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Paying Zakah in the Form of Benefits

Answered according to Shafi'i Fiqh by Darul Iftaa Jordan
Somebody wants to pay the Zakah of his wealth in the form of benefits targeting eligible recipients. For example, doctor examining poor patients free, teacher giving lessons to the poor free or owner of apartments providing lodging for the poor free. Does it avail a person to pay Zakah of his wealth in such form?

Answer:
Praise be to Allah the Lord of the Worlds.

In principle, Zakah must be given in the form of the wealth on which Zakah is being paid, and must be transferred to the ownership of the eligible recipients; as stated by the scholars. For example, Zakah on cash must be given in cash, Zakah on animals must be given in animals, Zakah on crops must be given in crops and the like. The evidence on this is that Allah the Almighty says, "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 God; and for the wayfarer: (thus is it) ordained by God, and God is full of knowledge and wisdom."{At-Tawbah, 60}."For" in this verse refers to transfer of ownership.

This is the view of the majority of the scholars. However, Hanafi scholars permitted paying Zakah of wealth in the form of cash value; if it is more useful to the poor. Moreover, scholars haven`t permitted paying Zakah of wealth in the form of the benefits mentioned in the above question, because Zakah must be given in the same form of the wealth on which it is being paid and that form can be transferred to the ownership of the poor. In addition, Hanafi scholars are of the view that giving Zakah in the form of benefits doesn`t avail, because such services/benefits are immaterial and can`t be transferred to the ownership of the poor. And Allah the Almighty knows best.

This answer was collected from the official government Iftaa Department of Jordan.

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