Some Questions about Zakāt
Economic Issues
Question asked by .
Answered by Dr. Shehzad Saleem

1) Can one contribute zakāt money for your journal?

2) Can zakāt be given to a poor person desiring to perform Umra?

3) Can zakāt be given to a close relative who is a widow and does not earn anymore due to health problems but gives zakāt herself on her jewellery? Incidentally, her relatives give her money every month for her house rent.

4) Can zakāt be given to needy Christians?



Before I answer your questions, some basic premises about zakāt need to be understood.

Zakāt is the only tax an Islamic government can impose upon its Muslim citizens. It is not merely a charity fund but can be spent on the collective needs of the people as well: The zakāt money can be used to pay the salaries of government officials including that of the head of state, to build all works of public interest, to cater for defence requirements and to establish an Islamic system of Insurance. In short, the system of zakāt envisaged by the Qur’ān and Sunnah totally meets the requirements of running a welfare state. Unfortunately, the true concept of zakāt has, over the years, altogether vanished from our religio-political scenario.

The following Qur’ānic verse spells out the heads under which the zakāt fund can be expended:

Zakāt is only for the poor and the needy, and for those who are ‘āmils over it, and for those whose hearts are to be reconciled [to the truth], and for the emancipation of the slaves and for those who have been inflicted with losses and for the way of Allah and for the wayfarers. (9:60)

A brief explanation of these heads follows:

1) The Poor and Needy (Fuqarā and Masākīn): The poor and the needy are the foremost recipients of zakāt because they are the primary responsibility of the state. It must cater for their basic needs like food, clothing, shelter, health and education.

2) The ‘A^mils over Zakāt(`amilīna `alayhā): Under this head, the salaries of all employees of the government including the head of the state can be paid.

3) Those whose hearts are to be reconciled (Muallafatu’l Qulūb): Under this head come all forms of political expenditure in the interest of Islam. There are may be many instances, when the affection of certain influential people must be obtained, particularly in border areas where their role can be decisive in the safety of a country. During the time of the Prophet (sws) many tribes were given money under this head to deter them from harming the newly founded Islamic State.

4) Slaves (Riqāb): The institution of slavery was totally eliminated by Islam fourteen centuries ago. From this particular head money was given to free slaves. Today, by analogy, this head can be extended to include other recipients. For example, prisoners of war and other prisoners who are unable to pay the fine imposed by the courts can be freed by giving money through this head.

5) Those inflicted with losses (Ghārimīn): Under this head, an Islamic system of Insurance can be established and all those who are inflicted with economic losses can be compensated. Whether rich or poor the real criterion is that their means of living and its role in the national economy have been destroyed. People who have acquired a loan and are unable to pay it back may also be helped from this money so that they may start afresh and the society can benefit from their abilities.

6) In the Way of Allah (Fī Sabīlillāh): Under this head, all kinds of expenditures which serve the cause of Islam like defence requirements, religious propagation, educational institutions, mosques, libraries and hospitals can be built.

7) The Wayfarer (Ibnu’l sabīl): This implies the welfare of the wayfarer. Circumstances often make a traveller a needy person, in which case, his needs can be fulfilled from this head. Also roads and bridges can be constructed.

Keeping these details in consideration, the answers to your first three questions is in the affirmative.

It is also evident from the verse quoted above that the Qur’ān does not discriminate between the recipients of zakāt on the basis of their beliefs or religion. Consequently, the answer to your fourth question is that you can give your zakāt money to Christians.

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