Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, former President of the Islamic Society of North America, states: The Shari`ah has allowed Zakah for the fuqara’ (poor) and the masakin (needy), as stated in Surat at-Tawbah: 60. According to the Muslim jurists, fuqara’ are those who do not have anything, and masakin are those who have some things but they are not sufficient for their needs. In Surat al-Kahf, verse 79, Allah called a group of people masakin although they owned a boat.
The Shari`ah also considers the changed conditions of time and place. The needs of people change according to the standards of time and place. The living standards of the people have changed very much now. What was considered as a luxury at one time is now a necessity. Thus a TV, refrigerator or telephone are now common things in many households. A person is not considered rich if he has these things. Thus if a person has these things, but his income is not sufficient for his basic expenses, he is eligible for Zakah.