Ummah Global Relief: God mentions in the Qur’an eight categories who deserve zakah. Should zakah be distributed each year to all eight categories? Should the proceeds be equally divided between them?
Some jurists understand the verse in this meaning, like al Shafi’i, in his al Umm. In al Majmu’, al Nawawi says, ” Al Shafi’i and his disciples believe that when zakah is distributed by the payer or the payer’s representative, the share of zakah workers is dropped, and the amount due must be distributed to the other seven categories, if they exist. It is not permissible to abandon an existing category. If an existing category is abandoned, its share is guaranteed by the owner. This is also the view of ‘Ikrimah,’Umar bin ‘Abd al Aziz, al Zuhri, and Daud.”1 Ahmad in one of several reports agrees with al Shafi’i on the equal distribution between all categories, and on the rule that at least three persons in each category except zakah workers be given zakah , because the verse is in the plural form, and three is the least number for which a plural form is used. This is the view selected by Abu Bakr, a Hanbalite.2 The Malikite Asbagh also prefers the Shafi’ite opinion.3 Ibn al ‘Arabi says, “It is agreed upon that it is not permissible to give all proceeds to zakah workers, since this does not fulfil the objective of zakah, which is satisfying the poor and the needs of Islam. Shafi’ites argue that the zakah distribution verse uses the preposition “to” [li] which means that proceeds must be given so that each recipient becomes owner of what he or she is given. This implies giving all of them.4 Shafi’ites also present as evidence the saying reported by Abu Daud from Ziad bin al Harith al Sada’i: “I came to the Messenger of God (p) and gave him my covenant, A man came and said, ‘Give me from the Sadaqah. The Messenger of God (p) said, ‘God does not leave the distribution of sadaqat to a prophet or anyone else, so He gave the ruling and divided the proceeds into eight parts. If you are in any of these parts, I will give you your right.”
Fiqh al Zakah (Vol. II), Dr. Yusuf al Qardawi – Ummah Global Relief
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Malik, Abu Hanafiah, and their disciples disagree with al Shafi’i. They do not require that distribution cover all categories, asserting that the preposition to [li] in the verse does not mean one must make the recipient own what is given, but means “for whom”. These scholars present the “If ye disclose (acts of) charity, it is well, but if ye conceal them and make them reach the poor, that is best for you.” which only mentions the poor and no reference is made to other categories, and the saying “I am ordained to take sadaqah from the rich among you and render it to the poor among you.” Not mentioning other categories in these two texts is an indication that giving the poor alone is satisfactory.5 Abu ‘Ubaid reports that Ibn Abbas says, “If you spend zakah on one of these categories, it is all right, since God says ‘The sadaqat are but for the poor and needy, . . . . ‘ which means zakah must not be given outside these categories.” The same is reported from Hudhaifah. Ibn Shihab says, “The category which deserves zakah more is the one that is bigger in number and more severe in need.” Sufyan and jurists from Iraq (Abu Hanifah and his disciples) believe spending zakah on one of the eight categories is satisfactory. Al Nakha’i suggests that when funds are plenty, it is better to distribute to all categories, but when funds are limited, one category is sufficient. A similar opinion is attributed to ‘Ata’.6
Abu Thawr suggests that when the owner distributes zakah, it may be given to one category only, but when zakah is distributed by the state, all categories must be included. Malik adds that “it is left to the state’s zakah agency to distribute to those categories whose needs are more intense. This is what I have heard scholars whom I respect expressing.”In my opinion, this last view is most sound and reasonable.
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