The fuqaha’ are unanimously agreed that jihad in Allah’s cause (fi sabeel-Allah) using force and weapons is one of the things on which zakaah funds may be spent, as mentioned in Soorat at-Tawbah, where Allah, may He be exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning):
“As-Sadaqat (here it means Zakat) are only for the Fuqara (poor), and Al-Masakin (the poor) and those employed to collect (the funds); and for to attract the hearts of those who have been inclined (towards Islam); and to free the captives; and for those in debt; and for Allah’s Cause [fi sabeel-Allah] (i.e. for Mujahidoon - those fighting in the holy wars), and for the wayfarer (a traveller who is cut off from everything); a duty imposed by Allah. And Allah is All-Knower, All-Wise.”
But they differed as to whether jihad other than with the sword is included in the general meaning of the words of Allah “and for Allah’s Cause”, based on the difference of opinion as to whether the phrase should be understood according to its broader linguistic meaning or the specific shar‘i understanding of the concept of “Allah’s cause”.
There are three different interpretations, starting with one that is very specific and gradually broadening the meaning:
The first view is that the meaning of “Allah’s cause” is so specific that it does not include anything other than jihad by the sword and spear. This is the view of the majority of Hanafi, Maaliki and Shaafa‘i fuqaha’, and of Ibn Qudaamah among the Hanbalis. It is also regarded as more correct by the Council of Senior Scholars in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. See al-Buhooth al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1/73.
Ibn Qudaamah (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
This is the view of Maalik, Abu Haneefah, ath-Thawri, ash-Shaafa‘i, Abu Thawr, and Ibn al-Mundhir, and this is more correct, because the phrase “Allah’s cause” in general terms only refers to jihad. Every time “Allah’s cause” is mentioned in the Qur’an, what is meant by it is jihad, except in a few cases. So what is mentioned in this verse should be understood in accordance with that, because that is what the apparent meaning indicates.
End quote from al-Mughni, 6/484. See also al-Majmoo‘, 6/198-199
It may also include some specific good deeds, because of the general meaning of spending “in Allah’s cause”.
Such as adding only Hajj and ‘Umrah (to the meaning of “Allah’s cause”), as is the view of the Hanbalis, and Muhammad ibn al-Hasan among the Hanafis, as it says in Tabyeen al-Haqaa’iq, 1/298; Radd al-Muhtaar, 2/343
Al-Bahooti (may Allah have mercy on him) says:
Hajj comes under the heading of “Allah’s cause”, on the basis of textual evidence. This was narrated from Ibn ‘Abbaas and Ibn ‘Umar. Abu Dawood narrated that a man donated a she-camel for the sake of Allah, and his wife wanted to do Hajj, so the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “Ride it, for Hajj is for the cause of Allah.” So it may be understood that a poor person may be given from the zakaah funds that which will enable him to perform the obligatory Hajj or ‘Umrah, or help him to do so.
End quote from Kashshaaf al-Qinaa‘, 2/283
It may also include da‘wah or calling people to Allah (verbal jihad), as was stated by the Islamic Fiqh Council of the Muslim World League.
See the answer to question no. 121551
Or it may include giving zakaah to seekers of knowledge, as was narrated by some of the Hanafis. It says in Radd al-Muhtaar (2/343):
It was said (that zakaah may be given) to seekers of knowledge, as was stated by the Zaheeris and Murgheenaanis. This was regarded as unlikely by as-Sarooji because at the time when the verse was revealed, there were no people who were called seekers of knowledge. It says in ash-Sharbilaaliyyah:
Ruling it out is not appropriate, because seeking knowledge means nothing more than trying to understand the rulings of Islam, and the one who is seeking these rulings is like one who stayed close to the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) in order to learn the rulings from him, like Ahl as-Suffah. Hence including the seeker of knowledge among those who may be given zakaah is appropriate, especially since it says in al-Badaa’i‘: The phrase “in Allah’s cause” includes everything by means of which a person seeks to draw closer to Allah. That includes anyone who strives to obey Allah, and to do all kinds of righteous deeds, if the person is in need. End quote
That which he quoted from al-Kaasaani’s al-Badaa’i‘ (2/45) may be understood as referring to the linguistic meaning, not that Imam al-Kaasaani stated that. This is exactly like what al-‘Ayni said in al-Binaayah Sharh al-Hidaayah (3/454): Because “Allah’s cause” is a phrase that refers to all means by which a person seeks to draw closer to Allah, but when used in general terms it refers to jihad.
The concept of “Allah’s cause” includes all good deeds in general, and all means by which a person seeks to draw closer to Allah, and all acts of obedience. This view was narrated from some of the fuqaha’ and was attributed, as stated above, to al-Kaasaani al-Hanafi in Badaa’i‘ as-Sanaa’i‘. This view was favoured by many contemporary scholars such as Shaykh Muhammad Rasheed Rida in Tafseer al-Manaar (10/504); Shaykh Mahmoud Shaltoot in al-Islam ‘Aqeedah wa Sharee‘ah (p. 124); and others.
Imam ar-Raazi (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
It should be noted that the apparent meaning of the wording in the phrase “and for Allah’s Cause” should not be limited only to military campaigns. al-Qaffaal narrated in his Tafseer that some of the fuqaha’ regarded it as permissible to give zakaah to all kinds of good or charitable causes, such as shrouding the dead, building fortresses, and maintaining and renovating mosques, because the words “and for Allah’s Cause” are general in meaning and include all things.
End quote from Mafaateeh al-Ghayb, 16/87
The issue is very deep and requires detailed discussion; many contemporary studies have been devoted to it, such as the book Masraf “wa fee sabeel-Allah” bayna al-‘Umoom wa’l-Khusoos by Dr. Sa‘ood al-Funaysaan; and a paper entitled Mashmoolaat Masraf “fi sabeel-Allah” bi Nazrah Mu‘aasirah hasba al-I‘tibaaraat al-Mukhtalifah by Dr. ‘Umar Sulaymaan al-Ashqar (may Allah have mercy on him), which was published in the book Abhaath Fiqhiyyah fi Qadaayaa az-Zakaah al-Mu‘aasirah, approx. 100 pages long (2/767-856); Nawaazil az-Zakaah by Dr. al-Ghufayli (431-443). On our website, in fatwa no. 121551, we have favoured the moderate view, which includes jihad in the form of da‘wah within the broad concept of jihad that is referred to in the verse in the phrase “and for Allah’s Cause”. There we quoted the evidence for this choice; please refer to the fatwa for further details.
Dr. ‘Umar al-Ashqar (may Allah have mercy on him) says:
This study, which we carried out on all the Qur’anic texts in which the phrase “and for Allah’s Cause” appears and on a number of saheeh hadeeths of the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him), prove the validity of the conclusions reached by the majority of scholars who limited spending “for Allah’s cause” in the verse on zakaah to jihad, because the phrase for Allah’s cause”, when mentioned in general terms in the Qur’an and Sunnah, refers to jihad,
But it should be noted that the definition of jihad is not limited only to fighting; rather it includes all areas of conflict between the Muslims and the disbelievers. Supporting Islam is not limited only to combating the disbelievers and mushrikeen and their plots; rather it goes beyond that and includes combating the supporters of falsehood in Muslim lands if this falsehood targets Islam itself, such as if those who support falsehood want to change Islamic sharee‘ah or abolish the Islamic caliphate in the Muslim lands, or permit things which are haraam or allow evil things.
We can mention many activities on which we may spend zakaah, because they come under the heading of “and for Allah’s Cause”… – Among which he [the author] mentioned setting up broadcast stations and printing books and other publications intended for the enemies of Islam, to tell them about Islam and call them to it, and to alert them to the misguidance that they are following.
End quote from Abhaath Fiqhiyyah fi Qadaayaa az-Zakaah al-Mu‘aasirah, 2/849-856
Dr al-Ghufayli (may Allah guide him) says:
The aims that can be achieved by engaging in jihad and by supporting Islam through da‘wah are many and varied, such as setting up Islamic satellite channels that call people to Allah, and supporting them in fulfilling the aim for which they were established. This is one of the greatest kinds of jihad by means of media, and explaining Islam to people, because it has a great impact due to its power to attract and influence people, which is inherent in such media. Invasions of other nations by means of satellite campaigns is more effective than military campaigns, because satellite TV focuses on influencing minds, unlike military campaigns, which only capture tangible things whilst minds and hearts may be difficult to change, even if there is military success.
End quote from Nawaazil az-Zakaah, p. 446
Dr ‘Abd ar-Rahmaan al-Barraak (may Allah guide him) says:
Purely Islamic satellite channels that focus primarily on spreading Islam, explaining its fundamentals and and combatting bid‘ah (innovation) are like community da‘wah centres, and may be more effective. The one who follows that fatwa with regard to giving zakaah to da‘wah centres may follow it with regard to Islamic TV channels. End quote.
Please see the following link (in Arabic)
Based on that, we do not think there is anything wrong with giving zakaah for starting up an Islamic satellite channel or spending on it so that it can spread its influence among the people, teaching them the proper understanding of Islam and giving them a clear vision, on condition that the giver of zakaah pays attention to some important matters, so that he will not waste his wealth on something that is not of great benefit. These matters are as follows:
He should make sure that the channel’s board of directors are people who are skilled and have a good understanding of Islam; they should also be competent in managing the channel, be able to handle competitors, to establish a long-term project, and to supersede the many other channels.
He should make sure that there is a committee of trustworthy Islamic scholars who are keen to offer sincere advice to the channel and work to evaluate its programming so as to achieve the hoped-for aims without any over exaggeration or carelessness. This committee should include specialists in Islamic knowledge as well as specialists in other important fields, especially education, media and social issues.
He should make sure that there is strict financial transparency in the organisation, so as to guarantee that the money will be spent appropriately and that he will not fall victim to the trickery of some bandits who take advantage of people’s sympathy towards every activity that supports Islam, and take it as a means to get rich and accumulate wealth.
Finally, the one who is in charge of disbursing the zakaah funds must ensure that he tells the giver of how his money is being spent, and keep him informed about all other areas in which there is a difference of scholarly opinion as to whether zakaah money may be spent in those areas, so that he can find out from the giver whether or not he agrees to his zakaah being spent on these areas that are subject to a difference of opinion among the fuqaha’. In this manner we will be able to avoid many contemporary problems and dispel any doubts or accusations that may be stirred up concerning this matter (i.e., how the money is spent).
And Allah knows best.