Zakat committees are a necessary structure to ensure the good collection and proper distribution of Zakat in Muslim communities.
Here are a few guidelines and an etiquette that Zakat committee members need to keep in mind when giving out Zakat.
1. Make sure there is no lengthy bureaucratic process
The last thing the needy should have to deal with is bureaucratic red tape. The story of a once homeless Muslim named Aisha is a clear example of how unnecessary bureaucracy got in the way of helping a Muslim who was in need.
Make the process as simple as possible and make sure the poor get what they need as soon as possible. Allah will hold you responsible as a Zakat committee member if a Muslim was not provided for because of your or your committee's lack of organization.
2. Prepare for emergencies
There are times when a person may need money immediately. They don't have the time to wait for the Zakat committee to sit down and do Shura (consult) about their case and how much they should be given.
In these cases, the president of the committee or the Imam of the mosque should have authority and power to give money.
3. Remember that the needy are not just those who ask
In fact, the Quran specifically mentions such people, who, out of their modesty, do not ask others for help. Such people cannot be expected to fill out a form at the Masjid if they have no desire to let anyone know about their situation.
Such individuals need to be sought out. It is necessary that the Imam and Zakat committee members keep an eye out for those who may be in need but do not openly ask for help.
4. Put yourself in their shoes
It feels great to give, but not so great to receive. Put yourself in the shoes of those who are seeking your help and treat them with the respect and compassion they deserve. If they are those who don't ask for help, they are especially sensitive to displays of arrogance and condescension, which have no place in Islam.
5. Maintain confidentiality
Make sure that you do not disclose the names of those who have been given Zakat money, not even to your family members or best friends. This is wrong behavior and it is extremely hurtful and embarrassing to those who have received Zakat funds.
"Egypt, Egyptian Girls" by Brooklyn Museum - Egypt: Egyptian Girls. Via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Egypt,_Egyptian_Girls.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Egypt,_Egyptian_Girls.jpg