Zakat is a cornerstone of Islamic social finance. A tax on wealth and income, zakat (Arabic: azkāt, “that which purifies”) is a type of obligatory alms-giving.

It is not a charitable donation but the duty of each Muslim who meets the necessary criteria of surplus wealth. Muslims believe that paying zakat purifies, increases and blesses the remainder of their wealth.

Zakat is based on the value of a person’s disposable wealth owned for the period of a full Islamic (lunar) year. It must be paid if the minimum amount, known as nisab, is reached.

Visit our zakat pages to learn more, including how to calculate zakat and who can benefit from it.

How zakat may be used

The Qur’an details who can benefit from zakat:

“Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and the needy, and for those employed to collect [Zakah] and for bringing hearts together and for freeing captives and for those in debt and in the way of Allah and for the traveller – an obligation imposed by God and God is Knowing and Wise”. (Qur’an 9: 60).

In modern public finance terms, zakat can be used to:

  • reduce absolute and relative poverty
  • fund the administrative overheads/salaries of staff dealing with Zakat-funded public welfare programmes
  • build peace and community cohesion
  • promote freedom, human rights and civil liberties
  • meet personal insolvency settlements
  • fund security and defence
  • help homeless people, refugees and migrants.

Islamic Relief, like many other Islamic charities, offers to collect and distribute zakat. We also provide zakat calculation tools.

Islamic financial analysts estimated annual zakat spending topped USD 200 billion per year in 2012 – that’s perhaps as much as 15 times global humanitarian aid contributions.