Zakah is an act of worship in which eligible Muslims pay a specified amount of money (about 2.5% of one’s accumulated wealth) as a tax to be used to assist poor and needy persons in society. The annual payment of zakah “purifies” one’s income and wealth by reminding Muslims that their possessions are in reality a trust and a test from God, to be used not only for personal benefit, but for the benefit of others as well.
In the present era, no centralized authority collects zakah funds. Rather, zakah monies are collected by local masjids and institutions throughout the world. According to Islamic Law, these monies may not be used for masjid administration, to pay salaries of general institutional staff, or for other items covered in a general budget. Zakah funds may only be used for distribution to several categories of legitimate recipients (homeless, orphans, etc.) and for the administrative apparatus that makes this service possible.