Wednesday, November 22, 2017 - 4 Rabi' al-Awwal 1439

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We pay our zakat on land, yet the proceeds do not suffice us

We pay our zakat on land, yet the proceeds do not suffice us


The first point we need to explain in connection with the payment of zakat and its deserving recipients, is that there is nisab, a zakat-payable amount, which serves to identify who must pay zakat. The nisab is determined as the minimum that necessitates zakat which is the equivalent value of 634 grams of silver. Any person who possesses more than this amount in excess of what he needs for his immediate living expenses, qualifies as a zakat payer. He should remember the day when he came into the ownership of this amount and on the same day of the following year, calculate what he owns in zakat. If it is still above the nisab, then he is obliged to pay zakat on all that he owns, according to well-defined and detailed rules. In subsequent years, he does the same thing on the same date.

It is well known that a Muslim does not pay zakat on the house he owns and occupies as his residence, his means of transport, the tools and equipment he needs for his work and so forth. He pays zakat on the income he receives from any real property he owns and leases. He does not pay for the value of such property. The rules of zakat are too detailed to list in this answer.

It seems that the inquirer is confused over how much zakat he should pay on the produce of his land. I assume he follows the Hanafi school of jurisprudence which maintains that all land produce is zakatable. However, another much weightier opinion has determined a nisab for land produce. Anyone who owns a piece of land which produces less than the minimum quantity on which zakat is payable need not pay any zakat except by joining the income he receives from it to the rest of his money. Land produce is zakatable at the time of harvest and not after a year as some people may think.

The nisab for crops is determined in a certain measure, which applies to such produce as wheat, barley, corn, rice, etc. A highly authentic hadith recorded by both Al-Bukhari and Muslim as well as others states: "There is no zakat on less than 5 wasqs." A wasq was a unit of measurement for weight equivalent to 653 kilograms. Therefore, if the land produce exceeds the determined weight, it is zakatable at the rate of 10% if the land is irrigated by rainwater only and at the rate of 5 % if it is machine irrigated. Not included in the zakat of land produce is what the farmer or the owner and his family use in the period leading up to the harvest.

Farmable land is also used for other products, which cannot be measured in in the same way as grain produce, but they may have a much higher value. Two examples which come readily to mind are cotton and saffron [cash crops.] Certain plants which are used in the manufacture of perfumes fetch very high prices due to low crop yields. The nisab for such produce is estimated on the basis of value. It is best to take the amount, which would fetch a similar price to that of 653 kilograms of average grain produce such as wheat, corn or rice. If it is determined that only 25 kilograms of saffron or narcissus fetch a price equivalent to that of 653 kilograms of rice, then the land owner who produces more than this amount must pay zakat for what he gets out of his land.

The inquirer must calculate the produce of his piece of land on this basis. He must deduct:
- What he and his family use of it for food or what he gifts to neighbors and relatives before the time of harvest.
- The expenses of looking after his land, with the exception of its irrigation, [because the nature of irrigation determines the rate of zakat].
- Any debts he may have incurred in looking after his land.
If after deducting the above, he finds that the produce of his piece of land exceeds the nisab, he must then pay zakat on it; otherwise no zakat is due.
The wisdom behind establishing a nisab for a particular type of property is to allow a person to possess the minimum for what he and his family need before requiring him to pay zakat which is intended to help others. We have to remember that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) defined zakat as a duty "which is taken from the rich among them and paid to their poor". No person is considered rich if he earns less than what he needs to provide a reasonable standard of living for his family. I suspect that the inquirer’s piece of land is either too small or his family is too big [or maybe he is responsible for a wider family umbrella which is a common practice in certain societies.] If his land yields more than the nisab, what he gets out of it should suffice his needs. If not, his income may be supplemented from zakat. It is possible that this particular case is so special that it merits careful consideration on its own.
And God the Almighty knows best.

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