Once zakah becomes payable on the holdings either because of the completion of a year or harvest time, and the holdings or part of them are lost, the owner still has to pay it. Whether the loss occurred owing to negligence or not does not matter.
This is the opinion of Ibn Hazm and the better opinion of the Hanbaliyyah. Abu Hanifah holds that it vitiates the payment of zakah if all the property perishes without the owner’s role in its destruction. When part of it perishes, the perished portion is not subject to zakah. This is in accordance with the rule that zakah is associated with the property itself. However, when the property is deliberately destroyed by the owner, zakah has to be paid. Ash-Shaf’i, alHassan ibn Salih, Ishaq, Abu Thaur, and Ibn al-Munzhir hold that if the nisab perishes before zakah is paid, then the owner owes nothing. However, if it perishes subsequent to the accumulation of the nisab, the owner has to pay it. Ibn Qudamah supports this view and says it vitiates the payment of zakah if the property perishes without any negligence on the part of the owner. This is because it is obligatory for the sake of beneficence, which presupposes the existence of the property – and not with the purpose of impoverishing the payers of zakah.
Negligence in this context implies that the owner had accumulated the nisab and thus it was possible for him to pay zakah, but he did not and the property perished. On the contrary, if he did not have the nisab, or the holdings were not in his possession, or they were to be purchased and he could not, then this does not constitute an act of negligence.
Likewise, if it is presumed that the obligation to pay zakah remains even after the holdings are lost, and the owner has the means to pay it, then he must do so. Otherwise, he should be granted a respite in order to fulfil his obligation to pay zakah. This is akin to a debt one owes to someone but the debt owed to Allah should be considered more important.