Zakah: The Third Pillar
Zakah is the third pillar of Islam and the cornerstone of its economic system. It represents "the first and foremost mechanism to implement economic justice," according to economist Dr. Monzer Kahf. As a religious duty and an obligation on all Muslims, it offers the donor the inner satisfaction of a duty accomplished. It induces a feeling of pleasure in giving up wealth by teaching that only those funds on which the due zakah has been paid are halal (legitimate) for appropriation or consumption. A well-known hadith states, "There [are] no people, who do not pay zakah, left without being made to suffer by God through disasters, or famine or drought." Zakah is the right of the poor to the wealth of the rich, a right bestowed by the true Owner and Giver of wealth — Allah (Subhanahu wa ta'ala).
Saturna Capital Corporation, investment adviser and administrator for Amana Mutual Funds Trust, hopes to see all members of the Islamic community prosper.
To help, we can calculate zakah donations on behalf of investors in affiliated accounts.
Nisab and Zakah
In order to distinguish the needy from the well off, a limit known as nisab was established by the Prophet (Salla Allahu Alayhi wa Sallam). According to Mahmoud Abu-Saud, the basic definition of nisab is the "amount which is sufficient to sustain the minimum average family for one year," an amount which is roughly equal to the definition of the "poverty line" in the United States. Essential needs are defined as things which one could not live without: food, clothing, shelter, transportation, health care, education, and the tools of one's profession. If your net worth surpasses the level of nisab, the excess is subject to zakah.
Who Receives Zakah?
Zakah funds should be distributed according to the categories of need outlined in the Qur'an (at-Tawba 9:60). These include:
- those who are poor
- those who are needy or destitute
- those employed to administer zakah
- those whose hearts are being reconciled
- those held captive
- those in debt
- those who are stranded
- in the cause of God (fi sabilillah)
The last category, fi sabilillah, is broad enough to allow zakah funds to be used for the general welfare of the community. Under this category, considering the fact that our mosques and community centers promote Islam and in many ways act as dawah centers, a portion of one's zakah may be paid to these centers. Zakah funds may also be used for education of the people and for promotion of Islam and the ummah.
When is Zakah to Be Paid?
Zakah is incumbent upon all Muslims and is paid according to the lunar calendar. No zakah is due on wealth before one year from the date of acquisition, the most well known hadith being: "No zakah is due on wealth till one (full) year passes." Zakah can be paid any time of the year. Many prefer to pay during the holy months of Ramadan or Rajab while others prefer Muharram, the first month of the Hijri year. Assuming nisab has been met, and the investment is held for a full lunar year, most jurists agree that zakah can be paid in advance, during the month of Ramadan, or when there is a special need because of a calamity, sickness, or fi sabilillah.
An estimated monthly payment of zakah is encouraged. This not only helps to mitigate the obligation by spreading out the payments, but it also fulfills the purpose of zakah sooner rather than later. The final calculation and reconciliation of payments, however, can be done at the end of each lunar year.
The legal provision that a complete lunar year should elapse starting from when nisab was exceeded means that a zakah year may run at different times for different investors. If an investor chooses the end of the fiscal or calendar year (to coincide with payment of other obligations like federal and state income taxes), one must keep in mind that the difference between the Gregorian and the lunar year is 11 days, the lunar year being shorter. Zakah is calculated on the basis of the lunar year not the Gregorian.
Zakah and Investments
There are different rates of zakah that apply to different types of assets. According to Imam Malik, zakah is due on three types of assets only: "the produce of plowed land, gold and silver, and livestock." Contemporary Islamic jurists have extrapolated zakah rates for nearly all types of assets.
Zakah on Stock Investments
Muslim scholars believe stocks and investments are most appropriately categorized as "the produce of plowed land," as both are "productive capital" assets which yield gains. Accordingly, zakah is due on the gains of such "productive capital," not the "productive capital" itself. As for the rate of zakah applicable to stock investments, the following hadith offers guidance: The Prophet (Salla Allahu Alayhi wa Sallam) said: "On a land irrigated by rain water or by natural water channels or if the land is wet due to a nearby water channel, ushr (i.e. one-tenth, 10%) is compulsory (as zakah); and on the land irrigated by the well, half of ushr (i.e. one twentieth, 5%) is compulsory (as zakah on the yield of the land)."
The hadith makes reference to a zakah rate of half of ushr (5%). However, according to scholars, this rate is not appropriate for investments like stocks as it is possible to clearly calculate net gains. Thus, the full (10%) rate is appropriate.
Zakah on Long-term Investments
Muslims are encouraged by their faith to invest for the long-term. Though investors may see gains in their portfolio value, the gain may not be realized for years. Islamic jurists have agreed that in order to distribute zakah sooner rather than later it is allowable to consider the difference in the market value of your portfolio from the beginning to the end of each Gregorian calendar year and pay 10.3% (or 10% calculated according to the lunar calendar) of the gain, if any, as zakah. This method of estimating your zakah is based on two assumptions:
- You have/will reach nisab within the calendar year
- You have held your investments or your resources for investment (cash, for instance) for at least one lunar year before your zakah is calculated for the calendar year
Zakah on Retirement
For the purpose of zakah, retirement accounts are considered part of net worth, as the contributor has eventual access to the funds. Thus for retirement accounts (401(k), Keogh, IRA, SEP-IRA, Roth IRA), the investor is subject to zakah on 10.3% of the increase in a Gregorian calendar year. Public trusts and charitable organizations are not subject to zakah. The same method as that illustrated above with Amana shares can be applied to zakah calculation for entire portfolios.
Zakah on Brokerage
As brokerage accounts can be any of the investment types mentioned above (stocks, long-term investments, retirement investments), accounts with Saturna Brokerage Services are automatically incorporated as part of the zakah estimation performed by Saturna Capital.
How We Estimate Zakah
We can send you a report advising you of the estimated zakah after the end of each calendar year. The report will estimate zakah for any Saturna-related account with your tax ID (including brokerage accounts held at Saturna Brokerage Services, a discount brokerage). Saturna Capital calculates zakah only for your Saturna-related accounts. Any other assets or investments you may have are not accounted for in the calculation. Your total zakah should be based on your net worth and may be different than what Saturna Capital calculates.
Our zakah estimation nets the cash flow in and out of the account. As the figure below illustrates, the beginning-of-year value is subtracted from the year-end value (adjusted for new investments and disbursements).
Reinvested dividends are excluded from the calculation since they are both disbursements and investments. Consider the examples below. Using the statement's transaction history, zakah may be estimated as follows: New Investments of $3,100 are subtracted, and Disbursements of $1,070 are added back. The estimated amount subject to zakah for this calendar year is $1,111.50. Zakah is 10.3% of that amount, or $114.48. If you incur a loss for the year, no zakah is due on the account.
Example Mutual Fund Statement for Amana Income Fund
Estimating Zakah on Amana Income Fund
|Year-end Value (as of December 31)||$5,104.02|
|Less New Investments|
|January 2 Purchase for||-$1,000.00|
|April 1 Purchase for||-$2,100.00|
|Disbursements Added Back|
|August 15 Redemption for||$520.00|
|November 13 Redemption for||$550.00|
|Adjusted Year-End Value||$3,074.02|
|Beginning of Year Value (as of January 2)||$1,962.52|
|Adjusted Year-End Value less Beginning-of-Year Value equals Gain.||$3,074.02 — $1,962.52 = $1,111.50|
|Total Amount Subject to Zakah||$1,111.50|
Distributing Your Zakah
The amount of zakah you actually distribute remains your decision. You may redeem shares from an account that you specify, or transfer shares into a charity's account, or use any other financial resource available to you.
Note: Because we need your written signature, we cannot process a request to calculate zakah through the internet.