Zakah: Deduction by the state on savings accounts

Q720 :In Pakistan, government deducts zakah directly from bank deposits of Sunni Muslims. Those who are Shi'a or Ismailis are exempt from this provided they submit a statement signed under oath and witnessed by two persons of their religious affiliations. Is our government allowed by Islamic law to make this deduction? Is it permissible for any Sunni Muslim to submit the required declaration that he belongs to another group because he has relatives who qualify as beneficiaries of zakah and he wants to make sure that this zakah is properly spent.

A720 : Under the Islamic system, it is the government which is required to administer the collection and distribution of zakah. A zakah department should be established in the government of any Muslim country for collecting zakah and distributing it to its beneficiaries. This department is self-financing, because salaries of its employees can be paid directly from zakah funds. Had such a department been operating in Muslim countries for the past 30 or 50 years, we should not have suffered the sort of poverty which many Muslims areas suffer today. The answer to your first question is, therefore, that the government is not merely allowed but required to take zakah from people and spend it as Allah has specified its methods of spending. I should point out that this option should not be limited to bank savings. It should be expanded to ensure that every Muslim in the country pays his or her zakah to the zakah department and also to make sure that those who qualify for zakah benefit actually get the payments to which they are entitled. It is wrong to operate a zakah collection and distribution agency and limit its revenue to one or two sources of zakah. That will create a bad example of how zakah operates in practice. I realize that the task is enormous, but every Muslim government which wants to operate this system can spread its full implementation over a period of time and it will soon realize the benefits of establishing this system in the actual betterment of the fortunes of the lowest earning section of its population. I appreciate the motives of any person who has poor relatives and who wants to pay zakah to them. This is a noble motive which should be encouraged. However, I cannot accept the method suggested to achieve this. If anyone makes a false statement, whether under oath or not, he lies. This is forbidden in Islam. We cannot tell lies except in specific, well known situations. This is not one of them. What should be done, instead, is for depositors of such savings to bring pressure to bear on the government to allow them to make a similar statement to the effect that they pay their zakah to those relatives. How this should be formulated is a matter which the government can decide.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )