The Recipients of Zakah:
There are eight categories of the beneficiaries of zakah which Allah specifies in the Qur'an: "The alms are only for the poor and the needy, for those who collect them, for those whose hearts are to be reconciled, for the freedom of those who are captives and in debt, for the cause of Allah, and for the wayfarers; [it is] a duty imposed by Allah. Allah is the Knower, the Wise" [at-Taubah 60]. Ziyad ibn alHarith as-Suda'i reported: "I came to the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, and pledged allegience to him. Then a man came and said to the Messenger: 'Give me some of the collected sadaqah.' The Messenger replied: 'Allah did not leave the matter of sadaqat to be decided by a prophet nor to others ... He Himself classified it into eight categories. If you fit into any of these categories, I will give you your due.' " It was narrated by Abu Dawud although in its chain of transmission there is 'Abdurrahman al-'Afriqi, who is of questionable merits.
The following is an elaboration upon the preceding eight categories:
1. The Poor (al-Fuqara').
2. The Needy (al-Masakin): The needy, along with the poor mentioned above, are those who do not even have basic needs fulfilled. This categroy parallels the category of the rich who have all they need. As mentioned elsewhere, a person is considered rich if he possesses the nisab--that is, an arnount in excess of his essential needs or those of his children with regard to food, drink, clothing, housing, animals, tools of his trade, and similar other necessities. Thus, one who lacks all these is considered poor (fuqura') and qualifies for zakah.
A hadith attributed to Mu'adh instructs: "Take from the rich [that is those who are self-sufficient] and give to their poor." Thus, zakah should be taken from the rich who own a nisab and given to those who are not so fortunate.
No difference has been made here between the poor (fuqura') and the needy (nasakin) as far as their needs, their poverty, and their qualification for receiving zakah are concerned. The two are brought together in the preceding Qur'anic 'ayah with the necessary conjunction so that they could be differentiated from each other. This does not contradict our categorizing the masakin as a subgroup of the fuqura'. In the following hadith, the text indicates that the needy are the poor who are not noticed by the people because they abstain from begging. The Qur'an takes note of them because they, perhaps due to their modesty, go unnoticed.
Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said: "The needy person (miskin) is not one who goes around asking the people for a date or two, or for a mouthful or two, but the one who is too embarrassed to ask. Read if you wish: 'They do not beg from men importunately' [alBaqarah 273]." In a variant of this report, it is related: "The needy person is not one who goes around asking people for a mouthful or two or a date or two, but the one who has not enough [money] to satisfy his needs and whose condition is not known to others. Thus, sadaqah is given to him and he does not beg from the people." This is narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim.
The amount of zakah given to a poor person:
Zakah aims at supporting the poor by satisfying their needs. A specified amount is therefore given to them on a continuous basis to alleviate their state of poverty. This amount differs depending on circumstances and individuals. 'Umar reported: "If you happen to give [alms], you should give to satisfy one's needs." Qadi 'Abdulwahhab says that Malik never stipulated a limit to the amount that can be given. To him, zakah may even be given to one who has a house, a servant, and a mount to ride, provided he is in need. The import of the preceding hadith is clear-- that is, asking for help is permissible for a person who is poor until he gets what he needs for his livelihood and is freed from his needs.
Qabisah ibn Mukhariq al-Hilali reported: "I had a debt. I went to the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, and asked for his help. He answered: 'Wait until we have funds for sadaqah, then we will give you some.' He also said: 'O Qabisah, sadaqah is justified only for the following three: first, a man who is in debt, for his case makes it permissible to receive [alms] until his difficulty is resolved; second, a man who is struck by calamity which destroys his holdings, which also makes it permissible for him to receive [alms] until he is in a position to earn a sustenance [or he said, '... what satisfies his needs and makes him self-sufficient']; and third, a man who has been reduced to poverty and three persons of caliber from among his people testify to his desperate situation will receive until he finds for himself a means of support [or he said, '... what satisfies his needs and makes him selfsufficient']. Other than these cases, O Qabisah, it is not permissible (sahat). A person receiving it (sadaqah) will be consuming forbidden holdings.' " This is narrated by Ahmad, Muslim, Abu Dawud, and anNasa'i.
Is zahah given to a person who can work?:
Individuals strong in body and earning their living are not entitled to zakah. Their position is similar to that of the rich.
1. 'Ubaidullah ibn 'Adiyy al-Khiyar reported: "Two men told me that they went to the Prophet, upon whom be peace, during the Farewell Pilgrimage while he was distributing charity. They asked him for help. He gave them a look from the head down and then found them to be sturdy and strong. Then he said: 'If you desire, I shall give it to you. But, there is no zakah for one who is rich, neither for the one who is strong and earning.' " This is related by Abu Dawud and anNasa'i.
Concerning the merits of this hadith, al-Khattabi says that it provides the criterion that if a person is not known to have means, it will be presumed that he has none. The hadith also provides the rule that one who appears to be sturdy is not excluded from receiving the zakah unless his income is determined, for there are some people who are strong in body but for one reason or another are unable to work. Such people may receive charity according to this hadith.
2. It is related from Rayhan ibn Yazid from 'Abdullah ibn 'Amr that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: "Sadaqah is neither permissible for the rich nor for the one who is of energetic disposition, sound body, and healthy limbs." This is related by Abu Dawud and atTirmidhi. The latter grades it as sound (sahih). Ash-Shaf'i, Ishaq, Abu 'Ubaid, and Ahmad uphold it. The Hanafiyyah say a strong and healthy person is allowed to take sadaqah, provided he does not possess 200 dirhams or more. An-Nawawi says: "I asked al-Ghazzali if an able-bodied person who comes from a rich family and is not used to physical labor in earning his living can be entitled to zakah. He answered that he could." This is a sound rule which takes into consideration a person's vocation.
The owner who lacks self-sufficiency:
One whose possessions reach a nisab but are still insufficient for his needs, due to the size of his family or the high cost of living, will be considered well-off and subject to zakah. He is also considered poor because his possessions are not enough for his needs. As such, he should also be given zakah. AnNawawi says that one who possesses a piece of real estate but does not have enough income to meet his needs should be considered poor and eligible for that amount of zakah which would satisfy his needs. In this way, he would not have to sell his real estate. Al-Mughni mentions that al-Maymum said: "I had a talk with Abu 'Abdullah, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and I said: 'A man may possess camels and sheep on which zakah is due and be considered poor. He may possess forty sheep or even a landed estate (day'ah), not enough for his needs. Would he be allowed to receive alms?' He answered: 'Yes, because he does not possess what is sufficient for him and he is not able to earn what he needs. In that case, he is permitted to receive zakah, if what he possesses does not qualify for zakah.' "
Collectors of Zakah:
Zakah collectors are officials appointed by the leader or his deputy to collect it from the rich. Among them are the custodians of zakah, shepherds and clerks for its administration. They must be Muslims and should consist of those who are potentially not eligible for zakah. This includes the family of the Prophet--that is, Banu 'Abdul Mutallib. It is related by al-Muttalib ibn Rabi'ah ibn Harith ibn 'Abdul Muttalib that he and al-Fadl ibn al-'Abbas went to the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace: "One of us said: 'O Messenger of Allah! We have come to you so that you may invest us with authority to administer zakah, that we shall gather (collect) the benefits the people are to receive, and render service to you that others give.' The Messenger of Allah answered: 'Indeed, zakah ought not to be given to Muhammad or to the family of Muhammad. Zakah is nothing but filth that comes out from people's properties.'" This is reported by Ahmad and Muslim. Another version states: "It is not permitted to Muhammad or to the family of Muhammad."
Certain people, though well-off, can still receive zakah:
Abu Sa'id reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: "Sadaqah is not allowed for the well-off except for the following five: an administrator of zakah, a purchaser of zakah holdings, a debtor, a warrior in the cause of Allah, or a person who is given a present by the needy (miskeen) from what the latter had been granted as zakah." This is related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, and al-Hakim. The latter grades the preceding hadith as sound according to the criteria of Muslim and al-Bukhari.
What zakah collectors take from zakah is their wages for work done:
Abdullah ibn as-Sa'di related that he came from Syria to see 'Umar ibn al-Khattab, who asked him: "Is it true that you perform a certain job for the Muslims and you are given wages for that, but you do not accept them?" He answered: "Yes, indeed. I possess horses and slaves. I am well-off. I want my work to be a charity for the Muslims." Then 'Umar said: "I also wanted what you desired, but the Prophet, upon whom be peace, used to pay compensation to me. I would say to him: 'Give it to one who is poorer than I.' Once he gave me money and I said to him: 'Give it to a person more needy than I.' Then the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: 'Take what Allah, to Whom belongs might and majesty, gives you of His bounties without your having asked for it or being eager.' So take it and keep it, or give it away as charity--and what is not given should not be asked for." This is related by al-Bukhari and an-Nasa'i.
The wages ought to be sufficient to cover legitimate needs:
AlMustawrid ibn Shaddad relates that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: "If someone performed a job for us and has no house, let him have a house; if he has no wife, let him have a wife; if he has no servant, let him have a servant; or if he has no mount to ride, let him have one. He who clamors for anything other than these is being excessive." This is related by Ahmad and Abu Dawud and its chain is sound. Commenting on the subject, al-Khattabi says: "This may be interpreted in two different ways. The first means that the individual is permitted to have a servant or a house deducted from his wages, which are similar to any other wages. He is not permitted to take anything else. The second means that the zakah worker has the right to have lodging and a servant. Thus, if he does not have a house or a servant, one may be hired to serve him and a house may be rented for him during the tenure of his job."
Reconcilation of hearts:
This applies primarily to that group of people whose hearts, due to their weak Islam, need to be reconciled or strengthened for Islam. In this case, zakah is distributed to rid Muslims of their evil, or to procure their assistance in the defense of Muslims. The jurists divide such people into Muslims and unbelievers. The Muslims are divided into four groups:
People who are leaders and notables among the Muslims and influential among their nonbelieving kinsmen deserve and if given sadaqah, there is hope that their kinsmen will become Muslims. Such was the case of Abu Bakr giving 'Adiyy ibn Hatim and az-Zibarqan ibn Badr sadaqah because of their high status among their people.
Recently converted prominent people:
Prominent people among Muslims, though recently converted to Islam and as such of weak faith but still obeyed by their people, if given sadaqah and their counsel sought in jihad and other matters could lead them to become strong in their Islam. A case in point is that of the Makkans who became Muslims after the conquest of Makkah. The Prophet, upon whom be peace, gave them a large booty after his victory over the Huwazin. Most of them became very good and conscientious Muslims later on.
Muslim residents at the borders:
Muslims who live at the frontiers, close to enemy land, can also be given sadaqah as an incentive to defend the Islamic territory. The author of al-Manar claims that this falls under the national defense. Jurists place it under the share allocated for the cause of Allah. It is similar to a military expedition. In our times, people who most deserve our help are those Muslims whom the unbelievers have brought over to their side by placing them under their protection or converting such Muslims to their religion. We notice that colonial powers are working for the subjugation of all Muslims and are trying to divert them away from their religion. Such states are allocating a certain portion of their resources to win over the Muslim hearts. Some they have succeeded converting to Christianity, and others have been influenced by or attracted to their tutelage. This is creating problems for Muslim states and Islamic unity. Are not such Muslims more deserving of zakah than those along the frontiers?
The zakah employees:
Muslims who are employed to collect zakah, either through persuasion or force, from those who are not willing to give it can also qualify as its recipients for it is better to use such people to maintain Muslim unity. Their support and their undertaking to help the government is the lesser of two evils and a preferable arrangement.
The unbelievers, recipients of zakah:
As for the unbelievers, they are of two categories:
1. Those who may come to Islam through the reconciliation of their hearts: Such was the case of Safwan ibn 'Umayyah whom the Prophet, upon whom be peace, granted safety on the day of Makkah's conquest. The Prophet, upon whom be peace, allowed him to think about his situation for four months and then choose for himself. He was absent at the time but came forward later and went with the Muslims to fight in the battle of Hunayn before his acceptance of Islam. The Prophet, upon whom be peace, borrowed his armory for the expedition of Hunayn, and in return gave him a large number of camels, loaded with goods, that were at a certain valley. Thereupon Safwwan said: "This is a gift from someone who does not fear poverty. By Allah," he continued, "the Prophet, upon whom be peace, has given all of this to me and verily he is the person whom I dislike the most, but he continued to give me things until he became the one I loved the most."
2. People whose evil is feared, and it is hoped that money, if given to them, will neutralize their hostility: Ibn 'Abbas reported: "A group of people used to come to the Prophet, upon whom be peace. If he gave them money, they would praise Islam and say: 'This is a good religion.' However, if he did not give them any money, they criticized and found fault with Islam." Among such people were Abu Sufyan ibn Harb, al-Aqra' ibn Habis, and 'Uyainah ibn Hisn. The Prophet, upon whom be peace, gave every one of them one hundred camels.
The Hanafiyyah say that the share of such people are cancelled when Islam is strong. For instance, 'Uyainah ibn Hisn, al-Aqra' ibn Habis, and al-'Abbas ibn Mirdas came to Abu Bakr and requested their share. He wrote them a letter, which they took to 'Umar. He tore the letter and said: "This is something that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, used to give you to reconcile you to Islam. Now, Allah has fortified Islam and it is no longer in need of you. Unless you stay with Islam, the sword will be between you and us. Say: 'It is the truth from the Lord of you [all]. Then whoever will, let him believe, and whoever will, let him disbelieve' [al Kahf 29]." They returned to Abu Bakr and said: "Are you the Caliph or is 'Umar? You wrote a letter for us and 'Umar tore it up." He answered: "This is the way it is."
The Hanafiyyah continue: "Indeed, Abu Bakr agreed with 'Umar, and none of the companions disapproved of it. Likewise, it was never reported from 'Uthman or 'Ali that they gave anything to anyone in this category."
It can be answered that the case under reference was 'Umar's own judgment. He saw that there would be no benefit in mollifying these people after Islam had become well-established among their people, and no harm would follow if they abandoned Islam. Also, if 'Uthman and 'Ali stopped spending this kind of endowment, this does not necessarily mean that the provision for it was repealed. It is possible that the change of circumstances did not call for the continuation of such an endowment to the nonbelievers. However, this does not amount to the invalidation of the provision for such endowments. Should the contingency call for its revival, the endowments in this category can be given. This is because their sanction lies in the Qur'an and sunnah.
Ahmad and Muslim reported from Anas that whenever the Prophet, upon whom be peace, was asked for anything for the sake of Islam, he would give it away. A man came and asked for sadaqah. The Prophet ordered that the man be given the entire lot of sheep between two mountains. These sheep were part of the sadaqah. The man returned to his people and said: "Oh my people! Accept Islam, for indeed, Muhammad gives in such a way as if he does not fear poverty." Ash-Shaukani says that al-'Itrah, al-Jobbani, al-Balkhi, and Ibn Mubashshir held that sadaqah may be given to those whose hearts are to be reconciled to Islam. On the contrary, ash-Shaf'i maintains that such endowments are not for unbelievers. As for the sinner (faszq), he may be given from such allocations.
Abu Hanifah and his followers hold that this kind of endowment was cancelled with the spread and domination of Islam and, as evidence, they cite Abu Bakr's refusal to restore endowments to Abu Sufyan, 'Uyainah, al-Aqra', and al-'Abbas ibn Mirdas. It appears that reconciliation is permitted when the need for it arises. In other words, it is permitted to give them sadaqah for reconciliation when a people obey a leader only for worldly affairs, and they cannot be controlled except by force and domination. The spread of Islam has no ramification on the issue of reconciliation because it makes no difference in this case. The author of al-Manar testifies: "This is the whole truth. Only independent judgment can be exercised to elaborate on the eligibility and the amount of sadaqah or booty to be given away when they are available, along with other kinds of property [immovable and movable]. It is necessary to seek consultation of capable people (ahl ashShura) as the caliphs did in those matters that required ijtihad. Whether a leader can force them into obedience by coercive action before resorting to the use of the endowment is an unsettled issue. Nevertheless, this cannot be followed as a rule but rather as the principle of inclining to the lesser of two evils and to the best benefit of the society."
This category includes two kinds of slaves: contracted slaves (rnukazabun) and regular slaves. Both categories were aided with sadaqah to obtain their freedom. Al-Bara' reported: "A man came to the Prophet, upon whom be peace, and said to him: 'Guide me to a deed that makes me close to Heaven and far from Hell.' The Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: 'Free a person and redeem a slave.' " Then al-Bara' asked: "O Messenger of Allah. Are not the two the same?" He answered: "No. Freeing a person is to grant him freedom [by redeeming him from his bondage], but the redeeming of the neck means buying him his freedom." This is related by Ahmad and ad-Daraqutni and their report is trustworthy. Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: "Three persons have the right to be helped by Allah: the warrior (ghazi) who fights for Allah, the contracted slave who longs to buy his freedom, and one who wishes to get married for the sake of chastity." This is related by Ahmad and the ashab as-Sunan. At-Tirmidhi grades this report as good and sound.
As to the meaning of free captives (wa fi ar-riqab), ash-Shaukani says that scholars differ over it. 'Ali ibn Abu Talib, Sa'id ibn Jubair, al-Layth, ath-Thauri, al-'Itrah, the Hanafiyyah, the Shaf'iyyah, and the majority of scholars are reported to believe that it refers to contracted slaves (rnukatabdn) whose freedom is secured through payment from zakah. According to Ibn 'Abbas, al-Hasan al-Basri, Malik, Ahrnad ibn Hanbal, Abu Thaur, and Abu 'Ubaid, it means using zakah in the release of any kind of slave. Al-Bukhari and Ibn al-Mundhir are also supportive of this view. Their rationale is that the expression wa fi ar-riqab cannot be confined to the kind of slavery arising from a contract because, if that had been the case, then it would have fallen under the category of those in debt (gharimln), for theirs is an obvious case of debt. As such, freeing a slave from bondage is better than helping a contracted slave. He could be aided or helped, but not freed, for the contracted slave is a slave as long as he owes even one dirham. At the same time, freeing a slave is possible at any time, in contrast to the situation of a contracted slave. Commenting on the subject, az-Zuhri says that the preceding position entails two possibilities. The Qur'anic 'ayah on the subject alludes to these two possibilities, which have been pointed out by ashShaukani in his Muntaqa al-Akhbar. In the hadith narrated by alBara', evidence suggests that redeeming necks is not the same as freeing them. Nor is the deed of freeing slaves the same as helping contracted ones with money to pay off the contract. Both of these bring the individual closer to Heaven and distance him from Hell.
People burdened by debts and unable to pay them are of several kinds: those who took upon themselves responsibility to discharge a debt; those who guaranteed debts of others and therefore, upon default, the debts have become their obligation; those who mismanaged their finances, those who borrowed money because they had to; or those who were involved in sinful acts and then repented, and who had to pay a fine for repentance. All of them may take sadaqah to meet their debts.
Anas reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: "Asking for sadaqah is permissible only for the following three classes [of people]:
1. those who are in abject poverty,
2. those who have severe debts, or
3. those who incurred it in the payment of blood money [on behalf of a relative or friend]." This is related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, and at-Tirmidhi. The latter grades it hasn.
Muslim relates from Abu Sa'id al-Khudri that a man made a bad deal on fruit and then ran into heavy debt. The Prophet, upon whom be peace, recommended: "Give him sadaqah." Then the people gave him sadaqah. However, he still had some debt left over. Thereupon, the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said to creditors: "Take what you get . . ."
As to the previously stated hadith of Qabisah ibn Mukhariq, in which he says: "I had a debt. I went to the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, and asked him for help. He answered: 'Wait until we have received funds for sadaqah, then we will give some to you.' " The expression hamalah in this hadith, as defined by the scholars, is to assume someone's responsibility as one's own in order to restitute a discord. In pre-Islamic times, whenever strife took place among the Arab tribes and blood was spilled, compensation was called for. In such a case, one of them would volunteer to meet the obligation until the strife had ended. Undoubtedly, this was a noble act for these people. When the Arabs would come to know that one of them had taken upon himself the responsibility (hamalah) of someone's debt, they would hasten to his help in the discharge of his responsibility. If such a person asked for help, it was considered an honorable act and not derogatory to his character. No conditions were stipulated. As for being qualified to obtain zakah in the discharge of such debts, it is not a pre-condition that the person who has assumed the debt on another's behalf should be unable to pay it. In fact, he can still ask for zakah even though he is a man of means.
Sadaqah for the Cause of Allah:
Fee sabil lillah means for the sake of Allah--that is, making use of knowledge and deeds to attain Allah's pleasure. Most scholars understood this phrase as fighting for the cause of Allah. Part of zakah designated for the cause of Allah is given to volunteer fighters, especially those who are not on the payroll of the state, regardless of their financial status.
The hadith of the Messenger of Allah, stated elsewhere, also confirms it: "Sadaqah is not permitted to the rich except to the following five: the warrior (ghuzi) for the cause of Allah . . . and so on." As to the pilgrimage (hajj, it does not fall under the zakah designated for the cause of Allah because it is an obligation for one who can afford it. Commenting on the issue, the authors of al-Manar say: "Spending of this portion on securing the routes of the pilgrimage and for providing water, food, and health services for the pilgrims is permissible if funds from other sources are not available."
Included in the share designated "for the cause of Allah" are those spendings in the interest of the common good that pertain to both religious and secular matters. The foremost is the preparations for war, including buying arms, food supplies for soldiers, means of transportation, and equipment for warriors. However, the supplies for warriors are to be returned to the treasury after the war. This applies especially to unconsumable items such as weapons, horses, and so on. A warrior does not always possess such items, for he uses them in the cause of Allah only when necessary. This is not the case, however, with other recipients of zakah, such as zakah collectors, debtors, people who received money under the expense account "reconciliation of hearts," and the wayfarers. They do not have to return the zakah, even if they are no longer entitled to it.
Also included in the expense account "for the cause of Allah" are projects such as establishing military hospitals, paved and unpaved roads, the extension of military (not commercial) railway lines, and the building of cruisers, warplanes, fortresses, and trenches. An important item in this category could be the preparation of Muslim missionaries and sending them to non-Muslim countries to spread Islam, just as non-Muslim missionaries are now spreading their religions in Islamic countries. Also falling under this heading would be school expenses to prepare adequate courses in religious sciences and in other areas of public interest. Teachers involved in such programs should be given sadaqah as long as they continue to perform their assigned jobs without resorting to other means of income. Scholars who are rich should not be paid for their work, despite their obvious benefits to the people.
Sadaqah for the Wayfarer:
Scholars agree that a traveler stranded in a foreign land should be given zakah if he lacks the means to achieve his objectives. The extension of zakah is, however, tied to the condition that the journey must have been undertaken for Islamically acceptable reasons. Just what such a trip involves is open to question. The preferable opinion among the Shaf'iyyah is that sadaqah is given even when the traveler is taking the trip for sightseeing and pleasure. The wayfarer (ibn as-sabil), according to the Shaf'iyyah, is of two kinds:
1. a person traveling within his own country, and
2. one traveling in a foreign country. Both of them are entitled to zakah, even though they could find someone to lend them the needed amount and they have enough resources in their own country to pay their debts. According to Malik and Ahmad, only the passer-by is eligible for zakah and not one traveling within his own country. Zakah is not to be given to the person if he can find someone to lend him the money he needs and if he has enough of his own money in his country to pay his debt.
Who Has Priority in the distribution of zakah:
The distribution of zakah to those who are eligible, as mentioned in the 'ayah from at-Taubah, can now be classified as under:
The poor (fuqdra'); the needy (rnasakm); the administrators of zakah ('amildna 'alaiha); those whose hearts are to be won over (mu'allafatu qulubuhum), slaves (ar-riqab); those in debt (gharimun) the wayfarers (abna' as-Sabil); the warriors (rnujahidln).
The jurists differ over the distribution of zakah among the preceding eight groups of people. Ash-Shaf'i and his followers hold that if a distributor of zakah happens to be the owner of the property (or the agent), then there is no share of the collectors in it. In that case, it becomes obligatory to distribute the sum collected among the remaining seven categories. If other categories are for some reason ineligible for their share, it will be distributed among those still eligible. It is not permissible to disregard any category if it meets the conditions for eligibility. Ibrahim anNakha'i says that if the amount of zakah received is large, then it is possible to divide it among the different categories. However, if it is small, it is permissible to place it into one category. Ahmad ibn Hanbal holds that the division of zakah has a priority but that it is permissible to give it all to one category. Malik maintains that the distributor of zakah should make an effort to investigate those who are in need. He should distribute it according to the immediate condition of the needy and poor people. Thus, if he sees in certain years that the poor need more, they should be given priority. If he sees in another year that the wayfarers are more needy, he should distribute it among the travelers. The Hanafiyyah and Sufyan athThauri thought that the zakah payer can choose the categories he wished to distribute the zakah to. This is related by Hudhaifah and Ibn 'Abbas. Al-Hasan alBasri and 'Ata' ibn Abi Rabah base their opinions on it. Abu Hanifah holds that the distributors of zakah may give it to one person under any of the eight categories.
Why the Scholars Differ:
According to Ibn Rushd: "The cause of their differences lies between the literal and the intended meaning. The literal meaning determines the classifications, but the intended meaning shows that priority should be given to the needy according to the immediacy of their needs since the aim [of the institution of zakah] is to eliminate poverty. The enumeration [of the categories] in the Qur'an is meant to distinguish the different kinds--that is, the people eligible for zakah, and not necessarily their grouping. The first interpretation is the literal one while the second is the intended interpretation." Ash-Shaf'i builds his case on the hadith of as-Suda'i which is related by Abu Dawud. A man came to the Prophet, upon whom be peace, and asked for zakah. The Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said: "Allah has not left the matter to the judgment of a prophet nor to others. He has laid the rules for it--that is, He has classified [the beneficiaries] into eight categories. If you fit into any of these, I will give you your due."
The Preference of the Majority Opinion Over That of ash-Shaf'i:
The author of ar-Rawdah an-Nadiyyah says: "Distributing all of the zakah to one group is more benefiting to the realization of the word of Allah." In brief, one may say that Allah made zakah applicable only to the eight specifically mentioned categories. Spelling out these categories does not mean that the zakah has to be distributed among them equally or even that it has to be divided among them. The intended meaning, however, is that the categories of sadaqah are similar to various groups of people who are eligible for it. Thus, one who is obligated to pay anything to any category of sadaqah and gives it to a person in a parallel group is considered to be fulfilling what Allah commanded him to do. Contrary to this, if one divides his zakah due into the acknowledged eight categories, if all eight exist, then that would not only be contrary to the practice of the Muslims throughout history, but it would cause hardship to the payer of zakah. For example, if the collected zakah were meager, it would be of no benefit to any designated category--even if it was of one kind, to say nothing if it was of numerous kinds. To endorse such a practice would be tantamount to counter what the Prophet, upon whom be peace, did when he permitted the payment of a penance (kaffarah) from the charity collected for Salmah ibn Sakhr. Obviously, the hadith of as-Suda'i cannot be used as evidence.
There is not a single case in the entire corpus of hadith literature which could be used to make the distribution of zakah to all groups of people obligatory. Using the hadith of Mu'adh as evidence that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, instructed him to take zakah from the rich Yemenites and give it to their poor will not be of much help because it does not establish that the zakah was distributed to all the groups. Nor is the hadith of Ziyad ibn al-Harith as-Suda'i valid in this regard because in its chain of narrators is 'Abdur-Rahman ibn Ziyad al-'Afriqi, whose credibility has been questioned by many scholars. Assuming that this hadith is valid for the point under discussion, the meaning of the division of zakah into parts is its distribution according to the apparent meaning of the Qur'anic 'ayah and what the Prophet, upon whom be peace, had in mind. Assuming that the division of zakah itself is intended, the distribution has to be done according to the specified categories. In this case, any transfer of the share of one group to another, even if the group concerned was for some reason non-existent, will not be permissible. Such an approach will be contrary to the consensus of Muslim scholars. If we accept that, then the deciding factor for the sadaqah's distribution is the leader's wish rather than, and not the specific categories of eligible people. Thus, there is no evidence that makes division obligatory, and it is consequently permissible to give some sadaqah to those eligible people and some to other groups. Indeed, when the leader collects all the sadaqat from his people and all eight categories are eligible to receive them, each group has the right to claim its share. However, he does not have to divide the collected sadaqat among them equally or distribute it without any distinction, for he can give any amount to any group or groups that he wants to, or he can give some without giving the rest if he thinks it is in the interest of Islam and its people. For example, if the sadaqah was collected and then a jihad was announced, meaning that it would become necessary to defend the territory of Islam against the unbelievers, the leader can give some or all of it to the deserving warriors. This also applies to other concerns if the interest of Islam necessitates it.
Who Distributes Zakah?:
The Messenger of Allah used to send his authorized agents to collect zakah. He would then distribute it among the deserving people. Abu Bakr and 'Umar did the same. There is no difference between unhidden wealth (i.e., plants, fruit, cattle, and minerals) and hidden wealth (i.e., trade goods, gold, silver, and treasure). When 'Uthman became caliph, he followed this practice for a while. Later on, when he saw that the hidden wealth was tremendous and that pursuing it embarrassed the community and while checking it harmed its owners, he left the payment of the zakah on such property to the individual's discretion. Jurists agree that the owners themselves should assume the distribution of zakah, especially when it is for hidden wealth. As-Sa'ib ibn Yazid reported: "I once heard the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace. He said: 'This is the month of your zakah. If any one of you still owes a debt, let him pay it off so that your properties become free from debts. Then, you can pay the zakah on them.' " Al-Baihaqi relates it with a sahih chain.
An-Nawawi says that some scholars agree with this practice.
Who should distribute the zakah on hidden wealth:
Is it preferable for the owners to distribute the zakah due on their hidden wealth, or is it preferable to let the leader distribute it?
There is more than one opinion on this subject. The preferred choice among the Shaf'iyyah is that zakah be paid to the government, especially when it is a just government. According to the Hanbaliyyah, it is preferable that the zakah payer distribute it himself, even though it is permissible to give it to the ruler. On the other hand, Malik and the Hanafiyyah hold that if the wealth is unhidden, the Muslim leader and his agents have the authority to ask for and take their zakah. The opinion of the Shaffiyyah and the Hanbaliyyah concerning unhidden wealth is similar to that on the hidden ones.
Paying Zakah to the Leader, Regardless of His Being Just or Unjust:
It is permissible to pay zakah to a Muslim leader, whether he is just or not, provided he rules (more or less) according to Islamic laws. The property owner absolves himself of his obligation by giving zakah to the leader. If the leader does not distribute it properly, it is preferable that the property owner do so himself, unless the leader or his agent asks for it.
Anas reported: "A man from the tribe of Banu Tamim came to the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, and said: 'O Messenger of Allah! If I paid the zakah to your representative, am I acquitted of my responsibility?' The Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said: 'Yes, if you pay it to my representative, then you have acquitted yourself. Its reward will be yours and its sin will be upon whoever misused it.' " This is related by Ahmad.
Ibn Mas'ud reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: "After me, there will be selfishness and you will deny obligations." They said: "O Messenger of Allah! What do you command us to do?" He answered: "Pay the due which is upon you and ask Allah what is right for you." This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.
Wa'il ibn Hajar reported: "I heard the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, say after a man had asked him his opinion of our leaders who deny their right [of collecting and distributing the zakah]: 'Listen and obey, for indeed, they have their responsibility and you have yours.' " This is related by Muslim.
Commenting on the subject, ash-Shaukkani says that the hadith cited in this section are used by many scholars to justify the permissibility of transferring both kinds of zakah to unjust rulers. This applies to rulers of Muslims in the world of Islam (Dar al Islam).
As to contemporary Muslim governments, Sheikh Rashid Rida says: "At present, the majority of Muslims do not have an Islamic govemment which establishes Islam, propagates and defends it, calls for jihad individually or collectively, implements its divine injunctions, and collects and distributes zakah according to the rules laid down by Allah, the Exalted One.
Some of the Muslim rulers are under the influence of Western powers, while others are under the tutelage of polytheists. These foreign powers employ Muslim leaders as tools to subjugate the people in the name of Islam, thus destroying Islam itself. They use the influence of the Muslim leaders and Muslim resources, including zakah and endowments, to further their interests. To such rulers, it is not permissible to pay any part of zakah, regardless of their title or profession of faith. As for the rest of the Islamic governments whose rulers and heads of state profess Islam and whose finances are not controlled by foreigners, the payment of unhidden zakah should be made to their leaders. This also applies to hidden properties, such as gold and silver, when the leaders request it, even if they are unjust in some of their judgments, as is said by the jurists."
The Preferability of Giving Zakah to Good People:
Zakah is given to a Muslim provided he is eligible to receive it. Whether he is good or sinful does not matter. If, however, it is known that he will use it to perpetuate what Allah has forbidden, it should be denied to him. It is preferable that one who pays zakah should give it to the pious, the knowledgeable, and those of kind disposition. It is related from Abu Sa'id al-Khudri that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: "The likeness of a believer and the likeness of belief are similar to the horse that, tied to its post, walks around and then comes back to its post. The believer may forget, but he returns to his belief. Thus, give your food to the righteous people and entrust your favors to the believers." This is related by Ahmad with a good chain and as-Suyuti authenticated it.
Ibn Taimiyyah says that the needy who discards his salah will not be given anything until he repents and offers salah again because neglecting salah is a grave sin. It is not right that one who commits this sin should be financially helped until he repents to Allah. Included along with those who neglect salah are offenders who are not ashamed to commit sinful acts and remain unrepentant. Also, one whose conscience is corrupted has an innate character which is distorted and a sense of good which is virtually dead. Such a person is not given zakah unless doing so will turn him in the right direction and help him reform.
The Zakah Giver is Forbidden to Buy Back What He Gave in Charity:
The Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, prohibited the one who gives zakah to buy back what he gave up for Allah, the Exalted One. This is similar to the case of those immigrants who were prohibited (by the Messenger) to return to Makkah after they had left it as immigrants. It is related by 'Abdullah ibn 'Umar that: "Once 'Umar gave away a horse, for the cause of Allah, as sadaqah. Later, he saw it for sale and wanted to buy it. He asked the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, if he could do so. The Messenger answered: 'Do not buy back what you gave in sadaqah.'" This is related by al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, and an-Nasa'i. AnNawawi says it is a purifying prohibition, not one of unlawfulness. It is unsuitable (makruh) for a person to buy back what he has given in sadaqah, or zakah, or penance for a promise, or anything of the nature which brings one closer to Allah, the Exalted One. This is also applicable to a gift offered to someone which the donor cannot own even if it is allowed by the recipient. However, it can be owned by him again if he inherits it.
According to Ibn Battal, most scholars disliked someone to buy his sadaqah back. This is in accordance with 'Umar's hadith. Ibn al-Mundhir says that al-Hasan, 'Ikrimah, Rabi'ah, and al-Auza'i allowed buying one's charity back. Ibn Hazm is also inclined to this view because of a hadith from Abu Sa'id alKhudri. The Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said: "Sadaqah is not allowed to the well-to-do except for five among them: one who fights in the cause of Allah; one who administers zakah; one who is in debt; one who bought [the article of zakah] with his money; or one who has a poor neighbor to whom he gave sadaqah, and the latter gave it as a gift to him."
Preference in Giving Zakah to Husband or Relativee:
A poor husband is entitled to receive zakah from his well-to-do wife, even though she is not supposed to support him. Her reward for giving it to him is more than if she were to give it to strangers. Abu Sa'id al-Khudri reported that Zainab, the wife of Ibn Mas'ud, said: "O Prophet of Allah! Indeed you have ordered us today to give away sadaqah, and I have some jewelry which I wanted to give away as sadaqah. But Ibn Mas'ud claims that he and his children deserve it more than someone else." The Prophet, upon whom be peace, responded: "Ibn Mas'ud is right. Your husband and your children are more deserving." This is related by al-Bukhari. AshShafi, Ibn al-Mundhir, Abu Yusuf, Muhammad, the Zahiriyyah, and one of the reports by Ahmad hold the same view. Abu Hanifah and other scholars differ, saying that the wife is not allowed to give any sadaqah to her husband. They maintain that Zainab's hadith is concerned with voluntary sadaqah and not with the obligatory one. Malik holds that it is not permissible for a husband to spend the sadaqah he receives from his wife on her. Spending it on others is all right. Most scholars say that one's brothers, sisters, paternal uncles and aunts, and maternal uncles and aunts may receive zakah if they are eligible. Their opinion is based on the hadith which says: "Sadaqah for the poor is rewarded as one sadaqah, but in the case of a relative it is considered as two: [one reward for] blood tie and [the other reward for] the sadaqah [itself]." This is related by Ahmad, an-Nasa'i, and at-Tirmidhi. The latter grades it hassan.
Giving Charity to Seekers of Religious Knowledge:
An-Nawawi holds that if someone is able to earn a suitable living and wants to occupy himself by studying some of the religious sciences but finds that his work will not allow him to do so, then he may be given zakah since seeking knowledge is considered a collective duty (fard kifayah). As for the individual who is not seeking knowledge, zakah is not permissible for him if he is able to earn his living even though he resides at a school. An-Nawawi says: "As for one who is engaged in supererogatory worship (nawafil) or for one who occupies himself in nawafil with no time to pursue his own livelihood, he may not receive zakah. This is because the benefit of his worship is confined only to him, contrary to the one who seeks knowledge."
Setting Debt Free through Zakah:
Formulating the issue, an-Nawawi says in al-Majmu': "Suppose a person owes a debt to another person and at the same time he qualifies for zakah. [When zakah is due for the lender to pay,] he tells [the borrower]: 'Consider the debt for [my] zakah.' Would it be valid?" An-Nawawi says there are two opinions on it. According to Ahmad and Abu Hanifah, who held the better opinion, it does not constitute zakah because it cannot be discharged unless actually paid, while Hasan al-Basri and 'Ata maintain that the responsibility to pay zakah will be discharged even though there is no payment of zakah (at that point in time) by its payer.
Likewise, if an individual trustingly assigns some money to a person to keep and at the time of zakah he asks the assignee to keep the amount in lieu of his zakah, it will be valid.
The jurists, however, agree that if a person pays zakah to another who owes him money and then receives it back to redeem his loan to him, the obligation to pay zakah will not be discharged. It is also invalid for a person to accept zakah on the condition that he will pay it back to the lender (the zakah payer) for the amount he owes him. Nevertheless, if at the time of lending and acceptance of the loan both agree to do so, even though it was not mentioned in the deal, it will be valid as zakah.
Transfer of Zakah:
The jurists agree that zakah can be transferred from one city to another provided the needs of the city residents whom the zakah was originally derived from have first been satisfied. A large number of hadith on the subject stress the need for depleting zakah among the poor and the needy of the city from which it is collected. This is because zakah aims at freeing the poor inhabitants of an area from want, and thus its transfer would contribute to their deprivation. This is substantiated by the hadith of Mu'adh: "Tell them that there is a charity due upon them to be taken from their rich and to be given back to their poor." Abu Juhaifah reported: "The charity collector of the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, came to us and took zakah from our rich and gave it to our poor. I was an orphan then, and he gave me a young she-camel." This is related by at-Tirmidhi, who graded it hassan.
'Imran ibn Husain reports that he was employed as a charity collector. When he returned from this assignment, he was asked: "Where is the collection?" He responded: "Did you send me for the collection? We took it and distributed it the way we did at the time of the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace." This is related by Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah. On the same subject, Tawus says: "Mu'adh wrote in his letter: 'Anyone who moves from one location to another, his charity and tithe remain in the location of his tribe.'" This is related by al-Athram in his Sunan.
Based on such hadith, the jurists say that the poor of a city have a prior claim over the local zakah than the poor elsewhere. Still, they differ over which conditions must prevail before zakah can be transferred from one city to another.
The Hanafiyyah hold that transferring zakah is disliked (makruh) unless it is for needy relatives and serves the ties of blood, or when the needs of a group of Muslims are more pressing than those of the locals, when it is tied to the general interests of the Muslims, when it is sought from a country at war against the Muslims to the land of Islam, when it is intended for a scholar, or when zakah is paid before the completion of the hawl. In those cases, transferring zakah is not disliked (makruh).
The Shaf'iyyah maintain that transferring zakah is not allowed and that it must be spent in the area of its origin, unless it has no poor or other categories of zakah recipients. 'Amr ibn Shu'aib reported that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, appointed Mu'adh ibn Jabal to a position in Jund where the latter remained until the death of the Prophet. At the time of this event, he came to 'Umar who reappointed him. He sent to 'Umar one-third of the sadaqat collected from the local people, but 'Umar turned it down and said: "I did not appoint you to go there as a tax collector or as a tribute (jizyah) taker. I appointed you to collect sadaqat from the rich and then to return them to their poor." Mu'adh replied: "I would not have sent you anything [from the collection] if I had found someone deserving [over here]." In the second year, he sent him half of the collected sadaqat, and they ran into the same issue again. In the third year, he sent him all of it, and 'Umar again argued with him. Mu'adh responded: "I could not find anyone who deserved to receive anything from me." This is related by Abu 'Ubaid.
Malik holds that transferring zakah is allowed only when there is a desperate need. The administration then can send it to the other place after due consideration of all the facts. The Hanbaliyyah say that it is not permissible to transfer zakah from its place of origin to that of the place beyond which salat ul-qasr is applicable. It must be spent in the place which generated it or near to it but not beyond the point of qasr.
Abu Dawud says: "I heard Ahmad saying 'no' when asked if zakah could be transferred from one city to another. Asked further, 'What if his [the zakah payer's] relatives are in the other city?' he replied: 'No. It can be transferred only when the needs of the poor residents of a city have been satisfied.' " This is based on the preceding hadith of Abu 'Ubaid. Ibn Qudamah holds that even if the zakah payer violated the above stipulations by transferring it, he would still have met his obligation. Most of the scholars also support this view. When a man resides in one city and his holdings happen to be in another, consideration will be given to the city where his holdings are located because the holdings generated zakah and the eligible people will be eyeing it. If part of the holdings are with the owner and some are in another city, zakah will be paid on the portion in each city. This applies to zakah on one's holdings. As for the zakah at the end of Ramadan (zakat ul-fitr), it is distributed in the city where it is due, whether the payer's holdings are there or not. This is because this type of zakah is associated with the person rather than with the holdings.
Errors in the Distribution of Zakah:
The topic of recipients versus non-recipients of zakah has already been covered. It does happen, however, that a zakah payer inadvertantly gives it to an ineligible person at the expense of an eligible one. Upon the realization of such a mistake, would he be considered to have fulfilled his obligation of zakah or would it still be a debt upon him until he pays it to the right people? The jurists differ over this point. Abu Hanifah, Muhammad, al-Hasan, and Abu 'Ubaidah maintain that in such a case he would not be required to pay another zakah.
Ma'an ibn Yazid reports: "My father set aside a few dinars for sadaqah and gave them to a man in the mosque. I went and took them and brought them back to my father. He said: 'By Allah! What have you done?' I consulted the Prophet, upon whom be peace, about it. The Prophet observed: 'O Yazid, for you is what you intended and O Ma'an, for you is what you have taken.' " This is related by Ahmad and al-Bukhari. The meaning of this hadith is that sadaqah is supererogatory (nafl); however, the word ma (meaning what) in laka rna nawayta (for you is what you intended) denotes generalization. Abu Hanifah and Muhammad are supported in their stand by a hadith from Abu Hurairah which reports the Prophet, upon whom be peace, saying: "A man [from Banu Isra'il] said [to himself]: 'Tonight I will give away something in sadaqah.' So he went out with his sadaqah and [unknowlingly] gave it to a thief. The next moming he was told by the people that he had given sadaqah to a thief. [On hearing this,] he said: 'O Allah! Praised be You. Certainly I will give sadaqah again.' So, he went out with his sadaqah and [unknowingly] gave it to an adulteress. The next moming he was told that he had given sadaqah to an adulteress. The man said: 'O Allah! Praised be You. [I gave my sadaqah] to an adulteress. Certainly I will give sadaqah again.' Thus he went out with his sadaqah again and [unknowingly] gave it to a rich person. The next moming the people said that the night before he had given his sadaqah to a wealthy person. He said: 'O Allah! Praised be You. [I have given my sadaqah] to an adulteress, a thief, and a rich person.' [In his dreams] he saw someone saying to him: 'The sadaqah you gave to the thief might make him abstain from stealing, and that given to the adulteress might make her abstain from illegal sex [adultery], and that given to the wealthy person might make him learn a lesson from it and spend his wealth, which Allah, the Exalted One, has given him in Allah's cause.' " This is related by Ahmad, al-Bukhari, and Muslim.
The Prophet, upon whom be peace, said to a man who asked him for sadaqah: "If you were eligible for zakah, I would have given you your due." He (the Prophet) gave (zakah) to two well built persons saying: "If you wish, I will give from it [sadaqah]. There is no portion in it for a wealthy person or a healthy individual who is eaming." Ibn Qudamah says: "If he would have considered the reality of the rich person, he would not have been contented with what they said [conceming this matter]."
The opinion of Malik, ash-Shaf'i, Abu Yusuf, ath-Thauri, and Ibn al-Mundhir is that it will not be sufficient for a zakah payer to give it to the undeserving, especially when his mistake becomes clear. In that case, he should pay zakah once again to those who deserve it. His case is similar to the case of unpaid debts (owed) to other people. Ahmad says that there are two opinions conceming one paying zakah to a person whom he thought was poor and later leamed was rich. The first contends it would be considered paid, while the second says that it would not be. When it becomes known that one who received zakah is a slave, an unbeliever, a Hashimite (a person from the Prophet's family), or an ineligible relative of the zakah payer, then one has not discharged one's obligation, the reason being that it is difficult to know who is rich and who is poor: "The ignorant man thinks that since they [who do not ask for] are modest they are free from want" [al-Baqarah 273].
Disclosure of Sadaqah:
It is pemmissible for the person giving sadaqah to disclose his sadaqah, whether it is of an obligatory or supererogatory type (nafilah), so long as he does not do it ostentatiously. However, it is preferable not to disclose it. Allah, the Exalted One, says: "If you publicize your almsgiving, it is alright, but if you hide it and give it to the poor, it will be better for you" [al-Baqarah 271]. Ahmad, alBukhari, and Muslim relate from Abu Hurairah that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: "Seven people will be shaded by Allah on the day when there will be no shade except His. These people are: a just ruler, a young man who has been brought up in the worship of Allah, a man whose heart is attached to the mosque, two persons who love each other only for Allah's sake and they meet and depart in Allah's cause only, a person who gives sadaqah so secretly that his left hand does not know what his right hand has given, a person who remembers Allah in his seclusion and his eyes get filled with tears, and a man who refuses the call of a chamling woman of noble birth for illicit sex and says: 'I am afraid of Allah, the Exalted One.' "
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