10 Nov Alms and Charity: Virtues of Zakat: Part 13
POSSESSIONS ARE SUBJECT TO ZAKAT: Part 2
The zakat on jewelry
Even though other schools hold diverse views, the Hanafi scholars insist that zakat is imperative for jewelry equal to nisab. Thus, a woman possessing jewelry worth at least 85 grams of gold is compelled with the payment of zakat. Despite the fact that wearing necklaces, bracelets, earrings and other jewels are permissible for women, the Messenger of God had nurtured a profound sensitivity towards his family as far as this issue was concerned, to the effect that once, having seen his beloved daughter Fatima wearing a bracelet acquired as part of gains of war allocated for her share, he admonished her by warning,“Would you like people to say the daughter of the Prophet is fashioning a loop of hellfire around her wrist?” Having heard this, Fatima, so sensitively compassionate, hurriedly sold the bracelet and freed a slave with its money. After explaining what she did to her exceptional father, he displayed his joy by uttering, “Praise be to God who has spared the Prophet’s daughter from hellfire.
Insofar as Islamic Law is concerned, the wife is financially independent of her husband; in other words, a wife can possess both moveable and unmovable assets. If these assets surpass the amount of nisab, then according to Islam, she is considered to be rich; thus she naturally becomes obliged with the duties of the rich.
Goods owned with marriage, however, should be evaluated within the framework of the husband-wife partnership. At times, according to customary practices, the wife may be the official owner of assets and the user of jewelry, although the rights of the disposition maybe with the husband. In these kinds of scenarios, the husband exercises extensive rights over the property. If so, then the zakat of these assets is counted among the husband’s possessions in ascertaining the nisab, hence the zakat for both of them becomes an obligation on the husband. Owing to the fact that the Messenger of God did not disclose any instructions in relation to jewels, in particular, the jurists have maintained that no zakat needs to be given for pearls, diamonds, sapphires, corals and other precious stones worn by women as ornaments. We must stop here, however, and gain a more profound understanding of this issue. Does this verdict mean that the person is not responsible for paying zakat on these items, or need not pay it; or, does it open the possibility that it is best, and advisable, to give zakat on these? This, in entirety, certainly calls for reflection and contemplation.
In summary, returning back to the jurisprudential verdicts, zakat basically must be given of jewelry equivalent to nisab. If the jewelry is used for trade, then it becomes classified under commercial merchandise and is calculated accordingly. Precious stones, then, are subject to a 2.5% ratio ofzakat given that they are utilized as commercial merchandise. On the whole, it is more appropriate to offer zakat even if they are being kept as items of jewelry, as the Almighty will not interrogate a person on account of giving zakat, but will do so in the reverse situation— and one’s situation, at that point, will be irreversible.
Thus, it is more prudent to treat jewels and precious stones similarly to other jewelry like gold and silver. This recommendation is strengthened by that fact that these stones essentially have innate value and exempting them from zakat would open the door for stowing treasure, an iniquity denounced in both the Qur’an and Sunna.
The zakat on collections
In this day and age, as a result of personal interest or commercial pretexts, the collection of various items has become a pervasive practice. In some instances, they can even gain astronomical values which are difficult to estimate.
Looking from the perspective of the Qur’an and Sunna, no clear-cut verdict can be cited. Like in most other issues, however, a sound decision can be reached predicated upon general principles of Islam and extrapolations from similar situations. Thus, if the items are collected with commercial intention, then the verdict is evident; the collection is subject to a 2.5% zakat. However, if collecting is practiced as a hobby or a past time, then it ought to be regarded as kanz (i.e. stowed treasure), whereby it again becomes subject to a 2.5% zakat. Adopting this approach effectively disperses all excuses to evade paying zakat and renders an advantage when considering the sadd al-dharayi principle in Islamic law, which elaborates the necessity of blocking all roads that lead to iniquity. In effect, collectibles, some of which may even have gained a worldwide market, can easily be sold and cashed-in at any given time. Requiring zakat for these effectively prevents people from collecting simply as a pretext to avoid paying zakat.
The zakat on additional accessories
Except for basic necessities, zakat is required for additional accessories and clothing that are kept at home. This demands first the identification of these extras, and second, the integration of these items into the calculation of zakat. These “additional items” include all sorts of clothes, equipment and household devices and appliances that cannot be considered an absolute necessity. Consequently, it would be wise to reassess the whole contents of the house prior to offering zakat.