Recipients of Zakat
Whether it is zakat of sharia or zakat of dignity, the category of people who deserve it remains the same. The recipients of zakat are known as masarif i.e. those who should be given zakat or sadaqah in any form. Allah has clearly mentioned the masarif of zakat and sadaqah in Quran in these words:
اِنَّمَا الصَّدَقٰتُ لِلْفُقَرَآءِ وَالْمَسٰکِیْنِ وَالْعٰمِلِیْنَ عَلَیْھَا وَالْمُؤَلَّفَۃِ قُلُوْبُھُمْ وَ فِی الرِّقَابِ وَالْغَارِمِیْنَ وَفِیْ سَبِیْلِ اللّٰہِ وَابْنِ السَّبِیْلِ ؕ فَرِیْضَۃً مِّنَ اللّٰہِ ط وَاللّٰہُ عَلِیْمٌ حَکِیْمٌ۔
Meaning: “Indeed sadaqah is for Fakirs, Masakeen and for Amileen (those deployed to collect zakat), those in whose hearts the inculcation of love for Islam is aimed at, and to free the captives and remove the burden of debtors and (those who toil hard) in the way of Allah and for the wayfarers. This has been prescribed by Allah. Allah, the All-Knower, the Most Wise.”(9:60)
The above verse describes eight categories of people who are entitled to receive sadaqah and zakat. Among them, Fakirs are the foremost. Let us describe each of them separately;
Recipient # 1 – FAKIRS
In enlightened perspective of Holy Quran, Fakir refers to the perfect Saint i.e. one who annihilates in Allah (fana fillah). As, described in sura Al-Baqarah:
لِلْفُقَرَآءِ الَّذِیْنَ اُحْصِرُوْا فِیْ سَبِیْلِ اللّٰہِ لَا یَسْتَطِیْعُوْنَ ضَرْبًا فِی الْاَرْضِ ۚ یَحْسَبُھُمُ الْجَاھِلُ اَغْنِیَآءَ مِنَ التَّعَفُّفِ ۚ تَعْرِفُھُمْ بِسِیْمٰھُمْ لَا یَسْئَلُوْنَ النَّاسَ اِلْحَافًا ؕ وَمَا تُنْفِقُوْا مِنْ خَیْرٍ فَاِنَّ اللّٰہَ بِہٖ عَلِیْمٌ۔
Meaning: Sadaqah is for those Fakirs (who have sacrificed and dedicated their lives in the way of Allah. Those) who have been restricted (from earning their livelihood) in the cause of Allah. They cannot even move about in the land (due to their full time involvement in matters of religion). Because of their aversion to greed, people (knowing not about their state of heart and soul) consider them wealthy. You will recognize them from their appearance. They do not ask people (for help) at all lest they should humble themselves (before them). And whatever you spend in the way of Allah, Allah knows it the best. (2:273)
Hadiths about Fakirs
- Abu Huraira relates Hadith of the Holy Prophet, “Fakirs will enter paradise five hundred years before the rich.” (Tirmidhi, Ibn-e-Majah)
- The Holy Prophet said, “Keep company of Fakirs and oblige them as much as possible because they are very rich.” Someone questioned the Holy Prophet, “What is in their possession that makes them rich?” He answered, “On doomsday, Allah would say to them, ‘Whoever fed you, gave you to drink or to wear, you can take him to paradise with you’.”
- According to another Hadith, Allah would apologize from the Fakir the way we humans do. He would say, “I swear by My Power and Wrath! I did not keep (luxuries of) world away from you because I looked down upon you. Rather, it was because I wanted to keep all your reward saved for this special day. O’ My beloved slave! Go to the dwellers of hell. Whoever amongst them fed you or clothed you for My sake, he belongs to you.” Faces of people of hell would be covered in perspiration to the extent that it would be difficult to recognize them. However, Fakir would immediately recognize those who did any good to him in world and would take them to paradise.”(Riaz al-Rayaheen)
- A Hadith says that on doomsday, it would be announced, “Where are the ones who respected and obliged the Fakirs? Today, they can enter the paradise without sorrow or fear.” (Kanz al-Ummal)
Warning on not serving the Fakirs
- Ali ibn Abi Talib narrated that the Holy Prophet said, “When people keep enmity against the Fakirs, show off worldly splendour and become greedy in hoarding wealth and goods, then Allah sends four kinds of calamities upon them:
b) Cruel ruler or king
c) Dishonest officials
d) Dominance of enemies.
Sayings about grandeur of Fakirs
Ghaus-ul-Azam Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani says;
- Fakir is not the one who does not own anything. But is the one who orders “Be” and “It is done”. (Ar-Risala tul-Ghausia)
Al-Qushayri’s writes in his epistle on Sufism;
- Faqr is the way of Saints of Allah and the ornament of chosen ones. Allah has liked it for His special men i.e. Prophets and Saints. Fakirs are the people whom Allah has specially chosen and appointed among His men. Among entire creation, only they can bear secrets of Allah. It is due to them that Allah protects other creations and provides them sustenance and shelter. The Fakir who adopts patience would be the companion of Allah on doomsday.
Sultan Bahoo says:
- Holy Prophet said about the Fakir who has attained the boundless and infinite levels of closeness to Allah by annihilating in Him;
لِسَانُ الْفُقَرَآءِ سَیْفُ الرَّحْمٰنِ
Meaning: Tongue of Fakirs is the sword of Rehman.
Such Fakirs only belong to the Sarwari Qadri order. Outwardly they are the beloveds and inwardly lost in Divinity, outwardly vigilant but inwardly drowned in vision of Allah. (Nur-ul-Huda Kalan)
- Perfect Fakir is one who has become desirable in the court of Allah and ever remains present in Mohammadan Assembly. (Kaleed-ul-Tauheed Kalan)
- Follow the commandments of Fakirs as their opposition leads to disgrace in both the worlds. (Kaleed-ul-Tauheed Kalan)
These Hadiths and sayings are about Fakirs who have annihilated in Allah and reached the status of “Death before dying”.
Recipient # 2 – MASAKEEN
Arabic word Masakeen is plural of Miskeen which literally means indigent. But, mystically, it refers to Saints who perpetually remain with Allah i.e. remain engrossed in remembrance of Allah. That is why, the Holy Prophet prayed;
- “O Allah! Let me live as a Miskeen, die as a Miskeen and raise me amongst the Masakeen on doomsday.” (Mishkat al-Masabih)
Umar bin Khattab relates that the Holy Prophet said,
- “There is key to everything and the key to paradise is the love of Masakeen.” (Kanz al-Ummal, Al-Qushayri’s Epistle on Sufism)
Abdullah related from the Holy Prophet:
- “Miskeen is not the one who keeps wandering (begging) and at last gets a bite of food or few dates.” The Companions of the Prophet inquired, “Then, who the Masakeen are?” The Holy Prophet replied, “Miskeen is the one who does not have enough money. But he feels shy to ask people for financial help neither people know about his condition. Hence, no one gives him sadaqah.” (Musnad-e-Ahmad)
Prophet Mohammad said to his wife Ayesha bint Abu Bakr:
- Ayesha! Never return the Masakeen empty handed. Give them whatever you have even if it is just a date. Be loving towards the Masakeen and keep them close to yourself. Allah would keep you close to Himself on doomsday.” (Mishkat al-Masabih)
Quran mentions the word ‘Masakeen’ at least twenty three times. Whereby Allah has ordered to give them sadaqah and be good to them.
Recipient # 3 – AMILEEN
Amileen are the people whom an Islamic government appoints to collect zakat. Zakat can be given to them and it can be used to give their salaries as well.
Recipient # 4 – TO WIN HEARTS
Zakat can also be spent to invite the non-Muslims towards Islam and to win their heart so that they get inclined towards Islam. This category also includes giving money to support those who seek help from Islam especially the newly converts to Islam. After the battle of Hunain, the Holy Prophet gave a large amount of booty to the newly converted Muslims. When the Ansars questioned him, he said that he wanted to please their hearts as they had just entered Islam.
Recipient # 5 – TO FREE THE CAPTIVES
Sadaqat and zakat can be spent for the emancipation of slaves. Now a days, slavery is illegal but considering the context, this can be replaced with people who are undergoing imprisonment and are unable to pay the fine imposed to get freedom.
Recipient # 6 – GHARIMEEN (People under loan)
Gharimeen are those people who are under loan and are unable to pay it back. A Muslim brother can give sadaqah and zakat to return their loan. However, this is not for those who have fallen into debt out of their habit of lavish or illicit spending. As it would encourage them to take more loans and later pay back by getting sadaqah.
Recipient # 7 – FI SABILLILAH
Fi Sabillillah refers to any kind of spending in the way of Allah such as for Jihad, for inviting others to Islam, to help any Muslim, for the exaltation of religion, to spread the message of Islam, to encourage others to adopt the straight path i.e. Faqr, and any other cause whereby the intention is to spend in the way of Allah to please Him.
Recipient # 8 – TRAVELLERS
Travellers who are short of money or resources and need help are also included in the categories of people who deserve zakat or sadaqah.
Spending in the way of Allah During Ramadan
During Ramadan there is always a remarkable increase in the passion for worships and charity. Mostly, people pay zakat, sadaqat, charity and donations during this sacred month. Because Allah increases reward of every virtuous deed seventy times in this month. Whomsoever Allah has blessed with wealth and generosity, makes every effort to sacrifice maximum wealth for Allah during this month. This month is full of blessings. Hence, it is golden opportunity for rich people to get closeness of Allah by spending generously in His way. Those who are unable to perform physical devotions or keep fast in this month due to health issues can also make its compensation easily by spending in the way of Allah.
The Essence of Spending in the way of Allah
Any kind of prayer, whether salat or zakat, can grant closeness of Allah only if one performs it after understanding its inner aspect. Moreover, by following its essence with sincerity and the presence of soul. Salat, for instance, is physical devotion but its inner aspect is to disconnect with everything and concentrate completely upon Allah. Similarly, zakat also has both the inner and outer aspects. The spirit or essence of zakat is to get rid of the love of worldly riches. Hence, it plays vital role in the purification of one’s soul. If one gives sadaqah and zakat only physically with its essence missing, then, although one absolves of the obligation but it would not be enough to purify the soul or bring one closer to Allah. Everything in cosmos is hollow and useless without its essence. Likewise, hollow act of sadaqah would fail to fulfill its desired purpose.
The real purpose of zakat is to to purify, cleanse and grow spiritually. One can achieve it only if its essence is contained within the act of giving sadaqah. This would allow one to get closer to Allah thereby turning a Muslim into a Momin. Momin truly understands the secret of zakat and does not withhold any wealth except that which meets his basic necessities.
Misinterpretation of Concept of Sadaqah and Zakat
It is quite unfortunate that today, many formal theologians are at loss to perceive the actual concept behind sadaqah. They misinterpret it and derive their confused definition from its literal meaning believing that zakat ‘purifies’ and ‘increases’ wealth itself. Whereas, it is now clear that zakat ‘purifies’ the soul and ‘increases’ closeness to Allah. Their orthodox perspective in fact re-emphasizes the focus of people upon growth of their wealth. As it makes them believe that they have found a religious methodology to ‘increase’ their wealth further and ‘purify’ their unlawful earnings. This whole idea completely disregards the soul of zakat and sadaqah. The Momin must acknowledge the fact that everything he owns actually belongs to Allah and so does his wealth.
Companions of the Holy Prophet spent their entire wealth for Allah’s sake. Even after that they always remained keen to make further sacrifices for the happiness of Holy Prophet. Moreover, to achieve success in holy court. Only by following their footsteps, a Muslim can please his beloved Prophet and Allah.
It is our sincere prayer to Allah that He allows us to spend in His way with pure intentions and sincerity of heart keeping in view the essence of zakat. Amen