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Alms and Charity: Virtues of Zakat: Part 15

Alms and Charity: Virtues of Zakat: Part 15



Included in a person’s basic necessities, in addition to a house, household items, clothes, and food are vehicles of transport. From this point of view, it initially becomes evident that no zakat is required on motor vehicles. As in the case of houses and household items, however, opting to fulfill this necessity luxuriously, which could have otherwise be fulfilled—owning cars which carry astronomical price tags—alters the prior viewpoint. In such cases, zakat comes into the picture, as these can no longer be considered to be simply items of necessity, owing to their pomposity. Notwithstanding the argument of some that people necessarily should own vehicles appropriate with their social positions, offering zakat on these vehicles certainly stands as a more prudent approach. Such a course of action implies forestalling, from the outset, possible dissent against wealth, and in fact, only by virtue of this approach will the social benefits of zakat be procured.

Thus, on one hand, no barriers are placed in front of those desiring expensive cars; while on the other, the possible ill feelings of the poor towards the rich are purged right from the beginning. And, as always, the morality of zakat comes into focus as man, essentially, makes his calculation of what is payable in the all-encompassing gaze of God.

In a case where vehicles are owned for trade or profit, the situation is entirely different and a simple calculation of one-fortieth, 2.5%, zakat is required on their total revenue. Taxis, buses, commercial trucks, interstate coaches, and so on, can be classified under this group. Even the value of number plates on taxis and minibusses, in some cities, can reach 10 or 20 times the value of the vehicle itself, which, in turn, reflects on the earned revenue. The revenue on trucks and semi-trailers used for transporting goods is also subject to zakat, and in a similar vein, that of sea or air transportation vehicles. Vehicles used within a company, factory, or building sites, such as forklifts and cranes, are classified as commercial machinery and also subject to zakat using the standard calculation.

In a nutshell, the zakat on vehicles owned for personal use is calculated according to its overall value, whereas the zakat on commercial vehicles is calculated according to its revenue.


As the nisab and ratio of zakat differ according to the item, as discussed above, it also varies depending on the type and age of an animal held as livestock. In fact, camels, sheep and cattle all have independent systems for the calculation of zakat, all of which the Prophet himself (upon whom be peace) unambiguously designated.

The zakat on cattle

The zakat required on cattle, another key multipurpose animal, has again been explicitly identified by hadith. Oxen, too, are classified under the same category. The measure instructed by the Noble Messenger pertaining to the nisab and amount of compulsory zakat on cattle are as follows:

The nisab for cattle is 30. For 30 to 40 heads of cattle, a 2.5-year-old male or female weaned calf; for 40 to 60, a 3 year- old weaned calf; for 60, two 1 year-old calves. For more than 60 heads of cattle, the rate is one calf per 30 heads and 1 weaned calf per 40 heads.

These measures are for those who own cattle for other than commercial reasons. Those who buy and sell cattle, however, are obliged with a 2.5% zakat, as is the case with other commercial goods. Precisely, whenever a commodity sways towards a commercial domain, insofar as zakat is concerned, it is considered as commercial merchandise and thus subject to the standard of 2.5% zakat.

The zakat on sheep

The Prophet (upon whom be peace) has explained the necessary amount of zakat and nisab required on sheep. The instructions found in a treatise dictated by the Messenger to the zakat collectors regarding the zakat of sheep can briefly be encapsulated as follows:

When one has 40 sheep or goats, their due is 1 sheep, which is the same for 40 to 120 sheep or goats. For 120 to 200 sheep, it is 2 sheep; for 200 to 399 it is 3 sheep; and for 400 to 500 it is 4 sheep.

The zakat on horses and similar animals

Man’s purpose in keeping horses varies greatly, and whether they are subject to zakat or not differs according to these variances. During earlier times when horses were used in warfare, they could not be subject to zakat, simply because they were classified as war equipment, in line with the Prophet’s declaration, “zakat is not required of a Muslim’s horse or slave.”

Today, horses are certainly kept for reasons other than warfare—namely, for riding or transporting heavy loads—sometimes even strictly for racing, not for gambling but for pleasure. On the word of Abu Hanifa horses are subject to zakat, a verdict predicated upon the hadith

transmitted by Zayd ibn Thabit: “One dinar or ten dirhams for every horse in possession that roams freely.” Accordingly, the owner has the free choice of either paying in cash for each horse, whether it is male or female, or treating it as a commercial possession, and thus extracting a one-fortieth amount of zakat. But keeping the horses for commercial intentions would classify them as commercial merchandise, effectively nullifies the previous free choice.

Donkeys and mules that are exempt from zakat become subject to it when they are possessed for purposes of trade.

Perhaps the most important factor that distinguishes horses from other livestock is that they do not provide benefits from their meat, milk or wool. Hence, what remains important in horses is a reproduction, whereas nama (augmentation), an imperative prerequisite of zakat, is the most central characteristic of other livestock. For that reason, horses are rarely kept by a single owner for purposes other than breeding, essentially a pretext for trade, and in line with this intention, they thus become subject to zakat.

The zakat on other animals

In addition to the animals for which zakat has evidently been elucidated by revelation, there are also those that have not been given a mention. Rapid industrial development has begotten countless new sectors, many of which are founded on animal breeding. Today in various regions of the world, animals or livestock are fed with the intention of benefiting from their products, like bees for honey, cows and sheep for milk, chickens for eggs, silkworms for silk etc…In fact, a great amount of production takes place in established modern dairies, poultry farms, trout-farms, and places built for beekeeping and sericulture. A question that may naturally come to mind regarding the zakat on these animals would be answered by stating that a 2.5% zakat is necessitated, in that they constitute commercial merchandise. In other words, if they are kept for commercial intentions, a 2.5% zakat is required; but if, on the contrary, they are fed for personal needs, then their zakat and nisab are evident. In essence, then, these animals become subject to zakat once they enter the commercial domain. This is the general principle which is applicable to any animal or insect.

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