Is a Woman Obliged to Support Her Family, and Can It Count as Zakat?

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick


I almost died in a terrible accident and now suffer chronic pain. I received a chunky settlement. I am a woman. Ever since I did, all my family members became my responsibility: my dad and brothers borrowed chunks of money from me.

And I am now responsible financially for my parents and aunt: they don’t make enough to live independently. I have three brothers. One of them doesn’t even think about anything other than his family (wife and kids) financially speaking, even though he has a huge house and is well off, and two younger brothers are starting their life.

As the only daughter, is it my responsibility to support the entire family? Can any be considered zakat?


In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate.

May Allah alleviate our difficulties and guide us to what pleases Him. Amin.

May Allah reward you for supporting your family, a form of charity (sadaqa) in Islam. Giving one’s zakat to deserving relatives other than that one is obliged to support is recommended. This means you need to know whom you are obliged to support if you want to count your support as your Zakat. [Nawawi, Majmu‘]

Moreover, making the intention of zakat is necessary for the validity of giving it. So if you intended your support as something other than Zakat in the past at the time of giving it, that did not count as your Zakat. [ibid.]

Who Must One Support?

One must support the persons listed below, whether one is male or female, when one has money above one’s own living expenses and (if male) those of one’s wife (enough for a day and night, oneself taking priority over others, followed by one’s wife, who takes precedence over other family members):

  1. One’s father, father’s father, and on up;
  2. One’s mother, grandmothers (from either parent’s side), and on up (making no difference what their religion is since the religion of the family members is of no consequence in any of these rulings); and
  3. One’s children, male and female, their children, and down.

Money above one’s own living expenses and those of one’s wife means one is obliged to sell, if necessary, to fulfill the obligation to support the persons mentioned above, whatever must be sold when one has to pay debts, including real estate and other property. [Keller, Reliance of the Traveler]

What are the Conditions to Support?

Supporting the persons mentioned above is only obligatory when:

(a) there is poverty (a restriction applicable to both support of one’s ancestors and one’s descendants, meaning that it is necessary for it to be obligatory to support one’s ancestor that the ancestor be poor since if he has enough money, one need not support him);

(b) an incapacity to earn a living due to chronic illness, being a child, or mental illness.

This condition only applies to the support of one’s offspring, not one’s ancestors. If an impoverished ancestor such as one’s father could earn a living from a job suitable to him, it would nevertheless be obligatory for one to support him. He would not be called upon to gain a livelihood, because of the extreme respect of him, as opposed to one’s descendant, whom one need not support if the descendant can earn his own living, but who instead is called upon to do so himself.

The upshot is that the support of whoever has enough money for their own support is not obligatory upon another family member, whether the former is mentally ill or sane, a child or adult, chronically sick or well because he does not deserve charity in such a condition.

A descendant able to earn an adequate living does not deserve support from his ancestors. [ibid.]

I pray that this benefits.
[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar Shaykh Taha Karaan.

Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.

He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.

Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and has completed his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.