Answered by Shaykh Omar Qureshi
Question: My question is particular to the Shafi’i school.
Is it permissible to pay zakah in advance of the fiscal year-end, for more than one year. Can I, for example, pay 2 or 3 years of zakah in advance. Of course making sure to make necessary adjustments in the future if there is any shortfall.
Answer: Assalamu ‘alaikum.
In the Shafi’i school, a person may pay one’s Zakat in advance of possessing the wealth for one lunar year (hawl). There are, however, conditions to advance payment. In order for one’s advance payment of Zakat to be valid:
1) One must possess the Zakat-payable amount (nisab). If one wants to pay in advance and does not possess an amount that obligates one to pay Zakat (nisab) then one may not pay in advance. This is because it is the nisab that makes paying Zakat obligatory, and if one does not possess the nisab then paying Zakat does not make much sense. It is equivalent to paying money for something one has not bought. But then after a year if ones decided to purchase the item, one cannot say to the seller, “Please consider the money that I gave to you one year ago as payment for this item.”
2) The person paying in advance must be eligible to pay Zakat for the entire year that they have paid in advance for.
3) The property for which one is paying Zakat has not been destroyed nor has decreased under the Zakat-payable amount (nisab) for the duration of that year.
4) The recipient of the Zakat remain eligible for receiving Zakat for the duration of that year.
Shafi’i scholars also stipulate that one can only pay in advance for one year. Therefore, one may not pay Zakat for two or five years in advance. (Bushra al-Karim, pg. 520-23, Fiqh al-Manhaji, pg. 315-316)
It is permissible, in the Shafi’i school, to pay Zakat al-Fitr once the month of Ramadan begins. One need not wait until after Fajr prayer the day of Eid to pay Zakat al-Fitr.
There are other details to this issue, inshaAllah what is here serves as sufficient guidelines one can follow.
Allah the Exalted knows.
Shaykh Omar Qureshi completed his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Missouri – Columbia in Microbiology in 1995 and later obtained a M.Ed. in Science Education – Curriculum and Instruction from the same institution. As a teacher in Saudi Arabia, he also studied various Islamic Sciences with Sh. Salman Abu-Ghuddah. He continued his Islamic studies in Damascus, Syria at Ma’had al-Tahdhib wa-l-Ta’lim and privately with local Damascene scholars such as Sh. Hussain Darwish. Currently Omar serves as the Dean of Academics and Instruction at Islamic Foundation School located at Villa Park, Illinois. In addition to teaching, he is pursuing a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Education and Comparative Education at Loyola University in Chicago, where he is focusing on Muslim moral educational philosophy.