Assalaamu alaikum, A sister from our forums is asking the following question. We hope that you will be to answer it: "If a person owns a small amount of jewelry (a couple hundred dollars worth), and the same person has thousands of dollars of debt (owed from before accepting Islam), and the person doesn't have any wealth that has been sitting for 1 year, so, does the person have to pay zakat for the jewelry or not since he/she is drowning in debts? Another question, If that person is married, but the debts are only under one person's name (accrued by one of them only), but both feel responsible to pay it back, then does the other spouse need to pay zakat for his/her wealth/assets? I guess really my question is, Are the finances considered combined or separate for the purposes of calculating Zakat?" Jazak Allah khair
All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger.
You did not clarify to us whether this gold is possessed for saving and trading, or for using as an adornment.
The predominant opinion is that of the majority of the scholars who believe that there is no Zakah on gold if it used for adornment. However, some of them believe that Zakah must be paid on it if it reaches the Nisaab (i.e. the minimum amount liable for Zakah) and a whole lunar year elapses on it.
According to the view that Zakah must be paid on this gold, the majority of the scholars are of the view that if one has debts he is not obliged to pay Zakah on items like gold, silver or cash money unless the debtor has other wealth on which one should pay Zakah, and is enough to cover the amount of debt. In this case, he must first pay the debt and then pay Zakah on the remaining money if it reaches the Nisaab .
Therefore, if the question is about a woman's adornment, then according to the view that Zakah must be paid on the gold that is used as an adornment or saved for use, then she must pay her debts from the gold which she possesses. After this, if nothing remains of it, or what remains of it is less than the Nisaab , she is not required to pay Zakah.
However, it cannot be imagined that the gold that a man possesses is for adornment and use, as he is religiously prohibited from wearing it. Hence, if the owner of this gold is a man, then he should repay his debts (from the gold) and then pay the Zakah on the remaining gold in any case if it reaches the Nisaab since he possesses that gold.
Zakah must also be paid on the gold that is saved or used in trade (after paying the debts and provided it reaches the Nisaab ), whether the owner is a man or a woman.
A husband is not obliged to pay the Zakah which is due on his wife; likewise, a wife is not obliged to pay the Zakah which is due on her husband. Moreover, the spouses are not obliged to add together the money that they possess in order to calculate the amount of Zakah due. Rather, each one of them is required to pay Zakah on his own money if it fulfils the conditions of Zakah. Each one of them has a separate monetary entity.
Allah Knows best.
Fatwa answered by:The Fatwa Center at Islamweb