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Zakat Money for Media Use

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Q: A television channel has been promoting the idea of donating Zakat money to the channel. They have made a television commercial also where in the characters strongly try to convince that if zakat money is given to the channel, it will give them double reward of not only discharging their duty of Zakat from God, but also through this, Islam will spread through the channel. As far as my knowledge goes, the Quran has clearly listed the people who deserve zakat. It does not include media, newspaper or television channel. Moreover the channel gets loads of money from many sources and those in charge are well-fed individuals. Can you clarify this in the light of the Quran and Ijtehad?
Khadija M, Bangalore

Islamic Voice replies:
Dear Sister
Zakat is obligatory on the accumulated wealth of a Muslim individual and has to be taken out of one’s wealth once in a year. The 60th verse of surah Taubah (chapter 9) of the Quran lays down the categories of people who can receive it. The verse reads like this: “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.” Of these eight categories, there are two categories which broadly hint that it could be spent for the purpose of reconciling the hearts of people (for Islam) and for the cause of Allah. The very mention of these categories hint that the zakat money could be spent for the promotion of the message of Islam or the dawah activity. If any media is really focused on promoting the cause of Islam and propagation of the message of the Quran, it could receive donations out of the zakat money. It would appear from the verse that these categories hint at individuals rather than organizations. But today society is more organized and it is institutions that look after the administration and management of the society. For instance, education, health, social welfare, are all represented by institutions such as schools, colleges, universities, libraries, hospitals, diagnostic labs and institution rehabilitating the disabled, the elderly and the mentally retarded individuals. It is therefore quite appropriate that we donate zakat amounts to madrassas, schools, orphanages, deaf and dumb schools, etc. Similarly, earlier, the dawah was carried out by individuals. Today all such individuals work under the umbrella of dawah organizations. Even if an individual works as an electrician or driver in such organisations, his efforts contribute to the promotion of the cause of Islam as a whole. So such organization could deserve to be donated zakat.
However, we do not think that general media organization such as newspapers, TV channels could be brought into this category as they are purveyors of general information and news rather than purely Islamic. Even if it is being run by purely Islamic-minded individuals, it is difficult to differentiate between content that is Islamic or secular. It would be better if they are run commercially. If you are certain that the TV channel that you are talking about promotes the cause of Islam and is in need of support, you will not be wrong if you decide to donate your zakat money to it. While assessing its needs, you should also take into account all its sources of funding and should have knowledge if it would make appropriate use of funds you desire to donate.