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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Collection of Zakat

Zakat is considered to be a religious duty, and is expected to be paid by all practicing Muslims who have the financial means (nisab). In addition to their zakat obligations, Muslims are encouraged to make voluntary contributions (sadaqat) The zakat is not collected from non-Muslims, although they are sometimes required to pay the jizyah tax.
The Qur'an does not provide specific guidelines on which types of wealth are taxable under the zakat, nor does it specify percentages to be given. Traditionally, the goods taxed are those that were the basis of most wealth in seventh-century Arabic kingdoms: agricultural goods, precious metals, minerals, and livestock. The amount collected varies between 2.5 and 20 percent, depending on the type of goods being taxed. Many Shi'ites are additionally expected to pay one fifth of their income in the form of a khums tax, which they consider to be a separate ritual practice.
The Qur'an is also unclear on who is to collect the tax. Today, in most Muslim countries, zakat is collected through a decentralized and voluntary system, where eligible Muslims are expected to pay the zakat based on fear and love of Allah, personal conscience, and peer pressure. Under this voluntary system, zakat committees are established, which are tasked with the collection and distribution of zakat funds. In a handful of Muslim countries – including Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan – the zakat is obligatory, and is collected in a centralized manner by the state. In countries where zakat is collected by the state, the economic effects are often negligible, doing little to alleviate economic inequality. In Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, and Bangladesh, the zakat is regulated by the state, but contributions are voluntary.

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