Answered by Shaykh Faraz A. Khan
Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,
I pray this finds you in the best of health and states.
(Q1) I converted to Islam on May 6, 2009. I already met the nisaab amount at the time. However, as I did not know enough about zakat and Islam in general at the time, I set my “start date” for the beginning of my first zakat year as the first date of Ramadan that year (end of August, 2009). Is it permissible to do this, or should I have started on May 6th, 2009?
I paid zakat at the end of that first lunar year, and now I am calculating my zakat for the end of my second lunar year. I am unfortunately already late paying my zakat (it should have been paid at the beginning of Ramadan based on my calculation). So I am not sure how I would go back and calculate zakat as of August 1, 2011?
Answer: You should have started on May 6, 2009, which based on a quick conversion I did corresponds with [Wednesday 11 Jumaada al-awal 1430 A.H.] (please confirm on your own…there could be a difference of one day or so).
Try your best to ascertain how much zakatable wealth you owned after 1 lunar year from that date, i.e., 11 Jumaada al-awal 1431 AH, and pay the difference if it is more than what you paid on Ramadan 1, 1431AH (2010). A sincere educated guess/attempt is sufficient inshaAllah. From now on, every year, use the Islamic date corresponding to May 6, 2009.
(Q2) In addition, I now realize I miscalculated my previous year’s zakat because I deducted the full amount of a long term debt (student loan)…so now I probably owe more zakat due to this miscalculation…but it would be very difficult to piece together the numbers from back then to calculate what I should have owed…what should I do?
Answer: Again, try your best, estimate, and pay the difference. A sincere educated guess/attempt is sufficient inshaAllah.
(Q3) This is my current situation:
I have a student loan and still owe $15,000 as of today. I must pay minimum monthly installments of $320. However, I just went back to school as of August 2011 and am not required to make mandatory payments while in school. But interest does still accrue on a portion of the loan while I am in school. Also, I still plan to make monthly payments to pay off the loan faster and not allow interest to accrue.
I now know I cannot subtract the entire value of my student loan when calculating zakat…I can only subtract the most immediate installment due because it is considered a long-term debt. Does this mean I subtract the most immediate monthly installment, or the amount expected to be paid over the course of the coming year? How does this work now that technically my loan is deferred and as of August 2011, payments are technically not required? (though interest would accumulate)
Answer: You may still deduct the installments since you are currently paying it back. It remains a debt that you owe, even if they are not currently requiring payment. You should deduct the upcoming monthly installment, but may at most deduct the entire year.
(Q4) Currently my main assets are everything in my bank accounts (which does exceed the amount of the loan…but because I am now a PhD student, I know I will have major expenses coming up, so I do not want to pay off the entire loan amount right now).
My gold jewelry, i.e. wedding rings, shouldn’t count under assets because I do not think it exceeds 87 grams of gold (as per my understanding of Hanafi fiqh…I think Shafis/Malikis say women’s jewelery does not count at all and one does not pay zakat on it…is this the correct understanding?)
Answer: Because you have more than nisab in cash, you must also count all your gold and silver, regardless of its amount. The 87g criteria is if one only has gold…i.e., that is how much gold equals nisab. But gold and cash are combined, along with silver: once nisab is reached by any/all of these, then one counts all the cash/gold/silver one owns. So because you have nisab, count all your gold and silver.
(Q5) I am confused about what expenses can be deducted. My immediate expenses would be rent, utilities, food, and an overdue estimated tax payment that I still owe to the government. Do I subtract a month’s worth of expenses for whatever the coming month is? Year’s worth? None at all? And what about assets in terms of wages I expect to receive in the coming month/year? Also, what about expenses that are not strictly necessities like food/water, but which will be required of me for my current academic program (some expenses for research abroad that are not covered by my fellowship, items I am required to purchase, books, etc.)?
Answer: Normally, the only time one deducts expenses is if the bill has already come in…that is, once it is due. Based on this, the tax payment that is overdue would be deducted. The entire amount would be deducted since it is already overdue.
With regards to the other expenses you mention, contemporary scholars mention that one can deduct known upcoming expenses for the month–or up to a year of known expenses (e.g. medical bills, etc… of significant expenses), but only doing this when there is financial difficulty by not considering them.
Lastly, upcoming wages/assets are not given consideration in zakat…all that matters is what you own when the due date falls.
[Kasani, Bada`i al-Sana`i; Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]
And Allah knows best.
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani