For a common person (one who is not involved in livestock or agriculture) all that needs to be taken into account for Zakah calculation is the following:
The amount of cash owned (be it on person, in the bank, or loaned out. This can be money earned or income from additional house, properties etc.) as well as the value of any gold or silver jewelry owned, (necklaces, watches, etc. but not the gems or stones within them), and also, if one is involved in trade, then the value of one’s stock/merchandise at that time constitutes one’s accountable total.
Debts owed to others should be calculated too and then deducted from the total zakatable assets.
Intention (Niyyah) of Zakah
The intention to give Zakah is a prerequisite for the discharge of the Zakah obligation (as in the case of Salaat and Saum). In the absence of such intention (whether due to ignorance or forgetfulness), the Zakah obligation is not discharged and the amount paid over to the recipient will deemed to be Nafl sadaqah.
The requirement of an intention to fulfill Zakah is necessary in order to distinguish payment of Zakah from other forms of compulsory and voluntary payments to poor and needy persons.
Following are some situations relating to the intention of Zakah.
• The Zakah obligation is discharged if the intention is made at either of two points of time:
(a) at the time of giving Zakah; or
(b) at the time of separating and setting aside the Zakah amount for distribution. In this case, the Zakah would only be discharged if the physical transfer to the needy recipient is made.
• If a person gives an amount of money or property to a poor and needy person who does not own nisaab, and fails to make any intention at the time of such payment, but thereafter makes an intention of Zakah, then:
(i) if such property or money is still in the hands of the poor and needy person, the Zakah obligation will be discharged;
(ii) if the property or money is no more in the hands of the poor and needy person, the intention so made does not suffice and the Zakah obligation is not discharged.
• If the Zakah payer or owner pays the Zakah amount to an agent for distribution to the recipients entitled and makes the intention at the time of such payment to the agent, then the Zakah obligation will be discharged if the agent gives Zakah to the poor without any intention on his part. This is because the intention of only the Zakah payer, and not that of his agent, is relevant for purpose of payment of Zakah.
• A person pays the Zakah of another from the latter’s property and without his permission, and thereafter such owner sanctions the payment. In such a case, if the amount paid is still in the hands of the needy recipient, the Zakah obligation is discharged. If not, the Zakah obligation will not be fulfilled and the payment will be in lieu of nafl sadaqah.
• A person gives an agent an amount of money for distribution as voluntary charity (nafl sadaqah). Prior to payment thereof by the agent to a poor and needy person (faqir), the owner makes an intention that the amount so given should represent Zakah in which event if such amount is thereafter given to the poor then the Zakah obligation would be discharged.
The principles of At-Tamleek
At-Tamleek means the transfer of ownership of Zakah from the Zakah payer to a poor and needy person. It is, in the context of Zakah, subject to the following conditions:
i) The transferor must be the Zakah payer (or his agent).
ii) The transferee (or recipient) must be a natural person entitled to receive Zakah in terms of the eight categories of the recipient of Zakah.
iii) The transfer of Zakah must be unconditional.
iv) The transfer of Zakah must not be a consideration for services rendered by the recipient.
v) The transferee (or recipient) must acquire physical possession of Zakah and thereby becomes the owner thereof.
If these conditions are not met, as for the instance where Zakah is paid as salary or used for building a mosque, the Zakah obligation is not discharged.
There is consensus amongst all the four schools of thought that Zakah cannot be used for public welfare projects. The position is summarized by Imam Abu Ubayd Qasim Ibn Sallam, is as follows:
In relation to paying the debts of a deceased person, or paying his burial expenses, or building a mosque, or digging a stream, similar public welfare schemes- Hadrat Sufyaan Thuri, and all the Ulama of Iraq and other Ulama are unanimous on the point that these works cannot be undertaken with Zakah money because they are not included in the eight categories of recipients mentioned by the Qur’an.