Is the masjid from those that are eligible for zakaat? And does the masjid fall under the category of “في سبيل الله ( For the sake of Allah)”?
The answer is no. The masjid is not from those mentioned that are eligible for zakaat. And it does not fall under the category of “في سبيل الله” (For the sake of Allah), the intended meaning here is Jihad and those fighting in battles. And jihad is of two types: Jihad of the sword and Jihad of the tongue and the pen. And also what enters under “For the sake of Allah” is Hajj, if one intends to make Hajj, this is “for the sake of Allah”. From the text of the hadith of Ibn Abbas, and also this is the position of Ahmad and Ishaaq and a group of the scholars. As for the masjid, it does not enter into the statement “For the sake of Allah”. This phrase does not enter into every matter in the religion. So everything one sees as “For the sake of Allah” does not enter under this category to receive zakaat, No. This is specifically for jihad and Hajj. And also from the fataawa of Ahlul Ilm, like the Committee of the Permanent Scholars, Al-‘Allaamah Uthaimeen and a lot of the scholars have mentioned this point in their legal verdicts.
Then (if we look at the situation of) the masjid there are rich people and poor people in it, it is not specifically for the poor. And the zakaat is specified for only the poor, “take from their wealthy and give to their poor”. And it is not for the rich and wealthy to receive zakaat except with a legislated proof. Like the one fighting jihad, even though he may be wealthy, he can be given zakaat, or the one that got stranded in his travels and he can’t find any wealth to help him continue in his travels, even if he is wealthy in his country, he can be given zakaat, or also the one that is burdened with the reconciliation between two group, and he is wealthy, he can be given zakaat. Zakaat is not to be distributed anyway one may see fit. It is not for the affairs of the masjid, whether building the masjid or for the electric bill or for the water bill or anything that has to do with the affairs of the masjid. The distribution of zakaat does not enter into any of these matters.
However, the Imaam of the masjid, or the one teaching in the masjid, if he can not find a sufficient source of income to provide for his daily needs, then he can be given zakaat. Is this to say he is only given because he is the Imaam of the masjid? No, he is also from the poor Muslims and some of the people of knowledge say he is preforming jihad of the tongue by him teaching so he is given from this angle. Because if a scholar doesn’t sit with the people but goes out in search of work, the people will be deprived of his knowledge and his understanding in the religion. And perhaps the knowledge he has with him will be lost if he does not teach it to people. So this is a type from the types of Jihad. And this is why some of the people of knowledge say that zakaat can be distributed to these two categories of jihad, Jihad of the sword and Jihad of the tongue and pen, which is dawah to Allah the Mighty and Majestic. As for the issue of the masjid, then it is not from the categories of those that receive zakaat. Likewise the schools that teach the children, they are also not from those eligible for zakaat. Because the intended purpose is to give it to one that can possess and own. As for the masjid then it can not possess or own (that which is being given).
But lets say, there are a number of people in this one town, and they are all poor, and they want to build a masjid. The one that has zakaat to give can say, I can’t help you build a masjid, but I do have zakaat that you all qualify for, how many poor people do you have in this town, I will give each of you 50,000 from this zakaat. Now after that, if you all wish you can combine your money and build a masjid or a company or whatever you all decide. You all are from the poor and this zakaat is to be given to you. They now get together and decide to build a small masjid. So now they themselves possess the money, correct? So after that they can do with it as they please. If they want a masjid or a school, or a hospital or if they want to buy a car or a house. What’s important is that they own the money and they can do with it as they please. So from this angle, them building a masjid with this money they received from zakaat is permissibile. But what has to be understood first is that they owned and possessed the money first. So after they took authority of this money they are free to do with it as they please. But as for taking zakaat out for the purpose of building a masjid then this is not permissibile.
And Allah knows best.
Answered by: Shaikh Abu Abdillah Muhammad Ba Jamaal (May Allah preserve him)
Translated by: Abu Yusuf Bilal ibn Howard Robinson