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Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Who are the Rightful Recipients of Zakat


Zakat is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Its just disbursement creates financial equilibrium in a Muslim state. We have already written a post on Zakat as a Pillar of Islam which also lays down the minimum amount or precious metals or property held by a believer which makes him liable to pay Zakat. This post further elaborates on the rightful recipients of Zakat and clarifies any misconceptions that one may have.

During the times of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the hypocrites of Medina created hurdles in the paths of the Prophet of Allah and created fuss over the disbursement of Zakat and Alms. This has been mentioned in the 58th verse of Surat At Tawbah as under:

وَمِنۡهُمۡ مَّنۡ يَّلۡمِزُكَ فِى الصَّدَقٰتِ​ ۚ فَاِنۡ اُعۡطُوۡا مِنۡهَا رَضُوۡا وَاِنۡ لَّمۡ يُعۡطَوۡا مِنۡهَاۤ اِذَا هُمۡ يَسۡخَطُوۡنَ‏ 

( 58 )   And among them are some who criticize you concerning the [distribution of] charities. If they are given from them, they approve; but if they are not given from them, at once they become angry.
In order to streamline the Zakat disbursement and to shut the mouths of the miscreants, the following verse was revealed which laid down the guidelines for the rightful precipitants of Zakat and Alms :

 إِنَّمَا الصَّدَقَاتُ لِلْفُقَرَاءِ وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَالْعَامِلِينَ عَلَيْهَا وَالْمُؤَلَّفَةِ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَالْغَارِمِينَ وَفِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ ۖ فَرِيضَةً مِّنَ اللَّـهِ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ 
( 60 )   Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakah] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveler - an obligation [imposed] by Allah. And Allah is Knowing and Wise.
The detailed explanation of this verse is given herein under by the three eminent scholars and exegetes of Qur'an. These provide a guideline to those who want to know as to who the rightful recipients of Zakat and other forms of Alms / Charity given away in the name of Allah:

Explanation Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi:
According to the Arabic usage, fuqara are all those people who depend on others for the necessities of life. The Arabic word fuqara is a general word for all those who are needy because of some physical defects, or old age, or temporarily out of living means, and can become self-supporting if they are helped like orphans, widows, the unemployed, etc.

According to the Arabic usage, masakin are those indigent people who are in greater distress than the needy people usually are. The Prophet (peace be upon him) especially enjoined the Muslims to help such people as are unable to find the necessary means to satisfy their wants and are in very straitened circumstances, but are so self-respecting that they would not beg for anything, nor would others judge from their outward appearance that they were deserving people. According to a tradition miskin is one who cannot make ends meet, though his appearance does not show that he needs help nor does he beg for help. In short, he is a self-respecting person who has become needy.

“Those employed to administer thereof” are those who collect Zakat dues, supervise the collections and keep accounts, and help in their distribution, irrespective of the fact whether or not they are needy or indigent; their remunerations shall be paid out of the Zakat funds. In this connection it should be noted well that the Prophet (peace be upon him) had declared the Zakat funds to be unlawful for himself and for the members of his own family (Bani Hashim). Accordingly, he never received any remuneration for collecting or distributing Zakat funds. As regards the other members of Bani Hashim, they were allowed to do this service without receiving any remuneration, but otherwise it is unlawful for them. On the contrary, the payment of the Zakat dues was obligatory on Bani Hashim if their possessions warranted this under the prescribed limits, but under no circumstances whatsoever were they allowed to accept anything out of Zakat collected from others.

There is, however, a difference of opinion as to whether they should accept anything out of the collections made from their own family or not. Imam Abu Yusuf opines that they are allowed to accept these when they are needy or poor or wayfarers, but the majority of the jurists regard this also unlawful.

A portion of Zakat funds may also be given to win over to Islam those who might be engaged in anti-Islamic activities or to those in the camp of the unbelievers who might be brought to help the Muslims or to those newly converted Muslims, who might be inclined to revert to kufr if no monetary help was extended to them. It is permissible to award pensions to them or give them lump sums of money to make them helpers of Islam or submissive to it or at least to render them into harmless enemies. A portion of the spoils or other incomes may be spent on them and, if need be, also a portion of Zakat funds. In such cases, the condition of being needy or indigent or on a journey etc. is also waived; nay, they might be even rich people or chiefs who are otherwise not eligible for anything from Zakat funds.

All are agreed that during the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) pensions and gifts were given under the category of winning over people, but there is a difference of opinion whether this category of expenditure was abolished or not after his death. Imam Abu Hanifah and his followers are of the opinion that it was abolished during the caliphate of Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), and now it is not lawful to spend anything under this category. Imam Shafii is of the opinion that something may be given to sinful Muslims under this category from Zakat funds but not to unbelievers, while other jurists are of the opinion that expenses under this category are lawful even now, if a need arises for them.

The Hanafis base their opinion on an incident that happened after the death of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Uyainah bin Hisan and Aqraa bin Habis came to Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) and asked him to allot to them a certain piece of land. So he gave them a written order for this. They took it to some other highly placed companions for further confirmation and some of them endorsed this order. But when they took it to Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), he tore the paper into pieces before their very eyes, saying, it is true that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to give something to win over your hearts because Islam was weak at that time, but now Allah has made Islam so strong that it does not stand in need of people like you. At this they went to Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) and complained to him about it and taunted him, saying” Are you the caliph or Umar (may Allah be pleased with him)? But he took no notice of this, nor did any of the companions differ with Umar's (may Allah be pleased with him) opinion. The Hanafis conclude from this incident that when the number and power of Muslims increased by the grace of Allah and they no longer stood in need of any support from such people; the reason for which expenses under this category were permitted in the first instance remained no longer there. Therefore the companions unanimously abolished expenditure under this head.

Imam Shafii says that there is nothing to prove that the Prophet (peace be upon him) ever spent anything out of Zakat funds under this category. All the incidents mentioned in the traditions show that whatever he spent for the purpose of winning over hearts to Islam, was spent out of the spoils of war and not out of Zakat funds.

In my opinion there is nothing to show that the expenses for winning over hearts have been made unlawful forever up to the Last Day. There is no doubt that the action taken by Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) was absolutely right, for if and when the Islamic state does not consider it necessary to spend anything under this head, Islam does not make it obligatory to spend something for winning hearts. On the other hand, if need for this arises at any time, it is authorized to incur expenses under this category for Allah has kept a provision for this. Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) and the other companions agreed only on this that there was no need to give anything for this purpose at that time because the circumstances did not warrant it. But there is no reason to conclude from this that the companions disallowed forever the expenses that were permitted by the Quran under certain circumstances for the good of Islam.

As regards the opinion of Imam Shafii, it appears to be correct in so far as it is not lawful to spend anything under this category out of Zakat funds, if these expenses can be met out of other funds. But if it is necessitated that something should be spent under this category out of Zakat funds, there is no reason why a differentiation should be made in this regard between sinful Muslims and unbelievers. For the Quran has not allocated the share because of the faith of the prospective recipients but because Islam required to win their hearts for its own good and because this could not be achieved except by giving them a portion of wealth. Therefore the Quran allows the Amir of the believers to spend a part of the Zakat funds to achieve this end, if, when and where the required conditions exist. The fact that the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not spend anything from the Zakat funds on unbelievers for this purpose does not mean that it is unlawful to do so, for he did not spend from this fund because there was enough money in other funds for this purpose. Had it been unlawful to spend anything from Zakat funds on unbelievers, he would have explicitly forbidden it.

A portion of Zakat funds may be spent for the ransoming of slaves in two ways. 
First, help may be given to a slave for the payment of the ransom money, if he enters into an agreement with his master that he will set him free, if the slave pays him a certain amount of money. 
The second way is that the Islamic government may itself pay the price of his freedom and set him at liberty. 
There is a consensus of opinion about the first way, but there is difference of opinion about the second way. Ali (may Allah be pleased with him), Said bin Jubair, Laith Thauri, Ibrahim Nakhi, Shaabi, and Muhammad bin Sirin, (Hanafis and Shafiis) consider this as unlawful while Ibn, Abbas, Hasan Basri, Malik, Ahmad and Abu Thaur consider this as lawful expenditure from this fund.

Help may be given out of Zakat funds to such debtors as would be reduced to a state of poverty, if they paid off all their debts out of their own possessions, irrespective of the fact whether they are earning any money or not, whether they are indigent in the general sense or well off. According to some jurists, the only exceptions to this are those debtors who are spendthrifts or involve themselves in debts by spending money on wicked deeds. Help may be given to them only if and when they repent.

“For Allah’s cause” is a general term which implies all those good works which please Allah. That is why some jurists are of the opinion that Zakat funds may be spent on every kind of good work. But the fact is, and the majority of the earliest Muslim scholars have opined, that here the ‘Allah’s cause’ stands for Jihad in the path of Allah, that is, the struggle to eradicate the systems based on kufr and to establish the Islamic system in their stead. Therefore the Zakat funds may be utilized to meet the expenses of the journeys the people make, or for procuring means of conveyance, equipment, weapons and other articles needed for Jihad, irrespective of the fact whether they are so well off or not as to need any help for personal requirements. Likewise help of a temporary or permanent nature may also be given to those people who devote all of their time and energies, temporarily or permanently, for this work

It should also be noted that there has arisen a misunderstanding regarding the “cause of Allah” for the early scholars usually use for Jihad the Arabic word as (ghazyah) which is synonymous with “fight”. They, therefore, are of the opinion that Zakat fund may only be used for the purpose of fighting. But Jihad in the Way of Allah is a much more comprehensive term than mere fighting in the Way of Allah. Jihad applies to all those efforts that are made to degrade the word of kufr and to exalt the word of Allah and to establish the Islamic system of life, whether by propagating the message of Allah in the initial stage or by fighting in the final stage of the struggle.

Help from Zakat funds may be given to a wayfarer on a journey even though he might be quite well off at home.

Some of the jurists are of the opinion that according to this verse only that wayfarer who does not undertake a journey for a sinful purpose may be helped out of Zakat funds. But no such condition has been laid down in the Quran or the Hadith to this effect. Besides this, we learn from the fundamental principles of Islam that the sins of a needy person would in no way prevent us from helping him. As a matter of fact, such a help may prove very useful in reforming sinful and depraved persons. For if they get a support in the time of need, it may reasonably be expected that they would turn towards purifying their souls.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
Alms or charitable gifts are to be given to the poor and the needy and those who are employed in their service. That is, charitable funds are not to be diverted to other uses, but the genuine expenses of administering charity are properly chargeable to such funds. Who are the needy? Besides the ordinary indigent, there are certain classes of people whose need is great and should be relieved. Those mentioned here are: (1) men who have been weaned from hostility to Truth, who would probably be persecuted by their former associates, and require assistance until they establish new connections in their new environment: (2) those in bondage, literally and figuratively: captives of war must be redeemed: slaves should be helped to freedom-, those in the bondage of ignorance or superstition or unfavourable environment should be helped to freedom to develop their own gifts: (3) those who are held in the grip of debt should be helped to economic freedom: (4) those who are struggling and striving in Allah's Cause by teaching or fighting or in duties assigned to them by the Islamic State, who are thus unable to earn their ordinary living: and (5) strangers stranded on the way. All these have a claim to charity. They should be relieved by individual or organised effort, but in a responsible way. In this verse, the word sadaqat refers to obligatory charity (Zakat).

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
After Allah mentioned the protest that the ignorant hypocrites mentioned to the Prophet about the distribution of alms. He stated that it is He who divided the alms, explained its rulings and decided in its division; He did not delegate this decision to anyone else. Allah mentioned the expenditures of Zakah in this Ayah, starting with the Fuqara' (the poor) because they have more need than the other categories, since their need is pressing and precarious. It was reported that Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Al-Hasan Al-Basri, Ibn Zayd and several others said that the Faqir is a graceful person who does not ask anyone for anything, while the Miskin is the one who follows after people, begging. Qatadah said, "The Faqir is the ill person, while the Miskin is physically fit.'' We will now mention the Hadiths about each of these eight categories:

(1) The Fuqara' (Poor):  Ibn `Umar said that the Messenger of Allah said:  (The alms should not be given to the wealthy and the physically fit.) Ahmad, Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi collected this Hadith.

(2) The Masakin (Needy): Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Messenger of Allah said:
(The needy person is not the one who goes round the people and asks them for a mouthful or two (of meals) or a date or two). They asked, "Then who is the needy person, O Allah's Messenger!'' He said, (The one who does not have enough to satisfy his needs and whose condition is not known to others, that others may give him something in charity, and who does not beg of people.) 
(3) Those employed to collect Alms: Those employed to collect alms deserve a part of the alms, unless they are relatives of the Messenger of Allah , who are not allowed to accept any Sadaqah.

Muslim recorded that `Abdul-Muttalib bin Rabi`ah bin Al-Harith and Al-Fadl bin Al-`Abbas went to the Messenger of Allah asking him to employ them to collect the alms. The Messenger replied,
(Verily, the alms are not allowed for Muhammad nor the relatives of Muhammad, for it is only the dirt that the people discard.) 
Al-Mu'allafatu Qulubuhum There are several types of Al-Mu'allafatu Qulubuhum. There are those who are given alms to embrace Islam. For instance, the Prophet of Allah gave something to Safwan bin Umayyah from the war spoils of Hunayn, even though he attended it while a Mushrik. Safwan said, "He kept giving me until he became the dearest person to me after he had been the most hated person to me.'' Imam Ahmad recorded that Safwan bin Umayyah said, "The Messenger of Allah gave me (from the spoils of) Hunayn while he was the most hateful person to me. He kept giving me until he became the most beloved person to me.'' Muslim and At-Tirmidhi collected this Hadith, as well. Some of Al-Mu'allafatu Qulubuhum are given from alms so that they become better in Islam and their heart firmer in faith.

For instance, the Prophet gave some of the chiefs of the Tulaqa' a hundred camels each after the battle of Hunayn, saying: (I give a man (from the alms) while another man is dearer to me than him, for fear that Allah might throw him on his face in the fire of Jahannam.)

It is recorded in the Two Sahihs that Abu Sa`id said that `Ali sent the Messenger of Allah a gold nugget still in its dirt from Yemen. The Prophet divided it between four men: Al-Aqra` bin Habis, `Uyaynah bin Badr, `Alqamah bin `Ulathah and Zayd Al-Khayr, saying: (To draw their hearts closer.) Some people are given because some of his peers might embrace Islam, while others are given to collect alms from surrounding areas, or to defend Muslim outposts. Allah knows best.

The Riqab
Al-Hasan Al-Basri, Muqatil bin Hayyan, `Umar bin `Abdul-`Aziz, Sa`id bin Jubayr, An-Nakha`i, Az-Zuhri and Ibn Zayd said Riqab means those slaves who make an agreement with the master to pay a certain ransom for their freedom.'' Similar was reported from Abu Musa Al-Ash`ari. Ibn `Abbas and Al-Hasan said, "It is allowed to use Zakah funds to buy the freedom of slaves,'' indicating that `Riqab' has more general meanings than merely giving money to slaves to buy their freedom or one's buying a slave and freeing him on an individual basis. A Hadith states that for every limb [of the servant﴾ freed, Allah frees a limb of the one who freed him from slavery, even a sexual organ for a sexual organ, for the reward is equitable to the deed,
(And you will be requited nothing except for what you used to do.) [37:39]
Virtue of freeing Slaves
In the Musnad, there is a Hadith from Al-Bara' bin `Azib that a man asked, "O Allah's Messenger! Direct me to an action that draws me closer to Paradise and away from the Fire.'' The Messenger of Allah said: (Emancipate the person and free the neck (slave).)

The man asked, "O Allah's Messenger! Are they not one and the same'' He said: (No, you emancipate a person by freeing him on your own, but you untie a neck (slave) by helping in its price.)

Al-Gharimun (the Indebted)
There are several types of indebted persons. They include those who incur expenses in solving disputes between people, those who guarantee a loan that became due, causing financial strain to them, and those whose funds do not sufficiently cover their debts. It also includes those who indulged in a sin and repented from it. These types have a right to a part of alms ﴿designated for Al-Gharimun﴾. Qabisah bin Mukhariq Al-Hilali said, "I carried a debt ﴿resolving a dispute between people﴾ and went to the Messenger of Allah asking him to help pay it.

The Messenger said: (Be patient until some alms are brought to us so that we give it to you.) He then said,
(O Qabisah! Begging is only allowed for three: a man who incurred debts solving disputes, so he is allowed to beg until he collects its amount and then stops. A man who was inflicted by a disaster that consumed his wealth, he is allowed to beg until he collects what suffices for his livelihood. And a man who was overcome by poverty, that three wise relatives of his stand up and proclaim, `So-and-so was overcome by poverty.' This man is allowed to beg until he collects what sustains his livelihood. Other than these cases, begging is an unlawful amount that one illegally devours.) 
 Muslim collected this Hadith. Abu Sa`id said, "During the time of the Messenger of Allah , a man was struck by disaster because of fruits that he bought, causing him extensive debts. The Prophet said,
(Give him charity.) The people did that but the amount collected did not cover his debts. The Prophet said to the man's debtors, (Take what was collected, you will have nothing beyond that.)'' Muslim collected this Hadith.
In the Cause of Allah
In the cause of Allah is exclusive for the benefit of the fighters in Jihad, who do not receive compensation from the Muslim Treasury.

Ibn As-Sabil (Wayfarer)
Ibn As-Sabil is a term used for the needy traveler in a land, where he does not have what helps him continue his trip. This type has a share in the Zakah for what suffices him to reach his destination, even if he had money there. The same is true for whoever intends to travel from his area but does not have enough money. This type also has a share in the Zakah money to suffice for his trip and back. This is proven in the Ayah as well as the following Hadith.

Imams Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah recorded that Ma`mar said that Zayd bin Aslam said that `Ata' bin Yasar said that Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri said that the Messenger of Allah said: (Sadaqah is not rightful for a wealthy person except in five cases: those employed to collect it, one who bought a charity item with his money, a Gharim (debtor), a fighter in the cause of Allah, or a poor man who gets a part of the Zakah so he gives it as a gift to a rich man.)

Allah's statement, فَرِيضَةً مِّنَ اللَّهِ (a duty imposed by Allah), means, a decision, decree and division ordained by Allah, وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ (And Allah is All-Knower, All-Wise), knowledgeable of all things outwardly and inwardly and what benefits His servants, (All-Wise), in all what he declares, does, legislates and decides, there is no true deity or lord except Him.

May Allah help us understand Islam correctly and help us in guiding on the true path by helping our brethren who have been given less as compared to us. Aameen 

For more Q &A about understanding Islam, please refer to our reference page: Understanding Islam: Frequently Asked Q & A.

You may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Quran.

May Allah show us the right path so that we do not go astray due to what man has interpreted verses of religious scriptures to suit their own religions and faith. Aameen.

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