What is the ruling on paying Zakah upon money in a form of food supplies and the like?
All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of The Worlds, and may His peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad and upon all of his family and companions.
Zakah(obligatory charity) is the third pillar of Islam, and Islam has legislated it to protect the weak categories of society, such as the poor and needy. It is taken from the rich and given to its eligible recipients. Allah's Apostle said to Muadh when he sent him to Yemen, "You will go to the people of the Scripture. So, when you reach there, invite them to testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah, and that Muhammad is His Apostle. And if they obey you in that, tell them that Allah has enjoined on them five prayers in each day and night. And if they obey you in that tell them that Allah has made it obligatory on them to pay the Zakat which will be taken from the rich among them and given to the poor among them. If they obey you in that, then avoid taking the best of their possessions, and be afraid of the curse of an oppressed person because there is no screen between his invocation and Allah.” [Agreed upon].
Allah has made Zakah obligatory on all types of wealth such as gold, silver, cash, cattle, crops, fruits, items of merchandise and the like.
The Zakah on each item must be given from its kind, except that due on items of merchandise, which must be given in their value,
In addition, it is an obligation to give Zakah upon money in cash only and replacing it with food parcels, medicine, clothes and the like is impermissible for the following reasons:
First: Zakah is the poor's right and we can't act on his behalf as well he is the only person who is fully aware with his needs and status.
Second: Replacing the method of giving Zakah upon money with any other method rather than cash doesn't achieve the purpose and wisdom of Zakah which is covering the various needs of the poor and the needy nowadays, since the need of the poor not only is food but are also many other needs which are essential these days as well as giving Zakah in cash achieves its wisdom in covering those needs.
Third: Giving Zakah by its value won't ensure ownership to the poor since enabling him to possess Zakah in its due form is obligatory, because Zakah is the right of the poor and other eligible recipients and due on the wealth of the rich, for Allah, The Exalted said (What means):" And in whose wealth there is a right acknowledged
For the beggar and the destitute." [Al-Ma'arij/24-25]. Thus, the delay of giving Zakah without a valid excuse render its giver sinful and he is obliged to guarantee it in case of damage.
Fourth: Giving Zakah in form of food parcels might help in selling expired and unmarketable goods. In this regard, Allah, The Exalted said (What means):" O ye who believe! Spend of the good things which ye have earned, and of that which We bring forth from the earth for you, and seek not the bad (with intent) to spend thereof (in charity) when ye would not take it for yourselves save with disdain; and know that Allah is Absolute, Owner of Praise.
The devil promiseth you destitution and enjoineth on you lewdness. But Allah promiseth you forgiveness from Himself with bounty. Allah is All- Embracing, All-knowing. [Al-Baqara/267-268]. Further, a person won't enter paradise save if he spent and gave charity of that which he love the most as Allah, The Exalted said (What means):" Ye will not attain unto piety until ye spend of that which ye love. And whatsoever ye spend, Allah is Aware thereof. [Al-Imran/92]. However, voluntary charity might be given in a form of food parcels and the like (*). And Allah knows best.
*Note: The following Fatwa was issued on 07/04/2015AD)
The point in the aforementioned Fatwa that achieving the benefit of the poor mostly exist in cash not in goods nor in kind items given as Zakah, such as expired and unmarketable goods that the poor don't need.
Yet, there is no harm if the poor's interest and actual need were observed by the person or the charitable organization giving Zakah by providing the required food and medicine. It is worth mentioning that General Iftaa' Dept. has the same opinion in this regard as is the case with Hanafite's doctrine and this was assured by issuing a new Fatwa No. (3063) on (02/04/2015) in order to avoid confusion and contradiction within both answers.