Recommendation for the adoption of the Nissâb the lowest between gold and silver
|Zakat is an obligation that is part of the five pillars of Islam. It depends on the Nissâb, which is an Islamic concept representing the threshold of wealth from which zakât becomes obligatory for a person who possesses it for an entire year. Nowadays, gold and silver are the two means of estimating the Nissâb of contemporary banknotes. The Nissâb for gold corresponds to a weight of 85 grams of 24 carat gold (equivalent to €4759 today), while the Nissâb for silver corresponds to a weight of 595 grams (equivalent to €422 today). today). In prophetic times, the Nissab for gold and silver was identical and allowed the purchase of twenty sheep (about 3400 € nowadays). Throughout history, the Nissab of gold has increased, while that of silver has decreased. In the current historical context, marked by the high cost of living, precariousness and great poverty, where the price of gold has reached peaks, unlike that of silver which remains stable and low, the Muslim Theological Council de France (CTMF) strongly recommends, for the calculation of the Nissâb of Zakât Al-Mâl, to opt for silver. This CTMF recommendation is justified for the following reasons:
– The silver Nissab is established by authentic and famous hadiths, and has been unanimously accepted by scholars since the first centuries.
– The silver Nissab benefits the poor more than the gold one because it is the cheaper of the two. Indeed, the more expensive the gold, the higher its Nissâb becomes, which reduces the number of Muslims concerned by the payment of Zakat. Consequently, the amount distributed to the poor decreases considerably. On the other hand, the adoption of the silver Nissâb produces the opposite effect, with more resources coming from Zakat for those in need.
– He who, in addition to all his basic annual expenses (rent, food, clothing, etc.), manages to save an amount exceeding the Nissâb of silver or gold, without needing it for a whole year, reaches thus the minimum threshold of wealth in Islam and must pay Zakât Al-Mâl according to the four schools of Fiqh (Muslim jurisprudence).
– International Islamic Fiqh councils have recommended the adoption of the lowest Nisab between gold and silver, such as the Islamic Fiqh Council of Makkah in 1982 and the Islamic Fiqh Council of India in 1989 It should be noted that several dozen scholars from the Muslim world sit on these two councils.
For all these reasons, the CTMF recommends the adoption of the Nissâb of silver rather than that of gold.
The Theological Council of Muslims of France
For those who want more details and arguments, they can refer to the appendix (below) where additional information is provided.
Throughout history, the Nissab of gold has increased, allowing today the purchase of about thirty sheep, while the Nissab of silver has decreased, currently allowing the purchase of only three sheep. . Faced with this reality, some Muslim scholars have recommended, during the last century, the adoption of the Nissâb of gold, because it has retained its value unlike that of silver. Moreover, they found that wealth is not compatible with the Nisab of money, which is relatively low. It should be noted that the Prophet (salât and salâm of Allâh be upon him) said to Mu’âdh: “Inform them that Allâh has prescribed for them an alms from their property, which is taken from with their wealth and distributed to their poor! (Bukhari and Muslim). However, for them, a person who has a few hundred euros cannot be considered rich. However, in opposition to this view, many other scholars have preferred to retain the silver Nissab, based on the reasons given on the first page.
In the following paragraphs, we present arguments in favor of the adoption of the silver Nissâb.
1/ The historical evolution of gold and silver prices:
It is true that the price of silver has fallen, while that of gold has increased significantly. This means that the value of gold is not equivalent to that of prophetic times. For example, in 2007, the gold Nissab was around 1300€. Fifteen years later, it has now risen to €4759, which is a 366% increase. On the other hand, wages have not experienced such an increase in such a short time. Thus, a person who earned a salary of €2,000 in 2007 has not reached €7,320 today. This means that many Muslims who were above the wealth threshold at the time (1300€) and who paid their Zakât Al-Mâl are now below the current wealth threshold (4759€) and are therefore no longer required to pay Zakat. This considerably decreases the resources of Zakat for the needy.
It should be noted that neither the excessive decline in the value of silver nor the exponential rise in the value of gold are desirable, as they take us far away from the value of the Nisab in prophetic times. Neither gold nor silver have retained their purchasing power since the early days of Islam. Therefore, it is wiser today to favor the adoption of the silver Nissab, which becomes more beneficial for the poor despite its decline, rather than clinging to gold, which has not retained its value of the prophetic era and which does not currently benefit the needy.
2/ The compatibility of the silver Nissab with wealth:
It is necessary to clarify that when we talk about the Nissab of silver (422€), it does not mean that a person possessing this sum is considered rich in the absolute sense. At the same time, it is not a monthly salary of 422€, which indicates a level of poverty. On the contrary, it is a savings that remains equal to or greater than €422 for an entire year, in addition to basic needs such as rent, food, clothing, etc.
Take the example of a person who earns a monthly salary of €2500 and who, after paying the annual rent, the various charges, taxes, travel, etc. still manages to save €422. According to the Muslim conception of wealth, can we not consider this person to be rich since he has the silver Nissâb? This person, who has the necessary means to eat, dress and travel according to his wishes, with a surplus of €422, could he not then pay a Zakât equivalent to €10.55 (i.e. 2.5% of annual savings)?
3/ The great loss of the poor because of the adoption of the Nissâb of gold:
When we follow the golden Nissab and exempt those who save 1000€ annually from paying 25€, those who save 2000€ from paying 50€, those who save 3000€ from paying 75€ and those who save 4000€ from paying 100€ , because they are below the threshold of 4759€ (representing the golden Nissâb), we are simply depriving the poor of hundreds of millions of euros despite their obvious need and despite the high cost of living. Moreover, the prescription of Zakat was established with the aim of fighting against poverty, and the adoption of the golden Nissab today goes against this purpose.
In principle, the evil that affects the poor must be eliminated, according to a rule of Islamic science. Similarly, another rule states that the major evil must be eliminated by a minor evil. In this case, the major evil is the situation of the poor who do not receive enough Zakât, according to the golden Nissâb, while the minor evil concerns the rich, or people with fair average incomes, who fulfill Zakât according to the silver Nissâb.
Indeed, the harshness of poverty, if not mitigated by sufficient Zakât, can push some individuals to commit reprehensible acts. This could compromise the security and stability of a society. Therefore, adopting the silver Nisab is a simple and effective solution that benefits the poor without harming the rich.
4/ The meaning of wealth and poverty:
– Linguistic meaning:
According to Arabic dictionaries, the term “wealth” is associated with notions such as financial autonomy, ease, the absence of needs towards others, fortune and abundance of goods. Putting these different definitions together, we can conclude that wealth lies beyond an area of poverty and need, where financial autonomy and independence from others begin to manifest. It is in this area that the wealth is found. This linguistic interpretation suggests that wealth implies a level of self-sufficiency where the individual does not depend on others to support them. Thus, the minimum threshold of wealth is reached when a person reaches this state of autonomy and independence.
– The Quranic meaning of wealth and poverty:
A Koranic verse clearly gives the meaning of the two terms: “Let alms go in preference to the poor who have devoted themselves to the service of Allah, without being able to travel the world in order to earn their subsistence. To see their attitude so dignified, those who do not know them would take them for rich people. It is thanks to this particularity that we recognize them, because they do not bother anyone with their requests. (C2-V273).
In this same verse, God describes them as poor according to His divine knowledge, but the Arabs of the time considered them rich because of their attitude. Their appearance of wealth was due to the fact that they did not beg out of dignity and trust in God. Thus, according to the Arabs, one who does not beg, and is financially independent, is considered rich, even if he is not wealthy. Therefore, we can understand that the prophetic hadith ordering to take Zakat from the rich, is aimed at people who, in addition to their financial autonomy, possess any Nissâb in gold, silver or other goods.
– The meaning of wealth according to Islamic Fiqh:
The majority of legal schools (with the exception of the Hanafites) consider that the boundary between wealth and poverty is determined by the concept of financial autonomy (Al-Kifâyah). One who is below the threshold of financial autonomy is considered to be in need and entitled to receive Zakat without having the obligation to pay it. One who crosses the threshold of financial autonomy without reaching the Nissâb is not required to pay Zakat, because he does not have the required wealth for it, and he is not entitled to receive Zakat, because he is not considered poor. Finally, whoever exceeds the Nissâb for an entire year is required to pay Zakât without having the right to receive it.
However, Hanafis take a binary approach. Either a person is rich or he is poor. The needy person has the right to receive Zakat without having the obligation to pay it. On the other hand, the one who has the Nissâb, in addition to his basic needs, is considered rich and has the obligation to pay the Zakât without being able to receive it.
Thus, according to the unanimity of the four legal schools, a person who possesses the silver Nissâb (422€) for an entire year, above the threshold of financial autonomy and in addition to his basic needs, is held to pay the Zakat, the amount of which is only €10.55.
5/ The international councils of Islamic Fiqh:
In 1982, the Islamic Fiqh Council of Mecca recommended, by a majority, to adopt the lower Nissâb between gold and silver, ie silver. Then, in 1989, the Islamic Fiqh Council of India unanimously recommended its 70 participants to use the silver Nisab for the calculation of Zakat on property. These two international councils bring together the most eminent scholars of the Muslim world in matters of Fiqh.
At that time, the price of gold was much lower than its current value, and despite this, they favored silver for the calculation of the Nissâb. One can imagine what they could have said if they had seen the current Nissâb of gold which is around 5000€.
The Theological Council of Muslims of France