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Can zakat that was underpaid for a few years be paid in installments due to financial hardship?

Answered as per Hanafi Fiqh by Askimam.org

Unfortunately, upon converting to Islam, I was fairly ignorant about the rules of zakat. I did not look into the rules of zakat as much as I should have, and I now deeply regret this. I realized now that over the last three years, I underpaid my zakat and also donated some of my funyds to organizations that may not be zakat eligible. My intention was to properly pay zakat but my knowledge was severely lacking and I regrettably admit that there were times when I was careless about it and I know I should have sought clarification. I have repented for these errors and carelessness on my part. Attempting to pay back all of the missing zakat fees from these errors immediately will be doable but will cause considerable financial strain. I am wondering if it is fard to do so immediately or if it would be permissible to pay it over a longer time period, if I clearly marked out a plan to pay it back, paying off a portion every week or every month. If I have to pay it immediately, I will do so, as I really fear that Allah (swt) will be displeased with me for my actions.


In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.

May Allah reward you for your care and concern in fulfilling the obligations of Islam in the correct manner. It is a sign of your faith [iman] that you want to rectify past mistakes made with regard to the distribution of your zakat. 

Your efforts to please Allah are commendable and we make dua that Allah increase you in knowledge and strengthen your faith and make you a role-model for other Muslims. Ameen.

The jurists [fuqaha] state that one should not delay in paying the zakat without a reasonable excuse. If this delay extends to a year after it is due then one would be sinful.  [i][ii][iii]

However, in your situation, you did pay your zakat, except that you’ve now determined that your zakat was underpaid or not given to the proper recipients. Now, if you attempt to give back the previous years of unpaid zakat all at one time it will cause considerable financial strain and undue hardship for you as mentioned in your inquiry. 

Therefore, taking your situation into consideration, we advise that you pay any remaining and underpaid zakat by your next annual zakat date. If you find it easier then you can start paying smaller amounts now weekly or monthly as your financial situation permits so that you don’t have to pay a lump sum when your annual zakat date comes. [iv]

Take note that when determing unpaid zakat for the previous 3 years you can also deduct the amount of zakat that needs to be paid from your zakatable wealth for the 2nd and 3rd year. This will help lower the amount due each subsequent year. 

For example, if the amount of unpaid zakat due for the 1st year is $500, then when giving the zakat for the 2nd year you can deduct this $500 from your total zakatable wealth for the 2nd year’s zakat  and so on. [v][vi]  

Mufti Sohail ibn Arif,
Assistant Mufti, Darul Iftaa
Chicago, USA

Checked and Approved by,
Mufti Ebrahim Desai.


فيأثم بتأخيرها) بلا عذر) [i]

(قوله فيأثم بتأخيرها إلخ) ظاهره الإثم بالتأخير ولو قل كيوم أو يومين لأنهم فسروا الفور بأول أوقات الإمكان. وقد يقال المراد أن لا يؤخر إلى العام القابل لما في البدائع عن المنتقى بالنون إذا لم يؤد حتى مضى حولان فقد أساء وأثم اهـ فتأمل

رد المحتار، ٢/ ٢٧٢ 

[ii] وأما كيفية فرضيتها فقد اختلف فيها ذكر الكرخي أنها على الفور، وذكر في المنتقى ما يدل عليه فإنه قال: إذا لم

 يؤد الزكاة حتى مضى حولان فقد أساء وأثم

بدائع الصنائع، ٢/ ٣ 


كتاب النوازل، ٦/ ٥٤٦ – ٥٤٧ [iii]

كتاب الفتاوى، ٣/ ٣٢٢ – ٣٢٣ [iv]

إمداد الفتاوى، ٢/ ٦٤ – ٦٥ [v]

أحسن الفتاوى، ٤/ ٢٧٤ – ٢٧٥ [vi]

This answer was collected from Askimam.org, which is operated under the supervision of Mufti Ebrahim Desai from South Africa.

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