Q: Can charities be considered as al-amileen? If so, what percentage of Zakat may be used for administration costs, and what activities may be considered “administration”
الجواب حامدا ومصليا ومسلما ومنه الصدق والصواب
A: Aamileen, as mentioned in the Holy Qur’an are the state appointed officials who collect zakat on behalf of the ruler who is charged with the duty of collecting zakat revenues [Qur’an, 9:103]. In order to discharge this duty the leader is quite naturally obliged to employ the services of officials to collect the zakat revenues on his behalf who are then remunerated for their services from the zakat revenues. These monies are not disbursed to them as a charity and such officials can also be from amongst those legally considered to be wealthy.
While the essence of zakat is a gracious offering to the poor and destitute without consideration, this category of recipients is a departure from that. However, this is justified on the basis that the leader of the Muslims is vested with a general guardianship, and his possession of the zakat revenues constitutes possession of the poor and destitute, and the obligation of zakat stands discharged. It thus follows that the authorised officials, as deputies of the Muslim leader, also enjoy legal representation on behalf of the poor and destitute, and the obligation of zakat stands discharged as a consequence of their possession. The zakat revenues thus collected are the property of the poor, and the remuneration received by the officials is thus received by them from the poor.
In contrast NGO’s, despite any strict transparency and accountability regulation by national authorities, are not authorised deputies of the leader of the Muslim state and consequently do not enjoy legal representation on behalf of the poor. Rather, they are agents of those disbursing zakat, and until the zakat is received by its rightful recipients, it remains payable upon the original owners. Consequently, zakat revenues received by Islamic charities cannot be utilised for administration purposes under this category.