Repaying a poor person''s debt

Q 3: A man died in debt without leaving any money behind. Is it permissible to use Zakah (obligatory charity) to repay his debts?

A: The basic rule in the Shari`ah (Islamic law) is that when a Muslim who abides by the teachings of Islam dies while having accrued debts to meet his lawful needs and he does not leave any money to cover his debts, then Bayt-ul-Mal (Muslim treasury) is responsible for repaying them. This is based on the Hadith related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim, and others (may Allah be merciful with them), stating that the Messenger of Allah ( peace be upon him) said: “There is no believer, but of all the people I am the closest to him both in this world and in the Hereafter. Recite, if you wish: The Prophet is closer to the believers than their ownselves So, if a believer leaves some property, his existing relatives inherit it; but if he leaves a debt or poor children, let them (the creditors and children) come to me, as I am his patron." If his debts cannot be repaid by Bayt-ul-Mal, it is permissible to repay his debts from (Part No. 10; Page No. 34) Zakah, unless the one paying the Zakah is himself the creditor. Shaykh Al-Islam, Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah (may Allah be merciful to him) said in his book "Majmu` Al-Fatawa", (vol. 25, pp. 79-80): "As regards the debts of a dead man, it is permissible for the Muslim community to repay them from Zakah according to one of the two views adopted by the scholars, based on one of the two narrations from Imam Ahmad, because Allah (Exalted be He) says: ...and for those in debt He did not say 'to those in debt'. The indebted is not necessarily given money in his possession." Consequently, it is permissible for Muslims to repay a deceased person's debts from Zakah. It should be given to their inheritor or others (to pay back the debts on their behalf), but should not be given (directly) to the creditor to reclaim his money.May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.