What are the requirements for aakat to be obligatory?
In order for the payment of zakat to be obligatory, there are a couple of conditions. Some of those conditions are related to the person who pays the zakat and some others are related to the wealth from which the zakat is paid.
a. The conditions Related to the Person (who Pays zakat)
It becomes obligatory to pay zakat upon the person who has fulfilled all of the following conditions:
- To be a Muslim: Non-Muslims are not obliged to pay zakat. Zakat is required provisionally of an apostate (a person who was a Muslim but then left Islam) pending his return to Islam. If he does return to Islam, it is clear that the zakat is required of him due to his continued ownership of his wealth, and he must pay it.
- To be adult and have full possession of one’s mental faculties: Hence, people with insanity and children who own wealth, are not required to pay zakat on it. Nevertheless, Imam Shafii holds the view that zakat must be paid on the wealth owned by a minor and by someone who is insane by the guardian on their behalf. Therefore, in this case, the children and people with insanity are responsible for the payment of zakat on their wealth of and their guardians do this on behalf of them.
- To be free: It is not obligatory upon male and female slaves to pay zakat. On the other hand, prisoners and captives must pay their zakat if they fulfill the other conditions.
- The owner should be known: It is not obligatory to pay zakat for goods whose proprietor is unknown. This is why there is no zakat paid out on the property of an infant who is still not born. There is no zakat on an endowed property since there is no titleholder. Zakat is not paid out of state property used for public benefit as well as from the property endowed for general public welfare. The goods endowed to an institution established for the poor and the needy are not subject to zakat. In like manner, the goods endowed to institutions such as mosques and Qur’anic schools are not subject to zakat.
- Owning property at least in the amount of the nisab: The term nisab refers to the amount and measurement for wealth established by Islam. The following is the list for nisab amounts for various types of wealth determined by the Messenger of Allah (pbuh).
- Nisab for gold is 20 mithqal. One Meccan dinar equals 4.25 gr., and 20 mithqal is equal to 85 gr gold. 
- The nisab for banknotes and commercial commodities is the amount that is equal to the value of 20 mithqal gold. For example, if one gr gold is equal to 200TL, one who has 17000 TL is considered wealthy.
- The nisab for mines and treasures (rikaz) is the amount that is equal to the value of 20 mithqal gold.
- The nisab amount for silver is 200 dirhams. One Meccan dirham is equal to 2.975 gr., thus 200 dirham is equal to 595 grams of silver.
- The nisab for sheep and goat is 40 or more.
- The nisab for cattle and water buffaloes is 30 or more.
- The nisab for camel is 5 or more.
- The nisab for crops is 5 wasqs, which is equal to five camel loads of goods. This is equal to 35 containers with dimensions of 23x23x35cm and which can take 20 liters of liquids.
Note: If a person owes some money and even if his debt is more than the amount of nisab, he still is required to pay the zakat. Even if one owes money as much as the wealth he has, he is still required to pay zakat from all the wealth he has in hand provided that the wealth he has is more than the amount of nisab. This is because the debt is something related to one’s liability, whereas zakat is something related to property. Therefore, debt does not prevent zakat.
b. The conditions related to the wealth out of which zakat is paid
- The Property subject to zakat must be productive and increasing (Na’ima): Productiveness of property and its increase may take place in two ways:
First: The increase in animals such as sheep, cattle, and goat and in commercial commodities takes place by real (haqiqi) increase. Animals reproduce. Commercial commodities, on the other hand, increase by making profit and gaining value every day in world trade.
The horse, trained dogs, milk and honey that cannot be traded are not subject to zakat.
Second: The increase in monetary assets like gold, silver, cash and securities is called constructive (hukmi) increase. This includes foreign currencies. Gold, silver, cash, and foreign currencies do not increase in number, but they increase in value in world market in addition to the fact that they can increase by employing them in trade. Jewelry such as pearl and diamond are not subject to zakat because they are not traded as much as gold and silver are in the market.
The movable and immovable properties that generate revenues are also accepted as productive goods. Such properties themselves are not subject to zakat, but their revenues are subject to zakat. For example, zakat is paid out of the revenues of the cabs and other vehicles used in transfer of passengers, the rent revenues of buildings and offices, and the yields of a field.
Certain properties such as houses, fields, buildings, machines, instruments, vehicles etc. that are owned not for commercial purposes, but just as an investment as well as an artisan’s equipment and a scholar’s books are not subject to zakat.
- A year should pass after the possession of the property: After the increasing type of property reaches the amount of nisab, it will not be subject to zakat until a full lunar year passes over it. The amount of nisab should be maintained throughout the year. If the amount of property falls under the amount of nisab during the year, it will not be subject to zakat. According to the Hanafi School, the decreases and increases throughout the year under and above the amount of nisab do not affect the requirement of zakat.
Zakat for the property over which a lunar year passes is paid based on the amount at the end of the year. For example, one who has 40 sheep on the 5th of Ramadan and his herd increases to 121 sheep by the 5th of the following Ramadan. His zakat is calculated to be 121 sheep (2 sheep).
The passage of a lunar year is a condition for cash, gold, silver, and commercial commodities and grazing (sa’ima) animals. However, it is not required for mines, treasures, grains and fruits. As soon as the mines are extracted; treasures are found; and grains and fruits are harvested, they become subject to zakat.
- The property should be under absolute and undivided ownership: In order to be subject to zakat, the property must be under one’s full ownership. Muslim jurists explain the requirement of absolute right of ownership as follows:
- Those who harvest the grass growing by itself in the wildernesses but not in private lands do not have to pay zakat.
- Because mukatab slaves (slaves with contracts of manumission) do not have absolute right of ownership, they are not required to pay zakat.
- Zakat on lost, usurped and disclaimed properties can only be paid for after they are fully owned.
- If one takes money as a loan from a person and a year passes while this money is in his hands as a loan, the debtor must pay its zakat. Because even if it is a loan, if money or property stays in the hands of a person for a year, it becomes like his own property.
- One who has receivable debt from another person must pay its zakat after a lunar year passes if it is more than the amount of nisab either by the debt itself or together with the rest of his wealth.
- Collecting the receivable debt is not among the conditions of zakat. Zakat on receivable debt, whose creditors hope to receive back, meaning debts on parties who are capable of payment, is obligated on this category of debts yearly, as if they were property under their control. However, if it is not collected due to the poverty of the debtor or the denial of his debt, it does not become obligatory to pay its zakat immediately. Zakat on such receivables is paid when they are collected.
- If the debt is not collected for more than a year, then one should pay zakat for the previous years on the debt given in the form of gold, silver, cash, or commercial merchandise after he collects it. However, it is not obligatory to pay its zakat for the previous years if the debt is in the form of animal or food items.
- It is not permissible to count the receivable debt given to a poor in place of zakat before collecting it.
- It is not obligatory to pay zakat on properties, which used to belong to a person but no longer under his control and there is no possibility it will be under his control again. Goods that are lost in the sea and are not found, goods buried in the wilderness and forgotten, and receivable debts that are denied and impossible to be proven are examples of this type. However, if one day somehow these goods are taken into ownership then one should pay their zakat for the previous years as well.
- Zakat on wealth acquired by unlawful means, such as theft, counterfeiting, bribery, interest, monopoly or cheating is not paid. Such wealth should be returned to its legitimate owner if known. If the owner is unknown, it should be given as charity. If lawful wealth is mixed with unlawful gains, and if it is not possible to separate them, one must pay zakat on all of the wealth.
- If one who is obliged to pay zakat does not pay it and dies even if he has means to pay it, the amount of zakat that he needs to pay should be paid out of his inheritance. If he has the opportunity to pay zakat, but does not pay it, he becomes a sinner. Death does not remove the responsibility to pay zakat.
 It is pointed out in hadīths that in cases of legal disagreements, Meccan currency should be accepted as the measure.
 Al-Shirbini, Mughni al-Muhtaj, 2/125
Source: Fiqh1 (According To The Shafi’i School Of Islamic Law), Erkam Publications