Fatwa ID: 87744
Title: Rule Regarding Giving Zakat to Employees as Their Wage
Category: Financial Transactions
Scholar: AMJA Resident Fatwa Committee
Date: 04/01/2020

Question

In light of what is happening around the world related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, is it permissible to give zakat to employees as their wage?

Most of the economy and commercial goods have stagnated, and many companies, out of concern for their employees, have been ordered to give them a leave of absence. What will happen if this carries on for a long time? Based on the fact that we distribute our zakat to unfamiliar deserving parties, be it through charities or social circles, are our employees not more deserving of such kindness, as they are all responsible for their families and their employers no longer have income to pay their monthly salaries? This is a global crisis, and if employers abandon their employees and continue to give zakat to distant parties, who will give the employees an income that they can use to support their families? Most employees do not ask for help from unfamiliar people or charitable organizations in order to receive zakat, and they are among those whom the ignorant would assume to be self-sufficient due to their restraint.


Answer

In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Beneficent.

All praise belongs to Allah, and may prayers and peace be upon Allah’s Messenger, his family, his Companions, and those that followed.

There are two sides to consider when addressing this issue: the employee who receives the zakat and the employer who gives it.

As for the employee who receives it, charity is not permitted for the self-sufficient or strong and unimpaired, as mentioned in the hadith, “there is no portion allotted for the self-sufficient or the capable earner.” The strong is one who is physically capable of earning a wage, and the unimpaired is one who is healthy and without disability.

It is reported in the Musnad and the Sunan that two men came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) during the farewell pilgrimage while he was distributing the charity, and they requested some. He raised his head, saw them both to be strong, and said, “If you wish, I will give you both what no self-sufficient or capable earner is deserving of.” Therefore, if the employees are self-sufficient, capable of working, and able to find work to earn a wage, they do not qualify to receive zakat. During times of unemployment and public need when the healthy and capable cannot find work, zakat can be given to them temporarily, until they find work or regain self-sufficiency.

As for the employer, fundamentally, they should not shelter their wealth through charity nor should they seek any personal benefit from their charity. If the employees are in the care of the employer based on a contractual agreement between them or due to a legal stipulation which they are not able to dissolve, they are not permitted to shelter their wealth, and that which is obligated from it, through charity. If the law releases them from that agreement (due to a public disaster, for example), then there is a great deal more leniency with the ruling. In this case, the employee and their eligibility to receive zakat should be considered based on what has been mentioned above.

And Allah the Exalted knows best.