The Scholars have differed concerning the issue of distributing the Zakaat ul Fitr, such that there are two sayings:
The first saying: That it is to be distributed amongst the eight types of individuals that have been mentioned by Allaah in Soorah At-Tawbah in His saying:
((Indeed the Sadaqaat (obligatory Zakaat) are for the poor and the destitute and those employed to collect (the funds); and for those whose hearts have inclined (towards Islaam), and to free the captives; and for those in debt, and in the Path of Allaah (the Mujahideen), and for the wayfarer: an obligation imposed by Allaah, and Allaah is All-Knower All-Wise.)) Soorah At-Tawbah: 60
This is a saying which is well-known from amongst the Shaafi’ee’s.
The second saying: Is that it is not to be distributed except amongst the poor and the destitute as occurs in the Hadeeth of Ibn ‘Abbaas which preceded in which there was the statement: ((a sustenance for the destitute))*.
Ibn Al-Qayyim (rahimahullaah) said: ((It was from his guidance (Sallalaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) that he would specify those that were destitute for this particular Sadaqah, so he would not distribute it amongst the eight types of people – handful by handful. Nor did he command for that to be done that way, nor did any one of the companions do that, nor did those that came after them. Rather it is one of two sayings with us that it is impermissible to give it except to the destitute in particular.))
So this is the saying which is to be taken, except if you see dire need amongst someone from the other categories or an acceptable advantage by way of the Sharee’ah (to give it such), in which case it is to be given from this Sadaqah after it has been given to the poor and the destitute – in an ample portion. This is because it is a means of sustenance for them as has been established through that narration.
Here arises an issue which should be taken into consideration which is:
That it is permissible for one individual person to distribute his Zakaat to either one destitute person or to a number of them. Just as it is (allowed) for a group of people to give their fitrah to a single poor person so long as they are not committing an injustice in the right of the others who are present.
The second issue which is also recommended to pay attention to is that: It is impermissible to give it to those that it is impermissible to give the Zakaat to in accordance to that which we mentioned concerning the Zakaat of the types of wealth. And Allaah Knows best.
*The full text of the Hadeeth:
((Allaah’s Messenger (Sallalaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) ordered the giving of Zakaat ul Fitr as a purification for the fasting person from idle talk and obscenity, and as a sustenance for the poor. So whosoever gives it before the prayer (of ‘Eid) then it is an accepted Zakaat, and whosoever gives it after the prayer, then it is a Sadaqah (charity) from the Sadaqaat.))
Reported by Aboo Dawood in the book of Zakaat chapter: Zakaat ul Fitr; number 1609 and Ibn Maajah in the book of Zakaat chapter: Sadaqatul Fitr; number 1827and Ad-Daaraqutnee in the book of Zakaat ul Fitr number 1.
Shaykh Zayd al-Madkhalee
Al-Afnaan an-nadiyyah sharh mandhoomah as-subul as-sawiyyah le-Fiqh As-Sunan al-marwiyyah vol 3 pages 97-98