What does the category al-Riqab refer to?
In the medieval era, slavery was commonly practiced. Islam encouraged an end to slavery and granting humans freedom and self-ownership. Thus, Zakat was permitted to be used to free Muslims in slavery, captivity or bondage. Classical scholars enumerate the following types of people under this category:
Slaves whose freedom was conditional on a payment.
The slaves were required to buy themselves out of slavery by paying their master an agreed amount. Zakat was used to assist such Muslim slaves to pay off the debt owed to the master .
Some scholars permitted the purchasing of normal slaves outright from Zakat funds.
A Muslim prisoner
The Hanbali school have expressly permitted the paying of Zakat to help free Muslim inmates and captives .
Contemporary scholars have debated contemporary applications of this category of Zakat. The idea is that this category revolves around physical constraints which prevent freedom for individuals. Modern slavery and human trafficking are two contemporary examples of this category.
And Allah knows best!
Mufti Faraz Adam