To give Zakat to pay off the utility bills of a person in debt

Fatwa ID: 01732

Answered by Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah

Question:

Can I pay Zakat’s money towards someone’s (needy without any income in Pakistan) utility bills that they owe to different companies for many months because they are unable to pay those bills for many months?
Since utilisation (Masraf) of Zakat no.6 is to pay someone’s (needy and in debt in Pakistan) debt/loan and get him/her free from debt and in this case they have used gas, electric, and water services for many months and she is unable to pay bills, an now they owed few months money to number of companies.
Can I secretly/openly get those bills collected by my sister/friend and get those bills paid through my friend for the lady (needy) that will save her from inconvenience that she may encounter in payment queue outside bank in this hot weather in Pakistan? Will it discharge my duties of Zakat?

 Answer:

Bismillah

Allah states in the Quran, “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 At Tuaba: 60)

The principle for the validity of Zakat is that the recipient must take full, complete and unattached ownership of the Zakat. (Aapke Masaail p.389 v.3)

Regarding your question, it would not be permissible to give some Zakat money to a poor person with the condition that he or she needs to pay for the utility bills. Zakat can be given to her as she is in debt, but you cannot stipulate where she has to spend the Zakat money.

For the payment of Zakat to be valid it is necessary that someone deserving from the above categories must be given possession zakat funds. This is called tamleek. That is why zakat cannot be used to establish and run charitable organizations like schools and hospitals. There is no doubt that the benefit of such projects does reach the poor, but the fact that these things have not passed on into their possession as owners makes zakat invalid. (Maariful Qur’an p.416 v.4)

Keeping the aforementioned information in mind it will not be permissible for you to pay her bills directly without making her the owner of the Zakat money, as the principle of Tamleek is not being found.

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.

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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