FIQH: AHLUS SUNNAH WAL JAMA'AH - TRADITIONAL SHAFI'I SCHOOL
Giving Zakat to Deserving Recipients
It is unlawful to delay paying what is due from a zakat-payable amount of property when:
1. it has been possessed for one year;
2. one can find the eight categories of eligible recipients, or some of them - so as to be able to pay it;
3. and the property is present within 81 km /50 miles;
- unless one is awaiting a poor person more deserving than those present e.g. a relative of the person paying zakat whom he is not obliged to support, a neighbour, or a more righteous or needy person than those present. Under these circumstances it is not unlawful to delay giving it because there is an excuse, unless withholding it involves considerable harm for those presently available.
Paying Zakat In Advance
Zakat on all types of property that a year's possession of the zakat minimum makes giving obligatory, may be payed for the current year alone before the year's end whenever the property owner possesses the zakat minimum. This zakat in advance is considered valid only when the year ends and:
1. the recipient is still among the categories of people eligible for zakat; meaning, for example, that his state has not changed from poverty to wealth;
2. the zakat giver is still obligated to pay it;
3. and the property is still as it was, meaning - the zakat minimum still exists and has not been destroyed or sold.
The zakat in advance is not valid if - before the end of the year:
1. the poor person who accepted it dies, or becomes financially independent for some other reason than having accepted the zakat;
2. the giver dies;
3. the property diminishes to less than the zakat minimum by more than the amount given in advance, such as when the giver takes out 5 dirhams as zakat in advance from 200 dirhams, but his holdings are subsequently reduced by 10, i.e. to 190 dirhams, which is less than the zakat minimum, even when this reduction is because of sale.
When the zakat in advance is not valid, the giver may take it back if he has explained that the money has been given in advance by merely having said, "This is my zakat in advance," or if the recipient knows it.
If what was given as zakat still exists, the recipient gives it back together with any increment organically connected with it, such as additional weight gained by a head of livestock while in the recipient's possession. But the property owner is not entitled to take back an increment that is not organically connected to the zakat, such as its offspring born from the animal while in the recipient's possession.
If the zakat given in advance no longer exists, then the giver is entitled to take back a substitute whether it be the substitute for a commodity that is fungible, such as silver dirhams, or whether for a non-fungible commodity such as sheep or goats, in which case its price is the market value at the time the zakat in advance was accepted, not the time it ceased to exist.
After the return of the zakat in advance, the zakat giver pays the zakat from his wealth again if he is still obliged to. The zakat in advance that is paid from the zakat-payable amount (nisab) is considered as if still part of the giver's property only in respect to calculating whether the giver's total property equals the zakat-payable amount. It is not actually considered as still belonging to the zakat giver, since the recipient is entitled to dispose of it by sale or otherwise while it is in his possession. Thus, if the zakat giver paid a sheep in advance as zakat on 120 head, and one of the sheep then gave birth to a new lamb, the giver would now be obliged to pay another sheep - it being as if he owns the next highest zakat-payable amount of 121 heads.
Authorising Another to Distribute One's Zakat
It is permissible for the zakat giver to personally distribute his zakat to eligible recipients or to authorise an agent (wakil) to do so. It is permissible for the zakat giver to pay his zakat to the imam / the caliph or his representative, and this is superior unless the imam is unjust, in which case it is better to distribute it oneself.
The Prayer of the Recipient for the Zakat Giver
It is recommended for the poor person receiving zakat when the owner is distributing it to supplicate for the giver. This is also done by the agent assigned to deliver the zakat to recipients if the imam has gathered it by means of agents to distribute to the poor). The supplication read is - "May Allah reward you for what you have given, bless you in what you have retained, and purify it for you."
The Intention of Zakat
Making the intention of zakat is a necessary condition for the validity of giving zakat. The intention is made when zakat is paid to the poor person or the one being authorised to distribute it, and one must intend giving it as the zakat of one's property. It is also permissible to make the intention before paying the money. When the owner has made this intention, it is not necessary that the agent distributing it also make an intention before giving it because the owner's intention is sufficient, whether the agent is an ordinary individual or is the ruler. It is also permissible for the owner to authorise an agent to both make the intention and distribute the zakat.