The Recipients of Zakat

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Zakat al-mal must be paid to the eight categories of Muslims deserving of zakat as mentioned explicitly in the Qur’an:

Alms are for the poor and the needy, and those employed to administer the (funds); for those whose hearts have been (recently) reconciled (to Truth); for those in bondage and in debt; in the cause of Allah; and for the wayfarer: (thus is it) ordained by Allah and Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom. (Surah at-Tawbah:60)

The fuqara’, the poor, are those who earn less than half their basic needs.  The masakin, the destitute, are those who have less than even that.  The former do not have enough and the latter have absolutely nothing.

The amilun ‘alayha, the workers of zakat, are those assigned by the authorities to collect and distribute the zakat.  They get a share because of the work involved in collecting and distributing the zakat discreetly.  This money may not be spent on their behalf on equipment and utilities as some Muslim organisations have done so.

al-Mu’allafat al-qulubuhum refer to the new converts to Islam and those in the process of conversion even if they have yet to say the shahadah, those whose hearts are to be reconciled.  So in this case, the recipients need not even be Muslim.  ar-Riqabah are the slaves who are short in satisfying their contract for purchasing their freedom from their owners.  In the current context, it also refers to economic slavery.  The priority is Muslims.

al-Gharimun are those who are unable to pay their debts.  Those who are in debt due to straightened circumstances such as a failing in business, a student loan or a housing loan; have precedence to those who are indebted due to gambling, for example.  As to the latter, their addiction has to be addressed first, before the zakat is used to settle the debt, and that only, as a last resort.  Many scholars and authorities would forbid the zakat used in such a manner since the circumstances leading to it is haram.

Fi Sabilillah, refers to those in the way of Allah (s.w.t.).  This is a broad category.  In the days of the Islamic state, it was used for the volunteer constabulary to maintain peace and safety.  It is used to fund the scholarship of students when they travel to learn.

Abnah as-sabil, are the travelers who do not have enough to enable them to reach their destination, the stranded.  The zakat is used to enable them to reach their destination.

It is not permissible or valid to pay zakat to other than those eight aswnaf specifically mentioned above.  Hence, it is not valid to use zakat funds for to any charitable project, hospitals, mosque building or such like.  Orphans are also not included in the zakat unless they fall under any of the aswnaf.

On the issue of how we differentiate between those who are deserving of receiving zakat and those who are not, it is written in Futuh al-Ghayb and elsewhere that a rich merchant approached Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (q.s.), the mufti of Baghdad then, and asked how he could find deserving recipients of zakat.  The great shaykh said, “Give to them whether they are deserving or undeserving, for Allah (s.w.t.) Gives to you whether you are worthy or unworthy.”


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