The distribution of zakah to those who are eligible, as mentioned in the ‘ayah from at-Taubah, can now be classified as under:
The poor (fuqdra’); the needy (rnasakm); the administrators of zakah (‘amildna ‘alaiha); those whose hearts are to be won over (mu’allafatu qulubuhum), slaves (ar-riqab); those in debt (gharimun) the wayfarers (abna’ as-Sabil); the warriors (rnujahidln).
The jurists differ over the distribution of zakah among the preceding eight groups of people.
Ash-Shaf’i and his followers hold that if a distributor of zakah happens to be the owner of the property (or the agent), then there is no share of the collectors in it. In that case, it becomes obligatory to distribute the sum collected among the remaining seven categories. If other categories are for some reason ineligible for their share, it will be distributed among those still eligible. It is not permissible to disregard any category if it meets the conditions for eligibility. Ibrahim anNakha’i says that if the amount of zakah received is large, then it is possible to divide it among the different categories. However, if it is small, it is permissible to place it into one category. Ahmad ibn Hanbal holds that the division of zakah has a priority but that it is permissible to give it all to one category. Malik maintains that the distributor of zakah should make an effort to investigate those who are in need. He should distribute it according to the immediate condition of the needy and poor people. Thus, if he sees in certain years that the poor need more, they should be given priority. If he sees in another year that the wayfarers are more needy, he should distribute it among the travellers. The Hanafiyyah and Sufyan athThauri thought that the zakah payer can choose the categories he wished to distribute the zakah to. This is related by Huzhaifah and Ibn ‘Abbas. Al-Hasan alBasri and ‘Ata’ ibn Abi Rabah base their opinions on it. Abu Hanifah holds that the distributors of zakah may give it to one person under any of the eight categories.