Channels of Zakah
Allah did not place the identification of the Channels of Zakkah to a sent prophet or a nearby angel, but Allah the Exalted has identified the channels of Zakah in His Book, as Allah Almighty Says: "Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [Zakah] 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." [Quran 9: 60]
The following is the list of the eight categories of eligible people with a brief definition of each one:
1. The Poor:
The poor is a person who does not have sufficient wealth to fulfill his daily necessities .
2. The Needy:
The needy (Miskeen) is the one whose income doesn't cover his needs, yet he abstains from asking others. The Messenger of Allah, sallallaaahu alayhi wa sallam, defined the Miskeen in some narrations as: "The Miskeen is not the one who goes around among the people (begging) maybe receiving a morsel or two, and a date or two. Rather, the Miskeen is the one who does not have enough wealth to suffice him, however, he does not let others know about it in order to be given charity and he does not stand and beg people." [Al-Bukhaari]
3. The Zakah employees (or those who are involved with its work):
Those are the Muslims who are employed to collect Zakah. They are given their salaries from the Zakah collection.
4. Reconciliation of Hearts (Al-Mu'allafati Quloobuhom):
They are given from Zakah in order to appease their hearts or strengthen their Iman.
5. The slaves:
The intent of this category is that the Muslim who is a slave be purchased from Zakah (funds) and freed (solely for the sake of pleasing Allah). It also applies to the Muslim who is an indentured servant (i.e. he has a contract with his owner to be freed upon paying a sum of money). Such a person may be given from Zakah that which will help him fulfill the contract and thus become a freeman after that.
6. The indebted:
He is a person who owes a debt that he did not acquire through disobedience to Allah and His Messenger, sallallaaahu alayhi wa sallam, and it has become impossible for him to pay it off. Such a person is given the amount which will allow him to pay off his debt from Zakah. This is due to the statement of the Prophet, sallallaaahu alayhi wa sallam, "Begging is not permissible, except for three: For the person who is extremely poor, or the person who has severe debt, or the person who owes a (debt of) blood (money)." [At-Tirmithi and Abu Daawood]
7. In the way of Allah:
All gates of goodness.
8. The wayfarer:
He is the traveler who spent all his money outside his hometown or city during his travel. Therefore, he is given from Zakah that which will fulfill his needs as a stranger, even if he is a wealthy man in his homeland.