Despite being a fundamental pillar of Islam, zakat is a tricky subject for many Muslims. The complexity involved behind all the calculations can alone prove challenging for most of us. Apart from the principles that govern the obligation of zakat, there are many questions. Questions that surely must confuse some of you every year are when you sit down to calculate the annual 2.5 percent of your possessions. One such question, that many Muslims ask every year is the eligibility criterion of zakat receivers. A frequently asked question is; can zakat be given to relatives? The question demands a detailed discussion, exactly what we are going to do!
Who are eligible for zakat?
First, we must be aware of those who are deemed eligible for our zakat money. Not you or we decide this. In the holy book of the Quran, Allah (SWT) has already outlined this for us. 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 relatives?
By relatives, if you mean your wife, children, parents, and grandparents, then NO. You cannot pay zakat to these. That is a short answer, which needs backing up with a detailed answer. It is so because there are few fine technical details, which one must understand in this regard.
Firstly, if the zakat payment agency is dispensing the money to your family, it is permissible even if you have paid the money to that agency. Secondly, if your relatives are so distant from you that you have no legal responsibility by Islam, you can donate your zakat money to them as well. There is a certain case where a wife can pay zakat to her husband. However, we shall not discuss it here because of lack of unanimity of the answer in this matter.
As a summary, we leave you with three questions. Ask yourself these questions whenever you think about a relative who needs zakat. These are likely to guide you in the future as well.
1- Does the concerned family member live within your household premises?
2- Is the member under discussion, financially dependent on you?
3- Are you legally bound to this family member? Alternatively, does Islam asks you to support this member of the family by obligation?
At this point in the discussion, let us discuss the cases in which close relatives can receive your zakat donations. These include:
1- The workers in zakat agencies.
2- People in need of loans so that they can avoid interest.
3- Students of religion
4- Wayfarers completely cut off from funds
5- Those who need freedom from incarceration.
You must be careful of all these points when you decide on paying zakat this year. See if anyone in your family meets this exemption criterion or not.
Should you be waiting until Ramadan this year?
Ramadan 2020 is almost upon us. This holy month is full of blessings for anyone who makes an effort to please Allah (SWT). This is also the month in which, the frequency of zakat donations doubles up as well. Most of the Muslims wait until Ramadan to pay zakat. A large section hangs about until mid of Ramadan as well. However, considering the current state of affairs, you must ask yourself. Should you be waiting until Ramadan to pay zakat? The COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be a disaster not only medically, but economically as well. You can help the distressed in your community by contributing with your zakat donations. Someone might not have to sleep on an empty stomach, because of your zakat money!
Conclusion – Can zakat be given to relatives?
Zakat is an obligation that holds a significant place in Islam. In the context of the current pandemic, zakat money can help millions of people worldwide. These people have lost their jobs, and cannot afford even a couple of decent meals a day. Your donation can certainly help these folks. Help others by circulating wealth in the society, help others by paying zakat early this year!