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ZAKAH: The owner who lacks self-sufficiency

Jan 24, 2020, 2:46 PM

One whose possessions reach a nisab but are still insufficient for his needs, due to the size of his family or the high cost of living, will be considered well-off and subject to zakah. He is also considered poor because his possessions are not enough for his needs. As such, he should also be given zakah. An-Nawawi says that one who possesses a piece of real estate but does not have enough income to meet his needs should be considered poor and eligible for that amount of zakah which would satisfy his needs. In this way, he would not have to sell his real estate. Al-Mughni mentions that al-Maymum said: “I had a talk with Abu ‘Abdullah, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and I said: ‘A man may possess camels and sheep on which zakah is due and be considered poor. He may possess forty sheep or even a landed estate (day’ah), not enough for his needs. Would he be allowed to receive alms?’ He answered: ‘Yes, because he does not possess what is sufficient for him and he is not able to earn what he needs. In that case, he is permitted to receive zakah, if what he possesses does not qualify for zakah.’ “

A: Collectors of Zakah: 

Zakah collectors are officials appointed by the leader or his deputy to collect it from the rich. Among them are the custodians of zakah, shepherds and clerks for its administration. They must be Muslims and should consist of those who are potentially not eligible for zakah. This includes the family of the Prophet--that is, Banu ‘Abdul Mutallib. It is related by al-Muttalib ibn Rabi’ah ibn Harith ibn ‘Abdul Muttalib that he and al-Fadl ibn al-’Abbas went to the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace: “One of us said: ‘O Messenger of Allah! We have come to you so that you may invest us with authority to administer zakah, that we shall gather (collect) the benefits the people are to receive, and render service to you that others give.’ The Messenger of Allah answered: ‘Indeed, zakah ought not to be given to Muhammad or to the family of Muhammad. Zakah is nothing but filth that comes out from people’s properties.’” This is reported by Ahmad and Muslim. Another version states: “It is not permitted to Muhammad or to the family of Muhammad.”

B: Certain people, though well-off, can still receive zakah: 

Abu Sa’id reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: “Sadaqah is not allowed for the well-off except for the following five: an administrator of zakah, a purchaser of zakah holdings, a debtor, a warrior in the cause of Allah, or a person who is given a present by the needy (miskeen) from what the latter had been granted as zakah.” This is related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, and al-Hakim. The latter grades the preceding hadith as sound according to the criteria of Muslim and al-Bukhari.

What zakah collectors take from zakah is their wages for work done: 

Abdullah ibn as-Sa’di related that he came from Syria to see ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, who asked him: “Is it true that you perform a certain job for the Muslims and you are given wages for that, but you do not accept them?” He answered: “Yes, indeed. I possess horses and slaves. I am well-off. I want my work to be a charity for the Muslims.” Then ‘Umar said: “I also wanted what you desired, but the Prophet, upon whom be peace, used to pay compensation to me. I would say to him: ‘Give it to one who is poorer than I.’ Once he gave me money and I said to him: ‘Give it to a person more needy than I.’ Then the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: ‘Take what Allah, to Whom belongs might and majesty, gives you of His bounties without your having asked for it or being eager.’ So take it and keep it, or give it away as charity--and what is not given should not be asked for.” This is related by al-Bukhari and an-Nasa’i.

A: The wages ought to be sufficient to cover legitimate needs: 

Al-Mustawrid ibn Shaddad relates that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: “If someone performed a job for us and has no house, let him have a house; if he has no wife, let him have a wife; if he has no servant, let him have a servant; or if he has no mount to ride, let him have one. He who clamors for anything other than these is being excessive.” This is related by Ahmad and Abu Dawud and its chain is sound. Commenting on the subject, al-Khattabi says: “This may be interpreted in two different ways. The first means that the individual is permitted to have a servant or a house deducted from his wages, which are similar to any other wages. He is not permitted to take anything else. The second means that the zakah worker has the right to have lodging and a servant. Thus, if he does not have a house or a servant, one may be hired to serve him and a house may be rented for him during the tenure of his job.”

B: Reconciliation of hearts: 

This applies primarily to that group of people whose hearts, due to their weak Islam, need to be reconciled or strengthened for Islam. In this case, zakah is distributed to rid Muslims of their evil, or to procure their assistance in the defense of Muslims. The jurists divide such people into Muslims and unbelievers. The Muslims are divided into four groups:


People who are leaders and notables among the Muslims and influential among their nonbelieving kinsmen deserve and if given sadaqah, there is hope that their kinsmen will become Muslims. Such was the case of Abu Bakr giving ‘Adiyy ibn Hatim and az-Zibarqan ibn Badr sadaqah because of their high status among their people.

A: Recently converted prominent people 

Prominent people among Muslims, though recently converted to Islam and as such of weak faith but still obeyed by their people, if given Sadaqah and their counsel sought in jihad and other matters could lead them to become strong in their Islam. A case in point is that of the Makkans who became Muslims after the conquest of Makkah. The Prophet, upon whom be peace, gave them a large booty after his victory over the Huwazin. Most of them became very good and conscientious Muslims later on.

B: Muslim residents at the borders 

Muslims who live at the frontiers, close to enemy land, can also be given Sadaqah as an incentive to defend the Islamic territory. The author of al-Manar claims that this falls under the national defense. Jurists place it under the share allocated for the cause of Allah. It is similar to a military expedition. In our times, people who most deserve our help are those Muslims whom the unbelievers have brought over to their side by placing them under their protection or converting such Muslims to their religion. We notice that colonial powers are working for the subjugation of all Muslims and are trying to divert them away from their religion. Such states are allocating a certain portion of their resources to win over the Muslim hearts. Some they have succeeded converting to Christianity, and others have been influenced by or attracted to their tutelage. This is creating problems for Muslim states and Islamic unity. Are not such Muslims more deserving of zakah than those along the frontiers?

C: The zakah employees 

Muslims who are employed to collect zakah, either through persuasion or force, from those who are not willing to give it can also qualify as its recipients for it is better to use such people to maintain Muslim unity. Their support and their undertaking to help the government is the lesser of two evils and a preferable arrangement

To be continued