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Condition of Tamlīk in the Payment of Zakāh
Economic Issues
Tariq Haashmi


In response to a query made by the Da‘wah Academy, a subsidiary of the Islamic University, the Council of Islamic Ideology has declared tamlīk a necessary condition for the payment of Zakāh. It held that spending Zakāh in the publication of literature for the propagation of the religion is not allowed. What follows is the text of the news report about the matter:

CII has said in its verdict that the use of Zakāh in publishing the translation of the Holy Qur’ān and literature for the propagation of Islam under the head of ‘fī sabīlillah’ (in the cause of Allah) is not allowed in the Islamic Sharī‘ah. However, it can be used to meet the expenses of an armed struggle and preaching missions but only after the condition of tamlīk is met. For example only those of the warriors can take Zakāh who are not liable to pay Zakāh. Giving Zakāh to a governmental or non-governmental institution for the publication of religious literature would kill its real purpose which is the help of the poor and the needy. Use of Zakāh for the above-mentioned purpose, would open doors to its wrong use. Many of our national political parties are religious. These parties contest election in order to serve religion. They will spend Zakāh on election for, to them, election is also a source of hoisting the word of God. Therefore, under this head, use of Zakāh for these purposes should be prohibited. To provide Zakāh fund for such causes is a deviation from the real objectives of Islam.2

The report basically communicates two points:

a) Direct transfer of Zakāh fund to a deserving person (tamlīk) is necessary.

b) Zakāh cannot be used in preaching activities and in propagating religion by publishing literature.

In the opinion of this writer, both these points are in contradiction with concept of Zakāh presented in the Holy Qur’ān and Sunnah. Before the correct viewpoint is explained in this regard, a word about the meaning and implication of tamlīk.

Literally, tamlīk means ‘to put somebody in possession of something’. Here, with reference to Zakāh, it means ‘the transfer of ownership of Zakāh money to the real beneficiary’. Our scholars regard it necessary to transfer the ownership of Zakāh fund to a needy person. Therefore, the money of Zakāh cannot be spent for general welfare of the poor. For example, we cannot build hospitals for the free treatment of the poor, cannot establish schools for their children, and cannot provide their dwellings with fresh water. Likewise, we cannot arrange for the burial of a poor person or pay loans outstanding against him, for he cannot be made the owner of the money in person.

Those who consider tamlīk compulsory for the payment of Zakāh forward the following arguments:

1. In the Qur’ānic verse ….‘إِنَّمَا الصَّدَقَاتُ لِلْفُقَرَاءِ (Indeed, the alms are for the poor… (9:60), the preposition lam (لام) is for tamlīk.

2. The word Itā (giving) in ‘آتُوالزَّكَوةَ’ (pay Zakāh) connotes the meaning of tamlīk.

3. The Qur’ān uses the word Sadaqah for Zakāh and tasadduq (give in charity) originally implies tamlīk.

Amīn Ahsan Islāhī, a distinguished religious scholar has effectively refuted these arguments in his book ‘Masa’alah-i-Tamlīk’. He holds that the concept of exclusive personal possession is grossly against the Holy Qur’ān and Sunnah. The rest of the article is actually a summary of his critique of the above-mentioned viewpoint.

The gist of his response to the first argument of the said school is as follows:

1. There is no clear instruction in the Qur’ān and Sunnah which says that tamlīk is an indivisible condition of Zakāh.

2. The preposition lām (ل) in the word ‘للْفُقَرَاءِ’, is not merely used for tamlīk in the Holy Qur’ān rather it connotes a host of meanings. Ibn Hishām, a renowned grammarian of the Arabic language, has enumerated nearly twenty-two usages of this preposition in his celebrated treatise ‘Mughnī al-Labīb’. Some of them are:

a) Istihqāq (استحقاق): ‘to merit, to deserve’, as in   ‘أَلْحَمْدُ لِلّهِ’ (All gratitude is due only to Allah.)

b) Ikhtisās (اختصاص): ‘to be exclusively for’, as in  ‘أَلْجَنَّةُ لِلْمُؤْمِنِيْنَ’ (Paradise is exclusively for the believers.)

c) Milkiyyah (ملكيه): ‘to own something’, as in ‘لَهُ مَا فِي السَّمَوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأرْض’ (His is what is found in the heaven and what is in the earth.)

d) Tamlīk (تمليك): ‘to make someone owner of something’, as in ‘وَهَبْتُ لِذَيْدٍ دِيُنَارًا’ (I made Zayd owner of a dinār.)

e) ‘Āqibah (عاقبه): ‘to be ultimately for’, as in ‘فَالْتَقَتْهُ آلُ فِرْعَوْنَ لِيَكُوْنَ لَهُمْ عَدُوًّاوَّ حُزْنًا’ (Then Pharaoh’s household  picked him up so that he may become their enemy and cause of grief for them.)3

It is worth mentioning that Ibn Hishām has cited examples mostly from the Holy Qur’ān. For tamlīk he has cited a common expression of the Arabic language. Had the meaning of tamlīk been so pronounced in the lām used in ‘إِنَّمَا الصَّدَقَاتُ لِلْفُقَرَاءِ, he would have quoted it as an example.

3. Muslim jurists and scholars do not agree upon one meaning of this lam. The Hanafites take it for ‘āqibah (consequence) whereas the Malikites take it for tamlīk. 

4. The context of the verse does not allow this sense of the preposition. Following is the context in which the verse occurs:

وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ يَلْمِزُكَ فِي الصَّدَقَاتِ فَإِنْ أُعْطُوا مِنْهَا رَضُوا وَإِنْ لَمْ يُعْطَوْا مِنْهَا إِذَا هُمْ يَسْخَطُونَ  وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ رَضُوا مَا آتَاهُمْ اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ وَقَالُوا حَسْبُنَا اللَّهُ سَيُؤْتِينَا اللَّهُ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ وَرَسُولُهُ إِنَّا إِلَى اللَّهِ رَاغِبُونَ  إِنَّمَا الصَّدَقَاتُ لِلْفُقَرَاءِ وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَالْعَامِلِينَ عَلَيْهَا وَالْمُؤَلَّفَةِ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَالْغَارِمِينَ وَفِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَاِبْنِ السَّبِيلِ فَرِيضَةً مِنْ اللَّهِ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ(٩: ٥٨-٦٠)

Among these hypocrites are people who level allegations against you concerning the distribution of alms. If they are given according to their wishes, they are pleased. If they are given nothing, they grow resentful. It would have been better if they were satisfied with what God and His Prophet have given them, and said: ‘God is sufficient for us. He will provide for us from His own abundance and so will his Messenger. To God we will submit.’ Alms shall be only for the poor and the destitute; for those that are engaged in the management of alms and those whose hearts are to be won in favour of Faith; for the freeing of slaves and debtors: for the advancement of God’s cause; and for the traveler. That is a duty enjoined by God. God is all-knowing and wise. (9:58-60)

 To quote Amīn Ahsan Islāhī’s original words:

These verses portray the picture of the hypocrites whose response to the Prophet was conditional upon their self-interest. If they were given what they wished, they would remain pleased otherwise they would get annoyed and accuse the Prophet of partiality and favoritism. And they would spread such depraved thoughts among Muslims. Now consider what needs to be made clear. Does the situation need a statement making transfer of Zakāh fund directly to the recipients compulsory or the explanation that alms are only meant for such and such people? Obviously, the situation calls for the second. Therefore, interpreters of Qur’ān who keep the context in mind while interpreting the Qur’ān have reached the same conclusion.4

5. The construction of the verse does not accept the meaning of tamlīk. In Islāhī’s own words:

In the verse, it is obvious, there are eight things mentioned as the lawful use of the Zakāh fund. Of these, four come under influence of the preposition lām and the remaining four come under the preposition fī. We must construe something corresponding with both the prepositions lām and fī. If we take lām in the meaning of tamlīk, the first part of the sentence is separated from the rest, as fī does not imply the meaning of tamlīk at all. It only connotes the meaning of ‘usefulness’ or ‘service’ as it does in the following narrative of the Holy Prophet: ‘مَاكَانَ الْعَبْدُ فِيْ عَوْنِ اَخِيْه’ (until one remains in the service of his brothers). Therefore, a compact and well-knit structure of the verse, like this, demands that the both lām and fī imply the meaning of ‘deserving’ or ‘benefiting from’ so that the verse may be interpreted giving a intelligible set of meanings. To take the lām in the sense of tamlīk would not be possible without sacrificing the eloquent expression of the Qur’ān5.

As regards the second and third argument, it is correct that sometimes Itā (ايتا) and tasadduq (تصدق) connote the sense of tamlīk but the ultimate interpretation rests on the context of the usage. It does not serve as a stance to prove that the meaning of tamlīk is inseparable in this lām. Had it be the case we would have taken this meaning in the sentences ‘وَآتَيْنَاهُمْ اْلكِتَاب’ (and we gave him the book) and ‘وَآتَيْنَا دَاوُدَ زَبُوْرًا’ (and we bestowed upon David Zabūr), which of course would be wrong. Likewise, the verse ‘فَاَصِّدَّقَ وَاَكُنْ مِّنَ الصَّالِحِيْنَ’ (so I would give in charity and be among the pious ones) means ‘I would spend in the way of Allah and would spend my money for the benefit of the poor’. It does not mean at all that I would transfer money in the possession of the poor.

Islāhī elucidates this aspect in the following words:

The meaning of tamlīk is not manifest in the words itā and tasadduq. Therefore, it cannot be presented as the final proof in favour of the concept of tamlīk. The only thing these words represent is giving or spending. It can be done by transferring the ownership of the money to a poor or spending it for the betterment of the poor community. Such insistence in the provision of tamlīk makes the payment of Zakāh impossible, where one cannot spend it on burial rites of a dead and pay back a loan on his behalf. I believe that this is a baseless and self-devised idea which has no roots in the Qur’ān and Sunnah.6

The above analysis makes it clear that tamlīk is not a condition for the payment of Zakāh. It can be spent for the benefit of the needy. Therefore, we can build hospitals, establish schools and make roads and inns using the alms. Similarly, it can also be spent on the publication of propagating material and in preaching.








1. "Tamlīk": Exclusive personal possession

2. Daily Jang, July 18, 2001

3. Ibn Hishām, Mughnī al-Labīb, 1st ed., vol. 1, (Lahore: Dār Nashr Kutub-i-Islamiyyah), pp. 228-43

4. Islāhī, Mas’alah-i-Tamlīk, 1st ed., (Lahore: Dāru’l-Ishrāq, 2001), p. 16

5. Ibid., pp. 17-18

6. Ibid., p. 22

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