First of all, we would like to stress the fact that Zakah has its rightful beneficiaries who are its legal recipients. Two people came to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and asked him to give them out of Zakah money. He answered: ‘Allah has not entrusted the distribution of Zakah to a Prophet, given a message to convey; or to an angel who has a favored position with Allah. He himself has ruled on its distribution and divided it between eight groups of people. If you belong to any of these, I will give you Zakah money. If not, then you will have none of it.’
Of course, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was referring to Qur’anic verse 60 of surat 9 (At-Tawbah) which lists the beneficiaries of Zakah. Allah Almighty says: ‘The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to free the captives and the debtors, and for the cause of Allah, and (for) the wayfarers; a duty imposed by Allah. Allah is Knower, Wise.’ (At-Tawbah: 60)”
Shedding more light on the issue, the late grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Gadul-Haqq `Ali Gadul-Haqq, states: “The beneficiaries of Zakah are clearly defined in the well known verse of surat At-Tawbah (i.e, verse 60). The seventh category of those beneficiaries includes giving out the Zakah money in the advancement in Allah’s Cause. Some of Muslim scholars have restricted this seventh category to supporting those who struggle in Allah’s Cause in the battlefield only. Other scholars such as Al-`Izz Ibn `Abdus-Salam stated that the matter goes far to encompass all means that are capable of enhancing Muslims’ strength and helping them attain victory over their enemies in all fields, irrespective of whether this support is being conducted at times of war or at times of peace.
Hence, there is nothing wrong in giving Zakah money to charitable organizations, especially when Muslims are a minority who live in a majority non-Muslim country.
Moreover, the above fatwa also gives permissibility to giving Zakah to charitable organizations that help establish and finance Mosques, hospitals as well other religious institutions. The same applies to paying the salaries of working staff in those charitable organizations. However, the poor and the needy should be given priority when it comes to the payment of the Zakah money because Allah Almighty has given them priority in the above Qur’anic verse.”