Zakah is mentioned generally in the Qur’an without pointing out its amount, whereas the recipients of zakah are specified. This is because if the recipients of zakah are clearly specified, it cannot be left to personal opinions based on desires and it preserves the rights of the lawful recipients. It also draws attention to the fact that collecting zakah is not the main purpose. Indeed, the main purpose is giving it to those who deserve it. This surely preserves rights, repels personal desires, and avoids giving zakah to ineligible people.
The eminent Muslim scholar, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, states the following: Zakah is generally and briefly mentioned in the Qur’an, like Prayer or even more briefly. The Qur’an does not point out the type or the amount of property on which zakah is due, nor does it mention the conditions of zakah, such as the elapse of a full lunar year while the property is still in its owner’s possession, and the exemption of the amount of money less than what is due. However, the Sunnah, in statements and practices, pointed out all the rulings related to zakah in detail, just like prayer. This information was transmitted by trustworthy narrators, one generation after another, on the authority of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Therefore, there must be a firm belief in the Sunnah as the second legislative source after the Qur’an regarding Islam and its teachings and rulings. There must be belief in the fact that the Sunnah clarifies the meanings of the Qur’an and provides details of what is briefly stated therein, as Almighty Allah says: (And We have revealed unto thee the Remembrance that thou mayst explain to mankind that which hath been revealed for them, and that haply they may reflect.) (An-Nahl 16: 44)
Abu Dawud reported that a man said to the honorable Companion `Imran ibn Husayn: “O Abu Najid! You report hadiths to us that have no basis in the Qur’an!” Upon that, `Imran was angry and said to the man: “Do you find in the Qur’an the amount of zakah due on forty dirhams, or that due on such and such a number of ewes, or such and such a number of camels?” The man replied: “No!” `Imran said: “So, how did you learn that? You learned that from us, and we learned it from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).”
The Qur’an Points Out the Due Recipients of Zakah:
Though zakah was generally and briefly mentioned in the Qur’an as we know, the Qur’an points out the due recipients and the legal channels of zakah. This guarantees that zakah is not left to be distributed by a ruler or a judge according to his i
mperfect judgment, personal desires, partiality, or tribalism. This also wards off the ambitions of greedy people who never hesitate to unlawfully take what is not theirs at the expense of the needy. It happened in the lifetime of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) that some greedy people expected the Prophet to give them a share of the alms. However, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ignored them, so they defamed the honorable Prophet. Upon that, Almighty Allah revealed: (And of them is he who defameth thee in the matter of the alms. If they are given thereof they are content, and if they are not given thereof, behold! they are enraged. (How much more seemly) had they been content with that which Allah and His Messenger had given them and had said: Allah sufficeth us. Allah will give us of His bounty, and (also) His Messenger. Unto Allah we are suppliants. The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to free the captives and the debtors, and for the cause of Allah, and (for) the wayfarers; a duty imposed by Allah. Allah is Knower, Wise.) (At-Tawbah 9: 58-60)
With the revelation of these verses, the ambitions of those who sought wealth were warded off and the due recipients of zakah were pointed out.
Abu Dawud reported that Ziyad ibn Al-Harith As-Sadda’ie said: “I came to Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) and gave him my pledge of allegiance. Then a man came to him and asked: ‘Give me from charity!’ The Prophet replied: ‘Allah did not accept the judgment of a prophet or anyone else on charity, so He Himself gave His Judgment on it and divided it (its recipients) into eight types; if you are one of these types, I will give you your right’.” (The chain of transmitters of this hadith includes Abdur-Rahman ibn Ziyad ibn An`am Al-Afriqi whose trustworthiness is questionable.)
The Reason Why the Qur’an Points out the Recipients of Zakah:
Economists and sociologists confirm that the point of zakah is not just collecting money and property, as authorities can easily get taxes directly and indirectly from citizens, and they may be just and equitable while doing so. However, the point is where such money will be spent after it has been collected. Such cases always involve greed, injustice and selfishness, which lead to devouring the rights of the needy. Thus, no wonder the Qur’an points out the rightful recipients of zakah and that it elaborated on it and did not leave it to be clarified by the Sunnah like the other issues related to zakah.
Before Islam, financial history witnessed various types of taxes that were gathered haphazardly from various social categories, then kept in the treasuries of emperors and kings to lavishly spend them on themselves, their relatives, their retinues, and their companions. This wealth was used for their own welfare, pomposity, and power. Such tyrants never cared for their subjects, especially the working classes, and the needy among them. But when Islam came to light, it paid great attention to the indigents and specified the greatest share of zakah should be for them as well as all the state resources in general. Zakah is a wise social attitude that was unprecedented in the world of tax, finance, and social services that were not known until centuries later.