Question # 208: Is it permissible to help someone with Zakah funds who has dealt in interest riba-based transactions?
Bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,
Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,
All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).
First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.
Shorter Answer: If a person has repented from [interest] riba-based transactions, and has resolved not to go back to it; however, he cannot avoid paying the interest on the associated debt for fear of legal consequences, then there is nothing wrong with helping such a person paying off the debt and the resulting interest, and there is no sin in helping to relieve a Muslim of distress with Zakaah.
Long Answer: If a person has repented from [interest] riba-based transactions and has resolved not to go back to it and regrets having done that, but he cannot avoid paying interest, because the system obliges him to pay off the loans with the interest, otherwise he will [face legal consequences), then there is nothing wrong with helping him to pay off the debt and the resulting interest, and there is no sin on the one who helps him to do that because this is helping to relieve a Muslim of distress. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: Whoever relieves a Muslim of distress, Allah will relieve him of distress on the Day of Resurrection. (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “If he has repented, we may give him (zakaah), otherwise we do not give him, because this comes under the heading of helping him with something haraam, hence if we gave to him, he would take out another loan.” (Ash-Sharh al-Mumti‘)
Dr. ‘Umar Sulaymaan al-Ashqar said: “If a person has got into debt by way of riba, it is not permissible to pay off his debt from zakaah funds allocated for debtors, unless he has repented and given up dealing in riba.” (Abhaath al-Nadwah al-Khaamisah li Qadaayaa az-Zakaah al-Mu‘aasirah)
But in the case of one who has not repented from riba-based transactions, and only wants to solve his problem, and if his debt was paid off, he would not mind going back to dealing in riba again, then it is not permissible to help such a person to pay off his debt, because that comes under the heading of helping him in sin and transgression, which is not permissible.
(The above reply is based on the answer provided by Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid on a similar topic)
Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.