Question # 3: Can Zakat-ul-Fitr be paid to non-Muslims?
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: As for the meaning of Zakat ul-fitr – Zakat means obligatory charity and Fitr means breaking fast. Hence, Zakat ul-fitr is a special mandatory charity that is expected, only during the month of Ramadan, to be given to the poor and needy among the Muslims. Zakat ul-fitr cannot be given to non-Muslims; however, sadaqah (charity) can still be given to non-Muslims.
Long Answer: According to majority of the scholars, it is not permissible to give Zakat ul-fitr to poor Dhimmis (non-Muslims); because the purpose of giving Zakat ul-fitr is to make the poor Muslims happy on Eid day by satisfying their needs. A non-Muslim will appreciate the money but not the occasion; while its purpose is to strengthen the brotherhood and solidarity among Muslims.
However, Az-Dhuhri, Abu Hanifah, Muhammad, and Ibn Shubrumah make it permissible to give Zakat ul-fitr to a dhimmi as Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says: “Allah allows you to show kindness and deal justly with those who did not war against you on account of religion and did not drive you out from your homes. Lo! Allah loves those who are just.” (Soorah al-Mumtahanah, 60:8) (‘Fiqh Us-Sunnah’ by As-Sayyid Sabiq)
The distribution of Zakat ul-fitr is the same as that of zakah – that is, it has to be distributed to the eight groups of beneficiaries mentioned in the ‘ayah: “The alms are only for the Fuqara’ (poor), and Al-Masakin (the poor) and those employed to collect (the funds); and for 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 (Mujahidun), and for the wayfarer (a traveler who is cut off from everything); a duty imposed by Allah. And Allah is All-Knower, All-Wise” (Soorah at-Taubah, 9:60). However, according to the majority of the scholars, it should be given only to very poor Miskeen people, who don’t have enough food to eat, so at least their day of Eid will go happy. This is also supported by the hadith: Ibn ‘Abbas narrated: “The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) obligated the Zakat ul-fitr for the one who fasts as a means of purifying him from vain talk and immoral deeds, and as a means of feeding the poor…” (Sunan Abu Dawud, Hasan) (‘Fiqh Us-Sunnah’ by As-Sayyid Sabiq)
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.