The Holy Qur’am classifies the due recipients of Zakah as follows:
1.The poor Muslims, to relieve their distress;
2.The needy Muslims, to supply them with means whereby they can earn their livelihood;
3.The new Muslim converts, to enable them to settle down and meet their unusual needs;
4.The Muslim prisoners of war, to liberate them by payment of ransom money;
5.The Muslim in debt, to free them from their liabilities incurred under pressing necessities;
6.The Muslim employees appointed by a Muslim governor for the collection of Zakah to pay their wages;
7.The Muslims in service of the cause of God by means of research or study or propagation of Islam. This share is to cover their expenses and help them to continue their services;
8.The Muslim wayfarers who are stranded in a foreign land and in need of help.
The due recipient of Zakah is one who has nothing to meet his necessities or has little (less than the nissab) at the end of the year. If one has approximately the nissab or more he must be a contributor, not a recipient of Zakah. If a recipient receives his share and finds that it is sufficient for his immediate needs with a balance of about the nissab he should not accept any more, he should return whatever he may receive to other eligible recipients.
Zakah may be distributed directly to individuals of one or more of the said classes, or to welfare organizations which look after them. It may also be distributed in the form of scholarships to bright and promising Muslim students and researchers, or in the form of grants to welfare organizations and public service institutions which patronize such causes.
A disabled or invalid poor Muslim is preferable to one who is able and capable of making some earnings. The contributor should use his best judgement in finding the most deserving beneficiaries.
The taxes we pay to governments nowadays do not substitute for this religious duty; it must be earmarked as a special obligation and paid separately, aside from the government taxes. However, the Muslims of North America may take advantage of the tax laws that allow certain deductions for charity. They should pay their Zakah to the deserving beneficiaries and then claim the sums paid as proper legal deductions.
The contributor should not seek pride or fame by carrying out this duty. He should make it as covert as possible so that he may not be victimized by hypocrisy or passion for vanity which nullifies all good deeds. However, if the disclosure of his name or the announcement of his contribution is likely to encourage others and stimulate them, it is all right to do so.
Zakah is also obligatory on cattle and agricultural products. The shares payable in this regard vary from case to case, and need a detailed discussion. So the reader may be advised to consult the elaborate sources of law and religion.