Question # 334: Can donations to victims of natural disasters like floods n earthquakes, be considered as zakat or sadqa or neither??

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: Although it is not permissible to give zakah to non-Muslim, sadaqah can be given to Muslims as well as non-Muslims. Since victims in a flood, earthquake or any other natural disaster may be people from different faiths, other than Islam, giving Zakah money for such cause is not allowed unless the Zakah payer knows for sure that the money will be distributed to, or spent on, any of the eligible Zakah recipients among the eight categories that Allah mentioned in the Qur’an. Nevertheless, it is highly recommended and a virtuous Islamic act to be in the service of people and to help support the needy, regardless of their religion; hence, giving sadaqah to such cause is more appropriate and recommended.

Long Answer: Before we go on to answer the question, let us discuss the meaning of Zakah and Sadaqah:

  • Zakah in Arabic means growth, blessing and purification. With regard to its shar’i definition, it means worshipping Allah by giving that which He has enjoined of different kinds of zakah to those who are entitled to them, according to the guidelines prescribed in shari’ah. Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “As-Sadaqat (here it means Zakah) are only for the Fuqaraa’ (poor), and AlMasaakeen (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 — those fighting in a holy battle), 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 al-Tawbah, 9:60) These eight are the categories who are entitled to zakah and to whom it must be paid.
  • Sadaqah means worshipping Allah by giving money without that being made obligatory in shari’ah. With regard to sadaqah, it may be given to those mentioned in the [above] verse on zakah and to others.

[Hence,] it is prohibited to give Zakah to a disbeliever; [further,]…the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said that Zakah “is to be taken from the rich amongst them and be given to the poor amongst them,” (Narrated by Ibn Majah and others) meaning that Zakah is to be taken from the rich amongst Muslims and be paid back to the poor also amongst them, and thus non-Muslims are not to be given anything of it. Ibnul-Mundhir says, “All the scholars we have learned (religious and fiqhi knowledge) from unanimously agree that no [disbeliever] is to be given anything from the property of Zakah.”

[However,] Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion nor drove you out of your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who deal with equity. It is only as regards those who fought against you on account of religion, and have driven you out of your homes, and helped to drive you out, that Allah forbids you to befriend them. And whosoever will befriend them, then such are the Zaalimoon (wrongdoers those who disobey Allah” (Soorah al-Mumtahinah, 60:8-9)

Asmaa’ bint Abi Bakr (رضي الله عنها) said: “My mother came to me when she was still a mushrikah – at the time when there was a peace treaty between Quraysh and the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) – accompanied by her father. I consulted the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), saying, ‘O Messenger of Allah, my mother has come to me and she is asking for help. Should I uphold the ties of kinship with her?’ He said, ‘Yes, uphold the ties of kinship with her.’” (Narrated by al-Bukhari)

It was narrated that a Jewish woman came begging to ‘Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنها) and she gave her something. The Jewish woman said to ‘Aa’ishah, “May Allah protect you from the punishment of the grave.” ‘Aa’ishah did not like that, and when she saw the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) she asked him about it and he said “No.” ‘Aa’ishah said: “Then later on, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: ‘It has been revealed to me that you will be tried in your graves.’” (Musnad Ahmad)

The above two ahadith indicate that it is permissible to give charity to the disbelievers.

[Hence,] it is permissible to give charity to non-Muslims and this action will be rewarded, if they are in need of it, but they should not be given the obligatory charity, i.e. zakat, unless they are those whose hearts are to be softened (i.e., they are close to embracing Islam). It is a condition for giving charity to non-Muslims that they should not be involved in fighting the Muslims or driving them from their homes, because charity in such cases would be seen as helping them to wage war against the Muslims. (Fatawa Mutanawwi’ah by Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen)

Imam al-Shafi’i said: “There is nothing wrong with giving charity to a mushrik as a naafilah (supererogatory) action, but he has no right to charity from the obligatory (zakah). Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) praised people who, “… they give food, inspite of their love for it (or for the love of Him), to the Miskeen (the poor), the orphan, and the captive’ (Soorah al-Insaan, 76:8).” (Kitaab al-Umm, part 2)

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

Dr. Main Khalid Al-Qudah, Member of the Fatwa Committee of Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America was asked about giving zakah to UNICEF, he replied: “Zakah is a formal act of worship in which it should be collected from Muslims only, since they are the only ones addressed with it as one of the five pillars of Islam. Based on that, it is fair enough to stipulate that giving Zakah is only for Muslims, and this ruling is what has been adopted by the vast majority of scholars.

With is in mind, UNICEF is an international relief organization that supports children.  As you know, most of its leadership figures are people of different faiths, other than Islam, and they work for a very noble cause to help the needy.  Meanwhile, they are not limited to helping Muslim kids only. Consequently, giving them Zakah money is not allowed unless the Zakah payer knows for sure that his money will be given to, or distributed on, any of the eligible Zakah recipients among the eight categories that Allah mentioned in the Qur’an.

However, the above does not mean that it is prohibited to help non-Muslim needy people; rather, it is highly recommended and a virtuous act. To be in the service of people and to support the needy, regardless of their religion, is a genuine Islamic ethic. When doing so, a Muslim donor should donate from any source of money that he has, other than the Zakah money.”

[Similarly, the victims in a flood, earthquake or any other natural disaster may be people from different faiths, other than Islam; consequently, giving Zakah money to any relief fund for such matter is not allowed unless the Zakah payer knows for sure that the money will be distributed to, or spent on, any of the eligible Zakah recipients among the eight categories that Allah mentioned in the Qur’an. Nevertheless, it is highly recommended and a virtuous Islamic act to be in the service of people and to help support the needy, regardless of their religion; hence, giving sadaqah to such cause is more appropriate and recommended.]

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