Praise be to Allah.
The basic principle is that zakaah must given in the form of the wealth on which zakaah is being paid, so zakaah on cash must be given in cash, and zakaah on an’aam animals must be given in animals, and zakaah on crops must be given in crops, except zakaah on trade goods which may be given from the value of the goods or from the trade goods themselves. This has been explained in the answer to question no. 22449.
The scholars differed as to whether it is permissible to pay zakaah in a form of wealth other than that on which zakaah is being paid, which is known to the scholars as paying the value of zakaah. The correct view is that it is not permissible to pay the value of zakaah (in another form of wealth).
But, because there is such a strong difference of scholarly opinion concerning this issue, we hope that there is no sin on you for giving the value of zakaah in past years, but you have to give it in the same form as the wealth on which zakaah is being paid in future years.
If the poor person is foolish and does not handle money well, then some scholars have stated that it is permissible to give him zakaah in the form of specific goods rather than cash, based on what is in the best interests of the poor person and so as to meet his needs.
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in Majmoo’ al-Fataawa (25/82): As for paying the value of zakaah, expiation and so on, the well known view of Maalik and al-Shaafa’i is that it is not permissible, but according to Abu Haneefah it is permissible. Ahmad (may Allaah have mercy on him) disallowed giving the value in some cases and permitted it in others. The most correct view concerning this is that paying the value when there is no need to do so and when no interests are served thereby is not allowed. …
As for paying the value when there is a need to do so, or when there is an interest to be served or it is just to do so, there is nothing wrong with that, such as if a man sells the fruits of his garden or his crops for cash, then pays one tenth of the cash, that will be acceptable and he does not have to go to the trouble of buying fruits or wheat if he has given the poor the equivalent value. Ahmad stated that this is permissible. Or if those who are entitled to zakaah ask him to give them the equivalent value because that is more useful to them, then he may give it to them. End quote.
Shaykh Ibn Baaz (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: It is also permissible to give instead of cash goods such as fabric, food and so on, if it seems that this will serve the interests of those who are entitled to zakaah, based on the equivalent value, such as if the poor person is insane or lacking in reason or foolish or immature, and there is the fear that he would squander the money and it is better to give him food or clothing of equivalent value rather than zakaah in the form of cash. All of this is mentioned in the more correct scholarly opinion. End quote from Majmoo’ Fataawa wa Maqaalaat al-Shaykh Ibn Baaz (14/253).
He was also asked about buying food and other items such as blankets and clothes, and giving them to the poor, especially in cases where there is not enough food available at affordable prices in that country.
He replied: There is no reason why that should not be done, after ascertaining that they will be given to Muslims. End quote from Majmoo’ Fataawa wa Maqaalaat al-Shaykh Ibn Baaz (14/246).
The Standing Committee for Issuing Fatwas was asked: We would like to find out from you about giving zakaah money to buy various kinds of food and buying food and other items such as blankets and clothes, and giving them to the poor, such as in Sudan and Africa and the Afghan mujaahideen, especially in cases where there is not enough food available at affordable prices in that country, or it may not be available at all, and even when it is available, the price is many times greater than the cost of buying the food elsewhere and sending it to them. We hope that you can advise us, may Allaah reward you with good.
They replied: If the matter is as described, then there is nothing wrong with that, based on the interests of those who are entitled to it. End quote. From Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah (9/433).
We ask Allaah to help and guide us and you in word and in deed.
And Allaah knows best.