Can a donation made without intention, that turned out to be Zakat eligible, count toward Zakat?

My friend Chris Blauvelt over at Launchgood asks a great question on twitter:

” If you made a donation without intending zakat, but later learned it was zakat eligible, can it count toward zakat? @FarazRabbani @hwmaqbul @joewbradford. Guessing Hanafis/Shafis split like do you have wudu if you accidentally fall in a pool without intention.”

Taking a Dip

Let’s preface this with saying: All scholars agreed that all purely devotional acts of worship must be accompanied by an intention.

While there is a variance of opinion as to whether a person who bathes or swims without the intention of Ghusl/Wudu has done enough to fulfill the requirements for those acts, that doesn’t seem to be the case here. First, why did the majority not allow retroactively considering a jump in the pool to be ghusl? Because for them, the act of Ghusl/Wudu/Tayammum is devotional and as such has no mundane/worldly rationale. For them, this rationale is precisely why tayammum is performed with soil and wiping over socks is made on top of the sock, not the bottom. Hanafi scholars viewed wudu/ghusl as an act that while devotional, was also mundane. However, it was closer to being mundane than devotional, therefore an intention was not an obligation for performing it.

Is Zakat the same as Ghusl with regards to Intention?

So was that logic carried over into the payment of Zakat?

Meaning, if I paid $300 with the intention of general charity, then calculated my zakat later on and it turned out I owed $500, could I get away with just paying $200 more for an even $500? For the Majority, Hanbalis, Malikis, Shafiis, even Zahiris, this is not allowed. Zakat is an act of worship, and must be accompanied by or preceded by an intention to give it as an act of worship.

For Hanafis, the same applies. In al-Qadduri it says:
ولا يجوز أداء الزكاة إلا بينة مقارنة للأداء أو مقارنة لعزل مقدار الواجب
“It is not permitted to give Zakat except with an intention accompanying the act of giving or accompanying the exclusion of the obligatory amount.”

So in this case, there seems to be no difference that one MUST have an intention for Zakat when giving, and you can’t clawback or retroactively designate past amounts unintended for Zakat as a fulfillment of your obligation to give.

What if an Orphan Needs My Help Monthly?

That leads to the question: What if I know there is a constant need for support throughout the year? Can I give a little every month? How can I meet the constant needs of the poor and my need to pay Zakat?

Answer: It is permissible to pre-pay Zakat up to two years, as the Prophet permitted his uncle al-Abbas to do so (Bukhari).
So in this situation, let’s say an orphan needs $50 a month. I make the intention that the $50 I am giving counts towards my Zakat for *next* Ramadan, then, I keep tabs of those amounts I gave with the intention of Zakat. I then add them up. 1 year @ $50 = $600 of Zakat already given. In Ramadan I calculate how much I owe for the past year & deduct any pre-paid amounts. If I’m over the overage is Sadaqa.

And Allah knows best.


Addendum: Sh. Salman Younas provided some detail on this issue, where there is one situation when an intention can be retroactive to the act of giving.

Here is my summary of the Arabic*:

If the intention to give it was made evidently, where the person gave the money to a poor person or an agent without any intention and it has not been utilized by them, then it is ok in the Hanafi school to intend in this case that such money is Zakat. (Haskafi, Ibn Abidin).

I’d caution that in order to fulfill this condition, we’d need relative certainly the money had not been utilized, which may not be possible. If you are going to act on this position, perhaps consult w/ a qualified Hanafi mufti who can advise whether or not your situation fits.

* – Relevant Arabic Texts:

  • Haskafi: ( وشرط صحة أدائها نية مقارنة له ) أي للأداء ( ولو ) كانت المقارنة ( حكما ) كما لو دفع بلا نية ثم نوى والمال قائم في يد الفقير ، أو نوى عند الدفع للوكيل ثم دفع الوكيل بلا نية [ ص: 269 ] أو دفعها لذمي ليدفعها لأن المعتبر للفقراء جاز نية الأمر ولذا لو قال هذا تطوع أو عن كفارتي ثم نواه عن الزكاة قبل دفع الوكيل صح
  • Ibn Abidin:  ( قوله : والمال قائم في يد الفقير ) بخلاف ما إذا نوى بعد هلاكه بحر . وظاهره أن المراد بقيامه في يد الفقير بقاؤه [ ص: 269 ] في ملكه لا اليد الحقيقية ، وأن النية تجزيه مادام في ملك الفقير ، ولو بعد أيام

Join Joe for more videos, conversations, articles, and invitations

Signup for the newsletter & I'll update you whenever I release a new article, course, or special offer.