Those Entitled to Receive the Zakat?
According to the Quran, eight categories of people are entitled to receive the Zakat.
“Zakat expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakat] 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.”
(Quran, 9: 60).
- Fuqaraa: the poor
The fuqaraa’ are those who do have some money but not sufficient to meet their basic needs. They cannot make both ends meet; yet they do not ask for help due to modesty and self-respect. They live in great hardship and difficulties.
- Masaakeen: the destitute and the needy
The masaakeen are totally destitute. They have nothing to meet their needs.
- Workers in Zakat administration (al-‘aamileena ‘alayhaa)
Those who collect and distribute Zakat could be paid their salaries from Zakat funds, according to the verse 9:60. This follows that Zakat collection and administration is the function of an organized body of paid employees. These workers can receive wages regardless of whether they are poor or not.
- Those whose hearts need to be reconciled (al-mu’allafatu quloobuhum)
This includes people who have recently become Muslim. They also include the people whose evil acts can be prevented. They are also those who require to be given money to seek their support for Islam or to prevent them from opposition. They may be given Zakat to reconcile them by showing at first hand the caring nature of Islam.
- Freeing from bondage (fir-riqaab)
Zakat money can be used to purchase a slave from his master in order to set him free. According to Sayyid Abul-A’ala Mawdudee, this category can also be extended to such people as those who have been imprisoned for their inability to pay fines imposed upon them. They can be helped with Zakat money to secure their release.
- Those in debt for personal reasons (al-ghaarimeen, the overburdened debtors)
These are the people who are overburdened with debt that they cannot pay it on their own. The debt can be the result of buying a house for family use, medical expenses, marriage, or other lawful expenses. Some scholars, however, say that it is undesirable to give Zakat to people who have fallen into debt due to their wasteful habits. They argue that the hope of receiving help from Zakat will encourage them to continue with their wastefulness. Islam takes a very noble and understanding attitude towards people burdened with debt.
- For the Cause of Allah (fee Sabeelillaah)
The seventh category where Zakat can be spent according to the Quran (9: 60) is spending in the way of Allah. This refers to fighting for the sake of Allah. It means giving help to a struggle for making Islam supreme on earth. It is significant to realize that jihad, or striving, is not restricted to armed struggle only. It could also include writing, lecturing, and organizing work to support or defend Islam.
- The ravellers (ibnus-sabeel)
A traveller may have any amount of wealth in his home, but if he is in need of money while travelling, he may be given Zakat. Certain conditions, however, apply, including the fact that the journey should not be made in disobedience to Allah but for a valid cause, such as seeking knowledge, searching for a lawful job or conducting business.
Zakat money should be given to the above categories according to their priorities – things that are regarded as more important than others. It should be based on actual needs and public interest. But it is important to remember that the primary recipients of Zakat are the poor and the needy. Helping such people is the main objective of Zakat. Further, sinful Muslims may be given Zakat too. A person’s sinfulness does not disqualify him from receiving help!
Who Cannot Receive Zakat?
This category also includes the children of those who are rich and those whose living expenses are the responsibility of a rich person. Parents and children cannot give Zakat to each other, nor can husbands and wives. A distant relative, however, is beyond doubt entitled to it.
Can Non-Muslims Be Given Zakat?
Only Muslims are entitled to receive Zakat. According to the majority of scholars, Zakat cannot be given to non-Muslims. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “It will be taken from the wealthy among you and distributed to the poor among you.” (al-Bukhaaree and Muslim)
This concerns Zakat with regard to non-Muslims. It is significant to realize, however, that all poor and needy people, regardless of their religious beliefs, can always be helped from other funds. They have a share in all other general charities or social security payments. It will be wrong to discriminate against them.
The Prophet (pbuh) once said to Aishah, “Do not turn away a poor man, Aishah, even if all you can give is half a date. If you love the poor and bring them near to you, Aishah, Allah will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection.” (at-Tirmidhee)
Other Important Considerations
- The intention is required when paying Zakat. This intention, however, must not be expressed in words. Intention is also needed so that payment of Zakat can be distinguished from other charitable donations. Remember Zakat is an act of worship.
- Zakat does not have to be paid in kind but can also be paid in value. For example, if one is required to pay Zakat on his crops, then he is permitted to pay in cash the value of the crop that is to be given in Zakat.
- Zakat is due immediately; payment of Zakat, therefore, should not be delayed unless there is a valid reason to wait in order to give it to needy relatives or anyone else in need. Pre-payment is allowed according to most jurists on assets that require the passage of one year, such as livestock, money, trading goods and jewellery, if the payer has the necessary nisaab. It is permissible to give Zakat even two years in advance.
Should the Receivers be Told it is Zakat?
When Zakat is paid to those whom the giver thinks are poor, there is no need to inform the recipient that it is Zakat. There is no need to humiliate the recipient by saying so. He should pay him and remain silent. One should not humiliate the believers. There are people who would hesitate to receive Zakat due to their self-respect and modesty. Some even may feel uncertain about whether they are qualified to receive Zakat. If the giver considers the receiver to be poor and deserving of Zakat, then this will be enough. There is no need to further check or confirm it.
Dua by the Recipient for the Giver of Zakat
Thankfulness is a trait of all good-hearted people. This is more so for a believer. He is ever grateful for all the bounties of life granted to him by Allah. Such a person never fails to appreciate any help, however small, given to him by others. In this modern time of ours people live for themselves. Self-cantered lifestyle has become the norm these days. To come forward and help the needy is indeed a sign of love and compassion. This is exactly what the Zakat giver does. He gives part of his wealth to his needy brothers and sisters. He does not want to receive any worldly benefits by his Zakat.
Moreover, he does not offer this sacrifice just once or twice, but he continues it year after year so long as Allah blesses him with a certain amount of wealth.
A Zakat receiver, therefore, should pray for blessings and mercy for the Zakat givers, even though he may not know their identity.