Those Entitled to Receive Zakaat
by Imam Muhammad bin Saalih Al-’Uthaimeen
from Fusool fis-Siyaam wat-Taraaweeh waz-Zakaat
The people entitled to Zakaat are those places we can direct our Zakaat to. Allaah took charge of explaining for Himself what these places are, saying:
“The charity (Zakaat) is only for the poor, the needy, those employed to collect (the Zakaat), those whose hearts will be inclined (towards Islaam, by giving them Zakaat), for slaves, for those in debt, for (Jihaad in) the Cause of Allaah, and for the wayfarer ( i.e. destitute traveler). It is an obligation imposed by Allaah, and Allaah is the All-Knower, the All-Wise.”[Surah At-Tawbah: 60]
1. The Poor (Fuqaraa): They are those who are not able to support themselves with sufficient means, except for very little, which is less than half (a year). So if a person cannot find that which will support himself and his family for at least half a year, he is considered poor ( faqeer) and he should be given what will suffice him and his family for a year.
2. The Needy (Masaakeen): They are those who are able to support themselves with sufficient means for half of the year or more, but not enough for the entire year. So they should receive support that will complete the year for them. If a person does not have any cash on him, but yet has some other source of income, such as a profession, a salary or investment profits that will support him financially, he should not be given Zakaat. This is based on the Prophet’s statement: “There is no share in it (i.e. the Zakaat) for a wealthy person or for a strong able-bodied person who can earn a living.”
3. Those employed to collect the Zakaat: They are the ones put in charge by the ruler of a country to collect the Zakaat from those who owe it, distribute it to those who are entitled to it, guard the funds and all other types of duties involved with the supervision of Zakaat. So they should be given a portion of the Zakaat in accordance with the work they put in, even if they may already be wealthy.
4. Those whose hearts will be inclined: This refers to tribal and clan leaders, who do not have strong Faith. They should be given Zakaat so as to strengthen their Faith, which will make them callers to Islaam and good role models. But what if a person is weak in his Islaam, and he is not from the leaders who are followed and obeyed, but rather from the common folk, should he be given some Zakaat in order to strengthen his Faith?
Some scholars hold that it should be given to him since benefiting one’s religion is better than benefiting one’s body. Look at the example of a poor person. He is given Zakaat in order to nourish his body. So nourishing someone’s heart with Faith is greater and of more benefit. However some scholars hold that he should not be given the Zakaat since the benefit of strengthening his Faith is a personal benefit that is specific to him alone.
5. Slaves: What falls under this is buying slaves using Zakaat funds in order to free them, as well as assisting in the liberation of Muslim war captives.
6. Those in debt: They are the ones who owe debts. This is on the condition that they do not possess that which will enable them to remove their debts. So these people should be given enough (Zakaat) that will relieve them of their debt, whether it is a small or large amount, even if they may be wealthy due to their livelihood. So in the case where there is a man who has some income that is enough for the livelihood of himself and his family, but he has some debt that he cannot repay, he may be given sufficient Zakaat that will remove his debt from him. However, it is not permissible for a person who is owed money by a poor person to cancel that person’s debt, intending to give his share of Zakaat by that.
The scholars have differed regarding the case where the one in debt is someone’s father or son. Can he be given Zakaat in order to remove his debt? The correct opinion is that it is permissible. It is permissible for a person who owes Zakaat to go to the creditor (person owed the debt) and pay him back the loan of the indebted without the latter being aware of it. This is on the condition that the person owing Zakaat knows that the indebted one is unable to repay his debt.
7. In the Cause of Allaah: This refers to Jihaad in the Cause of Allaah. So those who fight in Jihaad should be given a portion of the Zakaat that will suffice them for their Jihaad and enable them to buy the necessary tools for Jihaad in the Cause of Allaah.
What also falls under “the Cause of Allaah” is religious knowledge. So a student of Islamic knowledge should be given that which will enable him to seek knowledge, such as books and so on. This is unless he already has money of his own that will enable him to achieve that.
8. The Wayfarer: This refers to a traveler that has been cut off from his journey. So he should be given enough Zakaat that will enable him to return to his homeland.
These are the people who are entitled to receive Zakaat, the ones whom Allaah has mentioned in His Book and informed us that this is an obligation that He mandated, which stems from His knowledge and wisdom. And Allaah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.
It is not permissible to direct the Zakaat to any other place, such as towards building masaajid or fixing roads. This is because Allaah has told us those who are entitled to receive the Zakaat for the purpose of limiting them to just those mentioned. So this limitation indicates that we are to negate all other potential recipients that due not fall under this limitation.
If we were to reflect on those individuals that we may give Zakaat to, we would come to realize that among them are those who are in need of the Zakaat for personal use as well as those who are in need of it for the Muslims generally. So by this, we can see the extent of wisdom behind the requirement of Zakaat. And we would come to know that the wisdom behind Zakaat is to build a complete and upright society, as best as possible. And that Islaam does not disregard money or the benefits that can be generated from wealth, nor does it leave greedy and stingy souls to go about freely an unchecked with their stinginess and vain desires. On the contrary, it is the greatest guiding force towards the good and betterment of nations. And all praise is due to Allaah, Lord of the universe.