Obligation To Pay The Zakah On The Behalf Of One’s Wife

Question

I was married on 31/12/2001 and I presume a complete calendar year as my zakat year. Before marriage I was not eligible for zakat. I have only gold on which I am paying zakat since last 8 years with a self developed understanding that whatever is with me or with my wife is mine; I am owner and I am supposed to pay zakat from my income. I & my wife have no issues in ownership of gold belongings and I always paid in excess of what is required to pay. I never asked my wife that I am paying zakat on her behalf or vice versa but she knows that I am paying zakat on gold which is definitely in her care. Recently someone brought in our knowledge that my wife is the actual owner of gold and whatever I paid without asking my wife is simply a sadqa and still my wife has to pay zakat on gold for last 8 years. I need your guidance for now and for future. (Continuation of above details) I purchased a flat as personal residence by taking loan in 2008. Now if gold is my wealth then I am not eligible for zakat due to loan that offset my wealth but if it is my wife's property then I am supposed to pay Zakat. Advise me on this matter also. (Continuation of above details) My father/mother encouraged me to go for the purchase of home as they wanted to spend last few years of their life in their own house although they advised me to purchase this in my name to avoid future complications. I gathered all the money with me, from office loan, with my mother and with my father while I was very much clear that I will refund whatever contributed by my father and mother after paying home loan from my office. My parents presumed that money contributed by them is in my care and they are not supposed to pay zakat on it. On the other side I am not liable for zakat due to the loan that is payable to my office. I need your clear guidance that who is responsible for the payment of zakat on contribution of my parents.


Answer

As regards the question of paying the zakat due on gold you and your wife own there is no problem with what you have done. We know that in most cases all the financial responsibilities of the wives are taken by their husbands. The amount due to them is also paid by their husbands and it is considered paid. God does not intend to put the humans under unbearable burdens by stressing such legal hair splitting. We can even pay the amount due to someone whom we do not know and God will accept that from that person and will not hold that person in account for failing to earn and spend by himself. The only thing that matters is niyah (intention). You paid the zakah with the intention to pay it on the behalf of your wife and when she came to know this she did not have any objection. This makes the whole transaction proper and acceptable.

As for the issue of zakat on the house that you purchased and the amount contributed by your parents you do not need to pay the zakah on the house that is in yours or your parent's personal use. It is not a commercial enterprise. All the assets that are in our personal use are not zakated. Therefore neither you nor your parents need to pay the zakah on the amount they contributed to the purchase of the house.

I must however explain an important issue regarding gold you own. You think that as long as you are in debt you do not need to pay the zakah on gold you possess. It is not the case. You need to pay zakah on gold you possess if it is over and above the exempted amount (nisab). Take the following example. I owe Mr X $100,000. I have the option to pay back the amount in three years. I have however with me gold worth 70,000. If I hand over gold to my creditor against 70,000 then I am no more obliged to pay zakah for I have nothing in my possession. However, if I plan to pay back the loan after three years then gold I own has to be zakated.

It means you should pay the zakah on gold you own. If you and your wife are clear that gold is her ownership then the burden to pay zakah is upon her. If you decide to pay on her behalf then she is released of the obligation but if you do not she has to pay the zakah due on it.

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