To whom is zakah given? Can we deduct the things that we give as gifts from the amount of zakah?

The Details of the Question
Is it permissible to deduct the sadaqah or donations we give or the gifts that we give to our relatives in wedding ceremonies from the amount of zakah? What is the difference between zakah and gift in this sense?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

A gift can be given to anybody, whether rich or poor but zakah is the right of the poor. Therefore, the gifts given to the rich people cannot be regarded as zakah.

The people to whom zakah can be given are certain. You can regard the gifts or sadaqahs you give to them as zakah. 

The people to whom zakah is given are listed in verse 60 of the chapter of at-Tawbah as follows:

“Alms are for the poor and the needy, and those employed to administer the (funds); for those whose hearts have been (recently) reconciled (to Truth); for those in bondage and in debt; in the cause of Allah; and for the wayfarer...”

1. and 2. The Poor and the Needy:

A poor person is a person that does not have nisab amount of wealth and whose income does not meet his needs and is not enough for his sustenance. A needy person is one that has no wealth and income.

Zakah is given to a poor or needy person that will be enough to meet his needs, to pay his debts and to save him from the needy state. It is makruh to make a poor person rich with zakah and to give him more money than his debts and needs that will amount to more than nisab amount.

3. Those Employed to Administer Zakah:

In an Islamic state, zakah is collected by the state. The determination of the goods and products that are subject to zakah, the amount of zakah to be paid, collecting and storing it are carried out by the people who are appointed by the state. Those who do these tasks are given a share from zakah. Even if they are not poor, this share is their right because of their service.

4. Those whose Hearts are to be Reconciled with Islam:

These people, who are known as “muallafa al-qulub”, are the people whose hearts are wanted to be reconciled with Islam, whose harms are tried to be avoided or who are expected to help Muslims. Acting upon an ijtihad of Hz. Umar, Hanafi fiqh scholars say that this practice was annulled after the death of the Prophet (pbuh). Hanbali scholars say that the decree about muallafa al-qulub is permanent and a certain share of zakah can be given to them. Some contemporary Islamic scholars say that there are some people who can be regarded as muallafa al-qulub today and that it is necessary to allocated a certain share of zakah to them.

5. Slaves:

They are the male and female slaves that made a contract with their masters to be freed in return for a certain amount of money. Today, individual slavery has ended in the world. It can be seen from this fact the importance Islam gives to human honor, his freedoms and rights. Islam used the institution of zakah, which is a great worshipping and solidarity deed, as a means of support in order to abolish a custom like slavery which is contrary to human nature.

6. Those who are in Debt:

A debtor is a person who does not have nisab amount of wealth other than his debt.If the people who get into debt in order to meet their basic needs like food, drink and clothing, who are hit by a misfortune like fire, flood and earthquake, who become ill and are indebted due to these reasons can be given zakah to meet their needs if they are in need. Those who get into debt due to a legitimate reason and need like getting married, marrying one's child off, buying a house or household appliances are included in this group. When zakah is given, the people who are in debt are given priority over the other poor people.

7. Mujahids (Those who Fight in the Cause of Allah):

What is meant by it is a person who wants to make jihad but who is deprived of food, weapons and other things. Zakah can be given to such a person so that he will meet his needs. It is called "infaq fi sabilillah = spending money in the way of Allah".

8. Wayfarers:

The people who leave their homeland due to reasons like jihad, hajj, earning money and studying and who become needy in foreign land are included in this group. If they are actually rich but have become needy for that time, they can be given the amount that they will meet their needs; if they are poor, they can be given more.

(see Mehmed Paksu, İbadet Hayatımız-I)

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