Zakat ul-Fitr is a type of sadaqah (charity) given to the poor at the end of a fast. It is a fast-breaking charity (Fitr), so it is paid at the end of the month of Ramadan.
This type of charity is required of all Muslims, regardless of age or gender.
Al-Bukhari and Muslim relate from Ibn ‘Umar that he said: “The Prophet, upon whom be peace, enjoined the payment of one sa’ of dates or one sa’ of barley as Zakatul-fitr on every Muslim, young and old, male and female free and slave.”
The charity, which became obligatory on Muslims in the second year of the prophet’s journey from Makkah to Madina was introduced to purify the giver and to help the poor and the needy.
According to the Hadeeth reported by Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, and Ad-Daruqutny from Ibn Abbas, the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, enjoined Zakatul-fitr on the one who fasts to shield one’s self from any indecent act or speech and for the purpose of providing food for the needy.
One major difference between this form of Zakat and the monetary zakat is that while Zakatul Fitr purifies the body of a Muslim who fasted in Ramadan, Zakatul mal or monetary Zakat purifies the wealth of the giver.
It is reported that “The Messenger of Allah enjoined Zakat-ul-Fitr on the one who fasts (i.e. fasted during the month of Ramadan) to purify him from any indecent act or speech and for the purpose of providing food for the needy. It is accepted as Zakah for the person who pays it before the Eid prayer and it is Sadaqah (i.e. voluntary charity) for the person who pays it after the Eid prayer.’ Related by Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah and Al-Hakim graded it as Sahih.” (Abu Dawud)
Who is expected to pay this charity?
As stated in the hadith of Prophet Muhammad, Zakatul Fitr is incumbent on all free Muslim, who possesses one sa’ of dates or barley which is needed as a basic food for himself or his family for the duration of one day and night. The head or caretaker of the family pays for every member of the family. However if the head of the family is not capable, someone who can afford it and is responsible from the family to pay it.
If a woman is unmarried and she is able to give Zakat ul-Fitr then she should pay for herself if her father is not responsible for her maintenance.
Who deserves Zakatul Fitr?
Basically, Zakatul Fitr is given to poor and needy Muslims who do not have enough to celebrate the eid festival with their families for the next 24 hours (of the eid day)
Scholars also believe this charity can be extended to non-muslims because Allah says: “Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion and did not drive you out of your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who deal with equity.” (Al-Mumtahanah, 60:8)
When should Zakatul Fitr be paid?
Zakatul Fitr is meant to make the poor and the needy happy, thus it is expected to be paid to those who deserve it at the end of Ramadan and before the Eid prayer. Scholars differ on the exact time to pay it. some agree it should be paid on the night of Ramadan because that is when fasting ends while other said Zakatul Fitr is due at the start of Fajr on Eid day. In any case, it has to be paid before leaving home for Eid prayer.
How is Zakatul Fitr paid?
Some scholars opine that the charity be given from food items the prophet mentioned in the hadith about Zakatul Fitr. The hadith as reported by Abu Sa’id Al-Khudry states:
“We used to give on behalf of every child, old person, freeman and slave during the lifetime of the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, one sa’ of food, or one sa’ of dried cottage cheese, or one sa’ of barley, or one sa’ of dates, or one sa’ of raisins as Zakatul-fitr.”
Many other believe it should be given from the essential food of the people of the country.
In countries like Nigeria, Zakatul Fitr can be paid with staple foods that are common and consumable in the country. Rice, beans garri, millets etc can be used for Zakatul Fitr.
Contrary to the food-centric opinions on Zakatul Fitr, Imam Abu Hanifa opined that the charity can be given in substantial food as well as its equivalent in money.
The wisdom behind this is that when everybody is giving grains and other foods as charity, the poor receiver would also need money to buy ingredients, drinks, fruits and also use the money for other needs.
What exactly is the amount of Zakatul Fitr?
For substantial foods or grains such as rice, millets, wheat, cereals, a scoop from the scoop of prophet estimated to be 3kg is required for Zakatul Fitr. For instance, if you are giving rice for Zakatul Fitr, you’ll have to give a 3kg of uncooked rice or its equivalence in money. And this should be the type of rice you and your family consume not the one you wish to give the recipients for charity.
Zakatul Fitr is an obligation enjoined on all Muslims. It is as important as Ramadan because it is meant to purify us. It takes faith to achieve this and as Muslims, we should be conscious enough to observe this obligation. However, don’t forget to give the charity to whom it is due at the right time.
Eid Mubarak in advance!