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Last Updated: 2010/11/27
Summary of question
What are the objects on which zakat is either obligatory or recommend? Is zakat payable on currency notes?
question
A) Is the obligatory zakat payable only on nine objects? B) It is said that Imam Ali (a.s.) had also set a taxable limit on horses? Why did he do that? As well, why are there traditions implying the necessity of paying zakat on everything. C) Sometimes, it is said that gold and silver on which zakat was paid had been used as currency in transactions and daily bargain. Conclusively, the equivalent of it is not only jewelry made of gold and silver but it is also the currency notes and the deposits or property. Is what I have understood correct? Do gold and silver on which zakat is payable according to Islam substitute dinar and dirham?
Concise answer
It is obligatory to pay Zakat on nine well-known things as mentioned in the Epistles of Islamic Laws. Also, there are certain things from which Zakat is mustahab (recommended) to pay, as stated in jurisprudential and hadith sources. Those things are the female horse (mare), peas, lentils etc.  Likewise, some scholars have considered Zakat to be payable, as a measure of precaution, on commodities earned through trade and industry. The fact that Imam Ali (a.s) levied Zakat on horses can be a governmental order that is particular to his time. This is further endorsed by the fact that the Infallible Imams who came after him did not consider Zakat to be mandatory on horses.
In the distant past, coins were minted from valuable metals such as gold and silver. Those coins were used for every day transactions, evaluation units and calculation. In reality, these coins which were known as “gold dinars”, “silver dirham” were used as currency. However, gold dinar and silver dirham were gradually replaced by banknotes.
 
Detailed Answer
To get an answer to your question, it is necessary to take notice of the following points:
1. According to grand religious authorities “it is obligatory to pay Zakat on the following nine things: 1. Wheat, 2. Barley, 3. Dates, 4. Raisins, 5. Gold, 6. Silver, 7. Camel, 8. Cow, 9. Sheep (including goat).[1]
And if a person is the owner of any of these nine things he should, in accordance with the conditions which are mentioned in the Epistles of Islamic Laws, put their fixed quantity to one of the uses as prescribed.[2]
However, some jurisprudents have considered Zakat to be payable on the wealth in business, as a necessary precaution.[3] Some other scholars consider payment of Zakat on invested capital as recommended.[4]
2. Zakat is recommended on a number of things two of which are mentioned as under:
1-2. Female horse (mare) from which Zakat is paid in accordance with the following details:
The Zakat of every mare is two gold dinars per annum and if both of its parents are not original, the Zakat is one dinar.
There is a narration in hadith and jurisprudential books in this regard.[5] It is recommended to pay Zakat on a mare as stated in a narration from Imam Ali (a.s) who fixed two dinars as the tax for every mare.[6]
The fact that Imam Ali (a.s) levied Zakat on horses can be a governmental order that is particular to his time.[7] This is further endorsed by the fact that the Infallible Imams who came after him did not consider Zakat as mandatory on horses.
2-2. Some other things:
A) Things which grow from earth and which are sold by way of weight and measure such as rice, peas, lentils, mung and the likes, Zakat should be paid on them in the same way as it is paid on wheat, barely, dates and raisins but Zakat is not recommended on vegetables, melon, cucumber and the likes.
B) According to some jurists, it is recommended to pay Zakat on properties like orchards, caravansary, shops and the likes which are maintained or leased to someone[8] and also on wealth in business.[9]  There are also narrations according to which it is recommended to pay Zakat on everything that grows out of earth and which can be measured or weighed except vegetables and the likes.[10]
3. Gold and silver:
In old times, coins were minted from valuable metals such as copper, gold and silver. Those coins were used for every day transactions, evaluation units and calculation. In reality, these coins were used as “gold dinars”, “silver dirham” as currency.[11]
In hadith and jurisprudential books, the discussion revolves around coined gold and silver as “dinar”, “dirham” and “mithqal”[12] for fixing the taxable limit for Zakat.[13] As mentioned in the Manual of Islamic Laws (al-Resalah al-Amaliyah),[14] Zakat is payable on them, if certain conditions are met. One of those conditions is that gold and silver should be used as currency.
However, real cash like gold dinar and silver dirham which were used in the past in transactions were gradually replaced by pure credit cash (banknotes). Today credit money or what is known as “notes” is used as a replacement for gold and silver i.e. the very dinar and dirham that were used for every day transactions, evaluation units and calculation.
4. Zakat on Currency Notes
As for whether or not Zakat is payable on currency notes, we will cite some grand jurists’ fatwa in this regard:
Grand Jurists:
Imam Khomeini: “Zakat is not applicable to cash notes[15] (like currency notes[16]).”
Gulpaigani: “Zakat is not payable on currency notes.”[17]
Makarem Shirazi: “The recommended precaution is to give Zakat on current currencies such as currency notes, in the existence of other conditions.”[18], [19]
 

[1] Tawzih al-Masail (with annotation by Imam Khomeini), vol.2, p. 107, issue No.1853.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid. Grand Ayatollah Sistani: “As an obligatory precaution, upon the wealth in business”.
[4] Ibid. Grand Ayatollah Fazel Lankarani: “It is recommended that Zakat should also be paid from the capital of business, trade and commerce every year”; Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi: “It is recommended that Zakat should also be paid from the capital of business, trade and commerce every year. Similarly, it is recommended to pay Zakat on grains other than wheat, barley, dates and raisins.”
[5] Hilli, Hasan bin Yusuf, Tazkeratul Fuqaha, vol.5, pp. 231 – 232, Aalulbayt (a.s.) Institute, Qom, first edition. This is the Arabic version of the hadith:
«زرارة قال للصادق (ع): هل في البغال شي‏ء؟ قال: «لا» فقلت: فكيف صار على الخيل و لم يصر على البغال؟ فقال: «لأنّ البغال لا تلقح، و الخيل الإناث ينتجن، و ليس على الخيل الذكور شي‏ء» قال، قلت: هل على الفرس و البعير يكون للرجل يركبها شي‏ء؟ فقال: «لا، ليس على ما يعلف شي‏ء، إنّما الصدقة على السائمة المرسلة في مرجها عامها الذي يقتنيها فيه الرجل، فأمّا ما سوى ذلك فليس فيه شي‏ء».
(Kulayni, Abu Ja’far Muhammad bin Ya’qub, al-Kafi, vol.3, p. 530, Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyah, Tehran, fourth edition, 1407 A.H.)
[6] Al-Kafi, vol.3, p. 530. The Arabic version of the narration is as under:
«عَلِيُّ بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ عَنْ أَبِيهِ عَنْ حَمَّادِ بْنِ عِيسَى عَنْ حَرِيزٍ عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ مُسْلِمٍ وَ زُرَارَةَ عَنْهُمَا جَمِيعاً (ع) قَالا وَضَعَ أَمِيرُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (ع) عَلَى الْخَيْلِ الْعِتَاقِ الرَّاعِيَةِ فِي كُلِّ فَرَسٍ فِي كُلِّ عَامٍ دِينَارَيْنِ وَ جَعَلَ عَلَى الْبَرَاذِينِ دِينَاراً».
[7] Mutahhari, Murteza, Islam and the Requirements of Time.
[8] Ibid; Muhaqiq Hilli, Najm al-Din Ja’far bin Hasan, Sharaye’ al-Islam fi Masail al-Halal wa al-Haram, vol.1, p. 130, Ismailiyan Institute, Qom, second edition, 1408 A.H.; Khoei, Sayyid Abul Qasim, Minhaaj al-Salehin, vol.1, p. 29, Nashr Madinat al-Ilm, Qom, 28th edition, 1410.
[9] Tawzih al-Masail (with annotation by Imam Khomeini) vol.2, p. 107, issue No. 1853; Al-Ghayah al-Quswa fi Tarjomat al-‘Urwah al-Wuthqa’, vol.2, p. 199; Sharaye’ al-Islam fi Masail al-Halal wa al-Haram, vol.1, p. 130.
[10] Vide: Hurr Amili, Muhammad bin Hasan, Wasail al-Shi’ah, vol.9, pp. 61 – 64, Aalulbayt (a.s.) Institute, Qom, first edition, 1409 A.H. The following narration is one of them:
« كُلُّ مَا كِيلَ بِالصَّاعِ فَبَلَغَ الْأَوْسَاقَ فَعَلَيْهِ الزَّكَاةُ وَ قَالَ جَعَلَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ (ص) الصَّدَقَةَ فِي كُلِّ شَيْ‏ءٍ أَنْبَتَتِ الْأَرْضُ إِلَّا مَا كَانَ فِي الْخُضَرِ وَ الْبُقُولِ وَ كُلَّ شَيْ‏ءٍ يَفْسُدُ مِنْ يَوْمِه».‏
[11] Mesbahi, Ghulam Reza, Imam Sadiq (a.s.) Journal, No. 13 and 14; Haeri, Sayyid Kazem, Ahlul-Bayt Jurisprudence Periodical (Farsi), No. 19 and 20.
[12] Wa’ez Zadeh Khurasani, Muhammad, Translation of al-Jamal wa al-Uqud fi al-‘Ibadat, p. 281.
[13] Vide: al-Kafi, vol.3, p. 515 – 517; Tawzih al-Masail (with annotation by Imam Khomeini), vol.2, p. 128 – 130; Tr Translation of al-Jamal wa al-Uqud fi al-‘Ibadat, p.270 – 271; al-Ghayah al-Quswa fi Tarjomat al-‘Urwatul Wuthqa, vol.2, pp. 208 – 209; Khomeini, Sayyid Rohullah, Tahrir al-Wasilah, vol.1, pp. 322 – 323, Darul Ilm Institute, Qom, first edition and other jurisprudential books.
[14] Manuals of Islamic Laws published by grand religious authorities, rules of Zakat.
[15] Tahrir al-Wasilah, vol.2, p.614, issue No. 7.
[16] Ibid. p. 615, issue No.5.
[17] Gulpaigani, Sayyid Muhammad Reza, Majma al-Masail, vol.1, p. 410, question 4, Dar al-Quran al-Karim, Qom, 2nd edition, 1409 A.H.
[18]  Tawzih al-Masail (with annotation by Imam Khomeini), vol.2, p. 131.
[19] Adapted entirely from answer 9422.
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