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The Distribution of Zakat
The Prophet (peace be upon him) is reported to have said: “Allah verily did not accept the judgment of a Prophet (peace be upon him) or anybody else in [the distribution of] Zakat, so He gave the Judgment on it. He divided it into eight parts.” This Hadith refers to Surah Al-Taubah 9:60: “Sadaqah (i.e. Zakat) are for the poor, and the needy, and those employed to administer [the funds], and those whose hearts have been reconciled [to the truth], and for those in bondage, and those in debt, and in the cause of Allah, and for the wayfarer; [thus is it] ordained by Allah, and Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom.”
The Recipients of Zakat
There are eight categories of people to whom Zakat can be distributed. These have been identified as: Al-Fuqara: The Poor
According to the majority of jurists, the poor are those who do not have any assets and have no means by which they can earn their living. However, the Hanafi jurists defined the poor as those who have money lesser than the amount on which Zakat is payable. The poor are worse than the needy in regard to satisfying their basic needs. However, some scholars hold the opposite view. Al-Masakin: The Needy
According to the majority of jurists, the needy are the people whose earnings do not cover their basic needs. However, the Hanifi jurists identified them as 'those who have no earnings at all'. The Hanafi and maaliki jurists consider them to be more deserving of Zakat than the poor. However, the Hanbali and Shafi`i jurists put the poor as being more deserving of Zakat.
Actually, this dispute in categorization has no effect, since both the poor and the needy are among the categories entitled to receive Zakat.
Al-‘Amilina ‘Alayha: Administrators of Zakat
This term applies to all those serving in the field of Zakat, including those responsible for collecting, storing, guarding, registering and distributing Zakat. They shoulder all Zakat related activities.
Al-Mu’allafate-Qulubuhum: Reconciliation of Hearts
This term applies to people who have embraced Islam or who are inclined to it.
Fir-Riqab: For those in Bondage
Zakat may be allocated to help Muslims free themselves of bondage.
Al-Gharimin: Those in Debt
Zakat may be used to pay off debts, so long as these debts were not incurred in an act contrary to Islamic law.
Fi-Sabilillah: In the Cause of Allah
Muslim jurists differ on who or what can be covered under this category, although most seem to agree that it can be used in the defence of Islam. In the wider sense however, this channel covers promoting the Islamic value system.
Ibnas-Sabil: The Wayfarer
A wayfarer refers to a traveller who left his home for a lawful purpose and for whatever good reason does not possess enough money to return home, even if he is rich in his own country.
Choosing Zakat Workers
1. A Muslim
2. A sane and mature individual.
3. A trustworthy, righteous and honest individual - so as not to oppress the rich or neglect the rights of the poor.
4. A general and complete knowledge of Zakat rulings and regulations.
5. Efficiency and performance is required.
The Manner of Distributing Zakat
The Zakat giver is freed from its obligation as soon as he grants full ownership and possession of it to any of the above-mentioned categories. This can be done either by giving a certain amount of money to meet his basic requirements or by giving him a means of production or tools of trade to help him in becoming self-empowered.
To Whom Can Zakat Not Be Given?
Muslim jurists agreed that Zakat cannot be given to the following people:
1) The rich (except when such are among the workers of Zakat).
2) Those capable but not willing to work.
3) Disbelievers and apostates who fight against Islam.
4) Ascendants, descendants and wives of the payer.
The proceeds of Zakat at the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was in most cases distributed immediately after collection, as reported by many workers who often said that they used to come back from their Zakat missions empty handed, the way they started their journeys, since everything collected used to be distributed on the spot.