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Subject : Ruling on Paying off a Deceased Person`s Debt from Zakat

Fatwa Number : 3500

Date : 13-05-2019

Classified : Zakat Distribution Channels

Fatwa Type : Search Fatawaa

Question :

If someone dies while in debt and his heirs fell short of the money required to pay it off, is it permissible that I give a portion of the Zakat due on my wealth to pay off part of that debt?

The Answer :

Praise be to Allah the Lord of the Worlds.

If a person dies and leaves behind wealth, then his debt must be paid off before the fulfilment of the bequest and the division of the estate among the heirs, and the remaining portion of the estate, if any, must be divided among the heirs in accordance with the share of each. Allah the Almighty says, "After the payment of legacies and debts" {An-Nisa`, 11}.

None of the heirs or others are obligated to pay off the debts of the deceased who left no wealth behind, unless they choose to do so willingly since the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "It isn`t lawful to take someone`s property unless he gives it with a cheerful heart" {Ahmad}. If one of the heirs volunteers to pay off the debt, then that is permissible and this clears the deceased from liability before Almighty Allah.

As for paying off the deceased`s debt from the Zakat, there are two opinions:

First: According to the majority of the Hanafi, Hanbali and one opinion of the Shafi scholars, it isn`t permissible to pay off the deceased`s debt from the Zakat, because it can`t be made into his possession.

Al-Haskafi (May Allah have mercy on him) said, "It is conditioned that Zakat is made into the possession of the recipient, it isn`t used to buy a shroud for the deceased, pay off his debt or build a mosque." {Ad-Dor Al-Mokhtar Wa Hashiyat Ibn Abdeen, 2/344}. An-Nawawi (May Allah have mercy on him) said, "The author of the book "Al-Bayaan" said, "If a person dies while in debt and leaves no wealth behind, then there are two views regarding repaying his debt from Zakat on the basis that he falls into the category of "those in debt," mentioned in chapter At-Tawbah, verse 60. The more correct, popular scholarly opinion is that it isn`t permissible to pay off the deceased`s debt from the Zakat." {Rawdat At-Talibin, 2/320}. Al-Bahwati (May Allah have mercy on him) said, "It isn`t permissible to pay off a deceased person`s debt from Zakat whether he had borrowed that money for his own benefit or for someone else`s." {Kash-Shaf Al-Khina`, 2/269}.

Second: It is permissible to pay off the deceased`s debt from Zakat based on the general meaning of the verse about the eight categories eligible to receive Zakat, which included those in debt, be they dead or alive. This is according to the Malikis and one opinion of the Shafi scholars. Ad-Dardir (May Allah have mercy on him) said, "It is permissible to give Zakat to an indebted person to pay off his debt with and, in case he dies, it is permissible that his debt is repaid from it.

In conclusion, it is imperative that a deceased person`s debt is paid off from his estate. If he left no wealth behind, none of his heirs or relatives volunteered to pay off his debt and the creditors claimed their money, then it is permissible to pay off his debt from Zakat based on the opinion of the scholars who permitted that and in order to clear him from the liability before Allah the Almighty. Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (PBUH) said, "The soul of the deceased believer remains pending on account of the debt till it (the debt) is repayed." [At-Tirmidhi]. And Allah the Almighty knows best.



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