Zakah: Payment as help to dependents

Q727 :My father is about to retire, but his pension is hardly sufficient to pay for his own expenses and those of his family. Moreover, he has a loan to repay over a long period of time. That gives him much worry. As his daughter, can I pay him monthly from our zakah money, either to repay his loan or to support his family?

A727 : Your desire to help your father is commendable. It is indeed the sort of attitude which Islam develops in children towards their parents. The relationship Islam establishes between parent and child is too well defined to leave the question of financial help in situation of need to personal preferences or within voluntary actions. When a child is young, needing every type of help, his parents must bring him up and look after him well. They should provide him with food, clothing and shelter of a decent standard, according to their means. Although Allah rewards parents for taking good care of their children, parents cannot dodge their responsibility. They cannot hold it as a favor that they bring up their children, it is their duty. Similarly, when either or both parents are old and they do not have an income sufficient to meet their needs, it is the responsibility of their grown-up children to look after them and pay for their needs. They do not do this as a favor but in fulfillment of a duty imposed on them by none other than Allah. If they fail to look after their parents, Allah will question them about their failure and may punish them severely for that. The guiding principle in all this is that "Allah does not charge any soul with more than it can tolerably bear". Since your father has more commitments than can be possibly met by his pension, therefore it is the responsibility of his grown-up children to supplement his income to enable him to lead a comfortable life. This duty is incumbent on all his children who are working or able to work, according to their means. So, if you have brothers and sisters, you should join with them in looking after your father. It may be that some or all of your brothers and sisters do not enjoy the sort of circumstances you do. It may be that they have heavy commitments or a modest income. In such a situation, you may have to bear the largest share of the help your father needs. That should not disappoint you in any way, because to have the chance of helping one's parents is indeed a privilege and an honor. Moreover, it earns generous reward from Allah. In short, you should look at your father's situation and determine the best way of helping him. If you are the only daughter of his who can help him, then you have to undertake that help yourself. There is a general rule which governs the payment of zakah to its beneficiaries. No one may pay zakah to a poor relative who qualifies as beneficiary, if that relative is entitled to be supported by the zakah payer. This means that a man may not pay zakah to his poor wife or his poor children, although they may be grown-ups. This is due to the fact that his wife and children are entitled to receive his help. This is his duty which he cannot shirk-off. Similarly, a poor parent must be looked after by his children. As such, they cannot pay him their zakah. If they do, then they are actually paying zakah to themselves in order to reduce their own liabilities. This cannot be done. Having said that, I should add that this applies to you personally, not to your husband. If both you and your husband are zakah payers, you may not pay your zakah to your father, but your husband may do so. The reason is that your husband is not required by way of duty to help your father. Hence, if he pays him his zakah, he is not benefiting in any way. It may be that you do not wish to involve your husband in helping your father. This is commendable. However, this places on you the duty of looking after your father properly. May Allah help and reward you for that.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )