Can Zakat be given to Non-Muslims?

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Can Zakat be given to Non-Muslims?

There is general agreement that Zakat is not to be given to anyone who is fighting against Islam and Muslims; this is a point that does not need much elaboration. As for others who are non-combatant, and do not show enmity towards Islam and Muslims then medieval scholars differed as to whether such a person can be given Zakat.

Ibn al-Mundhir, in his influential work al-Ijma’, mentions the following:

وأجمعوا على أن الذمي لا يعطى من زكاة الأموال شيئا

They have consensus that the Dhimmi[1]
is not to be given anything from Zakat of wealth.

Given the relation of this point of consensus, many scholars followed Ibn al-Mundhir stating that non-Muslims should not be given Zakat. It is important to note here that the same set of scholars who followed this opinion reiterated the necessity of using other non-Zakat funds for the welfare of non-Muslims.

Looking at Ibn al-Mundhir’s statement, and despite the frankness of his assertion, a cursory review of the literature on Zakat shows that in fact there are variant opinions on this topic.

In summary, there are four opinions on giving Zakat to non-Muslims:

–         Opinion #1: Zakat cannot to be given to non-Muslims in any way shape or form, not even under the account of “those whose hearts are softened”.

  • This opinion is the official position of the Hanafi school.
  • Basis: Several reports that Umar refused to give Zakat to several people after Islam had become strong.

–         Opinion #2: Zakat should only be given to non-Muslims under the account of “those whose hearts are softened”.

  • This is the official stance of the other 3 schools.
  • Basis: Narrations  exist where the Prophet gave non-Muslims Zakat to entice them to become Muslims.

–         Opinion #3: That Zakat should only be given to non-Muslims in the absence of eligible Muslims.

  • This was the opinion of Mujahid, the student of Ibn Abbas. [2]
  • Basis: The hadith of Muadh states “..taken from their wealthy and given to their rich…”, poor non-Muslims being members of communities in which rich Muslim might live.

–         Opinion #4: That Zakat may be given to any person fitting the description given in the verse of Zakat, regardless of whether this person be Muslim or non-Muslim.

  • This was related from Umar, Jabir and Zufar (from the Hanafi school) and others.
  • Basis:
    • The generality of the verses on Zakat and charity, which do not in themselves specify one type of person over the other, and instead designate categories.
    • Umar was asked about the verse “Charity is only for the destitute…” He said: “They are the disabled from the People of the Book”.[3]
    • Jabir ibn Zaid, the famous jurist from the Tabi’in, was asked “Where should be distribute our Zakat?” He replied: “To the destitute amongst Muslims and Dhimmis.” He then stated “God’s Messenger would distribute to the Dhimmis from both Zakat and al-Khumus”.[4]

The fourth opinion fits not only the generality of the verse, but the broadest understanding possible of the hadith of Muadh, as well as fitting in with the explanation of Umar of the verse. It would seem that the unequivocal nature of Ibn al-Mundhir’s statement, as well as its precision, is highly debatable and due further research.

[1] – A dhimmi is a non-Muslim citizen of the Islamic state

[2] – Ibn abi Shaibah, Al-Musannaf, 3/177.

[3] – Ibn abi Shaibah, Al-Musannaf, 3/178.

[4] – Ibn abi Shaibah, Al-Musannaf, 3/178.

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20 Questions on Zakat: A quick and easy guide to understanding Zakat

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Featured in Sharia Portfolio‘s Newsletter, these are 20 Questions on Zakat which I wrote as a quick and easy guide to understanding Zakat.

Enjoy 🙂



1. Who has to pay Zakat?
Zakat is due on the wealth of any Muslim, young or old, male or female, that is held in savings for one calendar year and is more than the Nisab.
Example: If both you and your children have separate savings of 1000 dollars or more for one year, you must pay the Zakat on both accounts, not just yours. $25 for your savings, and $25 for your childs.

2. What forms of wealth are liable for Zakat?
The following are liable for Zakat: Continue reading

Zakat on Gold and Silver Jewelry

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بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم Najam asks:

Does one pay zakat on gold that is worn by a woman regularly? I know we pay zakat for gold/silver that is locked up in a bank or something.

There are three popular opinions about paying Zakat on Jewelry. One that states it is never paid, another that differentiates between that worn for adornment versus that held for value, and the third that states any jewelry is liable for Zakat as long as it reaches Nisab. The more correct of these three opinions is the third, that Zakat is always paid without exception on any gold or silver that is in possession for  one year or more. This is due to the generality of the hadith of Abu Hurairah found Sahih Muslim:

«مَا مِنْ صَاحِبِ ذَهَبٍ وَلَا فِضَّةٍ، لَا يُؤَدِّي مِنْهَا حَقَّهَا، إِلَّا إِذَا كَانَ يَوْمُ الْقِيَامَةِ، صُفِّحَتْ لَهُ صَفَائِحُ مِنْ نَارٍ، فَأُحْمِيَ عَلَيْهَا فِي نَارِ جَهَنَّمَ، فَيُكْوَى بِهَا جَنْبُهُ وَجَبِينُهُ وَظَهْرُهُ، كُلَّمَا بَرَدَتْ أُعِيدَتْ لَهُ، فِي يَوْمٍ كَانَ مِقْدَارُهُ خَمْسِينَ أَلْفَ سَنَةٍ، حَتَّى يُقْضَى بَيْنَ الْعِبَادِ، فَيَرَى سَبِيلَهُ، إِمَّا إِلَى الْجَنَّةِ، وَإِمَّا إِلَى النَّارِ»

Never does one who possesses gold or silver not pay the due on them, except that on the Day of Judgment it will be rendered into bars and heated in the fires of Hell, and will be scorch the sides, forehead and back of the person who owned it, every time it cools it will be reheated and reapplied, on a day the length of fifty thousand years, until God judges between the slaves, either to Paradise or to the Hellfire.

The generality of this categorical and authentic hadith indicates that every piece of gold and silver has a right over it. We know these rights to be specified by the Sunnah, namely that it should reach Nisab and be in possession for a year or more. So what about the other two opinions? Well the first that no Zakat is due every would need specific evidence to exempt all jewelry, for which there is none. The second opinion introduces a ruling (namely to differentiate between two types of jewelry) which also obliges us to find a specific evidence to make that differentiation. Additionally, there are several hadith narrated in Abu Dawud and other collections that specifically oblige Zakat on jewelry. These hadith are the subject of debate amongst scholars, and their authenticity is challenged, but it seems that together they reach the level of being acceptable. As for hadith that negate Zakat from jewelry in toto, such as “There is no Zakat on jewelry” then as Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani stated it is “False and baseless.” Let’s take a minute to analyze this second opinion practically. How much jewelry might the average women wear? Maybe a gold chain or two? A gold pendant or two? 3-4 rings? 3-4 sets of earrings? 3-4 Gold bangles? Many women with a modest amount of personal jewelry would not end up paying Zakat due to it being below the Nisab. We can suppose most women have a mixture of different karats, pieces, etcetera which would take the amount below the Nisab. To remain on the safe side, any jewelry owned should be weighed to know if the Nisab has been reached. For women that own large amounts of Gold jewelry, then it is improbable that they wear it even once a year, and thus even according to the second opinion they would pay Zakat on it. The issue that we run in to here is the subjectivity of what is worn and what is not, in addition to the lack of clear textual evidence to say that gold or silver worn is any different than that which is stored. In the hadith of Umm Salamah in Abu Dawud, the Prophet said “That which is enough to be liable for Zakat, and Zakat was paid on it, then it is not a hoarded treasure.” When he saw Aishah wearing silver he asked her “Did you pay Zakat on it?” When she replied in the negative he said “It is more than enough of the hellfire for you.” The unequivocal nature of the hadith from Sahih Muslim above indicates that Zakat is due on all gold and silver without exception. Until we have a specific evidence to specify, the general ruling remains applicable. When researching these issues, we must remember what Allah says to his Prophet:

فلا وربك لا يؤمنون حتى يحكموك فيما شجر بينهم ثم لا يجدوا في أنفسهم حرجاً مما قضيت ويسلموا تسليماً

No, by their Lord, they do not believe until they return to you for a verdict in everything they differ on, then they find no hardship in their hearts towards your decision, and they submit fully.

May Allah bless us to give precedence to what he gave precedence to, and to submit fully without disdain. Ameen.

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