Can Zakat Be Given to Victims of Conflict, Like in Gaza?

Currently, the people of Gaza are enduring massive loss and hardship from sustained assault on them. Can I validly pay my Zakat to them? 


An overview

At the time of this writing, when the people of Gaza are under sustained and total siege of all life-sustaining essentials, continuous, heavy bombardment causing massive destruction of life and property, and half the population – more than a million residents – have been forcibly driven from their homes either by destruction or threat of it – the people of Gaza (indeed, virtually en masse) qualify as recipients of Zakat under multiple categories of divine eligibility.

Understand two basic things about Zakat, however, in this regard:

  1. Zakat is paid on eligible wealth to eligible people. In other words, the Zakat recipient categories are made up of human beings not good causes or beneficial public works.

  2. Allah did not specify Muslims suffering from war, conflict, or violence as among the specific divinely revealed and exclusive eight categories of eligible Zakat recipients, per se.

The people of Gaza now (and some other Muslim peoples systematically victimized by armed conflict or assault in our time) qualify for Zakat under as many as five Zakat-recipient categories, as delimited by Allah, Himself. There are, moreover, at least academic arguments to be made, in the case of the Palestinians of Gaza now, that they may qualify under two other Zakat categories, as well.

In addition, the Prophet, on him be peace, in an authentic (sahih) report also permitted people struck by a calamity that destroys their property to ask for material assistance (something forbidden to Muslims as sinful except in three cases) until they return to a condition of sufficiency.

The scholars have specified the meaning of being stricken by a “calamity that destroys one’s property” (ja’ihatun ajtahat maluhu) as a flood, fire, or the condition of becoming circumstantially unable to provide life essentials for one’s dependents.

Some notable modern Muslim scholars have categorized calamity-stricken Muslims as Zakat eligible under the sixth divinely delimited class of Zakat recipients, algharimin, or the debt-ridden, as this was, in fact, the context of the Companion asking for material assistance that occasioned this statement of the Prophet, on him be peace, wherein he permitted asking for material help because of calamity. 

Moreover, the specifically indicated to the one seeking assistance that he would give it to him when the Zakat had been collected.

What are the divine categories of Zakat eligibility that apply to the people of Gaza now?

In the judgment of this writing, the people of Gaza are now Zakat eligible under recipient categories 1 and 2, and 6 through 8. (The academic arguments to be made for the people of Gaza now are for categories 4 and 5, especially the latter, as the people in Gaza have been held in bondage by siege for at least 16 years.)

  1. The poor (al-fuqarâ’), meaning low-income or indigent

  2. The needy (al-masâkîn), meaning someone who is in difficulty

  3. Zakat administrators (al-‘amilin ‘alayha)

  4. Those whose hearts are to be reconciled, meaning new Muslims and friends of the Muslim community (al-mu’alafat qulub)

  5. Those in bondage (slaves and captives) (fi riqab).

  6. The debt-ridden (al-gharimin)

  7. In the cause of God (fi sabili’Llah)

  8. The wayfarer, meaning those who are stranded or traveling with few resources
    (ibn al-sabil)

Here is the Zakat-recipient verse in the Quran:

Indeed, prescribed charitable offerings are only to be given to the poor and the indigent, and to those who work on administering it, and to those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to free those in bondage, and to the debt-ridden, and for the cause of God, and to the wayfarer. This is an obligation from Allah. And Allah is all-knowing, all-wise.” (Surat Al-Tawbah, 9:60)

It specifies the eight exclusive categories of people that can receive Zakat, and no one can add or subtract from this list of Zakat-eligible recipients, not even a prophet, as the Prophet, on him be peace, stated to us:

Allah permitted not even a prophet to adjudge Zakat[-worthiness]. Rather, He Himself ruled on it and permitted it in eight cases. …” (Abu Dawud)

This divinely revealed sign-verse (ayah) of the Quran delimited Zakat’s eligible recipients after Zakat was instituted in the second year (2 H) after the hijrah migration of the Prophet, on him be peace, from Makkah to Madinah, with the revealed commandment to the Prophet, on him be peace, directing him to institute Zakat on Muslims, making it the Third of Islam’s Five Pillars:

Take from their wealth a charitable offering to cleanse them and purify them thereby. Moreover, pray for them. Indeed, your prayer is a comfort to them. For God is all-hearing, all-knowing.” (Surat Al-Tawbah, 9:103)

(For details on the eight Zakat-eligible categories of recipients, see What Is Zakat?)

(Note that both these verses that lay down the obligations of Zakat use the Arabic word ‘sadaqah’ (pl. ‘sadaqat’) in its meaning of Zakat, which is a primary meaning of the word ‘sadaqah’ in the Quran, naming the divine category of charity, of which Zakat is a specialized form of obligatory yearly alms. This is why it is translated here as “prescribed charitable offering(s).” For more on the linguistic meanings of the Arabic words ‘Zakat’ and ‘sadaqah’ see What Is the Difference Between Zakat and Sadaqah?)

Where can I pay my Zakat for Gaza?

Zakat Foundation of America is a four-star (highest possible rating) international humanitarian charity (as ranked by Charity Navigator, an independent charity organization assessor in the U.S.)

Zakat Foundation of America is a leading Zakat collecting and distributing organization, and educator on Zakat, yearly obligatory alms, and sadaqah (in the meaning of voluntary charity) in the world. It is known and respected for its expertise in Zakat, in accordance with Islam from the Quran and the Prophet, on him be peace, and delivers 100% of your Zakat to eligible recipients.

Zakat Foundation of America has had its teams of humanitarian relief work experts and local and global humanitarian partners (including UNRWA) in Gaza since 2002.

Currently, Zakat Foundation of America has been distributing humanitarian aid inside Gaza during the present multiple humanitarian catastrophe crisis and is among the first humanitarian agencies in the world to deliver humanitarian aid into Gaza directly to the people in UN shelters, including daily hot meals, fresh drinking water with every meal, and food baskets for families.

Zakat Foundation of America expects to deliver 1 million hot meals with drinking water to Gaza’s displaced within the first month of this unprecedented humanitarian crisis.

Other aid Zakat Foundation of America is working to distribute from outside includes food, water, hygiene kits, tents with ground mats, winter blankets and clothing, and medical supplies.

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