Is it permissible to regard receivables as zakah?

Details of the Question
Is it permissible to regard receivables as zakah?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

According to Hanafis, it is not appropriate toregard receivables as zakah because when zakah is given, it is necessary to own the money at that time and to give it with the intention of zakah. Therefore, the best thing to do for the creditor is to give zakah to his debtor and for the debtor to pay his debt to the creditor with this money. However, it is not appropriate to lay it as a condition while giving zakah. That is, it is not permissible for the creditor to say to a needy person who owes him some money, "I will give you zakah if you agree to pay your debt to me."

However, if both parties have this as an intention but do not lay it as a condition, the money the creditor gives to the debtor is regarded as zakah and when the debtor pays his debt with that money, he is relieved of his debt. If the debtor says to the creditor, "I am not good financially; if you give me zakah, I will pay your debt",and if the creditor gives him zakah and he pays his debt, it is permissible. For, the money is not given by laying a condition. A suggestion takes place. (al-Anwar, l/151)

Due to this property of the issue some scholars say, "It is necessary to give zakah to the debtor and then ask him to pay his debt immediately after giving it" to regard the receivable as zakah while other scholars say, "The debtor needs to borrow money from somebody else and pay it to the creditor; then, the creditor needs to give him zakah; thus, the debtor will be relieved of his debt." The practices in the past were like that. Such practices were done in the past in order to prevent regarding receivables as zakah and to apply the condition of owning the money while giving zakah.

However, this practice, which interprets owning the money in a narrow sense, can hurt the feelings of the debtor; therefore, according to the information given in Islamic Researches Catechism and the decrees showing the view of the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs, it can be enough to say to the debtor, “I regard your debt as my zakah; do not feel indebted to me. You do not owe anything to me.” There is no need to use the method of owning the money while giving zakah by giving the money first and asking the money back after it, which can offend the debtor. It is stated that to interpret owning the money in this wide sense is favorable for the needy people; therefore, it should be preferred.

Attention is drawn to the fact that this view relieves the debtor and makes it easy for the creditor to regard his receivables as zakah. If there is nothing else to do to settle the issue, and if the debtor is needy, this view can be used.

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