Question # 163: My cousin is needy; he took from me ten years before one lac rupees, but yet he did not pay, because he couldn’t. So how can I claim him to pay me back? Secondly, if I or any pay him zakat or cut if from Zakat; is it right?

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 Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) explained that zakah is something which is to be taken and given, so on this basis it is not permissible to let off someone who owes you money and count that as zakah, because letting someone off a debt does not involve taking and giving. Moreover, if a person is in difficulty and has no money, it is better to give him more time and treat him with kindness. Know that nothing is lost with Allah, and that you will get back what you have lost in this world. Al-qard al-hasan (benevolent loan for the sake of Allah) is one of the best type of deed that will bring a person closer to Allah.

Long Answer: It was narrated in al-Saheehayn from ‘Abd-Allah ibn ‘Abbas (رضي الله عنه) that the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said to Mu’aadh ibn Jabal, when he sent him to Yemen: “Teach them that Allah has enjoined upon them zakah on their wealth, to be taken from their rich and given to their poor.” The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) explained that zakah is something which is to be taken and given, so on this basis it is not permissible to let off someone who owes you money and count that as zakah, because letting someone off a debt does not involve taking and giving.

Shaykh al-Islam mentioned this issue and said: letting someone off a debt does not relieve one of the obligation of zakah, and there is no scholarly dispute on this matter. But you can give this needy person some of your zakah and he can meet his needs using what you give him as zakah; and Allah will help him to pay off his debt in the future, in sha Allah. (Fataawa Manaar al-Islam by Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen)

[Secondly,] if a person is in difficulty and has no money, it is better to give him more time and treat him with kindness. Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says: “And if the debtor is in a hard time (has no money), then grant him time till it is easy for him to repay…” (Soorah al-Baqarah, 2:280)

The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “A man died and it was said to him: ‘What did you used to say (do, i.e., in your lifetime)?’ He said: ‘I used to engage in business with people, and I used to give the rich time to repay their debts and I used to deduct part of the debt for the poor’. So he was forgiven.” (Al-Bukhari)

The person who borrows something has to give it back. Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “Verily, Allah commands that you should render back the trusts to those to whom they are due…” (Soorah al-Nisa’a, 4:58)

It was reported from Abu Hurayrah (رضي الله عنه) that the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Whoever takes people’s money with the intention of repaying it, Allah will help him to repay it; whoever takes people’s money with the intention of wasting it, Allah will destroy him.” (Al-Bukhari)

Know that nothing is lost with Allah, and that you will get back what you have lost in this world. You will receive hasanaat (good deeds) on the Day of Resurrection when people will be most in need of hasanaat. And Allah is the source of strength… Al-qard al-hasan (a goodly loan lent for the sake of Allah) is one of the best type of deed that will bring a person closer to Allah. 

(The above reply is based on various answers by Islamqa.info on the 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.

Wassalaam