Definitions of Zakah, Infaq, and Shadaqah

We know zakah as one of five pillars in Islam, which in Al Quran is often linked to shalat. Etymologically, the word zaqah could mean pure, good, bless, grow, or develop. According to syariat terminology, zakah refers to wealth that has satisfied certain conditions that has been ordained by Allah to be spent and given to rightful recipients, who also have to satisfy certain conditions. The relationships among the meanings of the word zakah are clear that all properties whose zakah have been paid will be purified, cleaned, better, blessed, will grow and develop (At-Taubah:103 and Ar-Rum:39)

In principle, there are 2 types of zakat:

  • zakat-ul maal to which wealth or properties are subject to, and
  • zakat-ul fitra, which is levied on person and not on wealth. Zakat ul-fitr is mandatory for every Muslim, young, old, men, women, free and captive, and is paid in Ramadhan towards Eid-ul fitr.

Concepts and terms related to zakah include:

Person who are obliged to paid zakah because they have wealth or properties that are subject to zakah
Rightful recipients of zakah because they are included as one of those mentioned in Al-Quran as the recipients of zakah
A person or body or organisation that are specialised in managing zakah, infaq, and shadaqah
The minimal amount of wealth or properties that are subject to zakah. Wealth or properties that are less than nisab are not subject to zakah
For some kinds of wealth or properties, zakah is applied only when they are owned more than a certain period. This period is called haul.
Etimologically infaq means to spend wealth for a certain purpose. Included in this meaning is the infaq given by kafir (QS 8:36). According to syariah terms, infaq means to spend wealth for a certain purpose as guided by Islam.
The person who gives infaq
Etimologically shadaqah means correct. According to syariah terms, shadaqah means a good deed, not only but including spend some wealth/properties to and only to seek ridha from Allah swt, as an evidence of one's iman.
The person who gives shadaqah

The distinction between zakah, infaq, and shadaqah is defined as follows. Zakah and infaq always in the form of wealth or properties, whereas shadaqah is not always in the form of wealth or properties, but can also be good deeds, such as smiles, nice speech, etc. Zakah (mal) is only mandatory to those who has wealth above their means. Infaq could be mandatory to those has wealth above their means, but it could also be sunnah, which can be paid anytime by those who has wealth above their means as well as those who are not, as an evidence of people who are taqwa (QS 3:133-134).