Who is eligible to receive zakat?
The Qur’an clearly outlines the eight categories of people who are eligible to receive Zakat:
Alms are meant only for the poor, the needy, those who administer them, those whose hearts need winning over, to free slaves and help those in debt, for God’s cause, and for travellers in need. This is ordained by God; God is all knowing and wise (Al Qur’an, Surah Tawbah, Verse 60)
These boundaries are set by Allah (SWT), and IR believes that we –as zakat administrators, will be held accountable by Allah (SWT) for how we distribute zakat funds, and the extent to which we adhere to the conditions and parameters set by Allah (SWT).
As such, Islamic Relief must only distribute zakat to rightsholders (directly or through projects) which are relevant to the categories outlined above. When allocating zakat to projects, or applying for zakat funds to utilise in projects, IR must provide a justification as to how this project matches the criteria of zakat.
While the categories themselves are clearly set, their definition and interpretation – particularly in the contemporary context – require some clarification.
1.1 Fuqara & Masakin (Poor & Needy)
1.1.1 Poverty is being in a state where one is unable to meet their essential needs. This can be assessed through local consultations and needs assessments.
1.1.2 IR recognises that in mentioning both fuqara (poor) and masakin (needy or extremely poor) Allah (SWT) is ensuring that we address the needs of both the poor and the ultra-poor. As such, it is critical that the needs of the ultra-poor are considered and prioritised where possible when identifying which projects to fund through zakat.
1.1.3 IR will use zakat to provide adequate assistance to meet the essential needs of rightsholders.
1.1.4 IR believes that zakat can and should be used for emergency relief activities, such as the provision of food, shelter, clothing, medication and healthcare, water and sanitation, and other items or essential activities which can help alleviate the poverty or suffering of affected individuals.
1.1.5 Zakat funds cannot be used in cases where additional conditions are added for its receipt (e.g., cash for work projects).
1.1.6 Where possible, Zakat should also be utilised in a way that provides long-term solutions to the deprivations or needs of disadvantaged people. This could be achieved through developing sustainable livelihoods projects, through education or health provision, or supporting other sustainable development activities for the poor and needy.
1.1.7 IR will focus its zakat implementation in areas where there is a clear Muslim majority among the population. However, as a humanitarian organisation, IR will do this in a way that does not discriminate between people on the grounds of race, religion, sect, gender or ability and is bound by the internationally recognised humanitarian principles of impartiality, neutrality, independence and humanity. To ensure non-Muslims in such situations receive the same level of assistance, additional funding should firstly be sought from other sources of funds. If other funds are not available, then zakat may be used.
1.2 Amileena alaiha (administrators of zakat)
Islamic Relief is a legitimate administrator of zakat. IR in effect is a duty-bearer, with a responsibility to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of rightsholders on whose behalf zakat funds have been collected.
1.2.1 As such, IR is eligible to take a reasonable portion of 12.5% of zakat funds to cover the costs of delivery zakat eligible projects. Costs are incurred firstly in raising awareness and collection activities for zakat funds, and then administering those funds to ensure they reach the rightsholders entitled to these funds.
1.2.2 Costs incurred by IR are defined as direct, direct support costs or indirect costs. IR must map and understand what costs are related to Zakat projects and those that eligible to be charged against the allowed administration charge from Zakat funds.
- Direct costs are frontline delivery costs that include programme costs and country office costs.
- Direct Support costs link directly to the project but are shared between different projects/ services. Therefore, a need to arrive at the true cost of delivery, these costs should be charged to Zakat when needed.
- Indirect Costs include IT, HR, or finance costs that cannot directly be linked to the project.
- Costs associated with fundraising, marketing, event sponsorship, influencers, generic training and governance costs are not eligible to be charged to 12.5% administration category
1.2.3 Any funds taken by IR offices from Zakat to cover administrative (direct support or indirect costs) must not exceed the agreed allocation of 12.5% in
1.2.4 To ensure transparency and accountability the programme and finance functions of IR should report on the usage of Zakat funds. IR must demonstrate consistency, accountability and transparency in its internal environment and reporting for Zakat purposes.
1.3 Mu’allafati quloobuhum (to reconcile hearts)
Whilst IR is inspired by its values, and proactively seeks to educate our supporters regarding Islamic values and teachings on poverty alleviation, as a humanitarian agency we do not engage in any proselytisation activity. As such, IR does not undertake any Zakat activities under the category of mu’allafati quloobuhum.
1.4 Riqaab (emancipation of slaves)
Where IR finds people suffering from a modern form of slavery – such as bonded labour, forced labour, or human trafficking – Zakat funds may be utilised to emancipate people from such forms of slavery (provided that the funds do not profit “slave-owners” who have violated national or international law).
1.5 Gharimeen (those in debt)
1.5.1 Zakat may be used to assist those in debt under the following conditions:
- The debtor must need financial aid (those with enough wealth to cover their debt cannot be assisted). However, they do not necessarily need to be destitute, but simply not have enough income or wealth to repay their debt.
- The debt should be due immediately. Those whose debts can be deferred may still be eligible to receive zakat but could be considered as less of a priority than those who need immediate assistance.
1.5.2 Zakat funds may be used to pay unsustainable/unrecoverable debts. For example, in microfinance programmes, IRW is permitted to create an accounting write off against the individual’s loan records using the zakat funds if the individual has incurred such a debt.
1.5.3 IRW will develop and use processes and criteria to verify that only those in genuine debt are supported.
1.6 Fi sabeelillah (in the cause of Allah)
1.6.1 IR takes the opinion that it is permissible to fund communal welfare assets and programmes – such as clean water sources, health clinics, critical medical equipment, temporary food producing outlets (e.g., bakeries), water containers, schools, training centres, seed banks, communal farmlands, water damns, – to reduce poverty and hardship in disadvantaged communities.
Projects involving communal welfare will promote the principle of community empowerment through ownership. IR will endeavour to adhere to the following conditions when funding communal welfare assets with zakat:
- The clear majority of the rightsholders can be classified as being eligible to receive zakat (i.e., poor, needy, traveller, etc.).
- An assessment of the rightsholder community has been conducted, demonstrating the need for the asset in question in alleviating poverty and suffering.
- Consent should be sought from the target community to develop or implement the proposed asset.
- The project should ensure that rightsholders can act as effective and responsible managers of the asset.
- Once completed, ownership and management of the asset is transferred to the local community (e.g., to a local community cooperative compromising of an inclusive group of people), with an agreement to protect the asset’s intended usage for communities and individuals in need. It should explicitly state no person in need will be refused.
- The communal asset should always remain a not-for-profit property and for general welfare.
- The asset shall not be owned by any one person or a single group of people.
1.6.2 IR will use zakat to fund essential service providers – such as teachers, doctors, health workers, disaster recovery personnel, trainers, agriculture specialists who provide vital services directly to rightsholders, specifically addressing their needs or deprivations with the following conditions:
- The service provider is not an employee who provides general operational support and management, but someone who works on direct project delivery.
- An assessment and consultation of the rightsholder community has been conducted, demonstrating the need for the service in question (for protecting lives and alleviating poverty and deprivation).
- IR only pays essential service providers for a limited time (no later than the project-end).
1.6.3 Zakat funds can be used for education and training purposes to directly teach people about issues and skills that will allow them to come out of poverty. For example, learning how to start a home-based enterprise, farming methods, tailoring, animal rearing, health issues, hygiene and sanitation awareness and other livelihood options.
1.6.4 Any costs which are specific and limited to the distribution or implementation of zakat goods/projects (e.g., petrol for delivery of goods, short-term hiring of transportation/ storage space, etc.) and are not part of Islamic Relief’s long-term assets or costs may be covered by zakat.
1.6.5 Zakat funds can be utilised in conflict transformation projects that seek practical solutions that bring peace to communities, leading to a significant reduction in levels of hardship faced by people living in those areas.
1.6.6 However, under this category IR will not fund communications or advocacy work due to the difficulties in establishing and measuring the direct benefit of these initiatives to those in actual need.
1.7 Ibn as-sabeel (travellers)
1.7.1 IR defines travellers as people who are at least 48 miles away from their home and unable to reach their destination (including refugees and internally displaced people) and who have been cut off from their wealth, assets, or source of income.
1.7.2 This would apply to refugees who have not re-settled and are not in the category of fuqara and maskin (poor and needy).
1.7.3 IR may use zakat funds to provide sufficient food, clothing, shelter, transportation, education, healthcare and any other needs.
Matters relating to the allocation & distribution of zakat
1.7.4 Each IR office that collects zakat should conduct research to identify the level of poverty in their respective country. Where poverty or need is identified locally, the office must develop a strategy to utilise a significant portion of zakat funds domestically. This amount will need to be determined by each office based on their environment.
1.7.5 IR will not allocate funds to each of the categories of zakat in an equal measure, as some categories do not directly apply to its mission.
1.7.6 IR may allocate as much zakat to each category as is relative to the need of rightsholders and our capacity in each geographical location.
1.7.7 IR will aim to allocate zakat funding within one year of receiving it and use it as quickly as possible.
1.7.8 IR will not use zakat funds to use for any type of endowment or similar investment projects.
1.7.9 IR takes the view that zakat cannot be given for loans or any other business enterprise.
1.7.10 Zakat funds can be used on projects that are both short term (e.g., immediate humanitarian response) and long-term (such as multi-year livelihood programmes).
1.8 Free reserves
The term “reserves” is used to describe that part of a charity’s funds that is freely available for its operating purpose not subject to commitments, planned expenditure and spending limits. Reserves do not include endowment funds, restricted funds and designated funds.
Zakat funds held have a direct impact on calculating free reserves.
The zakat funds (less than 12.5% of total zakat funds) should be excluded in calculating IR’s free reserve position.