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Paying Zakah to educational organisations in a non-Muslim society

Question:

What do the pious and expert scholars say about making the payment of Zakah more valuable today by giving it to educational organisations in a non-Muslim society?

Answer:

After praising the Lord Almighty and sending salutations upon the leader of all the prophets Muhammad ﷺ. This question has four parts:

  1. Can the employees in an organisation receive their salaries from zakah?
  2. Can zakah be paid to an organisation where Muslim and non-Muslim students are studying or training?
  3. Can zakah be paid to non-Muslims?
  4. Can zakah be used for the management and the up keep of such premises?

The key verse about the zakah is; “zakah is for the poor, the needy, those who administer them, those whose hearts need winning over, to free slaves and help those in debt, for God’s cause, and for travellers in the this is ordained by God; God is all knowing and Wise” (Al-Tauba; 60)

The Divine wisdom that underpins Islamic rulings is one of kindness, the famous verse of the Qur’an outlined the eight categories of people who are legible to receive zakah payments, I will begin with question three and four, Allah has made Islam’s the religion of nature, so that man can easily apply it in his daily life God says “God does not burden anyone except what they are capable of.”

This verse was revealed in Medina after the migration. It enumerates the eight categories of recipients of zakah, but does not indicate whether the zakah should be decentralised, centralised, institutionalised or personalised. This flexibility in the law always makes it applicable  and in different circumstances. At one time the Hanafi jurists insisted on “Tamleek” ownership meaning that the zakah should be paid individual only however, in a modern technological and commercialised society where civil society is run by organisations it becomes a necessity to use zakah for running them. Already we are seeing that Muslim charities and major Islamic centres have become agents for the collection of zakah and confusion all over the world. This is an important development that makes it possible for Muslims in the West to fulfil their religious obligation.

Those who administer them” here means “the workers” those people who are responsible for the collection and distribution and management of zakah and this is proven from dala al ibara, textual evidence, which means the text was revealed for this ruling, this proves that the salaries of the workers can be paid from zakah. This also shows that religious organisations that provide accommodation, board and lodging, education and other facilities for students can receive the zakah this falls under the category of “workers”. This is inferred from dalal al iqthada, required evidence, the true meaning of the word when all its requisites and requirements are met. Anything to do with “The workers” and their needs will fall under dalal al iqthada. This is clear from the fact that the text cannot be applied without the dalal al iqthada, particularly where the text can have several meanings. However, text that has single meaning will not require dalal al iqthada .

Definition of dalal al iqthada is “the correct meaning of a word as applied to all its related meaning s” for example, “but if the culprit is pardoned by his aggrieved brother, this shall be adhered to fairly, and the culprit shall pay what is due in a good way.” (2:178) The text here makes it clear that the heirs of the murdered person can pardon and this is established by the text. However, this will only be applicable if the murderer has enough wealth to pay the blood money. This is what is known as required evidence dalal al iqthada.

Similarly, in the verse about recipient of the zakah “ amileem aliha” refers to the workers also implies that what ever they require falls under this category, the administrative tools, management arrangement and travel etc. Every dalal al iqthada requires a dala al ibara. However, not every dala al ibara requires dalal al iqthada. With regards to the recipient of the zakah the text requires the contingent and necessary elements to be applicable. In other words, the workers cannot function without having administrative and a management structure. Therefore we conclude that in order to apply this we must support the contingent structures that are required for the workers, the organisation is therefore a legitimate recipient of zakah payments.

Returning to the question of can zakah be given to non-Muslims? And to organisations where Muslim and non-Muslim students study?

The jurists disagree about the payment of zakah to non-Muslims, however there is no disagreement about giving charity to non-Muslims. This charity can be given at any time as made clear in the following verse “and he does not forbid you to deal kindly and justly anyone who has not fought you for your faith or driven you out of your homes: God loves the just.” (60:8), Ibn Arabi in his commentary on the Quran wrote” such people should be given charity to win their hearts and minds and furthermore, justice is compulsory in every situation, whether in war or in peace.”

We can look at this verse from another angle, those Muslims who have given refuge and allowed Muslims to settle amidst them and have given them safety and security, if ever they become needy, it is essential that Muslims should support them and this is proven from “ isha ra t nas” textual allusion. Textual allusion is defined as the text hints meaning and this can only be understand with knowledge of context. For example, the Quran says “taking care of a child is responsibility of the father.” Here the text alludes and hints to the fact that the child will remain in the custody of a father. In a similar way we can understand that the Muslims who live in Britain in peace and are treated equally by the law should help non-Muslim children if they need support.

With regards to payment of zakah to non-Muslims  most of the jurists are of the opinion that they qualify for the zakah under the term “Al mualifa t Al qulub” those whose heart need winning over.

Ibn Kathir said in “those whose heart need winning over refers to those people who may be interested in becoming Muslims like safwan ibn umayya was given charity by the Prophet for this purpose and it is not necessary to tell them that they are being paid zakah, and that there are others need to be given zakah so that they can strengthen their Islam… And in order to build positive and strong relationships with the non-Muslim community, to avoid conflicts and tensions, although according to the jurists of the hanafi  fiqh this category  no longer exists. However, the majority of the jurists still believe in the validity of this group of recipients of zakah “. As far as British Muslims are concerned there is a strong argument for them to give the path to non-Muslims in order to shore the beauty and kind nature of Muslim community. This in no way means that we are bribing people to become Muslims, it is an act of mercy, kindness and good citizen ship.

Finally, I would like to clarify that juristic  opinion a fatwa depends on four things: the time, the place, the people and the circumstances. In the light of the above opinions of Muslim scholars, we can discern that British Muslims living in the limelight of media in, and Islamophobia environment must behave impeccably and morally in the best way and paying zakah way of showing generosity and making friends.

And Allah knows best.

Dr Musharraf Hussain Al-Azhari
Director of British Fatwa Council