Can we give Zaka’h to non-Muslims?
Zaka’h, according to the Qur’an (Al-Taubah 9: 60), should/can be spent on the following heads:
Fuqaraa and Masakeen i.e. for the poor and the needy;
`aamileen `alaihaa i.e. on the people appointed for the collection and distribution of Zaka’h;
Al-Mo’allafah Quloobohum i.e. to win the loyalties of those who have the potential of becoming a danger for the Islamic state and thereby to soften their hearts toward Islam;
Riqaab wal-Ghaarimeen: i.e. in freeing of slaves, bondsman and those under a financial burden due to any reason;
Sabeel Allah i.e. in all projects undertaken for the well being, promotion and security of Islam and the Muslims;
Ibn al-Sabeel i.e. in projects undertaken for the welfare and benefit of the wayfarers.
Zaka’h, according to the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh) is to be collected and distributed by the Islamic state. It is only if the Islamic state is not collecting or distributing Zaka’h, that the individual shall do so on his own. Thus, the verse in which the Qur’an has enlisted the heads on which Zaka’h should/can be spent, addresses the collectivity of the Muslims. However, it also provides the individual Muslims the guidelines regarding the heads on which God wants the Zaka’h funds to be spent.
If you closely observe all the heads enlisted in the Qur’an, you shall see that for none of these heads does the Qur’an make it essential that the person to whom these funds are given should be a Muslim. For example, the Qur’an could have easily specified that the Zaka’h funds should be spent on the poor and the needy Muslims. On the contrary, however, we see that the poor and the needy, irrespective of their religious affiliations, are eligible to receive these funds. The same is the case of more or less all the other heads.