Q: What is the reason behind giving Zakat to the al-Fuqara (the poor?
A: Allah has mentioned two categories of al-Fuqara’ and al-Masakin, which are generally conflated and considered as one. But why has Allah mentioned two? What might we extrapolate considering the intent of Allah? On the face of it, defining both meta-categories according to the majority, the meta-category of al-Fuqara’ seeks to serve those in absolute poverty, those who find little to meet their daily requirements and establish the core essentials, helping them to achieve basic
survival from day to day. It allows for a standard of living that subsequently facilitates the next stage, al-Masakin. Giving Zakat to the poor will not necessarily lift them out of relative poverty but seeks to overcome abject poverty so as to meet basic human needs and afford some level of stability, at least enough that will then lead to ways in which the deprived and socially excluded can access economic opportunities.
Poverty is the most common and widespread impediment. Thus, the meta-category of al-Fuqara’ first speaks to the importance of having basic human needs met, not only for raising GDP or resourcing capital, but also to facilitate Allah consciousness.