Answered by Shaykh Shuaib Ally
Question: Assalam alaykum,
In relation to past zakats, do I need to make these up, considering I didn’t even know what zakat was all those years ago and I started paying it once I had learnt about it?
Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,
It is praiseworthy of you to make a concerted effort to start learning about the fundamentals of your religion.
[In the Shafi`i school] Zakat is immediately obligatory on and tied to the wealth itself; a person’s knowledge or lack thereof does not affect whether or not it is so, and it remains obligatory until it is fulfilled.
Generally speaking, a person must make the requisite effort towards learning basic religious obligations – they are few; not doing so, when possible, is blameworthy and does not lift obligation.
Given that you were a Muslim at the time, it remains an immediate obligation on you to fulfill the missed years of zakat, calculated to the best of your ability.
May Allah facilitate this for you.