GEORGE TOWN: Penang Mufti Datuk Wan Salim Wan Mohd Noor said it is up to the federal government to decide on the distribution of zakat for the benefit of the people.
However, he said priority should be given to Muslims first.
He said this is because zakat, which is only collected from Muslims, is also a form of worship in Islam.
Zakat, he said, has a dual function, namely for worship and social functions. This, he added, is understood from the Hadith (narrated by al-Bukhari) in that alms are collected from rich Muslims and distributed to the poor among them (Muslims).
“The recipients of zakat comprise eight categories as stated in the Surah At-Taubah of the Al-Quran. These are the fakir; the poor; those who manage the collection and distribution of zakat; those whose hearts are devoted to Islam; those who want to free themselves from the shackles of slavery; those burdened by debt; for the fight to uphold Islam including preaching; social and welfare activities; and for those who are stranded with no money.
“According to this verse, zakat can be given to non-Muslims, either to make Islam appealing to them or to encourage them to help Muslims against their enemy, or at least to gain their sympathy for Muslims,” he said.
Wan Salim added that if the zakat income exceeds the needs of the Muslim community, then there is no problem with it being distributed to non-Muslims in need.
At a recent international conference on zakat, Port Dickson Member of Parliament and PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim mooted for reforms of the zakat institution.
He also proposed for the distribution of zakat to non-Muslims, citing an opinion by prominent Muslim jurist Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
Anwar said Islam encourages the distribution of zakat to non-Muslims in a multi-racial society, but qualified that this should not be at the expense of the Muslim poor.