I have sent my zakat for the year to my father in-law to distribute within Pakistan on my behalf, but I have a concern as to how far my responsibilities lie on following up where this money goes. My father in-law distributes this money to people he knows as genuinely poor and also to Islamic madrasas. I don’t want to question him in great detail as he may think I am questioning my trust in him. However, I believe he did not give all the money away. He is in great debt which my husband and I will take it on ourselves to pay off, but I do not wish my zakat money to go to him, as I believe my husband and I should pay this and will pay it insha Allah.
I will insha Allah take a stand and not give him responsibility for my zakat next year as I take the zakat very seriously because it is due to Allah’s Grace that we have this wealth.
There are certain points worth considering here:
1) Paying Zakat through an agent (wakil) is permitted. It is permissible to appoint a person or an organization to distribute Zakat on one’s behalf upon the eligible and worthy recipients. (See: Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Durr, 2/268-269)
However, in doing so, one should keep two things in mind:
Firstly, one should have full trust and confidence that the agent will distribute the Zakat to only worthy recipients, and not misuse it in any way.
Secondly, if the agent does not distribute the Zakat upon worthy recipients, then Zakat will not be regarded as fulfilled, hence it will remain an obligation on the Zakat-payer. Zakat will only be considered fulfilled when the agent utilizes and distributes it on worthy recipients.
2) Zakat cannot be given to one’s parents, grandparents. Similarly, one’s children and grandchildren. However, it is permitted to give Zakat money to one’s father in-law and mother in-law, provided they are worthy recipients. (Radd al-Muhtar, 2/346)
3) If one gives Zakat to an agent, it will be permitted for that agent to distribute the Zakat on his parents, relatives and any other person (provided he/she is worthy of receiving Zakat). However, it will not be permitted for that agent to use Zakat for his personal benefit.
Imam al-Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him) states:
“It is permissible for an agent to give Zakat wealth to his poor son and poor wife but not use it himself, unless if the Zakat-payer asked him to use the Zakat wealth in any manner he wishes.” (See: Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar, 2/269)
The meaning of this is that normally an agent cannot use Zakat wealth for his own personal benefit. However, if the one giving Zakat and appointing him an agent said to him: “Distribute this Zakat wealth in any manner you wish” or “Give it to whomever you desire” then in such a case, it will be permitted for that agent to use the Zakat wealth for his personal needs.
Keeping the above three points in mind; we come to your specific question.
You state that you have given your Zakat to your father in-law in order for it to be distributed upon worthy recipients. Thus, in light of point number one, if you had full trust and confidence that he would use and distribute the Zakat in a proper manner, then there is nothing to worry about.
However, if this is not the case, and you fear that due to him being poor and in debt he may use the Zakat himself, then there are two scenarios here.
We learnt in point number two that one may give Zakat to one’s father in-law; hence if he used it for his personal benefit, your Zakat would have been fulfilled. However, the problem here is that which was outlined in point number three, in that an agent cannot use Zakat for his personal benefit unless the Zakat-payer gives him permission to distribute the Zakat in any manner he wishes and desires.
Thus, in conclusion, if you had full trust and confidence that your father in-law would distribute Zakat in a proper manner, or you thought that he may use it himself, as he is a worthy recipient, and you also said to him to use the Zakat wealth in any manner he wished, then in all of these cases, your Zakat is valid and fulfilled.
However, if you have doubt in his distribution, and you did not give him permission to distribute your Zakat in any manner he wished and desired, then you should re-pay your Zakat.
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK