By Dr Muhammed Munir, translated and revised by Dr Musharraf Hussain Al Azhari
After praising the Lord Almighty and sending salutations upon the leader of all the prophets, Muhammad (peace be upon him). I will attempt to present a coherent opinion on this issue and only Allah knows the truth. I will answer this with the help of the Almighty and the bestower of mercy.
- Can the employees in an organisation receive their salaries from zakah?
- Can zakah be paid to an organisation where Muslim and non-Muslim students are studying or training?
- Can zakah be paid to non-Muslims?
- Can zakah be used for the management and the upkeep of such premises?
The key verse about Zakah is “Zakah is for the poor, the needy, those who administer them, those whose hearts need winning over, to free slaves and help those in debt, for God’s cause, and for travellers in this is ordained by God; God is all-knowing and Wise” (Tauba; 60).
The Divine philosophy that permeates all Islamic rulings is one of kindness and mercy, the famous verse of the Quran outlined the eight categories of people who are legible to receive zakah payments. I will begin with question three and four. Allah has made Islam the religion of nature, so that man can easily apply it in his daily life. Allah says “God does not burden anyone except what they are capable of”.
This verse was revealed in Medina after the migration. It enumerates the eight categories of recipients of Zakah but does not indicate whether Zakah should be decentralised, centralised, institutionalised or personalised. This flexibility in the law makes it applicable at all times and in different circumstances. At one time the Hanafi jurists insisted on “Tamleek” ownership meaning that Zakah should be paid individually. However, in a modern, technological and commercialised society where civil society is run by organisations, it becomes a necessity to use Zakah for running them. Already we are seeing that Muslim charities and major Islamic centres have become agents for the collection of Zakah all over the world. This is an important development that makes it possible for 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, distribution and management of Zakah. This is proven from ‘Dalal al ibara’, textual evidence, which means the text was revealed for this ruling. This proves that the salaries of the workers can be paid from Zakah. This also shows that religious organisations that provide accommodation, board and lodging, education and other facilities for students, fall under the category of “workers” and can, therefore, receive Zakah. This is inferred from ‘Dalal al iqthada’, required evidence, the true meaning of the word when all its requisites and requirements are met. Anything to do with ‘the workers’ and their needs will fall under ‘Dalal al iqthada’. This is clear from the fact that the text cannot be applied without the ‘Dalal al iqthada’, particularly where the text can have several meanings. However, text that has single meaning will not require ‘Dalal al iqthada’.
The definition of ‘Dalal al iqthada’ is ‘the correct meaning of a word as applied to all its related meanings’. For example, “if the culprit is pardoned by his aggrieved brother, this shall be adhered to fairly, and the culprit shall pay what is due in a good way” (2:178). The text here makes it clear that the heirs of the murdered person can pardon and this is established by the text. However, this will only be applicable if the murderer has enough wealth to pay the blood money. This is what is known as required evidence, Dalal al iqthada.
Similarly, in the verse about recipient of the Zakah “amileem aliha” refers to the workers and also implies that whatever they require, falls under this category, i.e. the administrative tools, management arrangement and travel etc. Every dalal al iqthada requires a dala al ibara. However, not every dala al ibara requires dalal al iqthada. With regards to the recipient of the Zakah, 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 in order to apply this we must support the contingent structures that are required for the workers; the organisation is therefore a legitimate recipient of Zakah payments.
Returning to the question of “can Zakah be given to non-Muslims and organisations where Muslim and non-Muslim students study?”
The jurists disagree about the payment of Zakah to non-Muslims, however there is no disagreement about giving charity to non-Muslims. This charity can be given at any time as made clear in the following verse “and he does not forbid you to deal kindly and justly to anyone who has not fought you for your faith or driven you out of your homes: God loves the just” (60:8). 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 have given refuge and allowed Muslims to settle amidst them and have given them safety and security, if ever they become needy, it is essential that Muslims should support them and this is proven from “isha ra t nas”, textual allusion. Textual allusion is defined as the text hints meaning and this can only be understand with knowledge of 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 Zakah to non-Muslims, most of the jurists are of the opinion that they qualify for the Zakah under the term “Al mualifa t Al qulub”, those whose hearts need winning over. Ibn kasir said “those whose hearts need winning over refers to those people who may be interested in becoming Muslims. For example, Safwan ibn Umayya was given charity by the Prophet (SAW) for this purpose and it is not necessary to tell them that they are being paid Zakah. There are others who need to be given Zakah so that they can strengthen their Islam and in order to build positive and strong relationships with the non-Muslim community, to avoid conflicts and tensions. Although, according to the jurists of the hanafi fiqh, this category no longer exists. However, the majority of the jurists still believe in the validity of this group of recipients of Zakah.” As far as British Muslims are concerned, there is a strong argument for them to give the path to non-Muslims in order to show the beauty and kind nature of the Muslim community. This in no way means that we are bribing people to become Muslims; it is an act of mercy, kindness and good citizenship.
Finally, I would like to clarify that juristic opinion on 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 discern that British Muslims living in the limelight of media and in an Islamophobic environment must behave impeccably and morally in the best way. Paying Zakah is therefore a way of showing generosity and making friends.