The majority of scholars, including the three imams Abu Haneefah, al-Shaafa’i and Ahmad, are of the view that zakaah is not due on an’aam animals (camels, cattle and sheep) unless they graze on pasture and their owner does not feed them. If they are fed [with food that is bought for them] then there is no zakaah on them.
They quoted several texts as evidence, including the following:
1 – The report narrated by al-Bukhaari (1454) from Anas, that Abu Bakr (may Allaah be pleased with him) wrote him the following letter when he sent him to Bahrain: “In the name of Allaah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. This is the obligation of zakaah which the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) enjoined on the Muslims and which Allaah enjoined upon His Messenger. Whoever among the Muslims is asked to pay it in the proper manner, let him give it and whoever is asked for more than that, let him not give more … With regard to the zakaah on sheep in the pasture, if they number between forty and one hundred and twenty, one sheep (is due as zakaah)…”
The fact that the word ghanam (sheep) is further defined by their being described as being in the pasture indicates that there is no zakaah on those that are not in the pasture.
2 – The report narrated by al-Nasaa’i (2444) from Bahz ibn Hakeem from his father, from his grandfather who said: I heard the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say: “For grazing camels, for every forty an ibnat laboon (a two-year old she-camel)…” Classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Irwa’ al-Ghaleel, 791.
The fact that the word ibl (camels) is further defined by describing them as grazing indicates that there is no zakaah on other kinds.
Cattle come under the same ruling as camels and sheep.
See al-Sharh al-Mumti’, 5/33
Al-Nawawi said in al-Majmoo’:
The fact that it is limited to those that are grazing is regarded as evidence in our view. Grazing means those that graze in the pasture and are not fed.
Ibn Qudaamah said in al-Mughni:
The fact that grazing animals are specifically mentioned excludes those that are fed, on which no zakaah is due according to the majority of scholars.
Maalik was of the view that zakaah is due on all an’aam animals whether they are grazing or non-grazing. He quoted as evidence for that the fact that in some ahaadeeth the word ibl (camels) in used in a general sense and is not defined as those that are grazing, as in the letter of Abu Bakr to Anas (may Allaah be pleased with them both) in which it says: “With regard to twenty-four camels or less, for every five one sheep (is to be given as zakaah).”
The majority of scholars responded to this deduction by stating that this hadeeth is general in meaning, and that the other ahaadeeth define (the animals) as those that graze. The basic principle here is that the general should be interpreted in light of the specific.
They supported this by saying:
With regard to the zakaah on an’aam animals, it is connected to the idea of growth and multiplication. This is obvious with regard to grazing animals, because there is no cost involved in looking after them. With regard to animals that are fed, there is a cost involved in looking after them, and that cost may be equal to any growth (in their numbers or weight). Thus the wisdom and mercy of Allaah dictated that zakaah should be waived unless the (grazing) animals are prepared for the purpose of trade, such as when one buys animals then looks after them and feeds them in order to fatten them for sale. In that case they come under the heading of trade goods and thus are subject to zakaah.
al-Mughni, 4/12; al-Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah, 23/250.
For more information on how to calculate the zakaah on trade goods, see question no. 10823.
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said in Majmoo’ al-Fataawa (32/32):
The words in this hadeeth, “for grazing sheep” represent an area concerning which there is some scholarly difference of opinion. The view of Maalik is that working camels and oxen, and rams that are fed, are subject to zakaah. Abu ‘Umar said: This is also the view of al-Layth, but I do not know of anyone who said it apart from them. With regard to al-Shaafa’i, Ahmad and Abu Haneefah, and also al-Thawri, al-Awzaa’i and others, in their view no zakaah is due on these animals. This was narrated from a number of the Sahaabah: ‘Ali, Jabir, and Mu’aadh ibn Jabal. ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azeez also wrote a letter to this effect, and it was narrated in the hadeeth of Bahz ibn Hakeem from his father, from his grandfather, from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), that he said: “For all grazing livestock, for every forty a two-year-old she camel (bint laboon).” So it was limited to grazing livestock, and other general reports should be interpreted in the light of specific reports, when both are speaking of the same type of animals, and there is no dispute among the scholars concerning this matter. The same may be noted concerning the hadeeth of Abu Bakr about grazing sheep.
It says in Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, 9/205:
One of the conditions of zakaah being due on camels, cattle and sheep is that they should be grazing.
And Allaah knows best.