As for zakat for the unbelievers, they are two types of categories:
Those who may come to Islam through the reconciliation of their hearts: Such was the case of Safwan ibn ‘Umayyah whom the Prophet granted safety on the day of Makkah’s conquest. The Prophet allowed him to think about his situation for four months and then choose for himself. He was absent at the time but came forward later and went with the Muslims to fight in the battle of Hunayn before his acceptance of Islam. The Prophet borrowed his armory for the expedition of Hunayn, and in return gave him a large number of camels, loaded with goods, that was at a certain valley. Thereupon Safwan said: “This is a gift from someone who does not fear poverty. By Allah,” he continued, “the Prophet has given all of this to me and verily he is the person whom I dislike the most, but he continued to give me things until he became the one I loved the most.”
People whose evil is feared, and it is hoped that money is given to them, will neutralize their hostility: Ibn ‘Abbas reported: “A group of people used to come to the Prophet. If he gave them money, they would praise Islam and say: ‘This is a good religion.’ However, if he did not give them any money, they criticized and found fault with Islam.” Among such people were Abu Sufyan ibn Harb, al-Aqra’ ibn Habis, and ‘Uyainah ibn Hisn. The Prophet gave every one of them one hundred camels.
The Hanafiyyah (madhab) say that the share of such people are canceled when Islam is strong. For instance, ‘Uyainah ibn Hisn, al-Aqra’ ibn Habis, and al-‘Abbas ibn Mirdas came to Abu Bakr and requested their share. He wrote them a letter, which they took to ‘Umar. He tore the letter and said: “This is something that the Prophet used to give you to reconcile you to Islam. Now, Allah has fortified Islam and it is no longer in need of you. Unless you stay with Islam, the sword will be between you and us. Say: ‘It is the truth from the Lord of you [all]. Then whoever will let him believe, and whoever will let him disbelieve’ [Refer to Al-Quran, surah al-Kahf, verse 29].” They returned to Abu Bakr and said: “Are you the Caliph or is ‘Umar? You wrote a letter for us and ‘Umar tore it up.” He answered: “This is the way it is.”
The Hanafiyyah continues: “Indeed, Abu Bakr agreed with ‘Umar, and none of the companions disapproved of it. Likewise, it was never reported from ‘Uthman or ‘Ali that they gave anything to anyone in this category.”
It can be answered that the case under reference was ‘Umar’s own judgment. He saw that there would be no benefit in mollifying these people after Islam had become well-established among their people, and no harm would follow if they abandoned Islam. Also, if ‘Uthman and ‘Ali stopped spending this kind of endowment, this does not necessarily mean that the provision for it was repealed. It is possible that the change of circumstances did not call for the continuation of such an endowment to the nonbelievers. However, this does not amount to the invalidation of the provision for such endowments.
Should the contingency call for its revival, the endowments in this category can be given. This is because their sanction lies in the Qur’an and Sunnah. Ahmad and Muslim reported from Anas that whenever the Prophet was asked for anything for the sake of Islam, he would give it away. A man came and asked for sadaqah. The Prophet ordered that the man is given the entire lot of sheep between two mountains. These sheep were part of the sadaqah. The man returned to his people and said: “Oh my people! Accept Islam, for indeed, Muhammad gives in such a way as if he does not fear poverty.” Ash-Shaukani says that al-‘Itrah, al-Jobbani, al-Balkhi, and Ibn Mubashshir held that sadaqah may be given to those whose hearts are to be reconciled to Islam. On the contrary, ash-Shaf’i maintains that such endowments are not for unbelievers. As for the sinner (fasiq), he may be given from such allocations.
Abu Hanifah and his followers hold that this kind of endowment was canceled with the spread and domination of Islam and, as evidence, they cite Abu Bakr’s refusal to restore endowments to Abu Sufyan, ‘Uyainah, al-Aqra’, and al-‘Abbas ibn Mirdas. It appears that reconciliation is permitted when the need for it arises. In other words, it is permitted to give them sadaqah for reconciliation when people obey a leader only for worldly affairs, and they cannot be controlled except by force and domination.
The spread of Islam has no ramification on the issue of reconciliation because it makes no difference in this case. The author of al-Manar testifies: “This is the whole truth. Only independent judgment can be exercised to elaborate on the eligibility and the amount of sadaqah or booty to be given away when they are available, along with other kinds of property [immovable and movable]. It is necessary to seek the consultation of capable people (ahl-ash-Shura) as the caliphs did in those matters that required ijtihad. Whether a leader can force them into obedience by coercive action before resorting to the use of the endowment is an unsettled issue. Nevertheless, this cannot be followed as a rule but rather as the principle of inclining to the lesser of two evils and to the best benefit of the society.”
Taken with slight modifications from Fiqh-us-Sunnah by As-Sayyid Sabiq