Answered by Shaykh Faraz A. Khan
Question: For students who want to travel to study Arabic and Islamic studies so that they can become an Imam or serve the Muslim community with their knowledge, can they be recipients of Zakat? If yes, does the Zakat only go to their direct studies such as classes and books, or can the Zakat go to all of their expenses including living expenses and travel expenses.
Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,
I pray this finds you in the best of health states.
Yes, students of Islamic knowledge can be recipients of zakat. [Tahtawi, Hashiyat Maraqi Falah]
If they are not legally poor, they can be supported if they study Islamic knowledge full-time. Otherwise if they are legally poor, they can be supported in any case. To be legally poor means that one owns less than the quantum (nisab) of zakat, which can be determined here: http://www.e-nisab.com/
This criteria of ‘student of knowledge’ — that they study full-time if they possess nisab, or engage in at least some study if they possess less than nisab — is consequential as well if one appoints an agent (wakil) with instructions to give one’s zakat to a student of knowledge.
In terms of which expenses it can be spent on, the general rule of zakat is that there must be transfer of ownership (tamlik), such that the recipient unconditionally owns the wealth given to them. Once someone owns wealth, he may use it however he sees fit. [Haskafi, Durr al-Mukhtar]
Of course on a practical note, one should only support students who are committed and serious in their studies, as lazy people who are not committed might take advantage of financial support.
And Allah knows best.
Faraz A. Khan
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani