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What is the difference between "fakeer" (فقير) and "miskeen" (مسكين)? Are they different levels of poor, or do they refer to the same thing?

Also what conditions must apply to be considered for each of the two with respect to sadaqah/zakat?

إِنَّمَا الصَّدَقَاتُ لِلْفُقَرَاءِ وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَالْعَامِلِينَ عَلَيْهَا وَالْمُؤَلَّفَةِ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَالْغَارِمِينَ وَفِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ ۖ فَرِيضَةً مِّنَ اللَّهِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ

Surat At-Tawbah : 60

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You can find a pretty good analysis of the differences here:

According to the Arabic usage, fuqara are all those people who depend on others for the necessities of life. The Arabic word fuqara is a general word for all those who are needy because of some physical defects, or old age, or temporarily out of living means, and can become self-supporting if they are helped like orphans, widows, the unemployed, etc.

According to the Arabic usage, masakin are those indigent people who are in greater distress than the needy people usually are. The Prophet (peace be upon him) especially enjoined the Muslims to help such people as are unable to find the necessary means to satisfy their wants and are in very straitened circumstances, but are so self-respecting that they would not beg for anything, nor would others judge from their outward appearance that they were deserving people. According to a tradition miskin is one who cannot make ends meet, though his appearance does not show that he needs help nor does he beg for help. In short, he is a self-respecting person who has become needy.

The descriptions are also here, in the section "Who is a poor person and is defined as a pauper":

A Faqir is a person who has some property but not enough to make the qualifying threshold known as Nisaab or he has enough to fulfill the Nisaab but some of or all of the property is part of his basic necessities, such as a house to live in and clothes to wear and servants for his care and tools for his profession, then regardless of how expensive they are, they are not counted in Nisaab and if his savings do no total the Nisaab or he has savings but he is in debt and when his debt is calculated it takes his savings below the Nisaab threshold, then this person is regarded as a poor person.

A Misqueen is a person who has nothing and is desperate even for shelter or for clothing to cover his body and has to resort to begging. It is allowed for a Misqueen to beg and it is not allowed for a Faqir to beg. This is because if a person has enough for food or clothing to cover themselves then it is Haram for a person to beg.

As far as I can tell, all categories are treated equally with regards to sadaqah/zakat, unless they are relatives, in which case they generally get preferential treatment (and it is not called charity, to save their pride).

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The scholars differed as to the meaning of the "fakeer" (فقير) and "maskeen" (مسكين), and the difference between them to several statements including the following:

  1. that the fakeer better than the maskeen.

  2. Conversely, a maskeen better than the fakeer.

  3. There is no difference between them in terms of meaning but differed in the name.

Qurtubi said in his interpretation:

  • Scholars differed as to the difference between the fakeer and maskeen on nine points, Some of them said that the fakeer better than the maskeen, they said: the fakeer is the one who has some what keep it alive, and the maskeen , which has nothing to do,

  • And others said Conversely, They said the maskeen better than the fakeer. They quoted as evidence, saying the Allaah:

أَمَّا السَّفِينَةُ فَكَانَتْ لِمَسَاكِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ فِي الْبَحْرِ فَأَرَدتُّ أَنْ أَعِيبَهَا وَكَانَ وَرَاءَهُم مَّلِكٌ يَأْخُذُ كُلَّ سَفِينَةٍ غَصْبًا ﴿الكهف: ٧٩﴾

As for the ship, it belonged to poor people working at sea. So I intended to cause defect in it as there was after them a king who seized every [good] ship by force. [18:79] Saheeh International

It was told that they have ship from the ships of the sea. Perhaps equal to the total of money.

And they based also including narrated from the Prophet, peace be upon him, he seek refuge (تعوذ) from poor (fakr).

And he said (peace be upon him):

عَنْ أَنَسٍ، أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏"‏ اللَّهُمَّ أَحْيِنِي مِسْكِينًا وَأَمِتْنِي مِسْكِينًا وَاحْشُرْنِي فِي زُمْرَةِ الْمَسَاكِينِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ....

Anas narrated that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w) said: "O Allah! Cause me to live needy, and cause me to die needy and gather me in the group pf the needy on the Day of Resurrection." ... [Jami` at-Tirmidhi 2352]

If that were the the maskeen worse off than the fakeer led to the hadeeth contradiction, it is impossible to seek refuge from fakr and then asks what is the worst off of it,

  • And Shafii said another: that the fakeer and maskeen is no difference between them in meaning but parted ways in the name

  • And there are sayings says: maskeen, which does not have a living And the fakeer who do not have a staple food in his year.

See this fatwa

  • thank you for this detailed fatwa, I will also upvote you once I have enough rep :) – user3015 Aug 11 '13 at 19:18

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