Allah says, in Surah Al-An’aam:
وَهُوَ الَّذِي أَنشَأَ جَنَّاتٍ مَّعْرُوشَاتٍ وَغَيْرَ مَعْرُوشَاتٍ وَالنَّخْلَ وَالزَّرْعَ مُخْتَلِفًا أُكُلُهُ وَالزَّيْتُونَ وَالرُّمَّانَ مُتَشَابِهًا وَغَيْرَ مُتَشَابِهٍ كُلُواْ مِن ثَمَرِهِ إِذَا أَثْمَرَ وَآتُواْ حَقَّهُ يَوْمَ حَصَادِهِ وَلاَ تُسْرِفُواْ إِنَّهُ لاَ يُحِبُّ الْمُسْرِفِينَ
Translation: And it is He Who produces gardens trellised and untrellised, and datepalms, and crops of different shape and taste (its fruits and its seeds) and olives, and pomegranates, similar (in kind) and different (in taste). Eat of their fruit when they ripen, but pay the due thereof (i.e. zakaah) on the day of its harvest, and waste not by extravagance. Verily, He likes not Al-Musrifun (those who waste by extravagance), [Surah Al-An'aam, verse 141]1
This verse spells it out: pay the due on the day of the harvest. For fruit, the hawl (one year holding period) does not apply.
Zakaah is mainly focused away from fruit, and on plants–things that are the staple foods of people worldwide, like wheat, barley, salt, etc. things people need for sustenance. When it comes to fruit, fruit is more like a luxury–in the old days, diplomats came with watermelon, the ultimate gift–like “where’d you get watermelon in the middle of the desert?” It’s not something for someone to remain alive upon. And subhanallah, today, watermelon is just another fruit to us. How different our standards of life are.
There is a difference of opinion on what fruits and plants zakaah is paid on. According to the Shafi’ee madhab, zakaah is paid on plants and fruits that fill the stomach, are necessary, and can be stored. The key points are the latter two–something necessary and can be stored, becomes like an asset. Person collects all this harvest, they can keep it somewhere it won’t spoil quickly so they can distribute it.
Zakaah is paid on staples like: barley, wheat, corn, rice, lentils, chicpeas, beans, etc. Comfort-foods and other things non-essential to the diet don’t need zakaah paid on them–things like peaches, pears, figs, walnuts, almonds, pomagranates, etc.
In Somalian culture, for example, they eat bananas like people eat bread. So in that case, zakaah would be paid on harvest day. But in other cultures, bananas are a comfort food, a non-necessity, so zakaah is not paid on them.
The nisaab for plants is a net dried weight of 609.84kg (free of husks and chaff), and for rice and wheat (which are stored in the kernel) the nisaab is 1219.68kg.
In a hadith narrated by Abdullah ibn ‘Umar, the Messenger of Allah said, “For that which is watered by the sky or a spring, or by it’s roots, (the rate of zakaah) is one-tenth, and for that which is watered by a camel, (the rate of zakaah) is half of one-tenth.” [Bukhari]2
From this, we understand two things: zakaah paid on plants and fruits nurtured naturally is 10%–such as places where it rains, or a river flows through an area and all these trees sprout from it, zakaah in that case is 10%. Additionally, zakaah paid on and irrigated plants have a 5% zakaah rate–things where people have to make allowances to water them, like dig ditches and irrigation channels, and so on.
And finally, according to the Hanafi madhab, you pay the zakaah in what you’ve collected (with respect to plants and fruits). This is because, when zakaah collectors came in the time of the Prophet, you don’t see people pulling out wads of cash to give, but instead, the collectors take and distribute rice.
Wallahu ta’ala ‘alim.
(1) Khan, Muhsin, trans. “Quranic Realm.” Islamic Network. 12 May 2006 <http://quran.islamicnetwork.com/>.
(2) Muhammad Alshareef. Lecture. AlMaghrib. Rizq Management. University of Toronto, Toronto. June 2006.