Question # 115: Our beloved Prophet (PBUH) did not allow the members of his family to receive zakat. Currently this is interpreted as anyone who is from SYED family (presumed to be decedent from our Prophet’s (PBUH) family should not be receiving zakat from anyone who is non Syed. In today’s age, is this a correct practice? If yes, how do we know that someone who is calling himself a “Syed” is actually a direct descendant of the Prophet’s family?

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).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: The reason for the impermissibility to give zakah to tribe of ‘Abd al-Muttalib (the descendants of ‘Ali, the descendants of ‘Abbas, the descendants of Ja’far, the descendants of ‘Aqeel, the descendants of al-Harith and the sons of ‘Abd al-Muttalib), and their freed slaves, is because they have other sources from which money may be given to them if they are in need of it, such as the khums or one-fifth of war booty, people’s gifts, and others. At the same time, one can rightly represent that all that is indicated by the sayings is that the Prophet and members of his family are prevented from zakah, in order to purify them from suspicion of abuse of zakah proceeds at a time, when the legislation of Shari’ah was still being formed. Hence, if these other sources are no longer available to them (as in the case of present days), it is permissible for them to receive zakah.

Moreover, in the present time, there are a lot of people, who call themselves Syeds but they may or may not be the direct descendants of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) or from the Banu Hashim. According to Wikipedia, recent estimates show that in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal alone, there are more than 50 million Sayyids. Hence, trying to prove this descent could be laborious and hard and therefore, we should not be deterred from giving zakah to those people with this title if they otherwise qualify to be beneficiaries of zakah.

Long Answer:

EVIDENCES PROHIBITING SADAQAH TO PROPHET (صلى الله عليه و سلم) FAMILY

  • Ahmad and Muslim report that al Muttalib bin Rabi’ah (first cousin of the Prophet) went with al Fadl bin al Abbas to the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم). One of them said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, we come to ask you to appoint us on sadaqat, so we can earn from it like other people (who are employed) and bring you what we collect like other people do.’ The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said, ‘Indeed, the sadaqah must not be taken by Muhammad or the family of Muhammad; it is merely the impurities cleansed from peoples wealth.’ “In a version mentioned in al Muntaqa, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) says, “… is not lawful to Muhammad, nor to the family of Muhammad.” (Nail al Awtar, Vol. 2, p. 175)
  • Abu Dawud and al Tirmidhi report that Abu Rafi’ says, “The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) appointed a man from the clan of bani Makhzum on sadaqah. The man said to me ‘Come with me (to help me), and you will get some of it.’ I said, ‘Not until I ask the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم).’ When I asked him, he told me ‘The ex-slave of a clan is one of them, and we are a family to whom sadaqah is not lawful’.” Abu Rafi’ was an ex-slave of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم).
  • Al Bukhari reports from Abu Hurairah (رضي الله عنه), “Al Hasan bin ‘Ali took one date from the dates of the sadaqah and put it in his mouth (he was then a child). The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said, ‘Yech, Yech!’ to get him to take it out of his mouth, and continued, ‘Don’t you know we do not eat from the sadaqah? “Muslim’s version (as stated by al Hafiz) reads “We are those to whom the sadaqah is not lawful,” and in a version from Ma’mar, “Indeed the sadaqah is not lawful to the family of Muhammad.” Ahmad and al Tahawi report from al Hasan bin Ali “I was with the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم). We passed by a crate of dates collected as sadaqah. I took one and put it in my mouth. The Prophet grabbed it with the saliva on it and said, “We, the family of Muhammad, the sadaqah is not lawful for us.” Its chain is strong. (Fath al Bari, Vol. 3, p. 228)

These sayings indicate that zakah is not permissible to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and his family and descendants.

MEMBERS OF THE FAMILY OF PROPHET (صلى الله عليه و سلم)

It is important to determine who consists of the family of the Prophet, and whether both zakah and voluntary charity are not permissible to them.

Al Hafiz in al-Fath and al Shawkani in al-Nail state that there are differences among Muslim scholars on specification of the Prophet’s family. (Fath al-Bari, Vol. 3, p. 228 and Nail al-Awtar, Vol. 4, pp. 182-4) Al Shafi’i and a group of scholars believe the family of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) includes the children of Hashem and the children of al Muttalib. Hashem is the great-grandfather of the Prophet and al Muttalib is Hashem’s brother. Al Shafi’i argues that the Prophet (v) included the children of al Muttalib as well as the children of Hashem in the share assigned to the Prophet kindred, and did not include any other clan. Al Shafi’i continues that this share is given in compensation for preventing them from taking sadaqah. Al Bukhari reports from Jubair bin Mut’im, “I went with ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم), and said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, you have given the children of al Muttalib out of the one-fifth from Khaibar and did not give us. We and they are at the same level.’ The Messenger of Allah said, ‘The children of al Muttalib and the children of Hashem are one thing.'”

This argument is challenged on the grounds that the children of al Muttalib were given from the share of the kindred only because of their alliance with and support of the family of the Prophet, and not as recompense for preventing them from taking sadaqah. Consequently, Abu Hanifah, Malik, and the Hadawis believe the family of the Prophet includes the children of Hashem alone. There are two reports about the view of Ahmad. One goes along with Abu Hanifah, and the other agrees with al-Shafi’i.

The children of Hashem include the families of ‘Ali, ‘Aqil, Ja’far, al Abbas, and al Harith. Notice that the family of Abu Lahab is not included, because it is said that none of them embraced Islam during the life of the Prophet (although the author of Jami al-Usul reports that his two sons, ‘Utbah and Ma’tab, became Muslim in the year of opening Makkah, and that the Prophet was pleased by their conversion and prayed on their behalf) Ibn Qudamah says “We know of no dispute that to the children of Hashem, zakah is not permissible.” Ibn Rislan and Abu Talib claim there is ijma on this.

CASE ONE: ZAKAT FROM SAME FAMILY

In Durr al Muntaqa, Abu Hanifah is reported to have allowed paying zakah from one member to another of the children of Hashem. He is also reported to have approved of giving them zakah in general. Al Tahawi adds “This is what we support. This is approved by al Qahastani and others.” (Majma’ al Anhur, printed with Dur al Muntaqa, p. 224) Ibn Taimiyah also permits giving zakah from one member to another of the children of Hashem, (Matalib Uli al Nuha, Vol. 2, p. 157) in agreement with the Ja’farite opinion…

CASE TWO: ZAKAT VERSUS SADAQAH

Al Hafiz says “…it is permissible to give voluntary donations but not obligated zakah. This is the opinion of most Hanafites and the accepted view among Shafi’ites and Hanbalites. As for the opposite (allowing zakah but not voluntary donations), it is argued that there is no humiliation in taking obligated zakah, contrary to taking what is volunteered.” (See al Fath, Vol. 3, p. 227)

CASE THREE: NO WAR BOOTY

This question is answered affirmatively by a few scholars. These include some Malikites, who point out that members of the Prophet’s family are prevented from taking zakah partly because a share of war booty and fai’ is assigned to them. Therefore, if they are not given that share and are struck by poverty, they can be given zakah. According to al Tahawi, al Tabari quotes that Abu Hanifah allows paying zakah to the family of the Prophet, if they are denied the share of the kindred. A similar opinion is attributed to al Abhari, a Malikite and to some Shafi’ites, as stated by the author of al Fath… Among Shafi’ites, Abu Sa’id al Istakhri believes the family of the Prophet may be given zakah if they are not paid their share of booty and fai’. Al Nawawi quotes al Rafi’i that Muhammad bin Yahaya (a disciple of al Ghazali) believes the same. (Al Majmu’, Vol. 6, pp. 227-228) Ibn Taimiyah and al Qadi Ya’qub, a Hanbalite, present similar arguments. (Matalib Uli al Nuha)

In our times, payment of zakah to descendants of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) must be permissible, since they are not given a share of booty and fai’, either because the latter do not exist at all or because of arbitrary decision by rulers. The share of the Prophet’s kindred is referred to in the Qur’an several times: “And know that out of all the booty ye may acquire in war, a fifth share is assigned to Allah, and to the Apostle, and to near relatives, and to orphans and to the needy and to the wayfarer,” (Soorah al Anfal, 8:41) and “What Allah has bestowed on His Apostle and taken away from the people of the townships belongs to Allah, to His Apostle, and to kindred, and orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer, in order that it may not merely make a circuit between the wealthy among you.” (Soorah al Hashr, 59:7)

Claiming that the family of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) is prevented from receiving zakah to honor them is not so strong an argument. It seems more reasonable that they are so prohibited because of the share they are granted in those two verses. Thus, if the compensation assigned to them does not exist, they must be able to receive zakah… The opinion that permits the family of the Prophet and their descendants to receive zakah is further supported by the fact that all the sayings presented in support of their prevention do not clearly name the reason for the prevention, a shown below:

  • The refusal of the Prophet to appoint his cousins on collecting zakah was based on his desire to have the members of his family set a good example in honesty by not taking anything from the income of the state. The narration of al Bukhari implies this by wording, “Indeed, the sadaqah is not suitable to the family of Muhammad.” This is so in order to prevent accusations and rumors of any abuse of state funds, which is perhaps why even ex-slaves of the family are prevented from taking zakah, as indicated by the saying from abu Rafi. This shows that they are not prevented from zakah because they are too honorable.
  • The saying from al Hasan that “The sadaqah is not lawful to us” is most likely a reference to the Prophet in his capacity as the head of state. ‘Umar understood that, as a head of the state, he must not take anything out of zakah. Once, he drank some milk but when he realized it belonged to the sadaqah, he threw it up. (Reported by Malik in al Muwatta’) The author of al Bahr argues that the sadaqah is not lawful to the ruler and his family, since the Prophet prohibited it to his family. (Al Bahr al Zakhkhar, Vol. 2, p. 184)
  • We must reconsider the texts about this issue. The term that appears in the sayings is “al Muhammad”, which literally means the family or the people of Muhammad. By what authority can anyone claim that this word must include descendants of Muhammad and his relatives through the centuries? The word al is used in several other verses, such as “Allah did choose Adam and Noah, al (the family) of Ibrahim, and al (the family) ‘Imran above all people,” (Soorah al ‘Imran, 3:33) “then al (the people) of Pharoah picked him up,” (Soorah al Qasas, 28:8) “and drowned al (the people) of Pharoah.” (Soorah al Baqarah, 2:50) This word has nothing to do with their descendants. All it means in these usages is the close family: wives, children, and all those closely associated by bond of family relation. There is nothing in the saying that allows us to include their descendants in all centuries to come; hence arises the opinion of Abu Hanifah that this prevention only applies to the Prophet’s family during his lifetime and ceases after his death. This is also a view attributed to Malik, according to the author of al Bahr. Two points must be kept in mind. Firstly, Islamic laws do not discriminate between the members of the Prophet’s family and others. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) himself says “By Allah, if Fatima, daughter of Muhammad, stole, I would cut her hand,” (Bukhari and Muslim) and “He whose deeds make him slow, [in his path towards Allah] his family relation does not make him progress faster.” (Bukhari and Muslim) Secondly, zakah is a basic obligation and a determined right, collected by the state and distributed to defined deservants. Why then should some people be excluded from being its deservants?

Finally, we must remember that there is no ijma’ on preventing the descendants of the Prophet from receiving zakah since Abu Hanifah, some Malikites, and some Shafi’ites disagree. Thus, one can rightly represent that all that is indicated by the sayings is that the Prophet and members of his family are prevented from zakah, in order to purify them from suspicion of abuse of zakah proceeds at a time when the legislation of Shari’ah was still being formed. Al Dahlawi adds “this was a very good move on the part of the Prophet, one which nipped in the bud any attempt to accuse him of financial abuse.” (Hujjat Allah al Balighah, Vol. 2, p. 512)

(The above is a (paraphrased) excerpt from the book ‘Fiqh Al Zakah (Volume II) – A Comparative Study of Zakah, Regulations and Philosophy In The Light of Qur’an and Sunnah’ by Dr. Yusuf Al Qardawi)

THE WORD “SYED”

The Arabic word “sayyid” corresponds to the English words “lord, chief, or leader.” In the Hadith, the term is used in the sense of “tribal chief or eminent members of a community.” Sayyids are also known as “habib,” “emir,” or “mir” in various Islamic lands. The great Islamic scholars Imam al-Bukhari and al-Tirmidhi say that this title was first used by the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) in reference to Hassan (رضي الله عنه). The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said that when sitting on the pulpit one day, he pointed to Hassan (رضي الله عنه) in one of the rows and said: “This [grand]son of mine is a saiyid (chief). It is to be hoped that through him Allah will establish peace between two Muslim sects.” In another hadith, our Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Hassan and Husayn are the two sayyida of the young people of Paradise.” (Tirmidhi; graded Sahih) (Article ‘The holy line of Prophet Muhammad (saas): Sayyids’ by Harun Yayha)

In the present time, there are a lot of people, who call themselves Syeds and connote that they are descendants of the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم). They may or may not be the direct descendants of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) or from the Banu Hashim. According to Wikipedia, [in South Asia alone,] millions of people in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal claim Hashemite descent… Recent estimates show that in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal there are more than 50 million Sayyids… (//en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sayyid). Hence, trying to prove this descent could be laborious and hard and therefore, we should not be deterred from giving zakah to those people with this title if they otherwise qualify to be beneficiaries of zakah.

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.

Wassalaam