outstanding debts when zakat is being assessed.
This contains all the general principles pertaining to the zakat of monetary wealth and they seem fairly straightforward on the surface. What you find, however, when you go into the details of people’s individual circumstances, is that there are endless anomalies and exceptions and it would be impossible to cover all of them. This is a further reason why it is indispensable to have officially appointed zakat assessors and collectors with a thorough knowledge of all the laws of zakat and experience in dealing with zakat in the light of the many and varied financial circumstances which people face in the world today.
The Recipients of Zakat
There are eight categories of people to whom the collected zakat must be distributed by the leader of the Muslims and Allah, may He be exalted and glorified, lists them for us in the Qur’an when He says:
“Collected sadaqa is for: the poor, the destitute, those who collect it, reconciling people’s hearts, freeing slaves, those in debt, spending in the way of Allah, and travellers.”
The poor are considered to be those muslims who have some means of support but not sufficient to cover their needs, so they may have a job or a business but their income is not enough to pay the basic living expenses of themselves and their families. Such people are entitled to enough zakat to bring their income up to a level which enables them to meet their basic needs. This may well be the case with a merchant whose capital and stock reach the amount of the nisab. In that case he must pay whatever zakat he owes but will also be entitled to receive zakat on the basis of his personal financial situation.
The destitute are Muslims who have no property and no income whatsoever. There are, of course, many reasons which might bring this situation about. It might be due to a calamity that has befallen them or a disability which prevents them from earning or they may be people who have some property to which for some reason they temporarily have no access. Students might also fall into this category if their studies genuinely prevent them from earning and they have no other means of support.
The collectors and the distributors of zakat are also entitled to a share of it. Such men must, however, be Muslims, free men, upright and just, and well versed in all the prescriptions of the shari’a relative to the assessment and collection of zakat. This applies even if they have other means since it is in the nature of a salary for the work they do. No zakat, however, may be given to those who are placed in the position of being its custodians. They must be paid from other sources.
People whose hearts are to be reconciled
This can apply firstly to people who have just become Muslim or are on the point of doing so and who may be strengthened or swayed by help from zakat funds, and secondly to non-Muslims who are friendly towards the Muslims and who can be of some help in a war situation. This permission of the law is dependent upon close examination of the circumstances of those involved because zakat grants should only be made to non-Muslims when there is real necessity for their services or when there is a certainty of their sincere desire to become Muslims.
Zakat may be employed to help Muslim slaves to buy their freedom. Slaves freed by this means remain under the clientage of the Muslim community.
Those in debt
Zakat may be given to an individual to pay his debts, as long as these are not debts connected with the deen. This applies even to debtors who have died. Zakat to debtors is conditional on them already having handed over to their creditors all the spare money and property in their possession.
In the way of Allah
This category is generally considered to be confined to those fighting jihad to enable them to mount and equip themselves properly. Such grants may be made to fighting men even if they are well off. No part of the zakat may, however be used for the construction and upkeep of fortifications, nor for works entailed by a defensive war, nor for the construction of warships, nor for the building of mosques or any other public works.
Zakat may also be used for the support and repatriation of travellers, providing they are free Muslims, who have need of such help. This is dependent on them not being able to find anyone who can lend them what they require.
What is clear from the above categories is that zakat acts in Muslim society as the helper of last resort, a kind of final social safety net. The recipients of zakat are all people who have no access to any other source of help in their particular situation. It is important to understand that zakat is not charity. Private giving and the establishment of awqaf take care of all the ordinary charitable needs of the Muslim community. Zakat is there see to the needs of all those who have no where else to go. This is another reason why it is important that zakat should be collected communally and distributed locally since it is only communally that sufficient funds can be gathered and efficiently distributed and only at a local level that people’s real needs can be properly recognised and taken care of.
A political leader is necessary in each community to oversee the collection and distribution of zakat in each locality. Normally some of the the zakat, although not a fixed share, is allocated to the collectors and then the needs of the community’s poor and destitute taken care of, and then those of the other categories when and where appropriate. The decision about this rests in the hands of the political leader of the Muslims and such a leader must exist in every community to enable zakat to be distributed properly. Imam Malik puts the whole matter of distribution very clearly in the Muwatta when he says in the Book of Zakat in the section on those entitled to receive zakat:
The position with us concerning the dividing up of zakat is that it is up to the individual judgement of the man in charge. Whichever categories of people are in most need and are most numerous are given preference, according to how the man in charge sees fit. It is possible that this may change after a year, or two, or more, but it is always those who are in need and are most numerous that are given preference, whatever category they may belong to. This is what I have seen done by people of knowledge with whom I am satisfied.
Zakat al-fitr is fundamentally different from the types of zakat we have been looking at previously. The zakat we have looked at so far has been zakat on superfluous wealth whereas zakat al-fitr is a poll tax, a tax on the individual, in which the amount of wealth they have plays no part. The two types of zakat are also completely independent of one another. Payment of the zakat on your wealth does not absolve you from paying zakat al-fitr and payment of zakat al-fitr does not absolve you from having to pay zakat on your wealth if you have sufficient to warrant it.
Who pays zakat al-fitr
Zakat al-fitr was imposed by the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, as an obligation to be paid by or on behalf of every Muslim at the end of Ramadan, no matter what their age, sex, economic circumstances or social status. A man must pay for all those for whose upkeep he is normally responsible – wives, children, slaves or other dependents. People who live alone must, of course, pay for themselves individually. The point is that zakat al-fitr is owed by every single Muslim at the conclusion of the month of fasting and its importance is made clear by the fact that in one hadith the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, made the acceptance of the fast by Allah dependent upon its payment.
The amount and form of payment of zakat al-fitr
The amount owed by every individual as zakat al-fitr is one sa’a of the staple food of the people in the locality where they live. As we saw above the sa’a is a measure equivalent to just over two litres, so in a place where the staple food is bread the zakat al-fitr is that quantity of wheat per person, where it is rice, then it is rice, and so on. Where various foods are eaten then it could take the form of whatever grain or pulse or dried fruit are acceptable in that area.
The time of payment and distribution of zakat al-fitr
Zakat al-fitr falls due on the last evening of the fast of Ramadan after the ‘Id has been announced and is best discharged before the ‘Id prayer the following morning, although there is no harm in paying it after the prayer. It is also permitted to pay it during the last couple of days of Ramadan. It should be given to people in the community who are known to be poor. Unlike other types of zakat it can be distributed individually and does not have to be centrally collected, although there is no harm in doing that.
3. The Issue of Dayn and ‘Ayn
From what we have seen it is clear that in order for the fiqh of zakat to be properly applied again and the pillar of zakat restored to its pivotal position at the centre of Muslim society, two main factors must be radically addressed – the necessary link between zakat and Muslim governance and the re-introduction of Dinar and Dirham coinage as a medium of exchange among the Muslims to enable the zakat of monetary wealth to be correctly paid.
A third corollary factor should be added to these two and that is the re-establishment of awqaf among the Muslims. This is partly because zakat is now viewed as charity and used for purposes that have traditionally been undertaken in Muslim society by the establishment of awqaf and partly because the re-establishment of awqaf is absolutely necessary next step beyond the restoration of zakat to the proper functioning of a Muslim society.
Zakat is paid in ‘ayn, not dayn
Zakat in Islam must be paid in ‘ayn, that is tangible merchandise and cannot be paid in dayn, that is, a debt, a liability or a promisory note. This important matter has been ignored for many years appealing to darurah (exceptionality), since the Dinar and Dirham were not available. The fact that the Dinar and Dirham are available again bring this matter forward once again.
Property (mal) is owned (milk) as either ‘ayn or dayn. ‘Ayn is a specific existing thing, considered as unique object and not merely as a member of a category (“this horse”, not “a thoroughbred mare”). Dayn is any property, not an ‘ayn, that a debtor owes, either now or in the future; or it can refer to such property ony when due in the future. Property owned as dayn is usually fungible, such as gold or wheat. Sometimes non-fungible manufactured goods defined by specification are treated as dayn. Although dayn, literally means “debt”, in fiqh it refers not to the “obligation” per se, but rather to the property the subject of the obligation, which is considered to be already owned by the creditor. Clearly, since such property is not yet identified and may not even exist (it is not an ‘ayn), referring to dayn as present property is fictive.
Dayn means wealth, the payment of which attaches as a liability to a legal person (dhimmah), as the result of a transaction (‘aqd) or a loan, or as damages for property destroyed (istihlak). Dayn by extension means the class of goods called mithli (fungible); that is , goods whose price (thaman) in sale is determined on the basis of weight (wazn), or volume (kayl), or number (‘adad), and among the various units of which there is no difference of value due to human art. The definition of dayn given in the Majallah in a way combines these two meanings. According to it, a stated portion of a heap of wheat is dayn before it has been set off. ‘Ayn is the opposite of dayn in the last sense, meaning that is definite and has a bodily existence. Thus, in the above example, the said portion becomes ‘ayn by being set off.
It follows a text of the Great Scholar Imam Abu Bakr al-Kasani (d. 587H) wrote:
“If the property on which zakat fell due is dayn, as distinguished from ‘ayn, its zakat may be settled in terms of ‘ayn wealth. Thus a person having a claim of two hundred dirhams on which zakat is due, may give, in settlement of the same, five dirhams in cash, because dayn as compared with ‘ayn is defective (naqis) and the ‘ayn is complete (kamil), and a settlement of the defective in terms of the complete is valid. On the contrary, the settlement of the complete ‘ayn in terms of the defective is not valid, and therefore, the zakat debt is not discharged if a person wants to pay the zakat of two hundred dirhams which he possesses (i.e. ‘ayn) in terms of the five dirhams which a poor person owes him (i.e. dayn); namely, by absolving him from the debt intending it for his own zakat debt on the two hundred dirhams. Finally, as regards the settlement of the zakat of dayn wealth in terms of dayn wealth, if the wealth on which zakat is due of the kind of dayn which becomes ‘ayn is not valid; otherwise is valid. Thus if a person has five dirhams owed to him by a person and two hundred dirhams by another person, he cannot settle the zakat of the two hundred by making a present of five to the debtor as alms, because the two hundred dirhams will become ‘ayn when collected, and the settlement of the zakat of ‘ayn wealth in terms of dayn is not valid.
An example of the opposite case would be that a person who wanted to settle the zakat of two hundred dirhams owed him by another by making a present of those dirhams to the debtor and intending it for his zakat debt. However, this is allowed only in case of the debtor is a poor person, although there is also a view to the contrary. It goes without saying that the zakat of ‘ayn wealth is discharged if paid in terms of ‘ayn wealth; if, for instance, one pays the zakat of two hundred dirhams he posseses by paying five out of those two hundred.”
Kasani, pp. 42-3. Quoted in Islamic Theories of Finance by Nicolas Aghnides, New York : Columbia University, 1916; pp 334-335.
Dayn and Riba
Riba al-nasiah has been forgotten in the modern interpretation of the fiqh. Riba al-nasiah is an excess in time (delay) artificially added to the transaction. It is an unjustified delay. This refers to the possession (‘ayn) and its non-possession (dayn) of the medium of payment (gold, silver and food stuff -which was used as money). ‘Ayn is tangible merchandise, often is referred as cash. Dayn is a promise of payment or a debt on anything whose delivery or payment is delayed. To exchange (safr) dayn for ‘ayn of the same genus is Riba al-nasiah. To exchange dayn for dayn is also forbidden. In an exchange it is only allowed to exchange ‘ayn for ‘ayn.
This is supported by many hadith on this issue. Imam Malik related:
Yahya related to me from Malik that he had heard that al-Qasim ibn Muhammad said, “‘Umar ibn al-Khattab said, ‘A dinar for a dinar, and a dirham for a dirham, and a sa’ for a sa’. Something to be collected later is not to be sold for something at hand.”
Yahya related to me from Malik that Abu’z-Zinad heard Sa’id al Musayyab say “There is usury only in gold or silver or what is weighed and measured of what is eaten and drunk.”
Imam Al-Kasani wrote:
“As for riba al-nasa’ it is the difference (excess) between the termination of delay and the period of delay and the difference (excess) between the possession (‘ayn) and non-possession in things measured and weighed with different genera as well as in things measured and weighed with the uniformity of genera. This is according to al-Shafi’i (Allah bless him), it is the difference between the termination of the period and the delay in foodstuff and precious metals (with currency-value) specifically.”
Riba al-nasiah refers particularly to the use of dayn in the exchange (sarf) of the same genera. But the prohibition is extended to sales in general when the dayn representing money, overpasses its private nature and replaces the ‘ayn as a medium of payment.
Imam Malik, Allah be merciful to him, illustrates this point in his “al-Muwatta”:
“Yahya related to me from Malik that he had heard that receipts (sukukun) were given to people in the time of Marwan ibn al-Hakam for the produce of the market of al-Jar. People bought and sold the receipts among themselves before they took delivery of the goods. Zayd ibn Thabit, one of the Companions of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, went to Marwan ibn Hakam and said, “Marwan! Do you make usury halal?” He said, “I seek refuge with Allah! What is that?” He said, “These receipts which people buy and sell before they take delivery of the goods.” Marwan therefore sent guards to follow them and take them from people’s hands and return them to their owners.”
Zayd ibn Thabit, specifically calls riba those receipts (dayn) ‘which people buy and sell before taking delivery of the goods’. It is allowed to use gold and silver or food to make a payment, but you cannot USE the promise of payment. In it there is an excess that is not allowed. If you have dayn, you have to take possession of the ‘ayn it represents and then you can transact. You cannot use the dayn as money.
In general the rule is that you should not sell something which is there, for something which is not. This practice is called Rama’ and it is Riba.
Yahya related to me from Malik from ‘Abdullah ibn Dinar from ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar that ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab said: “Do not sell gold for gold except like for like. Do not increase part of it over another part. Do not sell silver for silver except for like, and do not increase part of it over another part. Do not sell some of it which is there for some of it which is not. If someone asks you to wait for payment until he has been to his house, do not leave him. I fear rama’ for you. Rama’ is usury.”
Rama’ is today the common practice in all our markets. Dayn currency (paper money, receipts) has replaced the use of ‘ayn currency (Dinar, Dirham). This practice is what Umar ibn al-Khattab meant when he said “I fear rama’ for you.”
Selling with deferment is not restricted to metals it also includes food. Malik said, “the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, forbade selling food before getting delivery of it”.
Therefore, what is prohibited in Riba al-nasiah, is the addition of an artificial deferment that does not belong to the nature of the transaction. What does ‘arfiticial’ and ‘the nature of the transaction’ mean? It means that every transaction has its own natural conditions of timing and price.
The Issues with Paper Money
The Question of Dayn
By ignoring the true nature of Riba an-nasiah, modernist and constitutionalist scholars have avoided confronting the issue of paper money. Let us look at this issue which the modernists have missed. Paper money can be considered as ‘ayn or as dayn.
A] If we accept the fact that paper money is dayn, it means that it is an obligation to pay a certain amount of ‘ayn. Then paper money cannot be used in exchange and it is forbidden in two practices:
1) Dayn cannot be exchange for dayn. Paper money for paper money is a debt for a debt, which is prohibited. Malik said:
‘[the disapproved transaction] Delay for delay is to sell a debt against another man for a debt against another man.’
2) Dayn based on gold and silver cannot be exchanged against gold or silver, because that is against the fundamental command related by Imam Malik:
‘Yahya related to me from Malik from Nafi’ from Abu Sa’id al-Khudri that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Do not sell gold for gold except like for like and do not increase one part over another. Do not sell silver for silver, except like for like and do not increase one part over another part. Do not sell some of it which is not there for some of it which is.””
B] If we accept that paper money is ‘ayn, its value is the weight of the paper, not what is written on it. If the value of the paper is increased by compulsion, the value is corrupted and the transaction is void according to Islamic Law. Paper money is used by the State as an (illegal) tax and it cannot be presented as an Islamic means of payment.
Understanding Riba an-nasiah is fundamental to being able to understand our position regarding paper money. The reason why the modernist ulema took their twisted position on Riba was clearly to validate the unthinkable: banking. This justification later turned into Islamic banking. The principle of darurah combined with the elimination of Riba an-nasiah has allowed them to justify the use of paper money and in turn to justify fractional reserve banking which is the basis of the modern banking system.
A proper understanding of Riba an-nasiah reveals paper money to be a form of Riba in itself, because it is intended to be used in a way that is not permitted.
The Question of Jurisdiction
Allah says in the Qur’an:
And amongst the People of the Book there are those who, if you were to entrust them with a treasure (qintar), he would return it to you. And amongst them is he who, if you were to entrust him with a dinar would not return it to you, unless you kept standing over him. Qur’an (3,75)
Qadi Abu Bakr Ibn al-Arabi, the greatest authority on Qur’anic Law wrote in his famous “Ahkam al-Qur’an” about this ayat:
“The benefit that can be taken from this is the prohibition of entrusting the People of the Book with goods”.
Qadi Abu Bakr said: “The question concerning entrusting property is legislated by the text of Qur’an.” This means that the ayat is a legal judgement of absolute validity and of the greatest importance to the deen.
Entrusting wealth to non-Muslims is not allowed, but furthermore, taking a non-Muslim as a partner outside Dar al-Islam (where we stand over them) is extremely restricted, because they might be unjust or might use our wealth in forbidden transactions.
Since paper-money is a promise of payment, can it be permitted to trust the issuers while they hold the payment (our property) outside our jurisdiction? History has also demonstrated repeatedly that paper money has been a permanent instrument of default and cheating the Muslims. In addition, Islamic Law does not permit the use of a promise of payment as a medium of exchange. This means that foreign paper money cannot be accept as a means of payment, let alone, to be used as a reserve for our own issuing of paper money.
The Question of Legal Tender
Any Law that restricts imposes a particular medium of exchange has no basis in Islam. The Laws of Legal Tender are alien to Islam. The present paper money has its value only because of legal compulsion and this has no basis in Islam. All transactions must be conducted as Allah mentions in Qur’an:
‘Ya ayyuha allathîna amanû la ta/kulû amwalakum baynakum bialbatili illa an takûna tijaratan AAan taradin minkum wala taqtulû anfusakum inna Allaha kana bikum rahîman.’
“Eat not up your property among yourselves in vanities by let there be amongst you trade by mutual good will.”
Qur’an 4, 29
The Tafsir al-Jalalayn says,
‘O you who believe, consume not your goods between you wrongly, unlawfully according to the Law, through usury or usurpation, except it be trading (tijaratan, also read tijaratun), so that the goods be from trade effected, through mutual agreement, through mutual good-will: such [goods] you may consume. And kill not yourselves, by committing what leads towards destruction on account of some affiliation, be it in this world or the Hereafter. Surely God is ever Merciful to you, when He forbids you such things.’
The Tafsir Ibn Abbas
‘(O ye who believe! Squander not your wealth among yourselves in vanity) through transgression, usurpation, false testimony, lying in oath or through other unlawful means, (except it be a trade by mutual consent) except if there is mutual agreement between you in the course of buying and selling or in abating the price in selling (Muhabat), (and kill not one another) without justified right. (Lo! Allah is ever Merciful unto you) when He forbade you to kill one another without such a justification.
Trading has to happen by mutual consent. Therefore the Law Legal Tender is not acceptable in Islamic Law.
The Re-introduction of Dinar and Dirham
In his tafsir of the ayat in Surat an-Nisa, “O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in command among you,” (4:58), the great mufassir, al-Qurtubi lists the seven main responsibilities of the sultan of the Muslims and the first of them is the minting of the dinar and the dirham. The pride of place given to this matter shows how important it is to the establishment of the deen and this is due in a large part to the fact that, as we have seen, gold and silver as a medium of exchange are essential to the payment of zakat. This is no less the case today than it ever has been and so it remains one of the primary responsibilities of all Muslim leaders, whether on a national or local level, to make sure that gold and silver coinage is available to those in their charge so that zakat can be paid in their communities in the way required by the shari’a.
On a national level the need to return to gold and silver is beginning to be recognised in Muslim lands at a governmental level. During his prime ministership of Turkey, Nejmettin Erbakan held up a gold dinar in the mosque and declared it to be the currency of the Muslims. Gold and silver coinage have been proclaimed the official medium of exchange in one of the states of Malaysia. An official announcement in the Egyptian press recently called for a return to gold currency. While this is an encouraging sign that things are moving in the right direction, it still does not meet the immediate and urgent requirement for gold and silver currency to make it possible to pay zakat as the shari’a demands. And it does not even begin to address the needs of the millions of Muslims living under overtly non-Muslim governments in other parts of the world.
In later years, the Prime Minister of Malaysia Tun Muhammad Mahathir called for the reintroduction of the Dinar and Dirham. Unfortunately his efforts did not materialise. Instead, a so-called “Gold Dinar Proposal” was issued by the Central Bank which failed. Only the Malaysian people can restore the Gold Dinar and Silver Dirham, despite the Central Bank.
More recently the Government of Kelantan has taken the unprecedented decision to bring the gold Dinar as the means to pay Zakat. The Introduction of the Dinar and the Dirham will be the first step towards the restoration of Zakat in accordance to Islamic Law.
The Dinar and the Dirham
The Dinar is a specific weight of gold known as the mithqal. The mithqal is 4.25 grams. The Islamic dirham coin is 2.975 grams of pure silver. Caliph Umar Ibn al-Khattab established the known standard relationship between them based on their weights: “7 dinars must be equivalent (in weight) to 10 dirhams.” Ibn Khaldun wrote in the Muqaddimah:
The Revelation undertook to mention them and attached many judgements to them, for example zakat, marriage, and hudud, etc., therefore within the Revelation they have to have a reality and specific measure for assessment of zakat, etc. upon which its judgements may be based rather than on the non-shari’i other coins.
Know that there is consensus [ijma] since the beginning of Islam and the age of the Companions and the Followers that the dirham of the shari’ah is that of which ten weigh seven mithqals weight of the dinar of gold… The weight of a mithqal of gold is seventy-two grains of barley, so that the dirham which is seven-tenths of it is fifty and two-fifths grains. All these measurements are firmly established by consensus.
The Dinar and Dirham in History
First Dated Coins
The first dated coins that can be assigned to the Muslims are copies of silver Dirhams of the Sasanian Yezdigird III, struck during the Caliphate of ‘Uthman, radiallahu anhu. These coins differ from the original ones in that an Arabic inscription is found in the obverse margins, normally reading “In the Name of Allah”. The subsequent series was issued using types based on drachmas of Khusru II, whose coins probably represented a significant proportion of the currency in circulation. In parallel with the later Khusru-type Arab-Sasanian coins first issued under the Well-Guided Caliphs of Islam, a more extensive series was struck with Khusru’s name replaced by that of the local Arab governor or, in two cases, that of the Caliph. Historical evidence makes it clear that most of these coins bear Hijra dates. The earliest Muslim copper coins are anonymous and undated but a series exists which may have been issued during the Caliphates of ‘Uthman or ‘Ali, radiallahu anhum. These are crude copies of Byzantine 12-nummi pieces of Heraclius from Alexandria.
The First Silver Dirham
By the year 75 AH/ 695 CE Abd al-Malik had decided on changes to the coinage. A scattering of patterned pieces in silver exist from this date, based on Sasanian prototypes but with distinctive Arabic reverses. This experiment, which maintained the Sasanian weight standard of 3.5-4.0 grams was not proceeded with and in 79 AH/698 CE a completely new type of silver coin was struck at 14 mints to a new nominal weight of 2.97 grams. Unlike the contemporary gold coinage, this figure does not seem to have been achieved in practice. The average weight of sixty undamaged specimens of 79-84 AH is only 2.71 grams, a figure very close to that for a unique coin of 79 AH struck with no mint name (as was the standard procedure for the gold Dinars produced in Damascus). These new coins which bore the name of ‘Dirham’, established the style of the Arab-Sasanian predecessors at 25 to 28 mm. in diameter. Their design is composed of Arabic inscriptions surrounded by circles and annulets. On each side there is a three or four line legend with a single circular inscription. Outside this are three line circles with, at first, five annulets surrounding them. The side normally taken as the obverse has as its central legend the Kalima or shahada: “There is no god except Allah alone, there is no partner with Him’. Around it is the mint/ date formula reading “In the Name of Allah: this Dirham was struck in [mint name e.g. Damascus] in the year [e.g. 79 AH]“. The reverse has a four line central inscription taken from the Surah 112 of the Quran; “Allahu Ahad, Ahallu-Samad, Lam yalid wa lam yulad wa lam yakul-lahu kufu-an ahad”‘. The marginal legend states: “Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, he was sent with guidance and the religion of truth to make it prevail over every other religion, averse though the idolaters may be” (Quran 9:33)
The First Gold Dinar
Some gold coins were struck to the contemporary standard of 4.4 grams and with one or more Arabic Standing figures on the obverse and an Arabic legend on the reverse. Dated coins exist from 74 AH and are named as ‘Dinars’. These experimental issues were replaced in 77 AH, except in North Africa and Spain, by completely epigraphical designs very similar to the designs adopted for the silver pieces but with a shorter reverse legend and no annulets or inner circles. This type was used without appreciable change for the whole of Umayyad period, the coins being struck to a new and carefully controlled standard of 4.25 grams. This weight was reputed to be based on the average of the current Byzantine solidi, was called a mithqal, a term used earlier for 1/72 of a ratl. Evidence of the importance attached to the close control of the new Dinars is provided by the existence of glass weights, mainly from Egypt. They usually show the governor’s name, sometimes the date but all marked with coin denomination.
The issues in gold from North Africa began as copies of the coins of Heraclius and his son (but with an abbreviated Kalima in Latin), the reverse ‘cross on steps’ losing in most cases its cross piece. Dinars, halves and thirds were struck, all to the new weight standard. Later coins are dated by the Indiction Number Method, from Indiction II (85/4) changing to the Hijra date in Roman numerals in 94 AH with Arabic phrases appearing in the field from 97 AH. In the year 100, North Africa came into line with the eastern issues although the mint is named as Ifriquiyah. The legends are shorter and the reverse has a new central inscription: “In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate”. This was used also on the coins from Al-Andalus, and on the half and third Dinars, most of which show no mint but may well have been struck in Al-Andalus.
Although there was a dictum that solidii were not to be used outside of the Byzantine empire, there was some trade that involved these coins which then did not get re-minted by the emperors minting operations, and quickly became worn. Through the end of the 7th century, Arabic copies of solidii – dinars minted by the caliph Abd al-Malik, who had access to supplies of gold from the upper Nile – began to circulate in areas outside of the Byzantine empire. These corresponded in weight to only 20 carats (4.0 g), but matched with the weight of the worn solidii that were circulating in those areas at the time. The two coins circulated together in these areas for a time.
The payment of Zakat cannot be made with paper money. It must be made using ‘ayn, that is, using Gold Dinar and Silver Dirham. If the coins are not available is an obligation to mint them and make them available. They are the Shariah currency as stated by Ibn Khaldun. Because they are mentioned in Qur’an, they should be present and the payment of Zakat must be established once again using the Shariah currency.
The introduction of the Shariah currency is the most important political event of our days. It reinstates the Sunnah of currency and it eliminates our dependency on the riba system. At the same time it is the first step towards the political and economic integration of the Muslim nation.
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