Zakat Eligibility of Islamic Organizations
All Praise Be to Allah, and May His Blessings and Peace Be on His Final Messenger
In response to a question about the zakat (zakât, zakâh) eligibility of a non-profit organization whose purpose is to gather detailed information on the Muslim communities in the West, AMJA issued the following fatwa:
The principle regarding the expenditures of Zakat is its limitation to the eight categories mentioned in the verse:
Zakat expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakat] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah. And Allah is Knowing and Wise.} [Surah Al-Tawbah 9:60]
However, some past scholars believed much can fall under the term “and for the cause of Allah,” and many contemporary scholars believe it includes protecting the interests of Islam and the Muslims, da‘wah, intellectual efforts, and any related projects that promote them. This was also the conclusion reached by the Islamic Fiqh Council in their 8th conference. Therefore, if the work done by this organization and others like it, which includes gathering detailed and beneficial information concerning Muslims and making them available to those involved in da‘wah, [and to] think tanks and policy makers, serves those objectives, then it is eligible to receive Zakat – according to this opinion. In conclusion, AMJA would like to remind all organizations which receive Zakat and [that] benefit from the charity of the importance of attentively adhering to the parameters set by the Shariah on receiving and spending Zakat in the correct fashion.
AMJA has issued other fatwas to the same effect. These fatwas have been used by many organizations seeking to collect funds through zakat. Such a “trend” in the community caused some sincere observers to be concerned about the change of the focus of zakat from fighting poverty to supporting different organizations. Some of the feedback we received was reasonable, but at times, people’s emotions made them lose objectivity or even transgress. Although I am a member of the Resident Fatwa Committee of AMJA, I write this article in my individual capacity. Its purpose is to clarify AMJA’s position and contribute to the discourse on the prudent application of this fatwa.