Share of the Poor in Zakah
The Holy Qur’an specified the disbursement of zakah to eight types of persons. So, what is the share of the poor, i.e, fuqara and masakin among the whole lot? Shaikh al Qaradawi, after presenting the views of early jurists on the matter, concluded by saying that the funds of zakah should be distribute to ail eight types if the funds are in abundance and the degree of their need is similar. It is not necessary to give equal shares to the different types, the share of each type should be according to their number and condition of need. Imam Abu ‘Ubaid held a similar view. Since equality of dividends is not necessary, the biggest share should go to the poor because it is clear that the emphasis of the Qur’an and the traditions of the Prophet (pbuh) are in favour of the poor. Some of the early jurists realised this. Ibn lihab al-Zuhri said, “The most deserving of them (to be given ikah) is the greatest in number and the most in need. The aim of zakah, according to Muhammad b. al-Hasan al-Shaibani, the famous Hanafi jurist, is to satisfy the needs of the poor and if the zakah cannot meet their needs the Imam should take from other sources of his treasury so that he may satisfy every poor person and his family.
If we look at the eight categories of persons deserving alms as mentioned in the Qur’an, we find that at least five of them may be considered poor people either genuinely so or temporarily: fuqara, masakin, slaves, indebted, and the wayfarer who is in need. The state of poverty prevailing in the Muslim world dictates that more preference should be given to the poor in the distribution of zakah so that poverty be eliminated from Muslim societies. The serious consequences of poverty is clearer to us today than at any time in the past. It is consoling to know that most of the zakah administrations accept the idea of giving preference to the poor. The Pakistani zakah law gives 90 percent of the zakah fund to the poor and the Pakistani government pays the salaries of the employees in the Central Zakat Council from its own resources. The Sudanese zakah law adopts the view of distributing zakah to all the eight types but the board of trustees took the decision of giving 45 percent of the whole revenue to fuqara and masakin in addition of 2 percent to the indebted and 3 percent to the needy wayfarer. The studies and reports written about Zakat House and Nasir Bank show that they distribute most of the zakah on the poor and those with low income. The Zakat House established more than twenty offices outside Kuwait in order to assist Muslim countries facing poverty and mishaps. In 1993, the amount spent by the Zakat House outside Kuwait reached $ 12.5 million.
Source: Poverty Alleviation in Pakistan: Present Scenario and Future Strategy, Mohibul Haq Sahibzada. Republished with permission.
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