Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Can people donate zakat money towards the relief efforts of Islamic charities which are carrying out emergency relief work in the earthquake and tsunami shattered areas of the world, even though the majority of the recipients of the zakat will be non-Muslim, on the basis that this might soften their hearts towards Islam?
A believer cares. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon) said, “None of you believes until they love for their brother what they love for themselves.” As such, Muslims should be emptying their pockets in financial support, and their hearts in earnest supplication, for those affected by the recent tsunami in Asia, as well as those Muslims and non-Muslims in need and desperation around the world.
Allah has called upon us to give, and promised that anything we give will be given back to us after having been multiplied manifold by the Favor of Allah, both in this life and the next.
Allah Most High tells us in the Qur’an
057.018 Lo! those who give alms, both men and women, and lend unto Allah a goodly loan, it will be doubled for them, and theirs will be a rich reward.
And He also promises that
033.035 Lo! men who surrender unto Allah, and women who surrender, and men who believe and women who believe, and men who obey and women who obey, and men who speak the truth and women who speak the truth, and men who persevere (in righteousness) and women who persevere, and men who are humble and women who are humble, and men who give charity and women who give charity, and men who fast and women who fast, and men who guard their modesty and women who guard (their modesty), and men who remember Allah much and women who remember – Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a tremendous reward.
The reason it mentions both men and women is for emphasis; otherwise, the general statements made in the male grammatical form refer to both men and women. This was confirmed by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) when he said, “Women are the partners of men.” [al-nisa’ shaqa’iq al-rijal]
However, zakat is a specific act of worship that has specific conditions. As such, its final recipient must be needy Muslims. This has been discussed in several answers on SunniPath, including:
Can we give Zakat for the ‘general good’ — What is meant by “In the Way of Allah”
As for the category of ‘those whose hearts are to be reconciled’, this was abrogated after Islam was manifest and established, as affirmed by major companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), including Sayyiduna Umar (Allah be pleased with him). [Ibn al-Humam/Marghinani, Fath al-Qadri `ala al-Hidaya]
And Allah alone gives success.