There can be many reasons as to why you are reading this article. One, it is your first time giving the zakat. Another, you did not need to know the answer to this particular question in the past. However, Ramadan 2020 is almost upon us, a time in which the zakat donations are almost doubled. If you are one of those Muslims who have kept things a bit late, you are most likely to pay zakat in Ramadan 2020. Therefore, the timing is ideal for you to rid your mind of all the ambiguities. In this discussion, we answer a frequently asked question: can zakat be given to non-Muslims?
Why paying zakat is important?
Before we jump into the details. It is important to understand zakat’s significance in Islam. It is one of the foundation pillars of Islam. An obligatory act that a Muslim must carry out every year, zakat does not have the religious significance only. The value of zakat in the Muslim economic structure is tremendous. It is an obligation that keeps reminding the rich Muslims that their fellow Muslims of lower financial status also have a right on their wealth.
A beautiful tradition, which keeps wealth circulating in the society, zakat, has benefits of spiritual nature for the donor. Only by paying an annual 2.5 percent on their wealth can Muslims purify their assets. Zakat creates empathy in the donor’s heart and brings the donor one-step closer to Allah’s mercy and forgiveness.
The eligible ones
At this point in the discussion, it is important to know about the eligible ones. By that, we mean the people who are eligible to receive your zakat money. It is not decided by us, but by Allah (SWT). The holy book of the Quran serves as a guiding source for Muslims. In the Quran, Allah (SWT) says:
“Zakat expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakat] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah. And Allah is Knowing and Wise”
Can zakat be given to Non-Muslims?
In the light of the above-mentioned verse, things become quite clear. There are only eight kinds of people eligible for zakat. There is a consensus among the Muslim scholars that non-Muslims are disqualified, as they do not meet the eligibility criterion. Let us explain the logic behind this unanimity. The enemies of Islam are automatically disqualified for the zakat money. This makes a lot of sense and probably does not need any more explanation. However, apart from zakat, there are plenty of other ways to help a non-Muslim. We will discuss these alternatives in the upcoming passages.
There is one point on which there is a disagreement between Muslim schools of thought. Can zakat be given to non-Muslims under the account of those whose hearts are softened? Some schools of thought say that these non-Muslims are eligible for the zakat donations. As for other schools of thought, they strongly disagree with this point of view. You are likely to find a diversity of views on this matter. However, it is best to flow with the majority in matters like these. The general opinion stands at ; zakat cannot be given to non-Muslims.
Other ways of helping Non-Muslims
Well, how about gifts for a starter? You do not need the flag of zakat to help a non-Muslim. You can help a person in plenty of ways. Give them some money if monetary assistance is what they need. If they need some sort of help in the category of provisions, provide for them accordingly. However, make sure that you do not tell them that this is charity money. The ideal title for money given in causes such as this is a gift.
Well, that is all from this discussion. We hope that at least one of the queries in your mind has been answered satisfactorily. Zakat is a noble way of helping fellow underprivileged Muslims. However, it cannot be given to non-Muslims, even if they need financial assistance. Use other ways that we have discussed in the discussion, to help those who are in distress. After all, feeling for others is the flavor of Islam!