My post asking for charity recommendations elicited a few questions about Zakat (the obligatory Muslim charity). I was told that Zakat is only to be given to Muslims.
I had heard something like that before, but I decided to look it up this time around as I couldn’t understand any reason for such a prohibition. Interestingly and expectedly, I found nothing in the Quran which could be construed as a prohibition on giving Zakat to non-Muslims. Here are the only relevant Quranic verses I found.
Quran 2:273: (Charity is) for those in need, who, in Allah’s cause are restricted (from travel), and cannot move about in the land, seeking (For trade or work): the ignorant man thinks, because of their modesty, that they are free from want. Thou shalt know them by their (Unfailing) mark: They beg not importunately from all the sundry. And whatever of good ye give, be assured Allah knoweth it well.
Quran 9:60: Alms are for the poor and the needy, and those employed to administer the (funds); for those whose hearts have been (recently) reconciled (to Truth); for those in bondage and in debt; in the cause of Allah; and for the wayfarer: (thus is it) ordained by Allah, and Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom.
I also didn’t find anything in the hadith collections I searched, though it is possible I might have missed something there.
If I remember correctly, most scholars forbid giving Zakat to non-Muslims. Among the four major schools of Sunni jurisprudence, Hanbali, Shafi and Maliki scholars are in that camp. I am not so sure about Hanafis, though some online scholars forbid it.
Looking at the Salafi Islam Q&A
It is not permissible to give zakaah on one’s wealth or crops, or Zakaat al-Fitr, to kaafirs, even if they are poor, or wayfarers, or debtors, and if one who gives zakaah to them, that is not counted as zakaah.
It is permissible to give regular charity – not obligatory charity (i.e., zakaah) to poor kaafirs, and to exhange gifts and with them and treat them well to soften their hearts towards Islam, so long as they have not carried out any hostile actions against the Muslims, which would disallow that.
Not to be left behind, Al-Islam.org, which is a Twelver Shia website, prohibits giving Zakat to anyone other than the Shia.
It is necessary that the person to whom Zakat is paid is a Shi’ah Ithna’ashari. If, therefore, one pays Zakat to a person under the impression that he is a Shi’ah, and it transpires later that he is not a Shi’ah, one should pay Zakat again.
Moiz Amjad provides some sanity.
If you closely observe all the heads enlisted in the Qur’an [9:60 above — ZA], you shall see that for none of these heads does the Qur’an make it essential that the person to whom these funds are given should be a Muslim. For example, the Qur’an could have easily specified that the Zaka’h funds should be spent on the poor and the needy Muslims. On the contrary, however, we see that the poor and the needy, irrespective of their religious affiliations, are eligible to receive these funds. The same is the case of more or less all the other heads.
And that is why I don’t discriminate on the basis of religion when giving Zakat.