Zakat, the third pillar of Islam, is a form of ibadah in terms of wealth, and an obligation upon every Muslim. In Singapore, Zakat Fitrah and Zakat on Wealth (Zakat Harta) collected by mosques and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) is distributed to eight rightful groups of beneficiaries as specified by Allah s.w.t in the Quran:
إِنَّمَا ٱلصَّدَقَـٰتُ لِلْفُقَرَآءِ وَٱلْمَسَـٰكِينِ وَٱلْعَـٰمِلِينَ عَلَيْهَا وَٱلْمُؤَلَّفَةِ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَفِى ٱلرِّقَابِ وَٱلْغَـٰرِمِينَ وَفِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ وَٱبْنِ ٱلسَّبِيلِ ۖ فَرِيضَةً مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ ۗ وَٱللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ
"Zakat is for the poor and the needy, the amil (those employed to administer Zakat funds), and the muallaf (those who have embraced Islam), for those in bondage and in debt, for those who strive in the cause of Allah and for the wayfarer – (it is thus) ordained by Allah and Allah is All-Knowing and Wise."
(Surah At-Tawbah, 9:60)
These are the eight groups designated by Allah Himself as deserving of Zakat. Why these eight specifically, is a question that only Allah knows the true answer. As Muslims we can only attempt to understand the Divine Wisdom behind it.
When Prophet Muhammad s.a.w started preaching Islam in Makkah, many of the early Muslims were among the slaves and the poor. Some had very little to begin with, while others, like slaves, do not have any wealth belonging to themselves. There are also some who fell into poverty when their families learned of their new faith and deserted them from their homes.
When Prophet Muhammad s.a.w and his companions faced intense persecution from the disbelievers of Makkah, many of the early Muslims were forced to flee Makkah, leaving most of their belongings and wealth behind.
Alhamdulillah, during the second year after the Migration of the Muslims to Madinah, Zakat became obligatory for Muslims as part of our pillars of Islam.
The obligation of Zakat is mentioned in several verses of the Quran, for instance:
لَّيْسَ ٱلْبِرَّ أَن تُوَلُّوا۟ وُجُوهَكُمْ قِبَلَ ٱلْمَشْرِقِ وَٱلْمَغْرِبِ وَلَـٰكِنَّ ٱلْبِرَّ مَنْ ءَامَنَ بِٱللَّهِ وَٱلْيَوْمِ ٱلْـَٔاخِرِ وَٱلْمَلَـٰٓئِكَةِ وَٱلْكِتَـٰبِ وَٱلنَّبِيِّـۧنَ وَءَاتَى ٱلْمَالَ عَلَىٰ حُبِّهِۦ ذَوِى ٱلْقُرْبَىٰ وَٱلْيَتَـٰمَىٰ وَٱلْمَسَـٰكِينَ وَٱبْنَ ٱلسَّبِيلِ وَٱلسَّآئِلِينَ وَفِى ٱلرِّقَابِ وَأَقَامَ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ وَءَاتَى ٱلزَّكَوٰةَ وَٱلْمُوفُونَ بِعَهْدِهِمْ إِذَا عَـٰهَدُوا۟ ۖ وَٱلصَّـٰبِرِينَ فِى ٱلْبَأْسَآءِ وَٱلضَّرَّآءِ وَحِينَ ٱلْبَأْسِ ۗ أُو۟لَـٰٓئِكَ ٱلَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا۟ ۖ وَأُو۟لَـٰٓئِكَ هُمُ ٱلْمُتَّقُونَ
"Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but (true) righteousness is (in) one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveller, those who ask (for help), and for freeing slaves."
(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:177)
During the time of the early Muslims, reverts faced all sorts of hardships and abuse from loved ones, their tribes, neighbours and the chieftains of Makkah. All because they embraced Islam.
The uncle of Uthman ibn 'Affan used to wrap him in a mat of palm leaves and set fire under him. (Rahmatul-lil-'Alamin 1/57)
When Umm Mus'ab ibn 'Umair heard that her son reverted to Islam, she subjected him to torture and starvation, and then expelled him from her house. Mus'ab used to enjoy a luxurious and easy life, but due to the torture he had had to bear, his skin became marked with wrinkles and his sufferings showed. (Al-Isabah 4/255 and Ibn Sa'd 3/248)
Prophet Muhammad s.a.w promised in a hadith:
"Verily, whoever embraces Islam and is tested with hardship in it, Allah will create for them a way out of it that is broader than the breadth of the Earth."
This hadith provides encouragement and hope for reverts facing difficulties and challenges in their journey of embracing Islam. It assures them that Allah s.w.t will help provide them with a solution. In part, Zakat also became a means of support for the reverts.
Today, Muis’ Zakat funds are in part disbursed to support the convert administration at Darul Arqam and its free classes.
When Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. and his followers migrated to Medina, Islam played a significant role in liberating and assisting slaves. Islam encouraged slave owners to treat slaves with kindness and compassion, and the freeing of slaves became a dedicated purpose of Zakat (Riqab) as decreed by Allah s.w.t. Himself.
A famous story of a freed slave is that of Bilal ibn Rabah’s. Bilal was an Abyssinian slave who was owned by a wealthy Makkan named Umayyah ibn Khalaf. He was tortured and persecuted for converting to Islam but remained steadfast in his faith. The message of Islam emphasized equality and brotherhood, and it rejected the notion of racial and class superiority. Bilal was eventually freed from slavery after Prophet Muhammad's companion Abu Bakr purchased him from his owner. Bilal became a close companion of the Prophet s.a.w and was given the honour of being the first person to call Muslims to prayer.
Today, in Singapore, the Fatwa Committee has declared that “Riqab” will be meant for assisting the poor and needy in the field of education as a means of liberating them from the fetters of bondage caused by ignorance. Current Muis Zakat beneficiaries under Riqab include study grants and assistance schemes such as the Islamic Education Fund (IEF), Lembaga Biasiswa Kenangan Maulud (LBKM), Progress Fund Madrasah Assistance Scheme (Promas) and the Joint Madrasah System Study Awards.
During the time of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w, a man suffered loss on fruits he had sold, resulting in more debt, and the Prophet s.a.w said: “Give him charity” (Sunan At-Tirmizi).
Gharimin are those who get into debt to support themselves and their dependents, and not due to vices or spending of their wealth on the welfare of others until they become indebted. Assistance for gharimin is to help them to meet their basic needs.
The Muis Zakat disbursement helps support Zakat beneficiaries with bills for outstanding basic necessities such as utilities, service and conservancy charges.
The share of this category of Zakat during the early Islamic era was for those who fought in war to elevate the name of Allah, irrespective of their status of wealth.
However, the words “Fi-sabilillah” is a general term. Modern scholars have interpreted it to have a general meaning encompassing all that brings good to the Muslim community, or a person who strives in the cause of Allah for the betterment of the community. It was cited in Al-Qaffal’s commentary of the Quran that scholars on Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh) had allowed the distribution of Zakat to different types of welfare activities.
In Singapore, Muis disburses the share of Zakat for Fisabilillah to support religious programmes, dakwah and public education, and advance mosque leadership and management.
These are only four out of the eight asnaf. Other Zakat beneficiaries include the Fakir and Miskin (Poor and Needy), Ibnussabil (the stranded traveller or wayfarer), and amil (administrator of Zakat).
According to the Syafi'i school of jurisprudence, it is necessary to give Zakat to all eight asnaf.
It is much preferred to assist those closest to us first, like our family, friends and neighbours who are among the asnaf. However, we should not forget to give a portion of our Zakat to the remaining seven asnaf.
In Singapore, Zakat contributed via Muis and mosques are disbursed to all eight asnaf.
Below are some ways to fulfil your Zakat in Singapore.
Read: How to Pay Zakat: A Guide to Fulfil Your Zakat
The Muis Zakat Financial Assistance (FA) is available to Muslim Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents with a Per Capita Income (PCI) of $400 or lower. Zakat FA is complementary to national assistance schemes and applicants are encouraged to explore and be connected to the wider and more comprehensive assistance schemes such as ComCare, Family Service Centres and others which are readily available.
To apply for the Muis Zakat FA, contact the nearest Social Development (SD) mosque to make an appointment. For more information and the list of SD mosques, visit www.zakat.sg.