As Salam Alikum Mufti Saab,
الجواب وبالله التوفيق
The tenant of Zakatis one of the specialties of Islam which is based upon pure kindness, sacrifice and welfare for others. It teaches gratefulness and thanks to the One Who is the truly generous for His uncountable and infinite blessings and Who is the One and Only Creator and Sustainer. On the other hand, discharging Zakat helps those in the community who are the most fragile and in need, so that they can also lead a life with proper means and dignity. In addition, the true underlying significance of the Islamic Shari'ah for Zakat, is when:
کیلا یکون دولۃ بین الاغنیاء منکم in addition to توخذ من اغنیاءھم وترد علی فقراءھم becomes the demonstration of خذ من اموالھم صدقۃ تطھرھم وتزکیھم.
After mentioning this introduction of the topic of Zakat, it is of utmost importance that its meanings from a diction and Shar‘aistandpoint is understood, which will help understand its masraf(i.e. a place where Zakatcan be utilized).According to the Arabic dictionary, the word Zakatmeans purification, cleanliness, cleansing, increment, and barakahetc. According to the diction of the Islamic Shari‘ahit is defined as:
تملیک جزء مال عینہ الشارع من مسلم فقیر غیر ھاشمی ولا مولاہ مع قطع المنفعۃ من المملک من کل وجہ
Which means to take a specific share of money out of one’s wealth purely for Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta‘ala and discharge it to a Muslim faqeerand make him its owner. This share has been specified by Rasulullah Sallallaho Alyhi Wasallam. As long as the person who it is being discharged to is a faqeer, not a hashmi, not a freed slave whose owner is discharging the Zakatand should not be a directly or indirectly benefiting from the person who is discharging the Zakat. In other words, a precise definition is as follows:
تملیک مال مخصوص لشخص مخصوص (فتاوی عثمانیہ۳۰۱،۳۰۲، ج۳
The demonstration of فی سبیل اللہ
Hazrat Mufti Shafee‘ Sahib Rehmatullah ‘Alehstates regarding فی سبیل اللہthat the dictionary meanings of فی سبیل اللہare very generic and include all such actions which are performed for the pleasure of Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta‘ala, due to the generic nature of these words. Individuals, who understood the literal translation of these words without considering its tafseerfrom Rasulullah Sallallaho ‘Alyhi Wasallamor the commentary from the aimmaof tafseer, have been mistaken in this case. This is because they took the literal meanings of these words and included all such acts as the masrafof Zakat which by any means are virtuous or are acts of worship, such as construction of madaris, masajidor khanqahs, digging wells, making bridges or roads, paying salaries of the employees of such welfare organizations, expenses for such offices, even the expenses for political journeys and publications. This is obviously incorrect in the light of the teachings of Quran and is against the Ijma‘-e-Ummat. According to all of the tafaseerof the Sahaba Kiram Rizwanullah Ta‘ala ‘Alyhim Ajma‘een, who had heard and understood Qurandirectly from Rasulullah Sallallaho ‘Alyhi Wasallamand in the light of the tafaseer of the aimmataba‘een these words have been attributed to pilgrims and the ones who are striving in the path of Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta‘ala. It has been mentioned in a hadithof Rasulullah Sallallaho ‘Alyhi Wasallam that a person had designated his camel as وقف فی سبیل اللہ , Rasulullah Sallallaho ‘Alyhi Wasallamasked that person to utilize that camel in the hujjaj's journey (i.e. the pilgrims for Hajj).(بحوالہ مسوط سرخی)
According to thet afaseer of Ibn-e-Jareer and Ibn-e-Katheer, which are solely based upon the narrations of the ahadith of Rasulullah Sallallaho ‘Alyhi Wasallam, they have specified the interpretation of these words for such people who are striving in the path of Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta‘alaor going in the journey of Hajj but who lack the means of possessing the objects required for such journeys. The fuqahah and other ulamah who have included the students and other individuals who are engaged in performing virtuous acts in this explanation, they have placed a condition for them to be from the group of fuqarahor the ones who are in dire need….الخ
However, no one from the fuqahah of the Islamic ummahor the aimma arba‘(the four righteous imams) have ever considered the meanings of these words as supporting the welfare organizations or masajid and madaris and their day to day operational and logistical needs, thus not considering them as Masraf-e-Zakat. Instead they have documented and provided explicit proofs against considering such acts as the masraf of Zakat, which means it is impermissible to spend the Zakat money in such places. (Jawahirul-Fiqha,Pg.205, Vol.3)
It has been mentioned in Hidayah:
و فی سبیل اللہ منقطع الغزاۃ عند ابی یوسف رحمۃ اللہ علیہ لانہ المتفاھم عندالاطلاق ، وعند محمد رحمۃ اللہ علیہ منقطع الحاج
(ھدایہ ص ۲۲۲، ج، باب من یجوز دفع الصدقات)
In addition to ahnaf, this same ruling is from the other three righteous imamsas well.
Allama Moofiquiddin Bin Qudama writes:
انھم الغزاۃ فی سبیل اللہ عند الاطلاق ھوالغزو(الی قولہ) فاذا تقرر ھذا فانھم یعطون، وان کانوا اغنیاء وبھذا قال مالک والشافعی واسحاق و ابوثور وابوعبید وابن المنذر وقال ابوحنیفۃ وصاحباہ لا تدفع الا فقیر (فتاوی قاسمیہ ص ۵۷۹، ج ۱۱، بحوالہ مغنی)
Hafiz Ibn-e-Hajar ‘Asqalani Rehmatullah ‘Alehwrites:
واما سبیل اللہ فالاکثر علی انہ یخص بالغازی غنیا کان او فقیرالان ابا حنیفۃ قال یختص بالغازی المحتاج
(حوالہ مذکورہ بالا بحوالہ فتح الباری، کتاب الزکاۃ)
From the above mentioned statements of the fuqahah, it is evident that welfare organizations are not the demonstration of or do not get encompassed by the term "فی سبیل اللہ". Due to the fact that the individuals who will be assigned the above mentioned duties will be the organization's employees and it is obvious that their salaries will be paid from the money which was collected as Zakat, when it is impermissible to pay salaries using the Zakat.
Mufti Yousuf Ludhianwi Rehmatullah ‘Alehwrites that in order to discharge Zakat it is mandatory for a needy person (to whom Zakat can be given) to be made the owner of that money. Without ensuring this, the fardh of Zakat does not get fulfilled. The welfare organizations, which collect Zakat, they do not become the owners of that money, rather their role is of an attorney for the people who are discharging their Zakat. If the people running such organizations, make needy and poor people the owners of this Zakat, then the fardhof Zakatwill be fulfilled, otherwise if such needy and poor people are not made the owners and they spend it with their own accord wherever they please (like the situation mentioned in the question), then the fardh upon the people discharging the Zakatwill not be considered as fulfilled, and will continue to remain as an obligation that they will have to fulfill. (Aap kay Masail Aur Un Ka Hal, Pg.177, Vol.5)
Mufti Kifayatullah Rehmatullah ‘Aleh writes that according to Hanfia, it is mandatory that the money collected as Zakatshall be given to the needy and poor (who deserve the Zakat) through tamleek(i.e. to make them the owner of that money), therefore, in the situations where tamleekis not performed, the Zakat cannot be utilized there. For example, tamleek does not take place in construction of mosques, rest houses for travelers, or digging wells etc…الخ
وبشرط ان یکون الصرف تملیکا لا اباحۃ کمامر لا یصرف الی بناء نحو مسجد ولا الی کفن میت وقضاء دینہ الخ (الدر المختار) (قولہ نحو مسجد) کبناء القناطر والسقایات واصلاح الطرقات وکری الانھار والحج والجھاد و کل ما لا تملیک فبہ:
(زیلعی رد المحتار کتاب الزکوۃ کفایت المفتی ص ۲۴۲، ج۶)
For the welfare of the Muslim ummah, the actions mentioned in your question are obviously praiseworthy, however there is no such aspect present in them where tamleekis being performed by making a needy or poor person the owner of the Zakat. Instead, in order to achieve the end goal, it is clear that people will be hired and will be paid salaries from that Zakat, which is not correct according to the Islamic Shari‘ah. Because, in order to fulfill the obligation of Zakat, a needy or poor person has to be made its owner through tamleek, free of cost, as without tamleekit will not be fulfilled.
ولا تحسب اجرۃ العمال ونفقۃ البقر وکری الانھار اجرۃ الحافظ وغیرہ ذلک
(حاشیہ، آپ کے مسائل اور ان کا حل ، ص ۱۶۴، ج۵، بحوالہ عالمگیر)