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
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
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.