Can a grandfather give Zakat to his grandchildren whose father died leaving nothing for them?
The various classical Fiqh books are quite clear on the fact that Zakat may be given to relatives of all kinds (provided they are worthy recipients) be it brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, etc. However, there are two relationships that prevent the giving of Zakat, one being the relationship of birth and the other marriage.
As such, it will not be permitted for the husband to give Zakat to his wife, and vice-versa. Similarly, it will not be permitted to give Zakat to one’s parents, grandparents, great grandparents and on up. Likewise, one’s children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and down on. (Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar, 2/346, al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya, 1/188-189 & al-Kasani, Bada’i al-Sana’i, 2/47-48)
The reason being, as explained by Imam al-Kasani and others, is that in order for one’s Zakat to be fulfilled, the giver cannot materially benefit from giving the Zakat. The condition for the validity of Zakat is the complete transfer of ownership (tamlik), whereas in giving Zakat to the above-mentioned individuals, complete transfer of ownership will not take place, because normally benefits between these people are shared. It will, in a way, be giving Zakat to one’s self. (Bada’i al-Sana’i, 2/47)
Therefore, it is not permitted for a grandfather to give Zakat to his grandsons even if their father has passed away leaving nothing behind for them.
However, it should be remembered that the grandfather can (and should) give his grandchildren other forms of optional charity. Imam al-Kasani (Allah have mercy on him) states that although one is not permitted to give Zakat to such individuals, giving them in the form of other optional charities is not only permitted rather greatly recommended and rewarding. By doing so, one will be gaining two rewards, one reward of giving in charity (sadaqa) and the other of strengthening family ties.
Therefore, the grandfather and other relatives may help the orphans in terms of financially supporting their upbringing and education. Other relatives may even give them Zakat. The grandfather may also speak to others who are looking to pay their Zakat and ask them to help his orphan grandchildren with their Zakat contributions.
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK