Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
There is scholarly consensus (ijma`) that zakat cannot be given to non-Muslims, as mentioned by Ibn al-Mundhir, Kasani, Ibn Qudama, Buhuti, and others.
Muwaffaq Ibn Qudama, a great Hanbali Imam, says in his Mughni:
“We do not know of any difference of opinion among the people of knowledge (ahl al-`ilm) that zakat on wealth cannot be given to a kafir… Ibn al-Mundhir said, ‘There is consensus of all those whose positions we know from the people of knowledge that a non-Muslim (dhimmi) cannot be given any zakat.’
“This is because the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) said to Mu`adh [in the authentic hadith, reported by Bukhari 1365, Muslim 26-27, and elsewhere], ‘Tell them that they are obliged to give a charity (i.e. zakat) that is taken from their rich and given to their poor.’
“The Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) specified the Muslims as giving it to their poor, just as he specified that it is only obligatory on their rich.” [Ibn Qudama, al-Mughni, 2.1774]
The hadith commentators mention that their above refers to ‘the Muslims,’ in both cases. This is how Imam Kasani explained it in his Bada’i` al-Sana’i` in Hanafi fiqh, too.
As for ‘those whose hearts are to be inclined,’ this category has been abrogated according to the Hanafi scholars. [Hidaya] There is difference of opinion regarding this point, however, among the schools of fiqh.
Imam Abu Bakr al-Jassas, the 4th century AH Hanafi mujtahid imam, explains in his brilliant commentary on the Qur’anic verses containing legal rulings that other charity, however, may be given to needy non-Muslims.
He explains that this falls under the general instruction that, “Allah forbids you not those who warred not against you on account of religion and drove you not out from your homes, that you should show them kindness and deal justly with them. Lo! Allah loves the just dealers.” (Qur’an, 60: 8) [Jassas, Ahkam al-Qur’an, 1.629-630]
Abu al-Darda’ (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him, his family, and companions) said, “Nothing more weighty than good character is placed on the Scales [on the Day of Judgement].” [Tirmidhi 1936, Abu Dawud 4166, Ahmad 26224, and others]
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