Zakat (Arabic: زكاة zakāh [zaˈkaːh], "that which purifies", also Zakat al-mal [zaˈkaːt alˈmaːl]زكاة المال, "zakat on wealth", or Zakah) is a form of almsgiving treated in Islam as a religious obligation or tax, which, by Quranic ranking, is next after prayer (salat) in importance.
Silver or gold coinage is one way of granting zakat.
As one of the Five Pillars of Islam, zakat is a religious duty for all Muslims who meet the necessary criteria of wealth. It is a mandatory charitable contribution, often considered to be a tax. The payment and disputes on zakat have played a major role in the history of Islam, notably during the Ridda wars.[page needed]
Zakat on wealth is based on the value of all of one's possessions. It is customarily 2.5% (or 1⁄40) of a Muslim's total savings and wealth above a minimum amount known as nisab, but Islamic scholars differ on how much nisab is and other aspects of zakat. According to Islamic doctrine, the collected amount should be paid to the poor and the needy, Zakat collectors, recent converts to Islam, those to be freed from slavery, those in debt, in the cause of Allah and to benefit the stranded traveller.
Today, in most Muslim-majority countries, zakat contributions are voluntary, while in Libya, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen, zakat is mandated and collected by the state (as of 2015).
Shias, unlike Sunnis, traditionally regarded zakat as a private and voluntary action, and they give zakat to imam-sponsored rather than state-sponsored collectors.
Zakat literally means "that which purifies". The word is derived from Classical Syriac ܙܟܘܬܐ (zakhutha, "victory, merit, justification", related to the Hebrew זְכוּת (z'khút, "legal right, moral right, merit"). Zakat is considered a way to purify one's income and wealth from sometimes worldly, impure ways of acquisition. According to Sachiko Murata and William Chittick, "Just as ablutions purify the body and salat purifies the soul (in Islam), so zakat purifies possessions and makes them pleasing to God."
The Quran discusses charity in many verses, some of which relate to zakat. The word zakat, with the meaning used in Islam now, is found, for example, in suras: 7:156, 9:60, 19:31, 19:55, 21:73, 23:4, 27:3, 30:39, 31:4 and 41:7. Zakat is found in the early Medinan suras and described as obligatory for Muslims. It is given for the sake of salvation. Muslims believe those who give zakat can expect reward from God in the afterlife, while neglecting to give zakat can result in damnation. Zakat is considered part of the covenant between God and a Muslim.
Verse 2.177 (Picktall translation) sums up the Quranic view of charity and alms giving (Another name for Zakat is the "Poor Due"):
It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces to the East and the West; but righteous is he who believeth in Allah and the Last Day and the angels and the Scripture and the Prophets; and giveth his wealth, for love of Him, to kinsfolk and to orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask, and to set slaves free; and observeth proper worship and payeth the poor due. And those who keep their treaty when they make one, and the patient in tribulation and adversity and time of stress. Such are they who are sincere. Such are the God fearing. - 2:177