Can Zakat be paid to my wife?

Question:

Can Zakat be given to one's wife? I am not always able to provide her with extra money and so I wanted to know if what I give my wife can be considered part of my Zakat payment.

Reply:

The following Quranic verses give us the answer:

1- God decreed that men should support their wives (4:34), what this means is that any expenses necessary to support one’s wife (and direct family) is an obligation payment which should be paid first before the payment of Zakat.

"The men are to support the women by means of what God has favoured some over the others and through what they spend."
4:34

This speaks of all necessities needed by the wife and children (food, clothes, medicine, education, transport, bills, some spending money for personal needs, etc).

In addition, we all need spending money for personal needs. We are not talking here about extra money to be spent on unnecessary luxuries, but only the amount of money a person needs to live comfortably and without hardship. Providing for our wives is thus a duty on every husband.

2- The Zakat is then paid out of the excess:

"And they ask what to spend, say: The excess."
2:219

The Zakat is paid (out of the excess) and before any luxury spending.

3- A further confirmation is given in the following Quranic words which speak about the recipients of Zakat:

"They ask you what should they spend: say, "The good that you spend should be to the parents, the close ones, the orphans, the needy and the homeless." And any good you do, God is Knowledgeable thereof."
2:215

We note that the wife and children are not mentioned among the above recipients. There is a good reason for that too. The omission of the wife and children does not mean that we should not spend any money on them! But it means that all necessary spending on our family (wife and children) comes before Zakat.
So the priority relating to how our money should be spent is as follows:

1- Payment of all necessities for wife and children
2- Out of the remainder (if there is any), a Zakat should be paid to the specified recipients (2:215).
3- After the payment of Zakat we are free to spend our money as we please, this can be on: luxuries for ourselves, wife and children, donations to others, savings, investment and so on.