Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Since philanthropy is a great advantage of Islam, I began to inquire about accepting money from non-Muslims or giving money to non-Muslims through zakat or charity, so I had to write academic research on this topic in order to study it, which led me to come to your presence to inquire about your generosity.
Is it permissible to give money to (non-profit) societies that are not Islamic, whether they are in Islamic or non-Islamic countries?
Is it permissible to accept financial donations from non-Islamic charitable societies and funds, or from non-Muslim individuals, for the purpose of constructing a charitable project, a Quranic center, or meeting the needs of Muslims?
Is it permissible to give zakat or charity to non-Muslims in different countries, and what are the criteria for doing so?
I hope you’re doing well, insha’Allah.
May Allah bless you, and bless your concerns. And may He grant you the like of what you prayed so beautifully for us–and accept your prayers and ours.
Donating to Non-Islamic Societies in Muslim Lands
The fuqaha’ have mentioned explicitly that giving charity–besides zakat–is recommended for good causes, worldly or religious–including non-Muslim worldly causes.
This is mentioned in the earliest works of Islamic scholarship. Imam Shafi‘i said:
”ولا بأس أن يتصدق على المشرك من النافلة ، وليس له في الفريضة من الصدقة حق , وقد حمد الله تعالى قوماً فقال ( ويطعمون الطعام ) الآية“ كتاب الأم/ج٢
The quotes on this are many.
Donating to Non-Islamic Societies in Non-Islamic Lands
Yes, if their primary mandate and activities are what would be considered permissible with respect to Muslims.
If some secondary details of their activities are not permissible, this is excused.
Accepting Donations from Non-Muslims
There is a range of opinions on this. In the Hanafi school, the wealth of non-Muslims is permitted to be accepted even if they acquired it through ways considered impermissible in the Shari‘a–as non-Muslims are not held to the worldly rulings of the Shari‘a. [Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar; Ibn al-Humam/Marghinani, Fath al-Qadir Sharh al-Hidaya, others]
However, the scholars apply the principle of, “Matters are by their consequences,” [Ibn Nujaym, al-Ashbah] to have caution about:
- the general wholesomeness of the source of the funds;
- whether there are strings attached to the giving–and whether it would compromise one’s values, principles, or choices, or lead to the impermissible or the harmful;
- whether this would negatively affect the aims, aspirations, or approach of the Muslim project.
Not all funding is equal.
Giving Zakat to Non-Muslims
There is a difference of opinion on this. In some schools, there are specific ways in which non-Muslims could be given zakat through the category “those whose hearts are to be reconciled” (al-mu‘allafati qulubuhum) mentioned in the Quran. [Quran, 9:61] This category is, however, considered abrogated in the Hanafi school. [Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar; Ibn al-Humam/Marghinani, Fath al-Qadir Sharh al-Hidaya]
And Allah is the giver of success and facilitation.
[Shaykh] Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Faraz Rabbani spent ten years studying with some of the leading scholars of recent times, first in Damascus and then in Amman, Jordan. His teachers include the foremost theologian of recent times in Damascus, the late Shaykh Adib al-Kallas (may Allah have mercy on him), and his student Shaykh Hassan al-Hindi, one of the leading Hanafi fuqaha of the present age. He returned to Canada in 2007, where he founded SeekersGuidance to meet the urgent need to spread Islamic knowledge–both online and on the ground–in a reliable, relevant, inspiring, and accessible manner. He is the author of “Absolute Essentials of Islam: Faith, Prayer, and the Path of Salvation According to the Hanafi School (White Thread Press, 2004).” Since 2011, the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center has named Shaykh Faraz one of the 500 most influential Muslims.