What do the scholars and experts of shari’ah say regarding the payment of zakat to the following:
- Can the employees of an Islamic organisation receive salaries from zakat?
- Can zakat be used for the management and the upkeep of religious premises?
- Can zakat be paid to an organisation where Muslim and non-Muslim students are studying or training?
- Can zakat be paid to non-Muslims?
After praising the Allah Almighty ﷻ and sending salutations upon the leader of all the prophets, Muhammad ﷺ. I will answer this with the help of the mighty King and Caring Lord.
The The eight recipients of zakat mentioned in the Quran are: “Zakat is only for: the poor; the needy; its administrators; people whose hearts and minds are to be won; buying freedom for slaves; helping people in debt; for the advancement of Allah’s cause; and a needy traveler. This is a duty instructed by Allah, and Allah is All-Knowing, Wise.” (Tauba; 60)
Kindness is the Divine philosophy that permeates Islamic rulings. It was revealed in Medina after the migration and the eight categories of people who are legible to receive zakat payments are mentioned but does not indicate whether the zakat should be institutionalised. This flexibility in the law always makes it applicable and in different circumstances. At one time the Hanafi jurists insisted on “Tamleek” ownership. So, zakat was paid to the individual who would become its owner. However, in modern society the non-profit organisations need zakat for running them. The Muslim charities, major Islamic centres and Masajid are collecting zakat. This enables 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 zakat and this is proven from textual evidence, the text was revealed for this ruling. This proves that the salaries of the workers can be paid from zakat. Similarly religious organisations that provide boarding and lodging, education and other facilities for students can receive the zakat under this category. The “amileena ‘alayha” refers to the workers, the administrators and implies that whatever they require falls under this category, the administrative tools, management arrangement and travel etc. With regards to the recipient of the zakat 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 to apply this we must support the contingent structures that are required for the workers, the organisation is therefore a legitimate recipient of zakat payments.
The question of can zakat be given to non-Muslims? Can it be given to organisations where Muslim and non-Muslim students study?
The jurists disagree about the payment of zakat to non-Muslims, however giving charity, sadaqa to non-Muslims is permissible. Charity can be given at any time as made clear in the 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.” (Al-Mumtahana: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 were given refuge by non-Muslims to settle in their country, if they become needy, it is essential that Muslims should support them. This is proven from ‘Isharat al-Nas’, textual allusion, that is that he text hints to this meaning and this can only be understand with knowledge of the 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 zakat to non-Muslims most of the jurists are of the opinion that they may qualify for the zakat under the term ‘Al-Mualifat 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 Umaya was given charity by the Prophet ﷺ for this purpose… And to build positive relationships with the non-Muslim community, to avoid conflicts and tensions. Although according to the Hanafi’s this category no longer exists. But most of the jurists still believe in the validity of this group of recipients of zakat”.
As far as British Muslims are concerned there is a strong argument to give zakat to non-Muslims to show kindness. This is not bribing people to become Muslims but an act of kindness showing good citizenship.
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 see that British Muslims living in a society where Islamophobia is rife must show generosity and make friends, and if payment of zakat achieves this purpose it should carried out.
And Allah ﷻ knows the best
This fatwa is written by Dr Musharraf Hussain al-Azhari