Who is Eligible to Receive Zakah
Sadaqah is a general charity that can be voluntarily given to anyone you feel deserves it, whether they are Muslim or non-Muslim, and for whatever purpose they need it. However, Zakah, in Islam is not a charity as such but a right that the poor and needy have upon you, a poor due, and is as much about purifying your wealth as it is about helping others; as such Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) has placed conditions and limits upon it. Out of the Mercy of Allah(سبحانه و تعالى), He has put limits on what zakah is due on, the amount that is due, its collection and its distribution. One such condition, unlike Sakaqah which can be given to anyone, is that Zakah can only be given to Muslims, and even then to only certain groups from among the Muslims.
In the Quran, Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) has enjoined Zakah as an obligation upon the Muslims and He has also clarified who from among them is entitled to it. Those entitled to Zakah are the people mentioned in the Ayah: “As-Sadaqaat (here it means Zakah) are only for the Fuqaraa’ (poor), and Al‑Masaakeen (the needy (the poor)) and those employed to collect (the funds); and to attract the hearts of those who have been inclined (towards Islam); and to free the captives; and for those in debt; and for Allah’s Cause (i.e. for Mujaahidoon — those fighting in a holy battle), and for the wayfarer (a traveller who is cut off from everything); a duty imposed by Allah. And Allah is All-Knower, All-Wise” [Quran: Surah al-Tawbah 9: Ayah 60]. These eight groups of people can be summarized as:
- The Poor & The Needy – these people may have some wealth and funds but it is not enough to make up for the nisab.
- The Destitute – People who have no wealth or funds. They are living their life on the very basics necessities of life.
- Zakah Collectors – People who collect Zakah as well as distribute it.
- Muslim Reverts – This category was specifically designed for new Muslims (Reverts) to help them, especially so, if they are in need.
- Freeing of Captives – This category is largely redundant today, except when people are taken captive and need to be freed.
- People in Debt – People who are in debt but cannot pay it back are eligible for Zakah.
- In the Cause of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) – This may include people engaged in Jihad against oppression and injustice facing the Muslims and the Cause of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى). It also includes, those, spreading the message of Islam to those who have not yet received it and da'wah.
- Travellers – Muslims who are in the middle of their journey and run out of money become eligible for Zakah donations.
Can Zakah be Given to Relatives?
Generally, zakah cannot be given to relatives who would be termed dependents, such as ascendants (parents, grandparents and great grandparents etc.), descendants (children, grandchildren and great grandchildren etc.) or your spouse. You, also, cannot also give zakah to yourself.
Zakah may be given to non dependent relatives, who are from one of the 8 groups of people above mentioned, and thus eligible for zakah. It can be given to brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, etc. Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Uthaymeen (رحمه الله) said on this issue:
'Giving zakah to relatives who are entitled to it is better than giving it to those who are not your relatives, because giving charity to relatives is both charity and upholding the ties of kinship. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Charity given to a poor person is charity, but charity given to a relative is two things, charity and upholding the ties of kinship.” [al-Nasaa’i, 2581; al-Tirmidhi, 658; Graded saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Nasaa’i, 2420].
But if these relatives are among those on whom you are obliged to spend (such as your parents or children), but you give them your zakah so that you can save money, then that is not permissible.
But if your wealth is not sufficient to spend on them, then there is nothing wrong with giving them some of your zakah.
If they are in debt and you pay off their debts from your zakah, there is nothing wrong with your doing that, because a person is not obliged to pay off his relative’s debt, so if he pays it off from his zakah then that is fine. Even if it is your son or your father who owes a debt to someone and cannot pay it off, it is permissible for you to pay it off from your zakah.' [fatwas of Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Uthaymeen (رحمه الله). Fatawa al-Shaykh Muhammad al-Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen, 1/461].
Can Zakah be Given for Daw'ah (calling People to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى))?
Ibn Qudaamah (رحمه الله) said in al-Mughni (2/280): "It is not permissible to spend zakah on anything other than what Allah has mentioned here (i.e. Surah al-Tawbah 9: Ayah 60, above), such as building mosques, bridges and aqueducts, maintaining roads, shrouding the dead, providing hospitality to visitors and other acts of charity that Allah did not mention here." What is meant by “in the Cause of Allah” is jihad for the sake of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى).
Some contemporary scholars are of the view that jihad for the sake of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) includes the jihad of knowledge, establishing proof, explaining and calling people to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), so they regarded it as permissible to spend zakah on da’wah to call people to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), on the basis that this comes under the heading of “in the Cause of Allah”.
Shaykh Ibn Jibreen (رحمه الله) when asked about zakah said: "Because zakah has been prescribed to meet the needs of the poor and weak, and it has also been prescribed to support charitable causes such as giving to mukaatibs (slaves who have contracts of manumission with their owners), mujaahideen, those who are cut off and those whose hearts are to be softened towards Islam, this indicates that it is prescribed for charitable causes which lead to good outcomes and will bring benefits, goodness and blessing to the Muslims. Our Shaykhs have issued fatwas stating that it may be spent on da’wah and calling people to Allah, and the means of da’wah such as essays, tapes and salaries for full-time daa’iyahs. That also includes spending it on charitable schools for Qur’aan memorization, because of the good effect and outcomes that they have, and to encourage people to memorize and follow Qur’aan. I think it is permissible to give zakah to these people if there are no other organizations who are doing that, so that these religious activities will not cease." [Islamqa].