Yes, you can do that if it is difficult to find Zakāh eligible people yourself. Your Zakah is not considered paid until it reaches the hands of the eligible recipient.
“It is permissible for an agent to give Zakat wealth to his poor son and poor wife but not use it himself.” (Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar 2:269)
“Zakat is for the poor and the needy, and those employed to administer the (funds); for those whose hearts have been (recently) reconciled (to Truth); for those in bondage and in debt; in the cause of Allah; and for the wayfarer: (thus is it) ordained by Allah, and Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom.” (Surah al-Tawbah, 60)
As we can see, the third category of the recipients of Zakat is of those who are employed by the Islamic government to collect and administer the Zakat funds. However, we need to understand and look deeper into the real status of these Zakat collectors.
According to the Qur’an, it is the responsibility of the head of an Islamic government to ensure that the Zakat is collected from the rich and distributed amongst the poor. Allah Most High says His Messenger (Allah bless him & give him peace):
“Of their goods, take alms, that so you may purify and sanctify them.” (al-Tawbah, 103)
Thus, Allah Almighty commanded the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) to collect Zakat on behalf of the poor. Similarly, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) ordered many Companions (Allah be pleased with them all) to collect Zakat funds. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the head of state (imam) to collect the Zakat and ensure that it reaches the poor and needy.
In other words, these Zakat collectors are agents on behalf of the poor and needy, in that they collect and ensure that the Zakat reaches them. Thus, the wages given to them is not from those who are paying the Zakat, rather from the poor and needy on whose behalf these people are working. When the Zakat collectors take possession of the Zakat, it will be deemed fulfilled, for they are considered to be agents on behalf of the poor, and it is a well-established fact that, the possession of an agent is considered to be the possession of the one who appointed him.
One may ask a question that, how can these collectors be considered agents on behalf of the poor and needy, when they (the poor and needy) did not appoint them as their agents?
The answer to this is that, surely the poor and needy did not appoint them as agents, but due to the fact that the Imam or Amir al-Mu’minin is obliged to ensure the delivery of Zakat to them, he is automatically considered to be an agent on behalf of all the poor and needy people. Thus, whosoever he appoints as a collector (a’mil) will also be considered an agent on behalf of the poor.
Therefore, we see many exegetes of the Qur’an defining the collectors as “those appointed by the Imam”.
Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (Allah have mercy on him) states in his exegesis of the Qur’an:
“This verse signifies that the Imam and those who he assigns have the responsibility of collecting Zakat and distributing it…And a collector (a’mil) is he who has been appointed by the Imam to collect and administer the Zakat…This is confirmed by the statement of Allah Most High “Of their goods, take alms, that so you may purify and sanctify them.” (Tafsir al-Kabir, 6/88)
It becomes clear from the above that, the wealth given to the collectors (a’milin) is not in reality Zakat wealth, rather it is given to them by the recipients of Zakat as their wages for the service that was provided for them.
It also becomes clear from the above explanation that, those organisations and personals who collect Zakat in this day and age are not considered to be agents on behalf of the recipients, rather, they are the agents for those who are paying Zakat, thus it will not be permissible for them to take any Zakat wealth as their wages or salary.
The reason being that, the poor recipients did not appoint them as their agents (as is the former case) neither do we have an Islamic state or an Imam who is duly obliged to take care of the needs of the poor, thus ensure that they receive their Zakat, and automatically is considered to be the agent of the poor and needy recipients. In order for the Zakat collectors to take their salary from the Zakat wealth, there has to be an Islamic state and government where the Imam appoints people as Zakat collectors (a’milin). (See: Ma’arif al-Qur’an, 4/398-399)
[Shaykh] Mustafa Umar