A divine injunction and an ordinance from Allah Himself to purify your wealth. It is not a personal matter or a voluntary contribution; rather, it is an obligation for which one will be called to account.
Zakat is the third of five core pillars in Islam and by Quranic ranking, is next after prayer in importance. It is based on the value of all of one’s possessions. It is customarily 2.5% (or 1/40) of a Muslim’s total savings and wealth above a minimum amount known as Nisab.
The amount of zakat to be paid by an individual depends on the amount of money and the type of assets the individual possesses. The Quran does not provide specific guidelines on which types of wealth are taxable under the zakat, nor does it specify percentages to be given. But the customary practice is that the amount of zakat paid on capital assets (e.g. money) is 2.5% (1/40). Zakat is additionally payable on agricultural goods, precious metals, minerals, and livestock at a rate varying between 2.5% and 20% (1/5), depending on the type of goods.
Historically, the collection and distribution of Zakat was by the state. An institutionalised mechanism that allowed it to reach those who needed it most. The Swiss Zakat Foundation is an institution that not only distribute the Zakat but constantly monitor the needs of the community, establish connections with the at-risk and vulnerable groups as well as employ a strategy to provide support, along with funds, to enable claimants to eventually become self-sufficient.
The SZF is distributing Zakat funds to address the eight concerns highlighted in the Qur’an in a balanced and strategic way that reflects the current needs of the local Muslim community.
“Zakat expenditures are only for  the poor,  the needy,  those who administer them,  for bringing hearts together,  to [free] those in bondage and  for those in debt,  for the cause of Allah and  for the stranded traveller. This is an obligation from Allah; Allah is all-knowing and wise.” (Qur’an, 9:60)”
Zakat enables individuals and the community to be faithful, successful and contribute to society for the benefit of all.
Like a local community tax, and to best achieve its strategic purpose, Zakat should primarily be distributed locally i.e. in the country a person resides. Local distribution strengthens the sense of local community and those within a society know the best and most effective ways to cultivate the necessary socio-economic environment that will enable Islam and Muslims to be an added-value for their society.
How can we achieve the purpose of Zakat?
- Firstly, by taking a holistic approach to distributing Zakat across the eight categories of Zakat recipients (Qur’an 9: 60). This provides support for those most in need, builds up community institutions and enables advocacy.
- Secondly, all scholars agree that each country is worthier of its own Zakat. Locally is where our primary responsibility lies as we know our context and needs best.
- Thirdly, a central operation is best place
By paying the Zakat that is due, for the purposes which we believe God has decreed, we are fulfilling our obligation as Muslims. Some of the outcomes of local Zakat distribution are:
- Those most in need in our community will feel a sense of belonging, their situation can improve and they can strive to become Zakat payers themselves.
- Our community will improve in its understanding of faith and in its participation in wider society, while external perceptions of Islam and Muslims improve.
- This will enable Muslims to increasingly be faithful, successful and contribute to society for the benefit of all, and will allow all of us to reap the rewards both in this life and the hereafter, God willing.