The idea that there are “sayyids” or “walis” (“saints”) whom Allaah has singled out from among mankind for some favour, or that they have a status which other people do not share, is an idea which is based on the Magian belief that Allaah is “incarnated” in people He chooses from among mankind. The Persians used to believe this of their kings (Chosroes) , and that this spirit moved from one king to another, through his descendents. This Magian (Zoroastrian) idea spread to the Muslims via the Raafidi Shi’ah, whose origins are Magian – so this idea was introduced to the Muslims. This idea says that Allaah selects some of mankind, to the exclusion of others, for this status, which is the status of imaamah and wilaayah. So they believe in this idea with regard to ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib and his descendents, and they add other positions to that, such as sayyid and aayah. This idea also spread to some misguided Sufi groups, such as the notion of abdaal and qutb. They said that as this sayyid or wali has this position and status, then they know better what is in our best interests, so we should entrust our affairs to them, because they are better than us, and so they are more entitled to take the zakaah. There can be no doubt that this is obviously a misguided notion.
The truth which Allaah and His Messenger have explained is that the zakaah must be given to those whom Allaah mentioned in His Book, when He said (interpretation of the meaning):
“As-Sadaqaat (here it means Zakaah) are only for the Fuqaraa’ and Al‑Masaakeen (the poor) and those employed to collect (the funds); and to attract the hearts of those who have been inclined (towards Islam); and to free the captives; and for those in debt; and for Allaah’s Cause (i.e. for Mujaahideen — those fighting in a holy battle), and for the wayfarer (a traveller who is cut off from everything); a duty imposed by Allaah. And Allaah is All-Knower, All-Wise”[al-Tawbah 9:60]
According to the Hanbali madhhab, it is better for the Muslim to handle the distribution of his zakaah himself, giving it to the poor whom he knows in his own country. If he cannot do that, then he should give it to a righteous and trustworthy man whose religious commitment he trusts, so that he may deliver it to the poor and needy – not as these people do who take it for their own personal use.
By giving zakaah to these so-called sayyids, one is helping them to support their sect. So it is not permissible, according to sharee’ah, to give them zakaah even if they ask for it, because they are following in the footsteps of the Jews and Christians who came before them, of whom Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“O you who believe! Verily, there are many of the (Jewish) rabbis and the (Christian) monks who devour the wealth of mankind in falsehood, and hinder (them) from the way of Allaah (i.e. Allaah’s religion of Islamic Monotheism)…”
And Allaah knows best.