What should a person do if they were negligent of paying zakah for the last 4 or so years? He didn’t purposely leave it off, rather he was ignorant of it and its rulings. If he pays this year’s worth of zakah, what should he do about the previous years? And if he does have to pay for the previous years, does he have to pay for it all at once now?
Yes, it is mandatory to pay Zakah for all those years once he is financially capable. As the Ulema have stated:
Ash-Shaykh Yahya al-Hajooree, may Allah preserve him, said:
ومن فاته بعض الأعوام فلم يخرج فيه زكاة الذهب والفضة وما كان من بابها من العملات؛ لسبب من الأسباب: إما لعدم معرفة الحكم، أو لفتوى باطلة؛ فعليه زكاة ما فاته، سواء قلت السنوات أو كثرت ما دام نصابًا، ولا يأثم بعد ذلك إن شاء الله.
“… And whosoever missed some years wherein he didn’t pay Zakah of gold or silver or of that which is from its likes of the [different types] of currencies, [and it being] for a certain reason either due to him being unaware of the ruling or due to him being given a wrong fatwa, then he should pay the Zakah of what he missed regardless of the amount of years as long as it is in accordance to the nisaab and he won’t be in sin after that inshaa Allah”
Ash-Shaykh Ibn Baaz, rahimahullah, said when he was asked regarding this matter:
“You must pay Zakah for all the past years, and it is not waived due to your ignorance because the obligation of Zakah is Ma`lum minad-din biddarurah [well-established and known Islamic principle] which is known to all Muslims. Zakah is the third pillar of Islam. What you must do is to hasten to pay Zakah for all the past years, and repent to Allah [Glorified and Exalted be He] for delaying it. May Allah forgive us, you and all Muslims. May Allah grant us success.”
Though there is another fatwa of Shaykh Bin Baaz stating otherwise as seen here
However, the correct opinion as ash-Shaykh Muqbil and Shaykh Albany and Shaykh Al-Uthaymeen and many others have stated is that the Zakah is still demanded from him since it is a right that belongs to the poor which isn’t waived off due to the person being ignorant regarding its rulings.
As for the calculation of it, then he should assess the amount of both the money he had as well as the years according to what he can remember. And there is no sin upon him for what he can’t recall due to the verse:
رَبَّنَا لاَ تُؤَاخِذْنَا إِن نَّسِينَا أَوْ أَخْطَأْنَا
Punish us not, O Lord, if we fail to remember or lapse into error
Ash-Shaykh Muhammad bin Saalih al-Uthaymeen, rahimahullah, said:
يقدرها بحيث يعرف كم كان ماله كل سنة ومعلوم أن الأموال النقدية فيها ربع العشر فيخرج ربع العشر من المال عن كل سنة وهو يرجع إلى ما مضى كم كان ماله عند الحول الأول وعند الحول الثاني وعند الحول الثالث وعند الحول الرابع حتى يتبين له وإذا كان في شك من هذا الأمر فإنه يتحرى ويحتاط في إبراء ذمته.
“He should make an estimation of it whereby he comes to know how much money he had for each year. And it is known that 2.5 % is due from the money. Therefore he should pay 2.5% of the money for each year. So he should return to the amount of money he had for the first year and the second year and the third year and for the fourth year up until it becomes clear for him, and if he has any doubts concerning this affair, then he should investigate and should be cautious in fulfilling his responsibility ”
[Fatawa Nur alaa Darb [#204]]
A Side Note: So for example, if a person here in Canada didn’t pay Zakah for three years and he had for the first year $8000 canadian dollars as his savings, then he would give 2.5% from it as his zakaat on behalf of that year and he would do the same for the rest of the years according to the amount he had for each year.
More information can be read about this topic here.
In conclusion, the person should hasten to pay the Zakah which he owes for the past years by paying it all at once if possible or else he can pay it according to what suits his financial state. Allah knows best.
Translated and Answered by
AbdulFattaah bin Uthman