Giving Zakat: To Whom It May Concern

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Umm Amal

freelance writer


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“As-Sadaqat (here it means Zakat) are only for the Fuqara (poor), and Al-Masakeen (the poor) and those employed to collect (the funds); and to attract the hearts of those who have been inclined (towards Islam); and to free the captives and for those in debt and for Allah’s Cause (i.e. for Mujahideen – those fighting in a holy battle), and for the wayfarer (a traveler who is cut off from everything); a duty imposed by Allah And Allah is All Knower, All Wise.” (At Taubah 9:60)

Allah (swt) has declared 8-eight recipients of Zakat in the Quran as per the Ayah mentioned above. Following are their brief descriptions:

  1. Poor (Faqeer)

The poor is defined as someone who is dependent and needy – an individual who does not possess Dirham, Dinar, shelter, source of income, etc. He is desperately destitute. The question is not of whether he has less or more.

Once a man questioned Syedna Abdullah bin Amr bin Al Aas (rta): “Are we, the Muhajireen (immigrants) considered to be Faqeer?” Abdullah (rta) asked the man: “Do you have a wife with whom you dwell?” The man replied: “Yes, I have a wife.” Abdullah (rta) asked him next: “Do you have a house where you live?” The man responded: “Yes, I do have a house.” Abdullah (rta) commented: “Then you are among the rich and well to do.” The man added: “I have a slave too.” Abdullah (rta) finally stated: “Then you are among the royalty.”

  1. Needy (Miskeen)

This is an individual who is not able to make his ends meet. He may have a source of income, shelter, food, etc. But, his daily essential expenses exceed his earnings. However, he never asks others. The Quran describes them in the story of Khidr (as) and Musa (as), “As for the ship, it belonged to the Masakeen (poor people) working in the sea…” (Al Kahf 18:79)

This shows that these Masakeen owned a boat and earned a living which was not enough for their needs.

We need to identify them by close observations, encounters or via other common trusted friends who can relate about them without the Masakeen knowing.

  1. Those employed to collect Zakat (Amileen)

An Amil is a person who is responsible for collection, and account keeping of Zakat. Whether this individual is well to do or poor, he is a candidate for Zakat as per the Ameer’s decision.

Once Syedna Abdullah bin Saadi (rta) visited Omar (rta). Omar (rta) stated: “I have heard that you are involved in serving the people, and when you are offered remuneration against it, you dislike it.”

Abdullah (rta) replied: “I have wealth, horses and slaves; hence, I wish to offer my remuneration to other Muslims.”

Omar (rta) responded: “Do not do this. Once, I also decided likewise. When the beloved Prophet (sa) would offer me something, I would ask him to distribute it to someone who was more needy and dependent than I was. The Prophet (sa) advised: ‘Take this and become wealthy, and then give Sadaqah. If you receive wealth by such means that you did not desire it, and neither did you demand it, accept that wealth. And, if you are not offered any, then do not worry about it.’” (Bukhari)

  1. Those whose hearts are inclined towards Islam (Taleef e Qulub)

This allows to pay Zakat to the great enemies of Islam- to make their hearts tender and softer towards Muslims. If evidence shows that by accepting wealth- a disbeliever will change his course of action (enmity), will cooperate in the cause of Islam, and safeguard Muslim interests- he is legible for Zakat. This category also includes new converts to Islam to help them gain sure footing- as most of them are turned out of their families, may lose their jobs, or even sent to exile- as a result of embracing Islam in a non-Muslim community.

  1. Captives (Fi Riqab)

This portion of Zakat can be given for the release of captives in enemy prisons, or freeing of necks of slaves. Since, slavery has been banished for long; our challenge is primarily to secure freedom of captives in enemy territories. Many Muslim soldiers are subjected to humiliating lives in enemy prisons. Similarly, innocent victims thrown behind bars- who cannot prove their innocence due to poverty, and lack of resources- need to be bailed out or freed.

It is narrated by Abu Hurairah (rta) that the Prophet (sa) said: “Whoever frees a Muslim slave, Allah (swt) will save all the parts of his body from the (Hell) Fire, as he has freed the body parts of the slave.” (Bukhari)

  1. Debtors (Ghamirin)

The debtors, who are enslaved due to loans they cannot repay, can be helped by paying off their loans. A debtor maybe poor, needy, employed or unemployed- he is still a candidate for Zakat.

  1. Those who fight a holy battle (Mujahid)

This consists of Jihad Fi Sabeel illah. Zakat can be used to fulfill the needs of Jihad such as- buy weapons and other arsenal, train the soldiers, fund their need of clothing, health care, travelling, lodging, etc. These Mujahid are engaged in defending the frontiers of Islam day and night.

Mujahid (rta) said to Abdullah bin Omar (rta) “I want to participate in a battle.” Abdullah bin Omar (rta) gladly offered: “Then I wish to help you monetarily.” Mujahid (rta) replied: “By Allah’s (swt) Grace, I am wealthy.” Abdullah bin Omar (rta) stated: “Brother! Your wealth belongs to you. I just want to spend my money in the cause of Jihad.” (Bukhari)

  1. Traveler (Ibn Sabeel)

Zakat is payable to any traveler, rich or poor. If he needs financial assistance during his journey in order to reach his destination safely and honourably, the traveler is eligible for Zakat.

Syedna Abdullah bin Abbas (rta) confirms that Zakat can be used to help a believer perform his Hajj. Imam Hassan Basri also stated that Zakat can be paid to a pilgrim who has never performed Hajj to facilitate his expenses.

Allah (swt) knows best.

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