Meaning of Zakat, Sadaqah and Lillah

Meaning of Zakat, Sadaqah and Lillah

Meaning of Zakat, Sadaqah and Lillah


In our Masjids, there are three donation boxes: Zakah, Ṣadaqah and Lillāh. What do these terms mean and what is the difference between them?

بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم


Zakat is a pillar of Islam which is obligatory; 2.5% of a person’s wealth annually.

Ṣadaqah means charity. The term Ṣadaqah is used for Zakat (Qurʾān, 9:60) as well as Ṣadaqah Wājibah (such as Ṣadaqah al-Fiṭr, Kaffārah, Fidyah, Nadhr) and Ṣadaqah Nāfilah (optional charity).

Lillāh means for the sake of Allah. This is a term commonly used in Asian communities to denote optional charity. Lillāh and Ṣadaqah Nāfilah are the same.

The reason for having separate donation boxes is because the type of donation determines what it can and cannot be used for. For example, Zakat cannot be given to a non-Muslim or used to build a mosque or a well whereas optional charity can be used for these purposes.

It is our recommendation to Masjids and organisations to only use the following two categories and label them in this manner:

  1. Zakat & Ṣadaqah Wājibah
  2. Ṣadaqah Nāfilah and Lillāh

The reason for this is that Ṣadaqah Nāfilah and Lillāh are the same, whilst Zakāt and Ṣadaqah Wājibah are similar in so far as their use is concerned. Both cannot be given to the rich and both must be given to a person. There is one principal difference according to the ẓāhir al-riwāyah in that Ṣadaqah Wājibah would be valid if given to a dhimmi (a non-Muslim living in a Muslim land). However, this is not preferred and there is a difference of opinion regarding its validity. As there are people from various schools of thought attending the Masjids, there is no need to apply this. If, however, someone wishes to apply this, then a third donation box should be created clearly marked: Ṣadaqah Wājibah.

Currently, the generic Ṣadaqah donation box is confusing and vague. It is used by donors for Ṣadaqah Wājibah as well as Ṣadaqah Nāfilah. This results in organisations using Ṣadaqah funds in different ways. No one knows how much is Ṣadaqah Nāfilah and how much is actually Ṣadaqah Wājibah. This could result in the obligation of the Ṣadaqah Wājibah donations not being fulfilled, or on the other hand Ṣadaqah Nāfilah donations being treated as Ṣadaqah Wājibah donations and thereby removing the flexibility of its use. It is therefore necessary on Masjids and organisations to adopt one of the following options:

Option 1 (preferred)

  1. Zakat & Ṣadaqah Wājibah
  2. Ṣadaqah Nāfilah and Lillāh

Option 2

  1. Zakat
  2. Ṣadqah Wājibah
  3. Ṣadaqah Nāfilah and Lillāh

قال السمرقندي في تحفة الفقهاء (١/٣٠٠): ثم كما لا يجوز صرف الزكاة إلى أغنياء، لا يجوز صرف جميع الصدقات المفروضة الواجبة إليهم، وذلك نحو الكفارات المفروضة والعشر المفروض بكتاب الله وصدقة الفطر والصدقات المنذور بها من الواجبات ، انتهى۔

Allah knows best

Yusuf Shabbir

3 Rajab 1439 / 20 March 2018

Approved by: Mufti Shabbir Ahmed and Mufti Muhammad Tahir