zakat [key] [Arab.,=purification], Islamic religious tax, one of the five basic requirements (arkan or “pillars”) of Islam. All adult Muslims of sound mind and body with a set level of income and assets are expected to pay zakat. Zakat is due yearly on certain types of property and is distributed to eight categories of individuals specified by the Qur'an. These categories are usually defined to include orphans, the poor, travelers, beggars, debtors, slaves, and the efforts to propagate Islam. Zakat is payable, at different rates, on crops, harvests, herds, gold and silver, and merchandise. For gold and silver, which is understood to include all liquid assets, the rate is 2.5%. Being religiously prescribed, zakat is distinct from charity (sadaqa) which is voluntary. Zakat is essentially a personal exercise with no intermediary control, and could be given directly to its recipients, although a central treasury often collects it. In recent times, Pakistan, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia have enacted legislation to enforce the zakat.
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