Allah the Almighty directs in the Holy Quran:1
Meaning that: Whatever Allah has given to His Messenger as spoils from towns, is for Allah and for the Messenger, and for the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarers who are travelling to convey the Word of God. These commandments have been given to ensure that the wealth may not circulate only among those of you who are rich.
These verses illustrate how God has protected the rights of the poor, and thereby greatly strengthened the foundations of the Islamic economic order and ensured that the economic condition does not worsen. If the economic system had been left alone and the rights of different parties had not been specified, all money would have accumulated in a few hands and the poor would have continued to suffer in deprivation. The Quran, therefore, mandates that the money the government collects must not return to the rich, but instead be used for uplifting the less privileged sections of society.
The share allotted in this verse to Allah and His Apostle is, in fact, also a share intended for the poor. The names of God and His Prophet(sa) are used because at times the state is called upon to build places of worship, schools, and hospitals. If the rights of only the poor had been mentioned, some might have objected to government spending on places of worship, hospitals, roads or schools. By specifically mentioning the names of God and his Prophet(sa), any grounds for misunderstanding have been removed. It goes without saying that Allah’s share in reality is also for the poor since God does not need any money and similarly Prophet’s share belongs to the poor as the Prophet(sa) is a mortal who would one day leave this world. Mention of the Prophet(sa) by name here implies that the reference is to the system he put in place.
The expression dhil-qurba [near of kin] occurring in these verses is sometimes incorrectly held to imply that the family of the Holy Prophet(sa) have a right in government revenue. However, the Holy Prophet(sa) has categorically declared that his descendants are not permitted to accept charity or a share of the zakat. Thus, the Quranic expression does not refer to blood relatives of the Holy Prophet(sa), but signifies those people who are exclusively engaged day and night in the devotion and worship of God and thus become part of the family of Allah and His Prophet. The expression dhil-qurba is intended to imply that those devoted to the service of religion should not be considered worthless people, for by striving for the nearness of Allah and by facilitating the attainment of His nearness for others, they are entitled to the resources from public funds.
People who are engaged in teaching the Holy Quran and Hadith, or are working for the propagation of faith, will not be able to make a living, and are, according to this verse, entitled to have a share in these revenues. If the government did not provide them with the necessary funds, it would result in either their moral standard suffering because of the strain of constant want, forcing them to beg; or they would be forced to give up the service of religion in order to earn their livelihood. The Holy Quran contains an express injunction that among the Muslims there should always be people dedicated to the service of religion for all hours of the day and night.
Therefore, dhil-qurba refers to people dedicated to the service of religion and according to Islam this class of people has a definite claim on the State’s resources.
To emphasise further that essential point is reiterated in the concluding portion of the passage. ‘Accept what the Prophet allows you but desist from claiming that which he has forbidden.’ The rich should not try to get back the wealth taken from them by Islam in the interest of the poor, for this was essential for the peace and prosperity of society.
1 Surah al-Hashr, 59:8, (publishers)