How Should Zakat Be Given?


Question: In the past, zakat was given from commodities one buys and sells, or their equivalent in gold was given. However, today paper money is used instead of gold coins. Why can we not pay zakat in paper money? Should we not use a plane simply because people used bullock carts in the past? We should do what modern people do today. Is it not wrong to do what ancient people did and thus to adopt a different way?
It is a very wrong analogy. Allahu ta’ala says, “I have completed your religion. There is not a flaw in it.” Religious rulings do not change with time. Changing the religion over time is a reform in the religion. Traditions may change over time, but religious rulings do not change. Bullock carts  and planes are customary things, and there may be changes in customs. It is the order of our religion to keep up with the latest technological developments. Making alterations to acts of worship means changing the religion. That is, it is not to like the manners of ibadah ordered by Allah.

There is nothing wrong with following customs unless they are contrary to Islam. If they go against Islam, then it is not permissible to follow them by saying “Now everybody follows them.” For example, because majority of people do not wear in the manner ordered by Islam, one cannot say “Everybody wear indecently. What if I do likewise?” Similarly, one cannot say “Now, everybody gives zakat as food instead of the things they buy and sell. What if I do so?” We must do whatever our religion prescribes. What everybody does is not a criterion.