Q: Is Zakat purely to eliminate poverty?
A: Imam al-Tabari (d.310 AH) mentions that the eight categories can be summarised into two essential functions:
Fulfilling the needs of the Muslims
Assisting and strengthening Islam
From the eight categories of Zakat, the following three categories are not related to poverty alleviation: Amilin alayha (Zakat administrators), al-Mu’allafati Qulubuhum (winning hearts) and Fisabilillah (in the cause of Allah). These categories all go back to the aim of assisting and strengthening Islam. It is worth noting that even the first objective has a critical function to play not just in providing a believer with the material resources he/she requires for essential needs, but in their individual sense of belonging to the Muslim community and in their own ability to maintain a healthy and sustainable state of subservience. In one prayer, the Prophet ﷺ sought refuge in Allah from “disbelief and poverty” (Sahih Ibn Hibban). In another statement, he indicated that poverty leads to disbelief (Al-Tabarani and al-Bayhaqi).
And Allah knows best!