Your eminence Sheikh! We are students who were sent to study in a Western country. We are responsible for an Islamic society in the university where we study. A number of the Muslims in the city (who are already few) have clothes and other things to donate. But there is no Muslim in our town who deserves such donations. We called a number of other Islamic societies in other towns but they could not come to us. From previous experience, we know that sending these clothes and items to the towns with larger Muslim communities is very expensive, while their value is not worth it. The brothers here ask your eminence if it is permissible to donate these items to non-Muslim societies; particularly the cancer society in the city, owing to the inability to give them to the needy Muslims. Please give us a fatwa. May Allah reward you.
All praise is due to Allah alone. Peace and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah. It is permissible to give these things to needful non-Muslims. In a hadith we read, “For giving any living creature, there is a reward” [Reported by al-Bukhary (2466) and Muslim (2244)] Thus, this reward is due for helping all the creatures of Almighty Allah. Almighty Allah says “Thus they feed with food – despite of their own desire for it – the indigent, the orphan and the captive of war.” [76:8] It is known that the prisoner of war in this verse refers to a non-Muslim.
Nevertheless, Almighty Allah praised these persons for feeding the prisoner of war, even though he is a non-Muslim. Abu Hanifah (may Allah have mercy with him) said that Zakah could be given to non-Muslims – of course, he means those who live under a security pledge with the Muslims. Giving voluntary charity to the needy and the sick among the non-Muslims is rewardable, by the grace of Allah, and there is nothing that disallows it. In an authentic report we read that the mother of Asma’, daughter of Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with her), who was an unbeliever, came to her. Asma’ said to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), “My mother came to me full of hope. Shall I keep ties with her?” He said, “Yes, keep ties with here.” [Reported by a-Bukhary (2620) and Muslim (1003)] He ordered her to keep ties with her although she was a non-Muslim. Being a non-Muslim does not make giving charity to them forbidden; particularly to the needy and the sick. Accordingly, if they truly cannot deliver these things and cannot sell them to transfer their value in money to the needy persons who deserve them, they may give them to these societies. This is something desirable and could help amend the relation between Muslims and others, manifest the tolerance and virtue of Islam, and show that Muslims aid all those in need, even if they are non-Muslims.
Allah knows best.