The Prophet was keen to ensure that this rule was observed in his household. If he went to any of his wives or visited any of his married daughters and found that they had some food, he would ask who sent it or bought it. If he was told that it was sent by one of his companions, he would ask whether it was a gift or charity. If the latter, he would not touch it. He would send it to the people of Al-Suffah, who were poor relying on whatever help the Prophet could give them. If he was told that it was sent to him as a gift, he would eat of it, and send a share of it to the people of Al-Suffah.
During the season when dates were collected as they began to ripen, his companions sent him the zakat due on their dates to the mosque. He would order its division among the poor, or he would have it stored to keep for a later date. On the occasion the Hadith mentions, apparently a few of his companions who had farms in Madinah sent him large quantities of their zakat, as it was a plentiful harvest. The Prophet used to sit in the mosque to teach his companions and to look into the affairs of his community. He often brought with him the children of his two daughters, Zainab and Fatimah. On this occasion he had with him Al-Hasan and Al-Husain, sons of Fatimah. As he was busy with his companions, the two young children were playing around, and perhaps they picked up a date or two, as they were playing. When the Prophet finished and wanted to take them home, he lifted one of the boys on his shoulder, and then felt the childâs saliva dropping. He looked at him and found that he had a date in his mouth. The Prophet pulled it out with his finger, teaching the child that, as a grandchild of the Prophet, he could not eat of these dates because they were charity.
The Hadith tells us that zakat on dates becomes due when it is harvested, although some scholars suggest that the dates sent to the Prophet were not part of the obligatory zakat, but voluntary charity. In either way, the Prophet and his household are not allowed to partake of it.
A question arises here: to whom does this prohibition apply? According to Imam Al-Shafie, it applies to the descendants of the two clans of Hashim and Al-Muttalib. Abu Haneefah and Malik limit it to the Hashimite clan and their descendants. The prohibition is meant to keep the Prophet, his household, his relatives and their descendants free of dependence on charity, whether obligatory or voluntary. Instead, God gave them a share of war gains. However, in our times, when the entire Muslim world is in a position of weakness and no such gains are available, some scholars have argued that the rule forbidding the descendants of the Prophetâs household to take zakat when they are poor is counterproductive. It places the poor of these descendants in a very disadvantaged position. Therefore, they feel the prohibition must be relaxed. In my view, such people should be looked after, either by government or society, so as to ensure that the poor among them are provided for, either from the national treasury or by good people in society. The prohibition is not meant to deprive them of an opportunity, but to address their needs without placing them in a position of dependence on charity. ¬