Intention (niyyat) when paying Zakat
Q: Is it important to have an intention when giving Zakat, just as we make an intention before praying (salah)?
A: As Zakat is an act of worship, to have an intention is a condition of its validity. The majority of scholars from the four schools of jurisprudence are in agreement on this matter. The intention must be there at the time of paying the Zakat.
According to the Hanafis, Malikis, and Shafiis the intention can also be made at the time of setting money aside for the payment of Zakat.
There is nothing specific to say when making this intention. It suffices to merely have the thought in your mind.
If a person makes a donation without having the intention for Zakat, then this donation will not be counted as Zakat. If later they make the intention for this donation to count towards their Zakat, it will still not be valid. The liability of the Zakat will remain until they make the donation again with the Zakat intention.
Having an intention of paying ‘Zakat’ is necessary. Zakat is an act of worship and all acts of worship require an intention.
The intention is to be conscious of what one is doing. It is not necessary to verbalise an intention.
When giving Zakat, the intention of the individual should be based on fulfilling Allah’s commandments. Giving Zakat with pure and sincere intentions will ensure rewards in the hereafter; Sūrah Al-Baqarah (2:276) tells us that: “Allah will deprive usury of all blessing, but will give increase for deeds of charity: For He does not love the one who is ungrateful and wicked.”
Q: My father isn’t practising and has never paid Zakat. Can I pay Zakat on his behalf?
A: The Zakat paid on behalf of a sane adult will not be valid if it has been paid without their permission.
As explained above, for the Zakat to be valid, there must be an intention from the payer which clearly isn’t the case in your situation, unless you seek your father’s permission.
There is no disagreement on this issue between any of the four schools of jurisprudence.
Q: Due to the lack of knowledge about its calculation, I never calculated and paid Zakat in the past. However, I have been sponsoring a poor orphan for many years now. Would the money I have been contributing towards this poor orphan count as Zakat or do I have to recalculate and pay the Zakat for the previous years?
A: Yes you will have to recalculate and pay the Zakat for the previous years. The money you have been giving to this orphan is an act of virtue and InshaAllah you will get immense rewards for it. However, this cannot be considered to be Zakat.
One of the conditions of the validity of the Zakat is that one must have the intention of giving Zakat (see first question on this page).
Reviewed on 02/02/2021