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Can I Give Zakah to Relief Organizations?

02 December, 2017
Q There are some charities that offer social or relief programs for Muslims in need in Canada or overseas. However, the recipient does not receive 100% of the donation, as part of it goes to finance some administrative costs of the charity such as transportation and other costs incurred to manage the relief project. Also, the recipient receives the donation in terms of shelter, food and medicine instead of cash money (so he doesn't have the flexibility to use the money as he wishes). Is it permissible to give Zakah to such charities?


In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger. 

In this fatwa:

1- There is nothing wrong with giving zakah to relief organizations.

2- Those who are paying zakah should make sure that the organizations to which they are entrusting their zakah are credible and known for their accountability and transparency in their management of affairs.

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Answering your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states: 

Zakah stands as the third pillar of Islam after testifying that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His final Messenger and offering Prayer.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Islam is built upon five pillars: testifying that there is no true god except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, performing Prayer, paying the Zakah, making the pilgrimage to the Sacred House (Hajj), and fasting the month of Ramadan.” (Al-Bukhari)

Zakah recipients, according to the Qur’an, include, besides the poor and the needy, other categories such as “those who work for it” [i.e., to collect and distribute the Zakah] as well as “for the way of Allah”, etc.

Allah Almighty says: “Verily alms (i.e. Zakah) are only for the poor and the needy, and those who work for it and for those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and for the ransom of captives and debtors, and for the way of Allah and for the wayfarers. This is an obligatory duty from Allah, and Allah is Knowing, Wise.” (At-Tawbah 9:60)

Zakah, being a permanent institution in Islam, requires people to administer it in order to ensure its efficient collection and distribution.

Past jurists, therefore, included in the category of “those who work for it” virtually all types of services associated with its collection and distribution including assessors, writers, collectors, counters, measurers, shepherds, porters, accountants, etc.

When we translate such services into modern terms, they can very well be extended to include administrative offices, storage facilities, containers, shipping, transportation, etc.

Therefore, all of the above can fall under the category of legitimate recipients of zakah. One of the juristic principle states: “That which an obligatory duty is dependent upon also by extension becomes obligatory.”

Having said this, however, it is important to point out the following:

Those who are paying Zakah should make sure that the organizations to which they are entrusting their Zakah are credible and known for their accountability and transparency in their management of affairs.
Once you can reasonably assume this to be the case, then you have discharged your religious duty.

If, on the contrary, you are not so sure of their integrity, and you have reasonable ground to be suspicious that their management of affairs is not responsible, then you should not consider giving Zakah to them.

But remember, in Islam we must not suspect others unless we have valid grounds to do so. May Allah grant us grace to do that which is right. Amen.

Almighty Allah knows best.

Excerpted, with slight modifications, from: