To whom is zakat given? What are the rules of zakat in islam?
- The Muslim should only give zakat and sadaqa for the sake of Allah. They should carry out this act of worship without “taunting” or “tormenting” anyone. A goodness that is carried out by breaking hearts, degrading the poor, tormenting and taunting others has no value in the sight of Allah.
- According to the Shafii and the Hanbali Schools, it is more appropriate to pay zakat openly in order to encourage people to do this act. According to the Hanafi scholars, it is recommended to pay it secretly in order to protect the recipient’s honor and to avoid the danger of showing off. Allah Almighty says in the Qur’an:
“If you do deeds of charity openly, it is well; but if you bestow it upon the needy in secret, it will be even better for you, and it will atone for some of your bad deeds. And God is aware of all that you do.”
According to all Muslim jurists, it is better to give voluntary charity, other than zakat, in a secret manner.
- It is better for the person giving zakat not to inform the poor person that the thing they are giving is zakat. Maliki jurists are of the opinion that “It is makruh for the giver of zakat to say that it is zakat because this may break the poor people’s heart and hurt their pride.”
- It is not a requirement for a Muslim to personally give their own zakat. They may deputize a trustworthy Muslim representative to carry out this obligation. The rich Muslim should inform his deputy or the endowment that they have been deputized to deliver his zakat.
Some Maliki jurists have regarded giving zakat through a deputy as more appropriate because it helps to avoid the occurrence of hypocrisy and being praised by others in this situation.
- Zakat should be given in charity without any delay when the appropriate time arrives. Unpaid zakat on a good commodity makes the commodity impure income. This is why the person who delays giving zakat without an excuse is considered a sinner. This is because the zakat is the right of the poor; the wealth of the rich is like an asset that has been entrusted to them. It is not appropriate to keep this trust and not return a certain percentage of it to its rightful owner by offering it to the poor. However, if poor relatives or neighbors are expected from distant places or if there are people poorer than the ones living around, it is permissible to delay the payment of zakat.
- Just like the possibility of payment of instalments before their due dates, one who owns wealth more than the amount of nisab does not have to wait for the passage of a year and can pay his zakat before the end of the year. In fact, according to a narration reported by Ali (r.a.), Abbas (r.a.) asked permission to pay his zakat before it’s due and he was given permission.
- The goods that are given as zakat must not be low in quality. The goods must not be so old or of poor quality that they cannot be used. A Muslim should not give his/her zakat out of goods that he/she himself/herself would not want.
- When it is time to offer the zakat and the sadaqa, it is vital to distinguish between actual poor people, real poverty, and people who are in genuine difficulties from those who are simply feigning. The person responsible for giving zakat should therefore investigate and locate poor people who fear Allah, but who feel shy to ask for assistance to fulfill their needs. When such people are found, the zakat should be given to them.
- It is not appropriate to ask zakat from the rich. However, it is permissible to ask in case of a calamity. In fact, our beloved Prophet (pbuh) said to Qubaysa b. Muharik that begging was not permissible but for one of the three (classes) of persons. One of which was “… a man whose property has been destroyed by a calamity which has smitten him, for him begging is permissible till he gets what will support life, or will provide him reasonable subsistence …”
- It is forbidden to transfer zakat to people living in other areas even if they are relatives when there are people in the vicinity who are eligible to receive zakat. If zakat is transferred to another region, it will not remove the responsibility of zakat. Zakat should be given to the poor living in the same area where the goods are found. If there is not any poor living in that area, then it becomes permissible to transfer zakat to other regions. According to the Hanafi School there is no harm to send zakat to places besides his own where his poor and needy relatives live.
- Invocations should be said when giving and receiving the zakat. Almighty Allah commands in chapter al-Tawbah (9), verse 103 when addressing to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh):
”[Hence, O Prophet,] accept that [part] of their possessions which is offered for the sake of God, so that you may cleanse them thereby and cause them to grow in purity, and pray for them: behold, thy prayer will be [a source of] comfort to them-for God is all-hearing, all-knowing.” By obeying this order, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said the following invocation about the person who brought the zakat “O Allah, bless this man and his family.” 
It is considered mandub to say the following supplication that Our Prophet (pbuh) made when giving zakat: “O Allah make this zakat beneficial for me, do not make it a debt upon me which I have given involuntarily.”
 Al-Baqara, 2: 271.
 Al-Tirmidhi, Zakat, 37; Abu Dawud, Zakat, 25; Ibn Maja, Zakat, 7
 Muslim, Zakat, 12
 Al-Bukhari, Zakat, 64
Source: Fiqh1 (According To The Shafi’i School Of Islamic Law), Erkam Publications