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ZAKAH: The Recipients of Zakah

Jan 17, 2020, 12:51 PM

There are eight categories of the beneficiaries of zakah which Allah specifies in the Qur’an: “The alms are only for the poor and the needy, for those who collect them, for those whose hearts are to be reconciled, for the freedom of those who are captives and in debt, for the cause of Allah, and for the wayfarers; [it is] a duty imposed by Allah. Allah is the Knower, the Wise” [at-Taubah 60]. Ziyad ibn al-Harith as-Suda’i reported: “I came to the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, and pledged allegience to him. Then a man came and said to the Messenger: ‘Give me some of the collected sadaqah.’ The Messenger replied: ‘Allah did not leave the matter of sadaqat to be decided by a prophet nor to others ... He Himself classified it into eight categories. If you fit into any of these categories, I will give you your due.’ “It was narrated by Abu Dawud although in its chain of transmission there is ‘Abdurrahman al-’Afriqi, who is of questionable merits.

The following is an elaboration upon the preceding eight categories:

1 The Poor (al-Fuqara’).

2 The Needy (al-Masakin): The needy, along with the poor mentioned above, are those who do not even have basic needs fulfilled. This categroy parallels the category of the rich who have all they need. As mentioned elsewhere, a person is considered rich if he possesses the nisab--that is, an amount in excess of his essential needs or those of his children with regard to food, drink, clothing, housing, animals, tools of his trade, and similar other necessities. Thus, one who lacks all these is considered poor (fuqura’) and qualifies for zakah.

A hadith attributed to Mu’azh instructs: “Take from the rich [that is those who are self-sufficient] and give to their poor.” Thus, zakah should be taken from the rich who own a nisab and given to those who are not so fortunate.

No difference has been made here between the poor (fuqura’) and the needy (nasakin) as far as their needs, their poverty, and their qualification for receiving zakah are concerned. The two are brought together in the preceding Qur’anic ‘ayah with the necessary conjunction so that they could be differentiated from each other. This does not contradict our categorizing the masakin as a subgroup of the fuqura’. In the following hadith, the text indicates that the needy are the poor who are not noticed by the people because they abstain from begging. The Qur’an takes note of them because they, perhaps due to their modesty, go unnoticed.

Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said: “The needy person (miskin) is not one who goes around asking the people for a date or two, or for a mouthful or two, but the one who is too embarrassed to ask. Read if you wish: ‘They do not beg from men importunately’ [al-Baqarah 273].” In a variant of this report, it is related: “The needy person is not one who goes around asking people for a mouthful or two or a date or two, but the one who has not enough [money] to satisfy his needs and whose condition is not known to others. Thus, sadaqah is given to him and he does not beg from the people.” This is narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

The amount of zakah given to a poor person

Zakah aims at supporting the poor by satisfying their needs. A specified amount is therefore given to them on a continuous basis to alleviate their state of poverty. This amount differs depending on circumstances and individuals. ‘Umar reported: “If you happen to give [alms], you should give to satisfy one’s needs.” Qadi ‘Abdulwahhab says that Malik never stipulated a limit to the amount that can be given. To him, zakah may even be given to one who has a house, a servant, and a mount to ride, provided he is in need. The import of the preceding hadith is clear-- that is, asking for help is permissible for a person who is poor until he gets what he needs for his livelihood and is freed from his needs.

Qabisah ibn Mukhariq al-Hilali reported: “I had a debt. I went to the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, and asked for his help. He answered: ‘Wait until we have funds for sadaqah, then we will give you some.’ He also said: ‘O Qabisah, sadaqah is justified only for the following three: first, a man who is in debt, for his case makes it permissible to receive [alms] until his difficulty is resolved; second, a man who is struck by calamity which destroys his holdings, which also makes it permissible for him to receive [alms] until he is in a position to earn a sustenance [or he said, ‘... what satisfies his needs and makes him self-sufficient’]; and third, a man who has been reduced to poverty and three persons of caliber from among his people testify to his desperate situation will receive until he finds for himself a means of support [or he said, ‘... what satisfies his needs and makes him self-sufficient’]. Other than these cases, O Qabisah, it is not permissible (Sahat). A person receiving it (sadaqah) will be consuming forbidden holdings.’ “This is narrated by Ahmad, Muslim, Abu Dawud, and an-Nasa’i

Is zahah given to a person who can work?

Individuals strong in body and earning their living are not entitled to zakah. Their position is similar to that of the rich.

1. ‘Ubaidullah ibn ‘Adiyy al-Khiyar reported: “Two men told me that they went to the Prophet, upon whom be peace, during the Farewell Pilgrimage while he was distributing charity. They asked him for help. He gave them a look from the head down and then found them to be sturdy and strong. Then he said: ‘If you desire, I shall give it to you. But, there is no zakah for one who is rich, neither for the one who is strong and earning.’ “ This is related by Abu Dawud and anNasa’i.

Concerning the merits of this hadith, al-Khattabi says that it provides the criterion that if a person is not known to have means, it will be presumed that he has none. The hadith also provides the rule that one who appears to be sturdy is not excluded from receiving the zakah unless his income is determined, for there are some people who are strong in body but for one reason or another are unable to work. Such people may receive charity according to this hadith.

2. It is related from Rayhan ibn Yazid from ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: “Sadaqah is neither permissible for the rich nor for the one who is of energetic disposition, sound body, and healthy limbs.” This is related by Abu Dawud and at-Tirmizhi. The latter grades it as sound (sahih). Ash-Shaf’i, Ishaq, Abu ‘Ubaid, and Ahmad uphold it. The Hanafiyyah say a strong and healthy person is allowed to take sadaqah, provided he does not possess 200 dirhams or more. An-Nawawi says: “I asked al-Ghazzali if an able-bodied person who comes from a rich family and is not used to physical labor in earning his living can be entitled to zakah. He answered that he could.” This is a sound rule which takes into consideration a person’s vocation.  For example, someone had 200 dirhams and did not pay zakah on the sum for two years. The opinion which says that zakah is due on the property itself means that the amount due is for one year only since it decreased by five dirhams, which was the amount due for zakah at the end of the first year. The second opinion, that zakah is the responsibility of the owner, means that he should pay zakah twice, one for each year, as zakah is the responsibility of the owner and is not affected by the decrease of the nisab.

To be continued