Which Nisaab value should be used in Trinidad and Tobago when calculating Zakah, the value of the Silver Nisaab or the value of the Gold Nisaab?
بسم الله الرحـمن الرحيم
The Shariah mandates that Zakah be paid by the rich unto the poor. Furthermore, it considers a minimum threshold of wealth which serves as the criteria for richness. This threshold is termed the Nisaab. Therefore, if a person possesses wealth viz. Zakatable wealth (apart from his basic needs) amounting to or exceeding the Nisaab he is regarded wealthy by the Shariah and consequently is obligated to pay Zakah at the end of his Zakatable Year.
On the other hand, a person who does not possess wealth (Zakatable or non-Zakatable wealth, in excess of his basic needs) amounting to the value of the Nisaab is considered poor and can receive Zakah.
In summary, the Nisaab is the determining factor for richness and poverty i.e. based on the Nisaab, a person is either obligated to pay Zakah if he possesses it or is allowed to receive it if he does not possess it.
There are different types of wealth in which a person may possess, each of which Zakah is levied upon if its owner reaches its threshold. The Shariah has also stipulated the threshold for each type of wealth. Thus, anyone reaching any of these thresholds is considered wealthy according to the Shariah and thus obligated to pay Zakah (if the other conditions are met). Furthermore, the amount payable by the possessor of these thresholds is also stipulated by the Shari’ah.
As for Gold, the minimum threshold is 20 dinars (87 grams) and the amount payable is ½ dinaar (2.18 grams).
As for Silver, the minimum threshold 200 dirhams (612 grams), and the amount payable is 5 dirhams (15.3 grams)
As for Grazing Live Stock (Saaimah); for Goats & Sheep, the minimum threshold is 40 heads and the amount payable is 1 head or its value and for camels, the minimum threshold is 5 heads and the amount payable is 1 goat or sheep or its value.
The value of each of these Nusub (thresholds) stipulated by the Shariah were all equal in value at the time of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. Furthermore, the amount payable from each threshold of wealth was also equal in value.
The minimum threshold for Gold, Silver, Goats, Sheep, Cattle, etc were all the same. As for gold and silver, 20 dinars equated to 200 dirhams. One dinar was equal to ten dirhams thus twenty dinars (Nisaab for Gold) were equal to two hundred dirhams (Nisaab for Silver).
Imam Muhammad (r.a.) reports in his Kitaab al Athaar on the authority of Ubadia as-Salmani that Umar said (ra): the Diya for those paying in silver is 10,000 Dirhams and for those paying in Gold is 1000 Dinars. Thereafter Imam Muhammad mentions “and this is what we take”. This clearly shows that one dinar was equal to ten dirhams.
Imam al-Quduri (r.a.) mentions in his At-Tajreed that there are no differences of opinion that the Diya was 1000 dinars and that every dinar equated 10 dirhams, and for this reason, the Nisaab of gold (20 dinars) was made the Nisaab for silver (200 dirhams).
Imam at-Tahaawi (r.a.) mentions in his Shar al-Ma`aani al-Athaar that Abdullah bin Masood (ra) said: “the hand of a thief would not be severed except for one dinar or ten dirhams”
The value of a goat/sheep was equal to five dirhams (half a dinar), which means that 200 dirhams (20 dinars) were equal to 40 goats/sheep which is the Nisaab for goats/sheep. The Diyah (blood money) as stated above, its value at the time of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ in relation to gold was 1000 dinars and for those paying using sheep/goats, it was 2000 heads (refer to Kitab al Athar). This means that one sheep/goat valued ½ dinar and therefore 40 goats (Nisaab) will equate 20 dinars.
Imam As-Sarakhsi (r.a.) mentions in his Mabsoot, Allaamah al-Baabarti in his commentary of Al-Hidayah (al-Inayah), Allaamah al-Ayni in his commentary of al-Hidaya (al-binayah) and Imam al-Quduri in his encyclopedia of Fiqh (at-tajreed), that value of a sheep was five dirhams.
As for the camel, Imam As-Sarakhsi states in his Mabsoot that a bint al makhaadh a camel that completed one entire year was equivalent to forty dirhams thus the obligation of Zakah upon five camels is similar to its obligation upon two hundred dirhams. He further states that for this reason two goats are given in Zakah upon 10 camels. This is because 2 goats equated 10 dirhams and 10 camels equated 400 dirhams, 10 from 400 is 2 ½ %, and 3 goats upon 15 camels and 4 goats upon 20 camels is also 2 ½ %.
With regards to silver, as time elapsed its value in relation to gold depreciated. Despite the depreciation, the Islamic Jurists considered it a valid threshold and was considered a benchmark for richness. Thus, a person possessing the silver Nisaab was considered rich and was obligated to pay Zakah (despite its value being lesser than that of the Gold Nisaab) as it still indicated to a level of richness.
The fundamental principle of Zakah is that it be taken from the rich and given to the poor. The Nusub (thresholds) were indicators of richness, as shown above. The Silver Nisaab, unlike the other categories of wealth, continued to depreciate with the passing of time. But despite its depreciation, a person was still regarded (to an extent) as being rich having possessed its Nisaab.
However, we are living in a time and place where, silver has depreciated so drastically, that it is no longer considered an item of worth and thus the one who possesses its Nisaab is not regarded as rich.
The cost of living in a country plays a vital role in determining what is regarded as richness and wealth. A person merely possessing the value of the Silver Nisaab is without doubt regarded as a poor person in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. And from the fundamental principles of Zakah is that; it is made obligatory only upon the rich and that the poor are entitled to receive it. Subsequently, the usage of the Silver Nisaab as the benchmark for richness undermines the principles of Zakah. This is because, its usage not only compels the poor to pay Zakah but moreover, prevents them from receiving what is due to them.
Presently, the government of Trinidad grants to its senior citizens a monthly pension of $3,500 TT which is above the value of the Nisaab for Silver. This pension grant aims to ensure that the basic needs of a single pensioner are met (food, medical, clothes, etc.). This means that anything lower than $3,500 may fail in fulfilling the needs of the pensioner. Therefore, how is it that the government, by allotting $3,500 TT, aims to cover the basic needs of one individual for a month and on the other hand we claim that a person possessing that amount or less is indeed rich, and instead of receiving Zakah he has to pay Zakah. More so, if he has a wife and children, all of whom are dependent on him.
Also, in trying to ensure that the basic needs of a person are met the government of Trinidad and Tobago increased the minimum wage from $15.00 per hour to $17.50 which amounts to $3,640.00 TT per month, (8hrs Mon-Sat) this is way above the present value of the silver Nisaab. How can a person surviving on minimum wage, after receiving his paycheck, be considered rich?
The Shariah prohibits in normal circumstances, that a person gives all his wealth in Sadaqah/charity or that he gives to an extent that the amount that remains with him is not sufficient for his own needs. Rather, Sadaqah should be given in such a manner that the giver is still rich.
Whereas in a case where a person possesses the silver Nisaab on the days of slaughtering then he is obliged to do Udhiya (Qurbani). One of three things would likely happen;
- He would purchase an animal and remain with money that would suffice him for a few days.
- He would purchase an animal and remain bankrupt
- He would become bankrupt and still have to borrow money to purchase that animal for Qurbani.
According to the Hanafi Madhab Sadaqatul Fitr becomes obligatory upon a person who possesses the Nisaab. However, according to the Shafi’e madhab it is Wajib upon that person who possesses that amount which is beyond the needs for a day or so. The Hanafi Jurists refute such a ruling stating that its obligation upon such an individual contradicts the Principle of Charity as he will give today and will be begging tomorrow. The Holy Prophet ﷺ has prohibited such an action. Thus, if a person merely possessing the silver Nisaab is obliged to perform Qurbani, it falls under the prohibition mentioned in the Hadith.
A person possessing 40 goats (saa-imah/grazing live-stock) is obliged to pay/give one head (2 ½ %) or its value to a poor person. If the Silver Nisaab is used when calculating Zakah, the poor, after receiving 2 ½ % of the payer’s Nisaab may be obliged to give Zakah as the value of one goat or sheep equate the value of the Silver Nisaab.
The reality is that the value of silver has depreciated to the extent that when compared to the other thresholds of wealth, it does not have any significant value. The present value of the Gold Nisaab in Trinidad is approx. $35,000.00 and the Goat/Sheep Nisaab is approx. $40,000.00, whereas the silver Nisaab is approx. $3,000. The Silver Nisaab, when compared with the Gold Nisaab it is almost 12 times less than its value. Furthermore, the value of the Silver Nisaab does not reflect richness and wealth, and thus regarding it as a benchmark for richness contradicts the principles and concept of Zakah. On the other hand, the Gold Nisaab in our present times is closer in value to the other Nusubs (thresholds of wealth) mentioned by the Prophet ﷺ.
The Jurists unanimously agree that a person possessing 4 camels and 39 goats is a poor person and thus does not have to pay Zakah. How is it that a person possessing that amount of money which can purchase one goat (possibly two) is obligated to pay Zakah.
Alaamah Shaa Walliyullah Ad- Dihlawi states in his Hujjatullah Al-Baligha: The Nisaab has been stipulated by the Shariah to be five Awaaq of Silver coins (i.e. 200 dirhams), as this amount is sufficient for an average family for a period of one year. Looking at our condition here in Trinidad and Tobago, the monthly pension; $3,500, which seeks to cover the basic needs of a single person amounts to $42,000 annually. Furthermore, the minimum wage per hour introduced by the Government; $17.50 amounts to approx. $43,000 annually. One can easily conclude that these statistics are reflected by the Gold Nisaab as opposed to the Silver Nisaab.
The value of any currency is based on its Purchasing-Power as the currency itself has no value whatsoever in its original form. If the Trinidad and Tobago currency were to decrease in value for example by 50% this year, would a person possessing say, $100,000 have the same purchasing power he had the previous year? The reality is, in the case of the Silver Nisaab its present purchasing- power has decreased to approx. 90% in relation to the Gold Nisaab. Thus, it is no longer reflective of any form of richness and therefore should not be used as its benchmark. What if the value of the Silver Nisaab depreciates further in the upcoming years?
Presently the purchasing power of the entire Silver Nisaab is equal to the 1/40 (one-fortieth) of its initial value. Initially, a person possessing forty goats will pay one goat in Zakah (which is one-fortieth thereof). Today a person possessing money that has the purchasing power equal to one goat (possibly two) is obligated to pay Zakah. How is that possible?
In conclusion, taking the above mentioned into consideration we,the JMU Darul Iftaa, Trinidad and Tobago, have decided (a few years ago) to adopt the value of the Gold Nisaab when calculating Zakah as it shows some extent of richness as opposed to the value of the Silver Nisaab. Furthermore, the usage of the Silver Nisaab goes against the concept of Zakah. The Prophet ﷺ said that Zakah is taken from the rich and given to the poor. The usage of the Silver Nisaab does the opposite i.e. it is taken from the Faqeer (poor) and given to the Miskeen (poorer)
If is often argued that the principle “what is more beneficial to the poor” supports the usage of the lower value Nisaab, which is the Silver. The rationale is that, its usage (Silver Nisaab), will compel more people to pay Zakah and in that way more poor people will be benefitted. This argument was supported at a time when the value of the Silver Nisaab reflected some level of richness despite being lesser in value in relation to the Gold Nisaab (as mentioned our Islamic Jurists). However, the reality of the matter is that the usage of the Gold Nisaab is more beneficial to poor whereas the usage of the Silver Nisaab is more harmful to them. At present the Value of the Silver Nisaab is $3500tt, last year (2020), it was approx. $2000tt. Those poor individuals who possess or possessed merely the silver Nisaab would pay or have paid $87.50tt or $50tt which may not have been difficult or harmful upon them. However, what is difficult and detrimental upon them is that, they are being deprived and prevented from receiving that which they are entitled to (as they are indeed poor).
NB: The usage of the Gold Nisaab in calculating Zakah is also the view by many contemporary Ulama and Islamic Institutions. Some of them are as follows;
- American Fiqh Academy (endorsed by Mufti Ebrahim Desai)
- Fatawa Darul Uloom Zakariya (Mufti Radha al-Haq)
- Alaamah Yusuf al-Qardhawi
- Mufti Khalid Sayfullah Rahmani
- Mufti Saeed Ahmad Palanpuri
NB: However, due to differences of opinion regarding the matter, if an individual chooses to discharge his Zakah based on the value of the Nisaab of silver, it will also be permissible.
And Allah Ta’ala Knows Best
Mufti Kaleem Muhammad
Darul Iftaa, Jaamia Madinatul Uloom
  (أوجز المسالك ص ٥٥٢ ج ٣) جعل عمر رضي الله عنه الجزية أربعة دنانير على أهل الذهب ، وأربعين درهمًا على أهل الورق
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وبنت المخاض بأربعين درهما فإيجاب الزكاة في خمس من الإبل كإيجاب الزكاة في مائتي درهم. وإن أدنى الأسباب التي تجب فيها الزكاة من الإبل بنت مخاض وفي العشر شاتان وفي خمسة عشر ثلاث شياه وفي عشرين أربع شياه وفي خمس وعشرين بنت مخاض وعلى هذا اتفقت الآثار وأجمع العلماء – رحمهم الله
 وفي فتح الباري: والمختار أن معنى الحديث أفضل الصدقة ما وقع بعد القيام بحقوق النفس والعيال بحيث لا يصير المتصدق محتاجاً بعد صدقته إلى أحد فيقول رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: أفضل الصدقة أو خير الصدقة عن ظهر غنى، واليد العليا خير من اليد السفلى، وابدأ بمن تعول. متفق عليه، قال النووي: قوله صلى الله عليه وسلم (وخير الصدقة عن ظهر غنى) معناه: أفضل الصدقة ما بقي صاحبها بعدها مستغنياً بما بقي معه، وتقديره: أفضل الصدقة ما أبقت بعدها غنى يعتمده صاحبها ويستظهر به على مصالحه وحوائجه، وإنما كانت هذه أفضل الصدقة بالنسبة إلى من تصدق بجميع ماله، لأن من تصدق بالجميع يندم غالباً أو قد يندم إذا احتاج، ويود أنه لم يتصدق بخلاف من بقي بعدها مستغنياً فإنه لا يندم عليها بل يسر بها
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