All praises and thanks are due and belong to Allah; The One wwho made death Mandatory upon His creatures and the Legislator of all affairs of man. I seek His special salutations and His choicest benedictions on the final Messenger and the seal of the Prophets, the Prophet Muhammad, his family and all companions.
Paying the debt of the deceased from zakah is an issue that attracted the jurisprudential attention of scholars including the Imams of the four schools of thought. Two different opinions were however propounded on this issue. But before delving into this difference of opinion, it is worthy to note that all the scholars unanimously agreed that a living Muslim who is indebted is entitled to zakah as clearly mentioned in the Glorious Qur’an:
إِنَّمَا الصَّدَقَاتُ لِلْفُقَرَاءِ وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَالْعَامِلِينَ عَلَيْهَا وَالْمُؤَلَّفَةِ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَالْغَارِمِينَ وَفِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ ۖ فَرِيضَةً مِّنَ اللَّهِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ
“Alms are for the poor and the needy, and those employed to administer the (funds); for those whose hearts have been (recently) reconciled (to Truth); for those in bondage and in debt; in the cause of Allah; and for the wayfarer: (thus is it) ordained by Allah, and Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom.( Qur’an: Tawba: 60)
However, their difference is whether it is allowed to pay the debt of the deceased from Zakah or not?
Majority of the scholars including the Hanafi School of Islamic thought, and an opinion of the shafi’ee and the Hambali school of thought see that it is not allowed to pay the debt of the deceased from zakaah.
The jurists of the Maaliki school of thought and also another opinion of the Shafi’ees and the Hanaabila’s opine that it is allowed to pay the debt of the deceased from zakat. This opinion was also supported by the famous Hambali scholar; sheikhul- Islam Ibn Taimiyya. Their proof is the generality of the verse (والغارمين) which can be translated as [ for those in bondage and in debt; ] and also analogy ( Al-Qiyas); that is comparing the dead to the living as the verse has not differentiated between them.
It is apparent from the above that the second opinion is the more authentic of the two and Allah knows best.