Is it permitted to give Zakat to one’s parents-in-law?
As explained in previous answers that the legal (shar’i) definition of Zakat given by classical jurists (fuqaha), in light of the Qur’anic and Sunna texts, is as follows:
‘Transferring ownership (tamlik) of a part of one’s wealth as specified by the Lawgiver to be given to a poor Muslim except one who is from the Banu Hashim… cutting off totally any material benefit returning to the giver, for the sake of Allah Most high.’ (See: Radd al-Muhtar ala ‘l-Durr al-Mukhtar sharh Tanwir al-Absar 2/257-258)
The meaning of the highlighted part of this definition is that the Zakat-payer cannot benefit materially in any way from giving the Zakat. It has to be solely for the sake of Allah Most High, and as such, if any (direct material) benefit is gained by the Zakat-payer, such as paying an employee’s salary with Zakat money, then the Zakat payment would be considered invalid.
For this very reason, the Jurists state that two relationships prevent the exchange of Zakat: birth and marriage. As Such, one cannot give Zakat to one’s parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on; and one’s children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on. Likewise, it is impermissible to give Zakat to one’s spouse, be it one’s wife or husband. (Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar 2/346, Al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya 1/188-189, al-Kasani, Bada’i al-Sana’i 2/47-48 & Ibn Qudama, al-Mughni 2/270)
In giving Zakat to these individuals, one would be benefitting materially from one’s own Zakat which, as explained, is not permitted. Normally benefits and wealth between parents and children, and between spouses is considered to be shared, and as such, giving Zakat to the above mentioned individuals will mean benefiting from one’s own Zakat. (Bada’i al-Sana’i 2/47)
However, besides the above two relationships i.e. one’s spouse, parents and offspring, there is nothing wrong (rather superior in some cases) with giving Zakat to other family members and close relatives, provided they are poor and worthy recipients. Imam Abu Bakr al-Kasani (Allah have mercy on him) states in his Bada’i al-Sana’i:
‘It is permitted to give Zakat to anyone from among one’s relatives besides one’s parents and offspring, such as one’s brothers, sisters and others. This is because shared benefit of mutual wealth is cut off between them.’ (Bada’i al-Sana’i 2/50)
Imam Ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) states: ‘It is permitted to give Zakat to one’s father’s wife [i.e. stepmother], daughter-in-law, and son-in-law…’ (Radd al-Muhtar 2/346)
As such, one may give Zakat to one’s brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, cousin, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, and so on, because the sharing of benefits and wealth between them normally does not take place. In fact, in the Hanafi School, it is superior, in normal situations, to give Zakat to one’s immediate family and relatives if they are needy, since one will be combing two commendable acts: Giving Zakat and maintaining family relationship (silat al-rahim). Indeed, if there are others with more obvious and urgent needs, they should be given preference.
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK