Question 23: Assalamu alaikum Shaikh, I pray you are receiving many blessing from Allah during this Ramadan. I have a question concerning paying zakat locally or abroad. There is a push locally for people to pay their zakat locally. They state the four great imams RA were of this opinion. I see a lot of people in more need overseas but I don’t want to go against any rulings in regards to zakat. Also sending money back overseas to a home village; would that be regarded as local ?
Answer: Walaikumussalam Dear Brother,
Yes, indeed the first priority to distribute Zakat is to the deserving one of eight categories of recipients of zakat mentioned in the Quran [Surah 9: Verse 60] that exist in the city where from the Zakat was collected. This is based on the aithentic hadith of the Prophet Muhammed (s.a.w):
تؤخذ من أغنيائهم وترد على فقرائهم
“It is taken from the wealthy among them and distributed to the poor among them.”
So this is the first priority and the norm. Once any surplus Zakat remains, it is sent to other areas according to their needs. An exception will be if there is a dire need elsewhere, then we may send zakat to that place but once again this is not at the expense of the dire needs of the locals.
A wisdom in this way of prioritization is to solve the needs of the local place by their own resources first before helping others – if each region looks aftee its needs, then they won’t be a liability on others.
*An Important Caution*
I have noticed with some Muslims using the above fact and misusing it by giving zakat to local people who really do NOT qualify for receiving zakat. As an example, it is good to help single parents financially, however, being a single parent does NOT in itself qualify that person to receive zakat. Most people in Australia, if not all, receive government welfare help to make a standard of living whereby they no longer are zakat recipients due to the extremely-generous welfare payment system in Australia. As far as the (1) poor and (2) needy categories out of the eight categories of zakat recepients mentioned in Surah Tawbah verse 60, upon close inspection we find there is hardly anyone in Australia deserving of zakat. Category three (zakat collector), Category six (crippling debt calamity) and category seven (fi sabilillah – ie scholars job, genuine dawah bodies spreading much needed taqwa – according to what Sh Ibn Baz said) are three out of the 8 categories of zakat recipients that may and do exist in Australia as the government welfare system does not pay for any of these three, especially not for categories three and seven.
Quite often those people in Australia who one may consider being zakat recepients of (1) poor and (2) needy categories despite government welfare payments, upon close inspection we may find that they can live quite sufficiently by modifying their spending. Having said that, there are rare circumstances of category one and two in Australia such as foreign national students without welfare payments but with large families and no earning parent. So such rare cases do exist though some people tend to often wrongly apply it to those who do not qualify for zakat. But yes indeed zakat is first to be distributed where it is collected from unless a sudden calamity elsewhere.
Allah knows best.