Giving zakat to a person who is in debt

Someone asked me that a friend of theirs was living in Dubai and was unemployed and during unemployment he tried to earn some money through commission and was caught. He was not allowed to work as a commission agent. He was asked to return all the commission that he had earned. He had already spent the money and cannot return it. If he does not return the money, he faces possible jail time. He doesn’t have any kids. He is married.

Can we give him our Zakat money to try and keep him from going to jail? Does this qualify under mussarif of debt relief for the needy?

In the name of Allah, the most Beneficent, the most Merciful.  

Answer

If one is Sahib Nisab (i.e. posses that amount which makes zakat obligatory) but also has debts outstanding.  At the end of the year he or she has to deduct his or her debt amount from his or her assets and if there is still nisab remaining, 2.5% from there will be given for zakat. If however, the remaining amount falls below the nisab, zakat will not be obligatory upon him.  (Fatawa Rahimiyah p.155 v.5)

Before giving zakat to someone, one should ensure that the person who you intend to give zakat to is zakat-worthy. One has to ensure that the person receiving zakah does not have assets to the value of nisab, besides their basic needs. (Mukhtasarul Quduuri p.45)

For example, one car is considered to be a necessity, but if a person has two or three and the value of the extra cars is equivalent to the amount of nisab, he or should would not be entitled to zakat even though they may be in debt.

The upshot of your question is that yes it is permissible in principle, to give zakat to those who are in debt. However, one should try to ensure that he or she does not have surplus wealth to the value of nisab.

Allah states in the Qur’an, “The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to free the captives and the debtors, and for the cause of Allah, and (for) the wayfarers; a duty imposed by Allah. Allah is knower, Wise.” (Surah  Tawbah v. 60)

The condition is that the person in debt does not have enough funds to pay off that debt because the word “gharim” means a person in debt. Some scholars add the condition that this person should not have borrowed money for something impermissible. If someone goes into debt for something sinful then he should not be helped with zakat money. (Maariful Qur’an p.413 v.4)

Only Allah Knows Best

Mohammed Tosir Miah

Darul Ifta Birmingham

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