The zakat was not prescribed in the period of Mecca, but when the Prophet (saw) migrated to Medina, zakat was prescribed. The Prophet (saw) used to send su'at (people who collect the zakat) to collect it from Muslims all over the Muslim tribes. In the time of Abu Bakr (ra), many Muslims refused to pay the zakat arguing we used to pay it to the Prophet (saw), but now he passed away. Abu Bakr (ra) fought them along with the agreement of the companions (ra) until they gave it to the Caliph. The same thing lasted in the time of Umar (ra), but in the time of 'Uthman (ra) the Muslim Empire was so large and there was a huge amount of money to be collect. To solve this problem, 'Uthman (ra) allowed people to distribute the zakat of their hidden or battin money by themselves. Muslims later continued to give the zakat to the rulers until the removal of the Muslim Caliphate in 1924, after which Muslims either distribute it by themselves or give it to charity organizations that will distribute it on their behalf.
Evidences Support the Case of Caliph
خُذْ مِنْ أَمْوَالِهِمْ صَدَقَةً تُطَهِّرُهُمْ وَتُزَكِّيهِمْ بِهَا
"Take alms (zakat) out of their wealth, so that thou may cleanse them and purify them thereby." (Qur'an 9:103)
The Prophet (saw) said to Mu'adh (ra) when he sent him to be in his behalf in Yamen:
أعلمهم أن الله افترض عليهم صدقة تؤخذ من أغنيائهم، وترد على فقرائهم
"Tell them that Allah has made the payment of Zakat obligatory upon them. It should be collected from their rich and distributed among their poor." (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Imam Tahawi also narrates a hadith from Muslim ibn Yasar that the Prophet (saw) said, “The (collection of the) Zakah, the (implementation of the) Hudood the (distribution of the) spoils and the (appointment of the) Jumu’ah are for the Sultan.” (A similar narration has been narrated by Ibn Abi Shaybah in his Musanaf and also by Imam Narghiyani. They have been deemed acceptable.)
The evidence here is in the imperative form of (خذ) take and the informative for of (تؤخذ) should be collected. So the Prophet (saw) or the political ruler after him is required to take the zakat from Muslims.
The fatwas of all the companions to give the zakat to the Imam. When someone asked them I have an amount of money that requires the zakat. 'So should I distribute it myself or give it to the Imam?' All of them answered as the questioner narrated:
فأمروني جميعًا أن أدفعها إلى السلطان وما اختلف عليَ منهم أحد
"They all ordered me to pay it to the Sultan, and no one of them rejected that." (Nawawi, al-Majmu', Vol. 6, p. 136)
General Juristic Analysis Of the Concept
Given the responsibility of collection and distribution of zakat is upon the Imam, he is entitled to make payments to employees of state who assist him in this function from the zakat. One of the categories mentioned in the Qur'anic verse is "employees" referring to the employees of the state.
In the absence of Caliph, Muslims are mandatory required to pay their zakat. They can distribute it by themselves to the eight mentioned categories and it is also permissible to have an individual or collective representative who must be trustworthy, identified and non-fictional entity.
Qaraddawi, Fiqh az-Zakah;
Abdullah al-Ghufili, Nawazil az-Zakah.
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