Question # 111: Aslam O Alaikum! Is it permitted to use Zakat to arrange Iftaar for the needy (such as those hosted in the mosques and are mostly for the benefit of laborers)? Jazak Allah
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: It is not permissible to give food to break the fast in Ramadan, using zakah funds because it is necessary to give possession (tamlik) of zakah to the poor and needy, so that they can spend it in accordance with their needs.
Long Answer: Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “It is not permissible to [give food to break the fast in Ramadan, using zakah funds], because what is required when giving zakah to the poor and needy is to give them possession of the zakah. So they should be given the money, which they may then dispose of according to what they think is best. This is indicated by the ayah in which Allah says in the Qur’an: “As-Sadaqat (here it means Zakah) are only for the Fuqaraa’ (poor), and Al-Masaakeen (the poor) and those employed to collect (the funds); and to attract the hearts of those who have been inclined (towards Islam); and to free the captives; and for those in debt; and for Allah’s Cause (i.e., for Mujaahidoon), and for the wayfarer (a traveller who is cut off from everything)” (Soorah at-Tawbah 9:60)
The first four categories mentioned – the poor (fuqara’ and masaakeen), those employed to collect (the funds) and those whose hearts are inclined towards Islam – are the ones to whom zakah belongs. So it is essential that they be given possession of it, i.e., the zakah should be given to them and they should be left to do what they want with it. (Liqa’ al-Baab al-Maftooh)
Al-Mardaawi al-Hanbali said in al-Insaaf: “It is stipulated when paying zakah that the recipient be given possession of, so it is not permissible to give the poor lunch or dinner (using zakah funds).”
(The above reply is based on answer by Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid on the topic)
[To further elaborate,] one of the issues regarding payment of Zakah is that of Tamlik, an Arabic term used [to describe] …‘complete and exclusive personal possession’. It means that in order to pay Zakah, one has to hand it over to the exclusive possession of a deserving person.
The belief in Tamlik, as an essential condition for settlement of Zakah, is backed by… the Hanafi school of thought. The validity of Tamlik is drawn from the [above mentioned] ayah of Soorah at-Tawbah, 9:60 of the Qur’an. The argument is based on the [use of] preposition lam, which is taken to connote Tamlik. This preposition has been used in the Qur’anic text for the first four heads of expenditure permitted for Zakah. It has been further argued that in case of the poor, destitute, those engaged in the management of Zakah and those whose hearts are to be won in favour of the Faith; the preposition continues to extend the condition of personal possession. Thus Zakah can be only paid by handing it over personally to all the deserving persons qualified under the four categories. (An Article on ‘Tamlik (Exclusive Personal Possession) as a precondition for Zakah’ by Nadir Aqueel Ansari on Al-Mawrid)
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.