The Items of Wajib Zakat

by Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi (Toronto, Canada)

“Zakat, as we Shia calculate, is payable on 9 items only. These items were the measure of wealth in those times and therefore should we not apply the principle to our wealth in general, as the Sunnis do, and not just to those 9 items?” The Islamic shari’a (code of laws) is based on a system within which they are formulated and worked out.

In Shi‘a Islam, the two main sources of laws are the Qur’an and the sunnah of the Prophet and Imams (may peace be upon them all).

The Qur’an, while ordering us to pay zakat, has not outlined the items on which zakat is applicable. Interestingly, the case of salat is also the same. While the Qur’an has ordered us to say the daily salat in more than 25 verses, nowhere does it tell us how to perform the daily salat. In these cases, we have to refer to the sunnah for further details.

When Shi‘a jurists refer to the sunnah, after studying and analyzing all the authentic ahadith on this subject, they reach to the following two conclusion conclusions:

a) Zakat is wajib (obligatory) on the following nine items: Coins: silver; gold Cattle: cows; sheep and goats; camels Crops: wheat; barley; dates; raisins

b) Zakat is mustahab (recommended) on other items that can be weighed or other things that grow from the earth.

In conclusion, the jurist (mujtahid) is bound to follow the sources; if the sources clearly con?ne the items of compulsory zakat to nine, then they cannot go by their personal inclination and extend that list. In order to extend that list, they need clear proof in the religious sources to suggest that these items were only applicable to those days and maybe increased in the future. But there are no such indications in the ahadith.

One of the decisive ahadith on this issue is presented here as an example in which Muhammad atTayyar asked Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.) about the items on which zakat is wajib. The Imam (a.s.) listed the nine items as ?xed by the Prophet himself and then said, “The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) exempted the zakat from other items.” A person then asked the Imam, “May Allah protect you; we have an abundance of grain (not listed by you) with us.” The Imam asked, “And what is that?” The person replied, “It is rice.” The Imam remarked, “Yes, it is plentiful (in your area).” Then the person asked, “Is there zakat in it (i.e., in rice)?” Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.) scolded him by saying: “I am telling you that verily the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) has exempted the zakat from other items and you are still saying ‘We have abundance of a grain; is there zakat in it?’”

The statement of Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.) is clear that there were other items such as rice and other grains known to the people of that time and area as “wealth,” but still he insisted that you cannot include those in the list of items for wajib zakat.

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About the author

He was born in 1957 in a family of ‘ulamã’ in Bihar, India. He comes from a region in Bihar (Siwan District, previously known as Saran) that has produced well-known Shi‘a scholars in the Indian sub-continent. Migrated to Africa with his parents where he received elementary education in English medium school. After that for two years, he studied Arabic and Farsi with his respected father and two other ‘alims in Dar-Es-salaam, Tanzania.

In 1972, at the age of fifteen, he went to the Hawza-e ‘Ilmiya-e Qum, Iran. During his ten years stay in Qum, he studied with various teachers; and moved from the levels of muqaddimãt to sutûh (equal to graduate level in secular universities) and, finally, attended the dars-e kharij (ijtihad lectures equal to post-graduate studies) of Ayatullah al-Uzma Shaikh Wahid Khurãsãni.

In 1982, he returned to India where he stayed at Gopalpur for about a year.

In June 1983, at the invitation of the Shia Muslim Community of British Columbia, he and his wife moved to Vancouver where he stayed till June 1991 and served Shi‘a Islam through his lectures, writings, and teachings. Based on his publications and educational background, in September 1987, the Simon Fraser University (Vancouver) admitted him in the post-graduate program at Masters’ level. This was even though he had no formal degree nor was he asked to sit for any exams. In 1990 he completed his thesis; and after successfully defending the thesis, was awarded the Master of Arts degree in History in 1991.

In July 1991, he moved to Toronto and till 1996 worked as the Director of Islamic Education & Information Center providing a variety of religious services to Shi‘as in North America. During this time, he was also involved in the founding of the As-Sadiq Islamic School, a full time Islamic school from KG to Grade 8 levels. Since July 1996, he has accepted the responsibilities of the Imam-e Jum‘a and Resident ‘Ãlim of the Jaffari Islamic Center / Jaffari Community Center.

He has traveled to most cities in Canada and U.S.A.; as well as to Australia, Guyana, Trinidad, United Kingdom, Dubai, Pakistan, Tanzania and Kenya for lectures.

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