Published in  
October 15, 2021

Recipients and Distribution | Zakat Made Easy | Part 6

This article covers the different types of people who are eligible to receive zakat along with some special cases and beneficiaries.

This article is Part 6 of an ongoing series titled, 'Zakat Made Easy'

Allah tells us in the Quran:

 إِنَّمَا الصَّدَقَاتُ لِلْفُقَرَاءِ وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَالْعَامِلِينَ عَلَيْهَا وَالْمُؤَلَّفَةِ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَالْغَارِمِينَ وَفِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ ۖ فَرِيضَةً مِّنَ اللَّهِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ 

"Indeed, [prescribed] charitable offerings are only [to be given] to the poor and the indigent, and to those who work on [administering] it, and to those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to [free] those in bondage, and to the debt-ridden, and for the cause of Allah, and to the wayfarer. [This is] an obligation from Allah. And Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise." [Surah Al-Tawbah, 60]

From this we learn that Allah has specified zakat recipients or beneficiaries to 8 specific categories. These are:

  1. The Poor
  2. The Needy 
  3. Collectors of Zakat 
  4. Softening the Hearts
  5. Slaves
  6. Those in Debt
  7. In The Path of Allah 
  8. The Stranded Traveller

Narrated Ziyad ibn al-Harith as-Suda'i: I came to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) and swore allegiance to him, and after telling a long story he said: Then a man came to him and said: Give me some of the sadaqah (alms). The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: Allah is not pleased with a Prophet's or anyone else's decision about sadaqat till He has given a decision about them Himself. He has divided those entitled to them into eight categories, so if you come within those categories, I shall give you what you desire. [Abu Dawud]

Zakat is forbidden upon the tribe of Banu Hashim, the rich, the strong, and people who can strive to earn a living. 

It is permissible to give the entire amount of zakat to either only one category or even one person from that category. Imam Ahmad related that the Prophet ordered Banu Zurayq to give the zakat due upon them to Salamah Ibn Sakhr. 

It is recommended to distribute the zakat to the people of the area where the zakat is taken from. We see in the Hadith of Muadh that the Prophet ﷺ said, “Take it from their rich and give it to their poor.” It is permissible to transfer the zakat to other areas as well to meet dire needs or to satisfy any other legal interest. This could also be because those outside in need are in more dire need than the ones in the immediate vicinity. 

Sheikhul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah said, “It is obligaotry to give zakat to all 8 categories of people; otherwise, it is to be given to the available categories and transferred to where they live. Zakat must not be given to whoever does not use it to obey Allah, for Allah ordains zakat for the believers entitled to it, such as the poor and the debtors, to help them obey Him, and for those Muslims who help the believers. Of those entitled to zakat, whoever does not perform prayer must not be given anything until he repents and performs prayer at its due time.” [al-Ikhtiyaraat]

Other than zakat, what about charity? Who can take from charity funds? This is likened to begging. In his commentary of the hadith of Qabisah bin Mukhariq Al-Hilali, Sheikh Ibrahim Nuhu said, “3 People who can take from charity:

  1. A Guarantor can take from charity to pay back the guarantee taken in his name. He is allowed to take from zakat or charity money till he gets his amount after which he must stop. After this it becomes impermissible for such a person.

  2. He who has lost everything because of a calamity (natural or otherwise as long as precautions were taken). They can take from charity till their needs are sufficed and then they have to stop.

  3. Someone tested with extreme poverty. They can take from charity till their needs are sufficed and then they have to stop.”

Fuqara and Masakin

The Fuqara are those who do not possess enough provisions to meet their needs. They can be termed as poor. The Masakin are those who have less of a need for assistance than the Faqir but are still considered in need. They can be termed as needy. 

Abu Hurairah reported: Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, "A Miskin (needy) is not the one who can be turned away with a date-fruit or two, or a morsel or two. The true Miskin is one who, despite his poverty, abstains from begging". [Bukhari and Muslim].

Since these are the most famous categories of Asnaf that we see around us, it is good to learn more about them. Sheikh Abdus-Salaam ash-Shuway'ir explaining the difference between a faqeer and miskin said that the affair revolves around those who are either completely devoid of or deficient in one of the following 5 matters:

  1. Food and Drink
  2. Clothing: Some scholars state that the minimum that is needed for a person is an outfit for summer and winter. Others say that the affair returns back to the custom of the people and what they deem as the minimum. 
  3. A place to live in: The people should be given enough rent money that will suffice for a year. The living quarters must be appropriate for their family size.
  4. 4. The male who does not have enough money to become married and is fearful of falling into sin. In this case, the Zakah donated should suffice for a normal sensible priced dowry.
  5. Everyday essentials one needs to live: The definition or understanding of everyday essentials differs according to the custom of the different lands. The Sheikh mentioned that these essentials could also include air conditioners in extremely hot places like in Makkah. If there is someone without an AC or with a broken AC, then it is permissible to give Zakat money to fulfill that need.

If someone is completely devoid of 1 of the 5 mentioned categories or is unable to obtain it then they  are considered to be a faqeer. If someone is deficient but not completely devoid of 1 of the 5 mentioned categories, then they are considered to be a miskin. Due to this, the faqeer is considered to be in more need than the miskin.

Point 4 as listed by Sheikh ash-Shuwayir above might be surprising for some readers. The Ex-Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Ibn Baaz was asked about giving zakat to a young man who cannot afford to get married. He said: "It is permissible to give zakat to this young man, to help him get married, if he cannot afford it."

Collectors of Zakat (Amil Zakat)

Such a person is employed to collect zakat, manage it, record it, and distribute it amongst the entitled beneficiaries.

For a person to perform the duties of Amil Zakat they must be: 

  1. Muslim
  2. Mentally of a sound mind 
  3. Attained the age of puberty
  4. Trustworthy 
  5. Honest. 
  6. Must have general and complete knowledge of zakah rulings and regulations.
  7. Efficiency and Productivity. 

Narrated Ibn al-Sa'idi: Umar appointed me to collect the sadaqah (i.e. zakat). When I finished collecting it, and delivered it to him, he ordered me to take a payment for it. I said: I have worked for the sake of Allah. He said: Take what you have been given, for I held an administrative post in the time of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), and he gave me payment for it. [Abu Dawud]

An Amil zakat is to be given a share from the zakat only if they are not already getting a salary from the government for doing this job. 

It is reported on the authority of Anas, that a man said to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, “When I give zakat to your messenger, will I become free of liability with Allah and His Messenger?” The Messenger of Allah replied in the affirmative and said, “When you give it to my messenger, you have become free from liability thereof in the Sight of Allah and His Messenger (ﷺ). You will have the reward for it and the sin (thereof) will be on the one that changes its course” [Ahmad]

An Amil Zakat cannot be from the tribe of Banu Hashim. Abdul Muttalib bin Rabi’ah bin Al-Harith narrated that The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Indeed, Zakah ought not to be given to the family of Muhammad, it will be like giving them from the impurities of people.” In another narration, “It is not lawful for Muhammad or the family of Muhammad(ﷺ). [Muslim]

How Much Can An Amil Zakat Charge?

A Zakat Collector is paid either 12.5% or the most just rate according to their level of work. 

They are paid even if they are rich. If the person is appointed by the authority then his wages can be taken from the Zakah. If this authority doesn't exist then the wages are taken from the rich and not from the Zakah funds. It can also happen that the amil zakat is a person who falls under one of the other categories as well. In such a situation they are paid the wages for being amil zakat as well as another portion for qualifying under another category. If they are poor, they should be given enough that suffices their needs for one year. 

Our teacher, Sheikh Ibrahim Nuhu said, “An Amil (Zakah Collector) is not allowed to take any gift from the customers or those related to the job. In Islam, a very strong principle states that; that what is not meant to be taken is also not meant to be given. Don't give someone a gift if you like their work while they are still employed in that work. The gifts impact the sincerity of a person's work. When they leave the work and move on, then you can approach them and give them your gift.”

Dr.Obaidullah summarizes the topic, “Imam al-Shafi'i is reported to have suggested that total compensation for workers must not exceed one-eighth (12.5%) of the total proceeds of zakat, based on his opinion that total proceeds must be divided equally among the eight recipient categories. Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradhawi argues that an amil should be paid a salary equal to the market value of his/her skill and labor.

Zakat bodies in Sudan calculate approximately 15 percent for staff salaries and approximately 4 percent for operational costs. If the total administrative cost is beyond 20 percent, then this is considered inefficient. Some scholars completely reject use of zakat funds for covering administrative costs. For example, in Nigeria as well as in South Africa scholars recommend covering administrative costs with sadaqa instead of zakat. In South-East Asian countries, as discussed before, a cap of one eighth (pro rata share of amileen as one of eight asnaf) is prescribed.”

Importance of Zakat in Islam

During the Prophet’s time this was given to: 

  • People that accepted Islam
  • People of prominence in society so as to get them to stop a negative action towards Muslims or draw them closer to Islam. 
  • Basically any entity that falls under the above 2 categories and is of benefit to the Muslims. 

Zakat payments can be stopped to such people when the need for it is no longer present as was observed by the actions of Umar Ibn al-Khattab, Uthman Ibn Affan, and Ali Ibn Abi Talib. 

Narrated Abu Saeed Al-Khudri: When Ali was in Yemen, he sent some gold in its ore to the Prophet. The Prophet (ﷺ) distributed it among Al-Aqra' al-Hanzali who belonged to Bani Mujashi, 'Uyaina bin Badr Al-Fazari, 'Alqama bin 'Ulatha Al-`Amiri, who belonged to the Bani Kilab tribe and Zaid AI-Khail at-Ta'i who belonged to Bani Nabhan. So the Quraish and the Ansar became angry and said, "He gives to the chiefs of Najd and leaves us!" The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "I just wanted to attract and unite their hearts (make them firm in Islam)."[Bukhari]

Narrated Al-Hasan: Amr bin Taghlib said, "Some property was given to the Prophet (ﷺ) and he gave it to some people and withheld it from some others. Then he came to know that they (the latter) were dissatisfied. So the Prophet said, 'I give to one man and leave (do not give) another, and the one to whom I do not give is dearer to me than the one to whom I give. I give to some people because of the impatience and discontent present in their hearts, and leave other people because of the content and goodness Allah has bestowed on them, and one of them is `Amr bin Taghlib." `Amr bin Taghlib said, "The sentence which Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said in my favor is dearer to me than the possession of nice red camels." [Bukhari]


Zakat is given to slaves who are indebted to get their freedom and who cannot pay their debts. In such a scenario, they are given that which is enough to get them their freedom. It is also permissible to use zakat money to pay the ransom for a Muslim captive. 

Sheikh Saleh al-Munajijd summarised it in 3 ways:

  1. A Mukaatib: This is a slave who has entered into a contract of manumission to buy himself from his master for a sum to be paid later. He may be given enough money to fulfil this contract with his master. 
  2. A slave who may be bought with zakat funds and set free.
  3. A Muslim prisoner who has been captured. The captors may be given zakat funds to ransom this prisoner. This also applies to kidnapping. 

In today’s time this could also include women who are trapped into human trafficking and similar. This category requires more expert judgement and research. 


This has 2 categories: 

  1. A person who has gotten into the situation of debt out of goodwill. He has done this for the sake of making peace and amending matters between two opposing parties. Such a person can be paid zakat to compensate him for his act and the trouble that he went through. This has to be a genuine case and not staged or with ill intent just to get hold of the zakat funds.
  2. A person who becomes indebted for his own sake. 

In such a situation, it is best to give the money directly to whom the money is owed instead of to the person. But that being said, when it comes to matters of debt, it should be assessed and judged very carefully. In other scenarios, it is best to allow them to pay of their debts to save them from further embarrassment

Qabisah bin Mukhariq al-Hilali, he said: I was under debt and I came to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) and begged from him regarding it. He said: Wait till we receive sadaqah, so that we order that to be given to you. 

He again said: Qabisah, begging is not permissible but for one of the three (classes) of persons: one who has incurred debt, for him begging is permissible till he pays that off, after which he must stop it; a man whose property has been destroyed by a calamity which has smitten him, for him begging is permissible till he gets what will support life, or will provide him reasonable subsistence; and a person who has been smitten by poverty. The genuineness of which is confirmed by three intelligent members of this peoples for him begging is permissible till he gets what will support him or will provide him subsistence. Qabisa, besides these three (every other reason) for begging is forbidden, and one who engages in such consumes that which is forbidden. [Muslim]

For The Sake of Allah

This is a very controversial and much debated category in today’s world. A lot of zakat funds are misused by placing it under this category. What is meant by ‘for the sake of Allah’ is jihad for the sake of Allah. This category entials those that are evidently fighting or striving so that the Word of Allah will be supreme.

It was narrated that Abu Musa said: “The Prophet (ﷺ) was asked about a man who fights to prove his courage, or out of pride and honour for his close relatives, or to show off. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: ‘Whoever fights so that the Word of Allah may be supreme is the one who (is fighting) in the cause of Allah.’” [Ibn Majah]

Dr.Obaidullah writes, “Zakat may be paid to institutional bodies taking care of the poor and the needy, such as, in providing them with education and health services for in the form of medicine and food, clothing and school supplies on wakalah basis. Utmost care must be taken to ensure that the benefits provided by such institutional bodies flow to the poor and not to the rich. As the Third Symposium of Zakat Contemporary Issues held in Kuwait (1992) resolved, zakat funds may be used to establish productive projects to be owned and managed by Zakat recipients or their representatives as also to establish service projects such as building schools, hospitals, orphanages and libraries. However, the following conditions must be met:

  • Only zakat recipients should make use of these projects for free.
  • The projects are to be transferred to the ownership of zakat recipients and managed by the zakat institution or its representatives.
  • If the project is sold or liquidated, its price or revenues are considered as zakat money.

In the context of such developmental projects, some scholars take a sweeping position and disallow the use of zakat funds for creating any kind of physical infrastructure.”

An opinion in the madhab of Imam Ahmad states that zakat can be used for helping people complete their obligatory Hajj and Umrah. 

Why is this so important to know? Sheikh Ibrahim Nuhu said, “Zakat is not appropriate for the one who is rich or with the means to earn. For the one who takes charity, which he does not need then he will be raised scarred on the Day of Judgement. The charity will keep taking from his flesh on that Day till nothing is left of it (as punishment).” 

Sheikh Ibrahim Nuhu “Fi Sabilillah (فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ) literally means doing something for the sake of Allah or whatever that is done to gain the Mercy and Pleasure of Allah. But when the Shariah borrows a word from the language into its terminology, the intended meaning changes. It now has a specific meaning. Ex: Salah linguistically means calling upon Allah. Shariah took the term and gave it a definition which states, a series of actions that start with a takbeer and end with tasleem.  There is a technical connection between the linguistic and Shariah meaning also, for Salah is all about dua. 

Fi Sabilillah in the Shariah refers to Jihad or Defence. All the 4 madhabs agree that the usage of this term should be restricted to mean Jihad and not the usage of Zakah to build masajid etc. If we make Fi Sabilillah open to such, then Allah giving us the 8 categories of Zakah recipients is redundant and a waste of time for all are Fi Sabilillah. Allah does not waste time. All the 8 categories are specific in nature.”

The Deputy Mufti of Masjid al-Haram, Sheikh Dr. Wasiullah Abbas حفظه الله said, “Zakat money can be given to institutions or schools where only those recipients who are eligible for zakat stay. If it is a mix of both zakat and non-zakat eligible recipients then zakat funds cannot be given. A word of advice. We see that when organisations donate or give something to orphanages etc, they brand their logo and mark/label it in such a manner that it makes it demeaning for the beneficiaries and reminds them again and again that they are orphans or poor. The people of Delhi had set up an orphanage and called it, 'The Children's House'. Such a simple and beautiful name. This is called using wisdom while giving charity. Don't let the hearts and spirit of the children fall because of you. Keep the spirits of the children high and motivate them towards more good coming their way.”

Nawab Siddiqh Hassan Khan in al-Rawdah a-Nadiyyah said, “Sabilillah means the way to Him (Allah). No doubt the greatest way to Allah is fighting for His sake, but there is no proof that this share of zakat is restricted to this meaning alone. It is permissible to spend on any way to Allah. Since this is the linguistic meaning of the term, we must stick to it, unless we have evidence to the contrary.” 

In today’s world this category includes: religious institutions that train scholars to deal with matters pertaining to the benefit of the Ummah, training centers for equipping Muslims with the necessary and relevant knowledge to benefit the Ummah, obligatory Hajj etc. So anything that helps spread the Word of Allah and aids Muslims and the Ummah can fall under this category based on expert evaluation. 

The Stranded Traveller

This is a person who is lost, or has run out of his provisions, and hence has become stranded before completing his journey. Such a person is given enough money from zakat so that he can reach home safely. This is irrespective of if the person is wealthy back home. What matters is the situation now. This is similar to so many refugees having to leave their homes and businesses and escape to safeguard their lives from oppressive regimes or warring nations etc. 

Now a question that arises is, ‘which of these categories do we give priority to?’ In reality, priority should be given to the category where the need is greatest. This is because all of them are equally entitled to receive zakat. Usually, the ones who are in greatest need are the poor and needy. This could also be one of the reasons why Allah started mentioning the list of Asnaf with them first. 

Let's have a look at a few special categories.

Can We Give Zakat to Non-Muslims?

Imam al-Shafi'i said: “There is nothing wrong with giving charity to a non-Muslim as a supererogatory action, but it cannot be from the obligatory charity (zakat). Allah praised people who, as He says:  “… they give food, inspite of their love for it, to the poor/needy, the orphan, and the captive.” (Surah al-Insaan, 8).” [Kitab al-Umm].

There is scholarly consensus (ijma) that zakat cannot be given to non-Muslims, as mentioned by Imams Ibn al-Mundhir, Kasani, Ibn Qudamah, al-Buhuti, and many others.

Keeping in mind the categories of Asnaf, it can be then deduced that Zakat can only be given to non-Muslims under the condition that they fall under the category of those whose hearts are softened. This is the official stance of the Hanbali, Maliki, and Shafi’i schools of jurisprudence. The Ahnaf opposed this and stated that non-Muslims are not eligible for zakat in any form. 

Another opinion was held by Imam al-Mujahid, who was the famous student of Abdullah Ibn Abbas. As per him Zakat should only be given to non-Muslims in the absence of eligible Muslims.

A more encompassing opinion from Umar Ibn al-Khattab states that Zakat may be given to any person who fits the description mentioned in the ayah Zakat. This is irrespective of whether this person be Muslim or non-Muslim.

Imam Ibn Qudamah: “We do not know of any difference of opinion among the scholars regarding the fact that zakat cannot be given to a kafir. Ibn al-Mundhir said: Everyone from whom we acquired knowledge among the scholars is agreed that a dhimmi (non-Muslim living under Muslim rule) cannot be given anything from the zakat, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said to Mu’adh: “Teach them that they are obliged to give zakat, to be taken from their rich and given to their poor.” He specified that it was to be given to their poor, i.e., the poor Muslims, just as he specified that it was to be taken from their rich.” [al-Mughni (4/106)]
The Imam further said, "'The kafir should not be given anything of the zakat unless he is one of those who are inclined towards Islam.'" [al-Mughni (4/108)]

The Kuwaiti Encyclopedia of Fiqh reads regarding those to whom it is impermissible to give zakat, "Non-Muslims, even if they are Dhimmis (non-Muslims living in an Islamic state) are not entitled to the zakat. Ibn Al-Mundhir cited the scholarly consensus in this regard based on the hadith, ‘Allah has made it obligatory on them to pay the zakat from their property, and it is to be taken from their rich and given to their poor.’”

The only exception in this regard are the non-Muslims whose hearts are hoped to become inclined to Islam. Allah says,

‏ إِنَّمَا ٱلصَّدَقَتُ لِلْفُقَرَآءِ وَٱلْمَسَكِينِ وَٱلْعَمِلِينَ عَلَيْهَا وَٱلْمُؤَلَّفَةِ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَفِى ٱلرِّقَابِ وَٱلْغَرِمِينَ وَفِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ وَٱبْنِ ٱلسَّبِيلِ ۖ فَرِيضَةًۭ مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ ۗ وَٱللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌۭ ‎

Zakat expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect (zakat) and for bringing hearts together (for Islam) and for freeing captives (or slaves) and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the (stranded) traveler - an obligation (imposed) by Allah. And Allah is Knowing and Wise.} [Surah at-Taubah, 60]

Imam Ibn Qudamah wrote, “There are two categories of non-Muslim recipients of zakat: First, the non-Muslims whose conversion to Islam is hoped. They are given (zakat) in order to urge them to embrace Islam and make them more inclined to it. Second, the non-Muslims whose evil is feared, and giving it to them is done if it is hoped to ward off their evil and the evil of others as well...” It should be noted that this does not mean that their conversion to Islam is only a wish; rather, there has to be circumstantial evidence indicating that they are close to embracing Islam and may take that step if given financial help.

Sheikh Ibn Uthaymeen explained this and. said, “The non-Muslims whose conversion to Islam is not hoped cannot be given from the zakat funds in hope of their conversion. Rather, there must be indications that make us hopeful that they would embrace Islam. For example, knowing that a non-Muslim is inclined to Muslims or that he asks for books about Islam and the like. Hope must have foundations; because if someone hopes for something without foundations, then he is only imagining things in his mind.”

The Hanafi stance on this is even stricter as they abrogated the category of those whose hearts are to be reconciled. Imam Burhan al-Din al-Marghinani said, “Zakat is for the poor and the needy, and those employed to administer the (funds); for those whose hearts have been reconciled to truth; for those in bondage and in debt; in the cause of Allah, and for the wayfarer. These are eight categories. Those whose hearts have been reconciled to truth (muallafat qulubuhum) have been dropped from these, because Allah gave strength to Islam and made it free of their need and a consensus (Ijma) was arrived at on the issue.” [al-Hidayah, V1, 333]

Qadhi  Thanaullah Panipathi said, ‘Allah has established Islam with honour. Islam is not in any need of a disbeliever. Therefore, Zakat cannot be paid to any disbeliever at all. The ‘muallafat-e-quloob’ is abrogated now’ It is the opinion of Ikhramah, Malik, Thawri, Ishaq bin Rahuwaih and Abu Hanifah. [Tafseer-e-Mazhari]

Can We Give Zakat to Relatives?

Sheikh Hatem al-Hajj summarized the matter beautifully. He said, “The relatives you are required to spend on and would not be eligible to receive your zakat. Generally speaking, those that you are required to spend on are not eligible to receive your zakât because of their poverty, particularly if you are capable of spending on them. (The Ḥanafis may have a different view regarding relatives other than wives, ancestors, and descendants) However, they all agree that affluent people can not give their zakat to their wives, children or parents, and no one may give their zakat to their wives or children (and the Hanafis and Hanbalis and some Malikis add parents). Aside from the wife, the maintenance of the relatives is required when they need it and are unable to earn it.”

The wife can give zakat to the husband. Abu Saeed narrated, Zainab the wife of Ibn Mas’ud came along and said to the Prophet “O Messenger of Allah (ﷺ)! You have commanded us today to give Sadaqah (charity). I have some jewelry of mine and I wanted to give it as Sadaqah, but Ibn Mas'ud claims that he and his children are the most entitled to my Sadaqah. (deserve it more than anyone else.)' 

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Ibn Mas'ud is right. Your husband and your children are more deserving.’’ [Bukhari]

The basic rule is that zakat can be given horizontally but not vertically. So one cannot give zakat to their parents, grandparents, children, or grandchildren as the person is obliged to take care of them. They can give zakat to their brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins etc as they do not fall under the category of his dependents. 

Giving Zakat To The Wrong Person

Did you know that 5 rich people can take Zakat? 

Abu Saeed Al-Khudri narrated that The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Zakat is not allowed for the well-off person except for one of the following five: an administrator of Zakat, a man who buys Zakat holdings with his money, a person who is in debt,  one who fights in the cause of Allah, or a rich person who is given a present by a needy (miskeen) person which the latter had been given as Zakat.” [Abu Dawud]

Sheikh Ibrahim Nuhu in his commentary of Bulugh al-Maram explained:

  1. A fighter in the path of Allah: This person can use zakat money to buy the necessary equipment, means of transport or anything that is needed despite being rich due to his personal wealth.
  2. A person heavily in debt
  3. A zakat collector according to their work: A person appointed by the authority can take a salary from the zakat irrespective of his personal finances as he is being paid for a service rendered.
  4. A person who takes it and then gives it as a gift to a rich person (for some favour etc): This is now considered to be a gift and not as directly from the zakat. The zakat beneficiary decided to spend the zakat as they deemed was beneficial for them. Such a gift should not be refused, for by refusing such gifts we could break the hearts of the poor.
  5. A rich person who found it in the market with a Zakat eligible person and buys it from him: This is considered as the general form of buying and selling. It was zakat for the beneficiary and as the asset changes hands, so does the ruling or name associated with it.

But what if you mistakenly give your zakat to the wrong person. Let’s look at a very interesting hadith. 

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "A man said that he would give something in charity. He went out with his object of charity and unknowingly gave it to a thief. Next morning the people said that he had given his object of charity to a thief. (On hearing that) he said, "O Allah! All the praises are for you. I will give alms again." And so he again went out with his alms and (unknowingly) gave it to an adulteress. Next morning the people said that he had given his alms to an adulteress last night. The man said, "O Allah! All the praises are for you. (I gave my alms) to an adulteress. I will give alms again." So he went out with his alms again and (unknowingly) gave it to a rich person. (The people) next morning said that he had given his alms to a wealthy person. He said, "O Allah! All the praises are for you. (I had given alms) to a thief, to an adulteress and to a wealthy man." 

Then someone came and said to him, "The alms which you gave to the thief, might make him abstain from stealing, and that given to the adulteress might make her abstain from illegal sexual intercourse (adultery), and that given to the wealthy man might make him take a lesson from it and spend his wealth which Allah has given him, in Allah's cause." [Bukhari]

The Muhaddith of Makkah, Sheikh Wasiullah Abbas said that if a person gives zakat mistakenly to a person who is not eligible to receive zakat, then he does not have to repay that zakat amount again based on the hadith cited above. That being said, it is very important that we do our due diligence or our representatives who are handling our zakat on our behalf do the necessary due diligence to make sure that the zakat reaches the intended beneficiaries. 

Sheikh Saleh al-Fawzan on the other hand, one of the leading scholars in Saudi Arabia said, “The Muslim must make sure he gives his zakat to those legally entitled to take it. If he is deceived and gives his zakat to whomever is not entitled to it, and then he discovers the truth, what he has given is legally not sufficient for him; thus, he must give the same amount to someone who is entitled to take zakat. Nevertheless, if he does not discover the truth, his giving zakat to those not eligible is sufficient for him.” [Mulakkhas al-Fiqhiyyah]

If a person pays more zakat than the actual amount that is due upon him, then the extra amount is considered as charity for which he will be rewarded, because Allah says, “And whoever does good voluntarily, then verily, Allah is All-Recogniser, All-Knower” [Surah al-Baqarah, 158]. This  additional amount cannot be counted as zakat for the upcoming years.

This article is Part 6 of an ongoing series titled, 'Zakat Made Easy'

Part 1: What Is Zakat and Why Should I Pay It?

Part 2: Analyzing Zakat In The Quran

Part 3: Conditions and Calculation Methods

Part 4: Cash, Gold, Silver, Property and Business Assets

Part 5: Shares, Lifestock, Crops, and Cryptos

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