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Ruling 1940

Zakat can be distributed in eight ways.

  1. It can be given to a poor person (faqīr). A poor person is defined as someone who does not possess the means to meet his and his family’s expenses for one year. Therefore, someone who has a trade, or property, or capital by means of which he can meet these expenses for a year, is not a poor person.
  2. It can be given to a needy person (miskīn). A needy person is defined as someone whose living conditions are worse than that of a poor person.
  3. It can be given to a person who has been appointed by the Imam (ʿA) or his representative (nāʾib) to collect and safeguard zakat, maintain its accounts, and deliver it to the Imam (ʿA), his representative, or to the poor (fuqarāʾ).
  4. It can be given to disbelievers (kuffār) who will be inclined to the religion of Islam if zakat is given to them, or who will assist Muslims in battle or in some other matter. Zakat can also be given to Muslims whose faith in some of the noble Messenger’s (Ṣ) teachings is weak but which will be strengthened as a result of giving zakat to them. Furthermore, zakat can be given to a Muslim who does not believe in the vicegerency (wilāyah) of the Commander of the Faithful [Imam ʿAlī] (ʿA) but who will be inclined to believe in it if zakat is given to him.
  5. To buy and free slaves, the details of which are mentioned in their appropriate place.
  6. It can be given to a person who is in debt but is unable to repay his debt.
  7. In the way of Allah (fī sabīl allāh), i.e. acts that benefit the general Muslim public, such as building mosques and religious schools, keeping the town clean, tarmacking and expanding roads, and suchlike.
  8. It can be given to a stranded traveller (ibn al‑sabīl).

These are the ways in which zakat can be spent; however, in the third and fourth cases, the owner cannot spend zakat without the permission of the Imam (ʿA) or his representative. And based on obligatory precaution, in the seventh case, the owner must obtain permission from a fully qualified jurist. The laws (aḥkām) concerning these ways will be explained in the following rulings (masāʾil).