Answered by SunniPath Answer Service Team
In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful & Compassionate
From the post by Sidi Sohail Hanif:
It is a condition for both Zakat and Zakat al-Fitr that it be given to someone legally poor (or from the other zakat categories mentioned in the Qur'an), according to all four Sunni schools of fiqh, and they all state that it is invalid to give it for other acts of good, such as da`wah, building mosques or charity.
The fatwa about the permissibility of doing so is aberrant (shadhdh), as countless Sunni scholars have shown. It is enough that it was only spread in the 20th Century by the likes of Abduh, Rida, Mawdudi, and later Dr. Qaradawi.
A draft answer on the topic follows:
Zakat: The Meaning of 'In the Way of Allah' Can Zakat be paid to build mosques, schools, hospitals and other ways of good?
In the name of Allah most gracious and merciful
The fatwa delivered by a number of well known contemporary scholars permitting Zakat to be paid to charitable projects such as building mosques and funding da'wah projects has gained wide circulation amongst Muslims, especially in the west, due to its seeming correctness and the convenience it provides to Muslims involved in raising funding for such projects. However, it goes against all four sunni legal schools who do not consider such a payment as constituting a valid Zakat payment.
The difference centers on the meaning of 'in the way of Allah' (fi sabilillah) in the noble verse that outlines the recipients for Zakat; 'Alms are only for the poor and the needy and those employed to administer the funds, for those whose hearts have been reconciled (to the truth), for those in bondage, and in debt, in the way of Allah, and for the wayfarer. [Thus is it] ordained by Allah. And Allah is All-knowing All-wise'[9:60].
The word innama (translated only) is used in Arabic to indicate total containment of the subject within the predicate, meaning here that the Zakat can only be paid to the eight mentioned categories. This is something the scholars have agreed upon.
The majority of the Qur'anic exegetes (mufassirin) interpreted 'the way of Allah' as meaning those fighting in the way of Allah. These exegetes include al-Tabari, al-Baghawi, al-Qurtubi and al-Suyuti. Qadi Abu Bakr ibn al-'Arabi relates in his Ahkam al-Qur'an that Malik said 'The ways of Allah are many but I don't know of any difference that the way of Allah here refers to those fighting'[2:533].
The interpretation of it as such is the school of Malik and al-Shafi'i [al-Dardir, al-Sharh al-Saghir, 1:663; al-Nawawi, al-Majmu' fi sharh al-Muhadhdhab, 6:200].
The Hanbalis agreed with this but added to it those intending to offer the Hajj as that is also considered in the way of Allah [al-Bahuti, Kashaf al-Qana', 2:283].
Based on the positions of the above three legal schools, there is no possibility for using the Zakat in the likes of building mosques.
The Hanafi books generally mention that the way of Allah refers to those fighting in the way of Allah as well as those wanting to offer the Hajj. They will also often mention that Imam al-Kasani said in his Bada'i` al-Sana'i`, a key Hanafi work for legal reasoning, that the way of Allah refers to 'all good causes' [Bada'i' al-Sana'i',2:45].
It is words like those of Kasani's that are often misquoted by exponents of the permissibility of giving Zakat for charitable works of all shape and size. This is a misunderstanding of Kasani's intent, reasoning, and meaning. To understand why that is so, one has to keep in mind the reality of Zakat when mentioned by the Hanafi fuqaha. This reality, or definition, is, in the words of al-Tumurtashi in his Tanwir al-Absar,
'The transfer of ownership (tamlik) of a part of one's wealth that the Lawgiver has specified to be given to a poor Muslim...whilst not providing the giver any means of benefit whatsoever, for the sake of Allah Most high' [Tanwir al-Absar, 2:4].
Any payment that does not fall within this definition is not considered Zakat. The key term 'tamlik' (transfer of ownership) is the reason why Zakat cannot be given to build a mosque. This is because it is inconceivable that a mosque can 'own' anything so how can ownership of money be transferred to it? Nor can a mosque be described as 'poor'.
Kasani himself clarified his intent by following his mention that Zakat can be given for all good causes with, 'so it includes anyone who strives in the obedience of Allah and in the path of virtuous deeds if he is needy' [Bada'i' al-Sana'i', 2:45], indicating clearly that the recipient must be both needy and a person, based on the above mentioned definition of Zakat, similar to one given by Kasani earlier in his work. Neediness here is defined as someone's not possessing the minimum nisab that obligates paying the Zakat on the one who possesses it [Radd al-Muhtar, 2:339].
Imam al-Kasani further explains the various scenarios in which giving Zakat is not permissible due to the lack of a transfer of ownership. Among these he mentions:
* Building mosques, fixing bridges or providing the burial shrouds for a dead person. * Inviting poor people to one's house and feeding them. This is because one is still considered as owning the food so ownership has not been transferred. * Paying off a dead man's debt. This is because a dead man can not own anything. [Bada'i' al-Sana'i', 2:39]
No room remains for misinterpreting the words of Kasani. Ibn Nujaym mentions that practically speaking there is no difference between Kasani's position and those who limit the way of Allah to those fighting in the way of Allah and those who want to go on Hajj as in each case the recipient must be legally poor so he would be worthy of receiving the Zakat by virtue of his poverty, regardless of how we interpret the way of Allah [al-Bahr al-Ra'iq, 2:260].
From the above discussion it is clear that the Zakat cannot be paid except to a limited number of recipients, namely poor people, the various categories mentioned in the noble verse returning back to this same basic criteria, the only exception from which, according to the Hanafis, is the state appointed Zakat collector who can take from the Zakat even if rich. One can also learn from this the lack of scruples displayed by many contemporary scholars when quoting traditional works; mistakes of misinterpretation and misunderstanding not being uncommon.
Ibn Sirin's words 'look to who you take your din from' should always be kept in mind.
And Allah alone gives success.
SunniPath Fiqh Team
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