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Spending Zakah Money on Building Islamic Schools: Permissible?

06 May, 2018
Q We are a Muslim community in the United States. We'd like to know whether or not we can use the Zakah money to build an Islamic school.


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- Muslims are recommended to support Islamic projects, such as Islamic schools and centers, that work for the public and social welfare of the Muslim community by all possible legal means.

2- Muslims are highly encouraged to give in charity, make awqaf, and give their Zakah money to finance Islamic schools that promote sound understanding of Islam, raise young people and kids on Islamic values, and serve the public and social welfare of the community.

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Answering your question, Dr. Wael Shehab, PhD in Islamic Studies from Al-Azhar University and currently the Imam of the Downtown Toronto Masjid in Canada, states:

Building Islamic centers and schools, particularly in Western countries, is so significant that Muslims should spare no efforts to advocate, support, and promote.

Islamic schools and centers help Muslims preserve their Islamic identity, promote sound understanding of Islam and its values, and provide great services for people, Muslims and non-Muslims.

Islamic schools play a vital role in educating Muslim and non-Muslim students. They help Muslim parents in raising their children on the values and teachings of Islam. Moreover, non-Muslims will have the chance to know more about Islam by visiting or joining Islamic schools.

Given the above, Muslims should never hesitate to support Islamic schools and centers by all possible legal means. Islamic schools—that promote sound understanding of Islam and its values, raise Muslim and non-Muslim students on Islamic ethics, spread awareness about Islam, care about the welfare and wellbeing of the community, and take care of people’s educational needs—can be supported by means of:

  1. Optional Charities (Sadaqah)

Muslims are highly encouraged to give in charity to support public, educational, and social welfare projects. Allah the Exalted  says in the Qur’an, “You can never attain to true piety unless you spend on others out of what you cherish yourselves, and whatever you spend, verily Allah has full knowledge thereof” (Aal `Imran 3:92)

  1. Awqaf (Endowments)

Well-to-do Muslims are recommended to make awqaf (endowments) to support Islamic schools and centers that serve Muslim communities, particularly in Western countries.

Throughout centuries, awqaf have contributed to the stability, wellbeing, and advancement of Muslims in various aspects that greatly affect the interests of Muslim community.

Waqf is a virtuous act and an ongoing charity that entails blessings and continuous reward for the person who offers it for Allah’s sake.

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “When a person dies, all of his works cease, except three; an ongoing charity he endows, beneficial knowledge he imparts, or a righteous offspring who prays for him or her.” (Muslim)

Imam An-Nawawi commented on this hadith (prophetic tradition) saying, “This hadith affirms the original validity of waqf and its great virtues and rewards.” 

  1. Zakah Money

In the Qur’an, Allah Almighty has specified eight categories of people who can receive Zakah. Allah Almighty says: “Alms are for the poor and the needy, and those employed to administer the (funds); for those whose hearts have been (recently) reconciled (to the truth); for those in bondage and in debt; in the cause of Allah; and for the wayfarer: (thus is it) ordained by Allah, and Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom.” (At-Tawbah 9:60)

The Qur’anic expression (in the cause of Allah) or “fi sabil Allah” has a broad meaning that covers da`wah and public welfare programs. This view is adopted by many scholars who are known for their deep and profound knowledge of the Shari`ah (Islamic law) and its main objectives. So, Muslims can spend Zakah money on Islamic schools or centers that work for the public, educational, and social welfare of the community.

Almighty Allah knows best.

Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.