Zakat is to be paid to the eight categories mentioned in the Saying of Allah:
Which means: “Zakat expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakat] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah . And Allah is Knowing and Wise.” [Al-Quran, Surah At-Tawbah, verse 60].
The poor are those who live at a bare subsistence level. The needy are the destitute, who have nothing at all. Some scholars hold that the opposite is true in defining the two categories previously mentioned, which is the preponderant opinion.
“Those employed to collect…” are people assigned by the Imam (ruler) of Muslims or his deputed authority to collect Zakat. This category also includes Zakat clerks and distributors.
Those “for bringing hearts together”, are who have been inclined toward Islam which people who have embraced Islam recently, but their Iman (faith) is still weak so their hearts need to be leaning toward Islam.
On the other hand, the Saying of Allah: “…for freeing captives,” signifies freeing male and female slaves as well as war captives and helping Mukatabs (slaves with an agreement to buy their freedom) from Zakat money.
“…for those in debt…,” signifies people who incur debts for a legitimate purpose, but cannot pay them back. This category also comprises those who go into debt to reconcile between two disputing parties in a Shar’iy (Islamically lawful) way.
The Saying of Allah: “…for the cause of Allah,” refers to the category of warriors and Murabits (frontier guardians in Allah’s Cause) who are entitled to receive Zakat money to pay for the expenses of discharging their tasks.
The last category is the wayfarers (“…for the [stranded] traveler”), meaning travelers who are cut off from their homeland and all financial resources. They are to receive a sufficient amount of Zakat money that covers their needs until they reach their homeland, even if they are well-off there.
May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.