In the Name of Allah!
Many people have asked about the connection between Zakat and Muslim leadership. Without a doubt, it is absolutely crucial that we address this matter.
Imam al-Sarakhsi (Hanafi) says in al-Mabsut
“Zakat is a right of Allah and is to collected by the leader of the Muslims or his appointees. If anyone pays his Zakat to anyone else, it does not remove from him the obligation of Zakat.”
Imam Ahmad (Hanbali) says in ash-Sharih ar-Rabbani li Musnad Ahmad:
“The khalifa alone has the authority and responsibility to collect and distribute Zakat, whether by himself or through those he appoints and he has the authority and responsibility to fight those who refuse to pay it.”
Imam ash-Shafi’i says in al-Umm About the Qur’anic category of ‘those who collect it:
“…they are those appointed by the khalifa of the Muslims to collect and distribute Zakat.”
Imam Malik says in his Muwatta:
“The distribution of Zakat is up to the individual judgement of the man in charge…There is no fixed share for the collector of Zakat except as the leader of the Muslims sees fit.”
So we can see that all of the four schools of thought (Madhab) point to the necessity of clear Muslim authority in order that Zakat can be collected and distributed properly, and therefore a position contrary to this would be a dangerous one.
Previously we looked at the necessity to pay Zakat in kind (ie. livestock, agricultural produce or, gold and silver). The fiqh also clearly points out that it is to be distributed locally to specific categories of people.
So bearing all these things in mind, we must ask ourselves how can it be that many people continue to:
1. Send their Zakat to a charity who may send it abroad or use it on general charitable work.
2. Not pay ‘in-kind’, ie. with the right currency (gold or silver)
3. Send their Zakat abroad to relatives, or
4. Not ensure it has gone to te right category of recipient.
What people are doing are very generous and commendable acts of sadaqa, but outwardly they do not fulfil the requirements of Zakat.
If it is simply a matter of us doing our best given the circumstances then may Allah accept it as such, but the question is what are we aiming for?
The truth is that most of us pay much less attention to the fundamental characteristics of Zakat than we do to the Salat or Ramadan or even Hajj?’
When we look at the fiqh we will see that those things that make zakat valid are:
• Local Distribution
• Correct Time
• Correct Elements (paid with the right means)
The Muslim charities must also take some of the responsibility. They must desist from calling the donations they solicit and receive Zakat. For unless they implement those things that validate Zakat, under a clear leadership, then they could be guilty of misleading (not necessarily deliberately) Muslims on this very important matter.
If one were to take a picture or even a 3D model of the Kaba and walk around it seven times we would not call it Hajj. Similarly if we were to abstain from all food except water and bread in Ramadan that would not be fulfilling our obligation to fast. In fact if someone told us these things fulfilled our obligation we would consider them at least ignorant if not deviant Muslims.
So this brings us back to the question of Muslim leadership!
One of the first things we must do is stop putting impossible conditions on our leaders in terms of their qualities and character. We must look for and empower leaders amongst us at the local level.
There are Mosques a-plenty in the UK with appointed Imams and committees so this new breed of leader will not start by challenging either the mosque leadership or the Muslim charities. Those people must be supported and encouraged to ensure the correct establishment of the prayer, teach the deen and support needy Muslims locally and abroad.
However, the two very important things these newly empowered leaders will be charged with are:
1. The collection and distribution of Zakat, and
2. The announcing of the beginning and ending of Ramadhan based on an actual physical sighting of the moon in a geographically relevant/connected place.
These are the two issues that can not only unite the Muslims of any country and any locality, but are also along with the abandoning of riba (usury) be a major source of dawah and forming strategic links with the non-Muslims.
These are the issues that any Muslim activist must put at the top of their agenda because these are not only fard but they are pillars of the deen.
May Allah grant us success and show us the truth as truth and make us follow it, and the false as false and make us avoid it. Amin.