Q: The 1st Ethical Zakah guide mentions Zakah cannot be given to one’s spouse. However this Hadith appears to indicate giving Zakah to one’s spouse is permissible. Please can you clarify?
الجواب حامدا ومصليه ومنه الصدق والصواب
A: There is a difference of opinion as to whether a wife can give Zakah to her poor husband. The position of the Hanafi School on which the 1st Ethical Zakah guide, as stated, is based is that she cannot do so. Those that contend that she can do so use the Hadith as proof.
However, the Arabic text of the Hadith does not mention the word Zakah [even if it has been translated so] but rather the word sadaqah. The circumstances surrounding this Hadith as understood by the various narrations of this Hadith is that after the Fajr prayer the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him, addressed a congregation of women in which he strongly encouraged them to give in charity even if it was from their jewellery as it was shown to him that women were the majority of the dwellers of Hell. Zainab RA had her own trade wherein she used to make things with her hands and sell them whilst her husband was poor. Upon the words of the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him, she decided to give her jewellery to charity. According to some narrations, at the insistence of her husband, whilst according to other narrations, upon seeing that her husband was poor, she asked her husband to enquire as to whether it would be sufficient if she spent the charity on her husband. In some narrations there is also mention of her orphaned nephews whilst in others there is mention of her own children. The Messenger of Allah peace be upon him said it would suffice and she would be doubly rewarded.
According to Imam Abu Hanifah the reference to sadaqah here is to optional sadaqah and not zakat as is the evident suggestion of the whole context. This is further supported by those narrations wherein her own children are mentioned alongside her husband as by general consensus one’s own child cannot be the recipient of one’s zakat. Imam Tahawi has discussed this at length in Sharh Ma’aani al-Aathaar adding other reasons why this Hadith does not refer to zakah.
I hope the above has now clarified the issue.