In an earlier post (Should zakat be used for humanitarian finance?) I discussed whether zakat payment is exclusively meant for Muslims, noting the divergence of views among scholars on this issue. There is, of course, nothing whatsoever, in Islamic law against payment of other forms of (non-zakat) charitable contributions to non-Muslims.
The Malaysian state of Perlis has just announced that needy non-Muslims can now receive zakat payment. This is based on a statement issued by the office of Perlis mufti Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin following the Perlis Fatwa Council meeting last month. In the statement, Dr Asri said that zakat to non-Muslims under one of the eligible categories mandated by the Quran - muallafah qulubuhum (those who we wish to harmonise their attitude and perception towards Islam - may be granted the benefit that is determined by those entrusted with authority. He added that such a move has been initiated by the Prophet Muhammad to non-Muslims and their leaders, as stated in the authentic traditions. Dr Asri has posted this edict at his site DrMaza.com.
One hopes that a clearer position on the issue will emerge at the forthcoming conference of the World Zakat Forum during this month at Jakarta. The conference will be held at Hotel Sari Pan Pacific during March 14-17, 2017.