The Hanafiyyah, the Malikiyyah, and a report from ash-Shaf’i and Ahmad propose that it is the property which owes zakah. The second opinion attributed to ash-Shaf’i and Ahmad is that zakah is the responsibility of the owner, not the property. The difference between the two opinions is obvious:
For example, someone had 200 dirhams and did not pay zakah on the sum for two years. The opinion which says that zakah is due on the property itself means that the amount due is for one year only since it decreased by five dirhams, which was the amount due for zakah at the end of the first year. The second opinion, that zakah is the responsibility of the owner, means that he should pay zakah twice, one for each year, as zakah is the responsibility of the owner and is not affected by the decrease of the nisab.
Ibn Hazm favours the view that it is the owner’s responsibility. There has been no difference of opinion, he says, among the Muslims since the time of the Prophet, upon whom be peace, down to his time as to the applicability of zakah on wheat, barley, dates, silver, gold, camels, cattle, and sheep. Concerning payment of zakah from a different lot of wheat, barley, dates, gold, silver, camels, cattle, and sheep, he says it does not matter whether one pays it from the same lot, from a different one in one’s possession, or from a lot that may be bought, granted as a gift, or borrowed.
The conviction that the payment of zakah is the owner’s responsibility and is not necessarily that of the property itself is a sound principle, for if it becomes due on the property itself, the owner will not be permitted to make payment from a different lot. It is similar to the case of one partner being prevented from giving his money to his co-partner from a source other than the one involved in their partnership – unless the partners approve of it and it does not violate the conditions of the transaction between them. Furthermore, if zakah has to be applied to the property itself, only two situations can arise. First, zakah is payable on all parts of that property and is applicable to any individual amount of it, without individual specification. Second, if it is applicable to every part of it, it is impermissible to sell from any herd or grain since zakah collectors in this case would become partners. Thus, the proprietor is not allowed to take anything from it. This is void without any dispute. Furthermore, it would become obligatory upon him to specify exactly the price of the sheep which he desires to take out, just as is done in partnerships. If zakah is due on any part of it other than the property itself, it becomes void. This holds true in such a case since he does not know what he might sell or whether he is taking what is due for the sadaqah collectors. This, in turn, backs up the above.