The answer is; it is permissible to give Zakat to a seeker of knowledge who is engaged in acquiring Islamic knowledge or worldly knowledge, even though he may be capable of earning. This is because seeking Islamic knowledge is a form of Jihad in Allah’s Cause and Allah has declared Jihad in His Cause to be an area deserving of Zakat in His Words (which means):
“As-Sadaqat (here it means Zakat) are only for the Fuqara’ (poor), and Al-Masakin (the needy) and those employed to collect (the funds); and to attract the hearts of those who have been inclined (towards Islam); and to free the captives; and for those in debt; and for Allah’s Cause (i.e. for Mujahidun — those fighting in a holy battle), and for the wayfarer (a traveller who is cut off from everything); a duty imposed by Allah. And Allah is All-Knower, All-Wise.”[Al-Quran, surah Al-Taubah, verse 60]
The Honorable Shaikh Mohammad bin Salih Al-‘Uthaimeen replied: Verily, Allah has declared that among the lawful beneficiaries of Zakat are those who undertake Jihad in Allah’s Cause, so it is permissible for us to give Zakat to those who undertake Jihad in Allah’s Cause.
But who is the Mujahid in Allah’s Cause? The Mujahid in Allah’s Cause was defined by the Messenger of Allah, when he was asked about a man who fights out of bravery, one who fights out of rage or fanaticism, and one who fights in order be seen in his place (i.e. to be seen fighting Jihad). The Prophet gave him a just and valuable measure (of what a Mujahid is); he said (which means):
“Whoever fights in order that Allah’s Word (i.e. Islam) should be superior, fights in Allah’s Cause.”[Narrated by Al-Bukhari]
So, whoever fights for this goal, to proclaim Allah’s Word and to implement the Law of Allah and to establish Allah’s religion in the lands of the disbelievers, then he is in Allah’s Cause, (including the one who seeking knowledge) and he may be given money from the Zakat funds: Either he may be given money which he may use in the cause of Jihad, or the equipment for the preparation.