Paying Zakah To Syeds

Question

I would like to know the status of some beliefs about the Syeds especially in India and Pakistan. It is believed that they belong to the family of the Prophet Muḥammad (sws). Therefore Fire will not be permitted to touch them and they are not allowed to take charity. They normally don't marry their daughter into a non-Syed family. There are other such concepts which I am not sure of. I fail to understand why a needy Syed should not be helped through zakah?


Answer

The heads of expenditure permitted for zakah have been clearly explained by the Qur'an. The Almighty says:

Among these hypocrites are people who level allegations against you concerning the distribution of alms. If they are given according to their wishes, they are pleased. If they are given nothing, they grow resentful. It would have been better if they were satisfied with what God and His Prophet have given them, and said: 'God is sufficient for us. He will provide for us from His own abundance and so will his Messenger. To God we will submit.' Alms shall be only for the poor and the destitute; for those that are engaged in the management of alms and those whose hearts are to be won in favour of Faith; for the freeing of slaves and debtors: for the advancement of God's cause; and for the traveler. That is a duty enjoined by God. God is all-knowing and wise. (9:58-60)

The underlined portion of the translation of the related verses of the Qur'an enumerates the heads of expenditure permitted for zakah. It does not exclude the deserving from among the family of the Prophet (sws). Therefore, we can say that the zakah can be given to the poor regardless of their race, descent or religious affiliations. The descendents of Hazrat Ali (rta), whose being part of the family of the Prophet is also debatable, are commonly cannot be excluded from the list as well.

The Prophet Muhammad (sws) however did not take the alms himself nor did he allow members of his clan, Banu Hashim, to benefit from the zakah funds. Many reliable sayings ascribed to the Prophet (sws) testify to this assertion.

We believe taking alms was not forbidden for the Prophet (sws) or his relatives as clear from the Qur'anic teachings. Since he and his family were entitled to khums (one fifth of the war booty) they did not need benefiting from the zakah funds. He might also have considered another problem which could arise if he did not check this practice. We know that most people revere the families of the Prophets and saints. It is quite natural that they attach to these personalities extraordinary importance. Had the Prophet by setting this example not checked this natural tendency people would try to hand over their alms to the relations of the Prophet (sws) and would ignore the poor and other worthy causes. However, the directive of Kkums was not granted to Muhammad (sws) in his individual capacity but as a Messenger of God. After his passing away the institution was abolished. In absence of any such arrangement for the people who are believed to be the part of the Prophet's family, it would only be appropriate to let them benefit from the institution of zakah.

Keeping the above in perspective we can say that zakah is not forbidden for the person or the family of the Prophet (sws) and it would be in complete accordance with the Qur'an that we pay the zakah to the Syeds as well. There is also no basis for the prohibition of marriage of a Syed woman into a non-Syed family.

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