Yes. Numerous Muslim scholars have confirmed that Zakat is payable to organizations that exist to serve the Muslim community by protecting their rights. This is because the work done by CAIR (and other such organizations) can be classified as fi-sabilillah, which is one of the eight categories of Zakat recipients detailed in the Quran (Chapter 9, Verse 60).
Islamic scholar Sheikh Ahmad Kutty a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:
“I think it is not only permissible, rather it is also imperative that we do give our zakah to organizations like CAIR and CAIR-CAN, since they are fulfilling a most timely and essential service for the healthy survival of the community. Supporting such institutions clearly falls under the legitimate objectives of zakah as expounded by authentic scholars and jurists of Islam, both of the past and the present.
The categories of recipients of zakah are stated in the following verse: “Charities are (meant) only for the poor and the needy, and those who are charged with collecting them, and those whose hearts are to be won over, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage, and (for) those who are overburdened with debts, and (for those who strive) in Allah’s cause (fi sabili-llah), and (for) the way-farer: (this is) an ordinance from Allah—and Allah is All-Knowing and All-Wise” (At-Tawbah: 60).
As is clear from the above verse, one of the categories is fi sabili-llah. … among the commentators of the Qur’an (mufassirun) as well as the jurists (fuqaha’), who have used the term fi sabili-llah in a far wider sense, thus extending it to include all beneficial works and projects that are of common benefit to the Ummah. They have thus included in this category such services as funeral arrangements, building and taking care of schools and mosques, establishing hospitals, building bridges, etc. In short, they definitely include institutions that provide educational or social services under this category and thus eligible to receive funds from zakah.
A principle of jurisprudence states: if a thing which has been considered as obligatory cannot be fulfilled without fulfilling another, then fulfilling the latter also becomes obligatory. Thus since protecting the rights of Muslims and empowering Muslims cannot be achieved without such institutions, it is imperative that Muslims support and maintain such institutions.
Muslims should have no hesitation in giving part of their Zakah to CAIR or CAIR-CAN, which is providing a most timely and essential service for the cause of Islam and Muslims. They both have a reputation for professionalism, efficiency, commitment, and integrity, which in my mind are the most valuable assets of any Islamic organization worthy of the name.
May Allah give us all the honor of serving His cause efficiently and professionally, and may He also accept our humble efforts in His cause. Ameen.”