Building and restoring mosques with Zakat money
There is a mosque in our village which was built ten years ago and is about to collapse; there are cracks covering the walls which might be a danger signal.
According to the opinion of engineers, the mosque must be demolished and rebuilt. We started a donation campaign but the returns were very low compared to the sum needed.
Is it permissible to collect part of the zakat paid by farmers for the purpose of rebuilding the mosque? The nearest mosque in the village is at a distance of 500m from this one, and it is hard for the elderly to reach it especially for Dawn prayers, on rainy days and so forth.
Muslim scholars determined that [the poor and the needy] have a right other than zakat in a person's wealth such as alms, ongoing charity and endowments. This is attested to by the words of Allah:
And from their properties was [given] the right of the [needy] beggar and the deprived [Adh-Dhariyat, 19].
This contrasts with the verse concerned with obligatory zakat of which Allah says:
And those within whose wealth is a known right for the beggar and the deprived [Al-Maarij, 24-5].
In both instances, giving out a portion of one's wealth is an act of charity without which a Muslim's acts of worship are not complete. Allah Almighty says:
You who profess faith! Bow down, prostrate yourselves, worship your Lord, and do good that you may succeed [Al-Hajj, 77].
The Prophet [PBUH] said: "Alms extinguish sins in the same manner that water extinguishes fire."
Expenditures of zakat
In the following verse, Allah determined the expenditures of obligatory zakat, and that it is one of the pillars of Islam:
Alms are meant only for the poor, the needy, those who administer them, those whose hearts need wining over, to free slaves and help those in debt, for God's cause, and for travelers in need. This is ordained by God; God is all Knowing and wise. [Al- Tawbah, 60].
Mosques are not among the eight channels of zakat, which are owed to people and not buildings—to those prostrating [in prayer] rather than on mosques.
It is impermissible to build mosques from zakat money but permissible from money given as charity. You can limit construction to the least space that can be used to establish prayers keeping in mind the elderly and others who may find it difficult to go to a remote mosque. You can expand the mosque whenever you collect more donations, thus achieving both of [the above] benefits.
The importance of mosques is not confined to buildings
The significance of mosques does not lie in the building itself but in its men of whom Allah Almighty says:
[Such niches are] in mosques which Allah has ordered to be raised and that His name be mentioned therein; exalting Him within them in the morning and the evenings. [Are] men whom neither commerce nor sale distracts from the remembrance of Allah and performance of prayer and giving of zakah. They fear a Day in which the hearts and eyes will [fearfully] turn about- That Allah may reward them [according to] the best of what they did and increase them from His bounty. And Allah gives provision to whom He wills without account [An-Nur, 36-8].
The Prophet [PBUH] said:
Allah will shelter seven [kinds of] people on the day when there will be no shade except His … those whose hearts are attached to mosques … [Bukhari and Muslim].
Allah Almighty knows best.