Is it Allowed to Spend Zakat Funds on Medical Activities to Relieve the Difficulties of the Poor as Well as Others?
We get frequent requests from governmental and non-governmental organizations to contribute to their humanitarian and medical activities; for example, buying a device for diagnosing diabetes, holding a conference on the conditions of the handicapped, or helping to cover the costs of the nursing staff of hospitals set up by philanthropists.
Is it allowed to spend zakat funds on such activities, bearing in mind that they are spent to relieve the difficulties of the poor as well as others?
There is no objection to doing so if it is possible to transfer the ownership of the medical equipment to the poor so that, if it is sold, the sale price is disbursed to the poor.
However, if it is just a contribution and it is not possible to transfer the ownership of the medical equipment to the poor, this contribution is not allowed to be paid from the zakat. The Committee encourages any institutions to contribute to humanitarian and medical activities by means of voluntary donations so that it actively contributes to corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities.
As for zakat, it is obligatory to strictly adhere, in disbursing it, to the eight rightful beneficiaries mentioned in the Quran.
In other cases, if there is a specific poor person who needs either medicine or food or similar needs, and it is known that if zakat is given to him in the form of cash it will clearly be detrimental, or if his interests dictate that that poor person should not be given cash, then in this case some of the scholars regard it as permissible to give him zakat in the form of specific items instead of cash. For example, if the poor ill person is insane or feebleminded and does not handle money well, or he is foolish and will waste money, or he is an evildoer who will spend the money on that which is of no benefit to his illness, then he and his dependents will remain in need.
Shaykh al-Islam had said:
“Giving items of equivalent value when there is no need and no obvious interest to be served is not allowed… Because if it were made permissible to give items of equivalent value, then the giver may give bad quality items or the evaluation may not be correct. Zakaah is intended to help the poor, and the zakaah is connected to the amount of wealth one owns and its type. However, with regard to giving items of equivalent value when there is a need for that or an interest to be served thereby, or to achieve fairness, there is nothing wrong with that.” (End quote from Majmoo‘ al-Fataawa [25/82])
Based on the issued fatwa of Kuwait Finance House (source: https://ifikr.isra.my/fatwa/final_level2/SC0406/4316) and IslamQ&A (source: https://islamqa.info/en/answers/138684/is-it-permissible-to-give-items-as-zakaah-instead-of-cash)