Zakah for Reconciling Hearts

May 31, 2024 | Articles


Zakah is an obligatory financial act of worship and one of the five pillars or foundations of Islam. The eight categories who are eligible recipients of zakat are restricted and defined by canonical religious texts. In this article, we will discuss the limitations and restrictions around distributing zakat to converts under the purview of the category of “reconciling hearts”.


Zakah is an obligatory financial act of worship and one of the five pillars or foundations of Islam. The Quran mentions the exclusive recipients of zakah[1] in the chapter named Repentance (At-Tawbah):

“Alms (i.e., Zakah) are only for the poor, the destitute, those employed to administer it, those whose hearts have been reconciled, those in bondage, those in debt, in Allah’s cause, for travellers. A stipulation from Allah, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.”[2]

Since zakah cannot be given to anyone outside of these categories, it is imperative that we understand what was intended by Allah by these categories, the limitations surrounding them, and the context they are applied. The first categories immediately mentioned are the poor and destitute, however, zakah is not restricted to these two[3].

Muslim scholars defined the understanding of these categories as they are not readily apparent from the verse. e.g., “those in bondage” refers to one specific category of slaves (i.e., the contract-slave) and “in Allah’s cause” is generally understood to mean a Muslim soldier cut off from his troop. The verse fragment “those whose hearts have been reconciled” also needs to be understood according to the situation at the time of revelation and how it can be applied to a modern context. The topic has been discussed in some detail by Mohammed Abdul Aziz et.al.[4] This article will attempt to summarise the various views and add some further discussions that have not been touched upon.

Category of Reconciling Hearts

Imam al-Baghawi [5] summarised the varying legal opinions regarding this latter category in his exegesis[6] of the verse:

“They are two categories: One category that are Muslims and another that are disbelievers[7].

The category that are Muslims is of two sub-categories:

The first subcategory is those who entered Islam, but whose intention was weak in doing so, the Prophet ﷺ would give them something in order to reconcile and appease just like he gave Uyaynah bin Badr, Al-Aqra’ bin Habis, and Al-Abbas bin Mirdas; or they converted[8] to Islam and their intention was strong but they were notables amongst their people, such as Adi bin Hatim and Al-Zibriqan bin Badr, thus he ﷺ would give them something in order to reconcile and appease their people and to entice others like them to Islam.

As for this subcategory, it is permitted for the Head of State to give them something from a fifth of the spoils and booty from the share of the Prophet ﷺ. The Prophet ﷺ would give them something from that but he would not give it to them from zakah.[9]

The second subcategory of those that were reconciled from the Muslims is that they would be a group of Muslims adjacent to a group of disbelievers in a remote area where the Muslim army would not be able to reach them without a huge amount of provisions, and they are not waging war –  either due to the weakness of their intention or the weakness of their state. – so it is permitted for the Head of State to give them from the portion of soldiers from the wealth of zakah[10]….

As for the disbelievers (the second category) from those who are to be reconciled, it is someone whom some evil is feared or whom Islam is hoped from. The Head of State would intend to give to someone to avert his evil or give to another to encourage them to accept Islam. The Prophet ﷺ used to give to them from a fifth of the spoils and booty just as he gave to Safwan bin Umayyah due to what he saw of his inclination towards Islam. As for today, Allah has certainly empowered Islam (to Him belongs all praise) and sufficed it from men having to be appeased to it, so a polytheist is not given anything out of appeasement in any situation, and many of the people of knowledge have said that the category of those reconciled and appeased has ceased and their share is omitted.

Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi [11] mentions:

“Those whose hearts have been reconciled are of two types: Disbelievers and Muslims, and each must be leaders, obeyed amongst their peoples and tribes.”[12]

As we can see, according to this view, paying zakah to converts to Islam would be invalid. The verse is mainly referring to those who have not yet converted to Islam. As for those leaders that had converted to Islam, they were not given wealth from zakah, rather it was from other sources (i.e., the prophetic share of spoils of war).

This is perhaps what led several jurists[13] to conclude that this category became inapplicable incredibly early on after the spread of Islam during the time of the companions of the Prophet ﷺ and their followers.

Nonetheless, the verse highlights the importance of funding projects involved in inviting others to Islam and disseminating the message of Islam.

Ala al-Din Abu Bakr al-Kasani  mentions:

“As for those whose hearts are reconciled; it was said that they were people from the chiefs of the Quraysh and leaders of the Arabs like Abu Sufyan bin Harb, Safwan bin Ummayah… The Prophet ﷺ used to give them zakah in order to console the hearts of the Muslims of them and to solidify them upon Islam and encourage their followers to follow them and to reconcile those who had not perfected their Islam. The majority of religious scholars said that their share is abrogated and they were not given anything after the time of the Prophet ﷺ and they are not to be given anything now, this is one of the views of Al-Shafi’i[15]… because Abu Bakr and Umar (may Allah be pleased with them) didn’t give those whose hearts are reconciled anything of the zakah and none of the other companions objected.”[16]

Modern Context

Examining this issue through the lens of today’s context where Islamic organisations collect zakah for dissemination (da’wah) projects, organisations, buildings, or merely to give to already-wealthy new converts to Islam or people considering Islam highlights that collecting and using zakah funds in this way is deeply problematic.

(In relation to the imams who hold the view that this category is politically based) Who claims to stand proxy for the Head of State and feign legitimacy to determine how zakah is distributed?

Which converts or disbelievers would be considered as leaders of their “tribes” to be apportioned a share?

What of the view that the category is abrogated or suspended?

Furthermore, there is another crucial issue; part of the precise definition of zakah is “the transferral of ownership [to a natural person] of a portion of wealth”[17] which would preclude giving zakah to an organisation or building projects directly due to the lack of personal ownership. Again, it would need a person in a position of authority to decide which individuals would receive the zakah funds.

Is there a need to use zakah funds?

Zakah is taken from several types of wealth: Livestock, crops and fruits, trade items, and gold & silver. Each category has its own specific percentage that is taken and distributed (primarily to the poor and needy). Most zakah in the modern world is taken from trade items (now fiat money) or gold and silver. The payment percentage of these two categories is only 2.5%; historically, the various categories of recipients of zakah would have received crops and livestock in addition to this which are at higher percentages.

There is enough wealth and generosity in the Muslim community and world to support various projects without having to utilise zakah. Those converts to Islam who are struggling financially or living in poverty would still be eligible to receive zakah funds based on their poverty status in Islam (not because of converting to Islam).

Summary and guidance:

  • Zakah is primarily for the poor, destitute, and those in dire financial need with no access to their wealth; the wealth of zakah (in whatever form it takes) should be given to them (and other eligible sources) directly so that the individual takes personal ownership of the wealth.
  • The classical legal texts clearly state that either this category of zakah is abrogated/suspended today; or that the Head of State alone can determine who receives zakah funds along with all of the other conditions of zakah, such as transferral of ownership etc. This makes it inapplicable in a modern context.
  • Projects involved in inviting others to Islam and disseminating the message of Islam should raise funds from other (non-zakat) avenues. Projects of this nature are generally overlooked and under-funded, so it is imperative that the Muslim community supports them financially from non-zakah funds and in non-monetary ways by volunteering or offering their expertise.

By Bilal Brown


[1] For the purpose of this article and clarity, the synonymous Arabic word “ṣadaqāt” will be translated as Zakah to denote the obligatory pillar of Islam.

[2] Quran, 9:60.

[3] Ibn Salah (1245 CE/643 AH) is reported to have said, “Those present today are four (of the eight): The poor, the destitute, the one in debt, and the traveller.” Tuhfah al-Muhtaj, Section regarding the division of zakah between the categories.

[4] https://scholarworks.iu.edu/iupjournals/index.php/muslimphilanthropy/article/view/3694/309

[5] The renowned Shafi’i jurist, hadith scholar, and Quranic commentator (died 1122 CE/516 AH).

[6] See Ma’alim al-Tanzil fi Tafsir al-Qur’an.

[7] There is a disagreement about giving Zakat revenues to those who are not Muslim based on this category. Imam al-Qurtubi (1273 CE/671 AH) states: “In summary, each recipient under this category was a believer, and there was no disbeliever among them.” [Al-Jami’ li Ahkam al-Quran].

[8] The word “convert” will be used in this article in line with standard English. Please see https://beginnings.org.uk/converts-reverts-or-new-muslims/ for more details.

[9] This is contrary to the view of other Shafi’i scholars. The Minhaj of Imam al-Nawawi (died 1277 CE/676 AH) states: “The reconciled are those who converted to Islam, but their intention is weak or the one who has (a position of) honour, and the Islam of others is expected by giving to him. The (official opinion of) School is that they are given zakah.”

Al-Khatib al-Shirbini (died 1570 CE/977 AH) comments on this stating, “If these two groups were not given zakah, there would be no purpose to the verse. The second opinion is that they are not given anything because Allah has empowered Islam and sufficed it from having to reconcile with wealth. The third view is that they are given a fifth of the spoils and booty…” Mughni al-Muhtaj, Chapter of Division of Zakah.

[10] This could and has been argued that is given from the category of “in Allah’s cause”.

[11] The erudite Syrian Hanbali jurist, (died 1223 CE/620 AH) author of al-Mughni, his magnum opus on Islamic law.

[12] Al-Mughni, Chapter of Zakah; Recipients of Zakah.

[13] This was the view of Abu Hanifah, Malik, and one of the views reported from Al-Shafi’i.

[14] The great Transoxianan Hanafi jurist, (died 1191 CE/587 AH).

[15] It is also a view of Imam Malik, however, some later Malikis were of the view that it still remains. See: Al-Mudawwanah, Bidayah al-Mujtahid, Al-Taj wal-Iklil, et.al.

[16] Bada’i al-Sana’i fi Tartib al-Shara’i, Chapter of Zakah; Section on that which returns to the one paid to.

[17] See Al-Durr al-Mukhtar, Chapter of Zakah.

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