Giving money to the poor: for sufficiency or wealth?
Can you give a poor person a sum of money that would make him wealthy or should poor people only receive that which would satisfy their basic needs?
Muslim society seeks to eradicate poverty, illiteracy, corruption and anything that harms it. A Muslim society is one that is guided by God’s final religion and follows His Chosen Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). It is better to pay zakat to remove the poverty of a person in such a way that he becomes a zakat payer instead of a recipient. It is permissible to give a poor person the zakat that will sustain him for an average lifespan i.e. sixty years. Other positions mention the permissibility of giving a poor person whatever will sustain him for up to one hundred years as quoted by Al-Ramli and this is the position of Al-Shafi’i. Al-Nawawi said: “Our Iraqi colleagues, and many from Khurasan said, “They [the poor and the needy] are given that which will elevate them from need to wealth ... .” This opinion is expressed by Al-Nawawi in Al-Minhaj and likewise by Jalal Al-Din Al-Mahali in his commentary on it. The latter said: “(I said: The more correct position for which there is a text and which is the position of the majority) [is that] zakat should suffice to last for an average lifespan so a person can buy real estate from which to benefit and become wealthy enough to do without zakat (and God Know best). And whoever gains his sustenance through a craft is given what he needs to purchase the needed tools and materials … whoever makes his living by trade is given what he needs to engage in trade or whose profits can sustain him for an average lifespan.”
The Shafi’is explained that an average lifespan is sixty years, and a person who remains poor past that age should receive enough zakat to sustain him for one year and for each year after that. This is the opinion of Al-Ramli who said: “Questions were raised concerning the meaning of the words, ‘a poor person is given enough to sustain him for an average lifespan.’ What is the definition of an average lifespan and what is the amount given to a person who lives past that time? [He answered] that the definition of an average lifespan is sixty years and a poor person who lives longer should receive what sustains him for one year and for every year after that. The father has another answer , which is that the limit of an average lifespan is the age that an individual is not expected to surpass, which, according to the correct opinion, cannot be defined with age. It has also been said that it is defined as seventy, eighty, ninety, and one hundred years, and if a poor person lives longer, he is given enough to sustain him for one year and each year after that.” This is also the position of Ibn Taymiya as related by Al-Mardawi who said: “Sheikh Taqi Al-Din said, ‘It is permissible to [give a poor person] a sum of money that would make him wealthy even if it is a lot.’”
Based on the preceding quotes from the Shafi’i school and others, deem it permissible to give a poor person zakat that would make him rich and remove him from poverty. It is even permissible to give him enough to sustain himself for an average lifespan.
And God the Almighty knows best.