- What’s Zakah al-Fitr?
- Significance of Zakāt al-Fitr
- The Wisdom Behind Zakah al-Fitr
- Who Pays/Gives Zakah al-Fitr?
- Who Deserves Zakah al-Fitr?
- When Should Zakah al-Fitr Be Given/Paid?
- How is Zakah al-Fitr Paid?
- What it the Amount of Zakah al-Fitr?
Alhamdulillah infinitely. All praise and thanks are due to the Almighty Allāh. I send peace and blessings upon Habībī Muḥammad, his household, his companions and all those who follow his guided path, till the Day of Resurrection.
This article is a brief introduction to zakah al-fitr. It aims to simplify the understanding of zakah al-fitr, in the way that answers most of the questions regarding zakah al-fitr, which the good reader may be having in mind.
To start, what is zakah al-fitr?
Zakah al-Fitr is a form of charity, which is given to the poor, at the end of the fasting the month of Ramaḍān. It therefore occurs once every Hijrī/lunar year.
Zakah al-Fitr was decreed in the 2nd year after the hijrah of the Prophet Muhammad, salla Allāhu ‘alaihi wa sallam, to Madīnah. That was the same year, fasting the month of Ramaḍān was decreed. This tells us that in Islam, zakah al-fitr is as important as Ramaḍān. The fact that they were both decreed in the same month and year says it all.
With that, zakah al-Fitr is an obligation, due on the free or slave Muslim, male or female, young or adult. A man (head of family) pays for himself and for whomever he shelters, unless they have enough money of their own, to give out zakah al-fitr.
If a married woman has savings of her own, she is required to pay from her savings. The same thing applies to children, if they have savings of their own. In other words, let your child dig his piggy bank and pay for his zakah al-fitr from it. If you have a maid at home, your Muslim maid (or worker) pays from her or her pocket money, unless you don’t pay them. 🙂
It’s worth emphasizing that a person has to be a Muslim in to be required to pay/give and qualify to receive zakah al-fitr.
Sayyidunā ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar, radiya Allahu ‘anhuma, said, in a ḥadīth authenticated by Imām al-Bukhūrī:
فَرَضَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ زَكَاةَ الفِطْرِ مِنْ رَمَضَانَ صَاعاً مِنْ تَمْرٍ، أَوْ صَاعاً مِنْ شَعِيرٍ؛ عَلَى العَبْدِ وَالحُرِّ، وَالذَّكَرِ وَالأُنْثَى، وَالصَّغِيرِ وَالكَبِيرِ مِنَ المُسْلِمِينَ
Rasūlullah, salla Allahu ‘alaihi wasallam, enjoined Zakah al-Fitr from Ramaḍān, a scoop from dates, or a scoop from wheat, upon the slave or the free, male or female, young or adult among Muslims.
It’s not necessary to always know the wisdom behind any obligatory prescribed ritual. What’s important is to know its requirements, and comply with them accordingly. However, there are some rituals and deeds which either the Qur’ān or the Prophet did tell us the wisdom (and logic) behind their legislation. Among them is zakah al-fitr.
Unlike the main annual monetary zakah, which is given to purify one’s wealth, zakah al-fitr purifies the fasting body. It’s aimed to purify the fasting Muslim from all his minor mistakes, and mischiefs that he might have committed during the fasting month while fasting. It also aims to provide for the needy, during the festive season of ‘eid al-fitr.
Sayyidunā ‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Abbās, radiya Allāhu ‘anhu, said in a ḥadīth reported by Abu Dāwūd and ibn Mājah:
فَرَضَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ زَكَاةَ الْفِطْرِ طُهْرَةً لِلصَّائِمِ مِنْ اللَّغْوِ وَالرَّفَثِ، وَطُعْمَةً لِلْمَسَاكِينِ، مَنْ أَدَّاهَا قَبْلَ الصَّلاةِ فَهِيَ زَكَاةٌ مَقْبُولَةٌ، وَمَنْ أَدَّاهَا بَعْدَ الصَّلاةِ فَهِيَ صَدَقَةٌ مِنْ الصَّدَقَاتِ
“Rasulullah, sallā Allāhu ‘alaihi wa sallam, enjoined zakah al-fitr as a purification for the fasting person from idle and obscene speech, and to feed the poor. Whoever gives it before the prayer (of ‘eid), it is an accepted (rewarded) zakah al-fitr, and whoever gives it after the prayer, it is an ordinary charity.”
We understand from this ḥadīth that although the poor amongst us are expected to benefit from your zakah al-fitr, we do ourselves a great favour by giving zakah al-fitr. Who doesn’t want to be cleared from obscene speeches and wrongdoings which none can deny been guilty of?
Zakah al-fitr is mandated upon every Muslim, free or slave, male or female, young or adult, who possesses the expenses on which he can sustain for the next 24 hours (day and night) of the ‘eid or longer. A caretaker (head) of a family pays for every single member of the family, including his slaves and maids if they don’t have sufficient money, of their own, to give out. A baby who is still sitting in his mother’s womb doesn’t have to pay or give out zakah al-fitr. His parents can, however, voluntarily pay for him.
Zakāt al-fitr is to be given to every Muslim, who doesn’t have enough for the next 24 hours (day and night). Non-Muslims do not qualify to receive zakāt al-fitr. The 8 deserving parties for the annual monetary zakāt may not qualify for receiving zakāt al-fitr, if they have enough food for their next 24 hours.
Your relatives or family members do not quality for zakāt al-fitr until they are really in need, and you don’t shelter them.
Zakāt al-fitr is paid or given a day a two days before ‘eid al-fitr. It has to be given out before the ‘eid prayers. This is because, failure to give it out before ‘eid prayers, invalidates the reward of giving zakāt al-fitr, unless with a strong and valid reason.
Sayyidunā ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar, radiya Allahu ‘anhuma, said, in a ḥadīth authenticated by Imām al-Bukhārī:
وَأَمَرَ بِهَا أَنْ تُؤَدَّى قَبْلَ خُرُوجِ النَّاسِ إِلَى الصَّلاةِ
“And he (Rasūlullah salla Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) ordered for it to be given before people go out for the prayer.”
If you give your zakāt al-fitr after the prayers, it will be counted as an ordinary charity. Sayyidunā ‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Abbās, radiya Allāhu ‘anhu, said in a ḥadīth reported by Abu Dāwūd and ibn Mājah:
مَنْ أَدَّاهَا قَبْلَ الصَّلاةِ فَهِيَ زَكَاةٌ مَقْبُولَةٌ، وَمَنْ أَدَّاهَا بَعْدَ الصَّلاةِ فَهِيَ صَدَقَةٌ مِنْ الصَّدَقَاتِ
“Whoever gives it before the prayer (of ‘eid), it is an accepted zakāt al-fitr, and whoever gives it after the prayer, it is an ordinary charity.”
Based on these aḥadīth, we understand that, the compulsion of zakāt al-fitr only takes place with the arrival of the crescent of the month of Shawwāl, announcing the end of Ramaḍān. But when can we give it out?
Imām Mālik (Malikiyyah school of thought) and Imām Aḥmad (Hanbaliyyah school of thought) opine that, zakāt al-fitr should be given a day or two, before ‘eid al-fitr prayers. On the other hand, Imām al-Shāfi‘ī (Shāfi‘īyyah school of thought) opined that it could be given from the first day of Ramaḍan. Imām Abū Hanīfah (Hanafiyyah school of thought) has gone to the extreme; that it can be given even before Ramaḍan.
Practically I would say, if you can’t find a poor person or a poor family to hand over to them your zakāt al-fitr, and you have to give it to zakāt collection foundations and organizations, then it may be wise to pay it earlier, so it can be administrated on time. I won’t advise for paying it before Ramaḍān, with due respect to our great Imām Abū Ḥanīfah. Just don’t also give it out after ‘eid.
The majority of Islamic scholars (Mālikiyyah, Shāfi‘iyyah and Hanbaliyyah) have opined that, zakāt al-fitr must be given from what the Prophet, sallā Allāhu ‘alaihi wa sallam did mention in the ḥadīth, or at least from the essential food of the people of the country (or town) where the zakāt al-fitr is given (paid).
Abū Sa‘īd Al-Khudrī radiya Allāhu ‘anhu said in a ḥadīth authenticated by Imam al-Bukhārī and Muslim:
كُنَّا نُعْطِيهَا فِي زَمَانِ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ صَاعًا مِنْ طَعَامٍ، أَوْ صَاعًا مِنْ تَمْرٍ، أَوْ صَاعًا مِنْ شَعِيرٍ، أَوْ صَاعًا مِنْ زَبِيبٍ
“At the time of the Prophet, salla Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, we used to give one scoop of food, or one scoop of dates, or one scoop of barley, or one scoop of raisins.”
In the contrary, Imām Abū Hanīfah differed in opinion. He opines that zakāt al-fitr can be given in substantial food as well as its equivalent in money. This is so much so, when there is necessity for that, and better serves the need of the recipient.
In fact, the options, which the companions were given to use in distributing zakāt al-fitr strengthens the opinion of Imām Abū Hanīfah in this part. Today, if you give a poor person a scoop of raisin or even wheat as zakāt al-fitr, I’m afraid, it may not serve the purpose of zakāt al-fitr to him. But if you give him 2.5kg of rice or its monetary equivalent, he will appreciate it, because it’s (more) useful to him.
If you are to give the equivalent of zakat al-fitr in cash to a needy, please make sure he will use it to buy food for his family, and not use it for cigarette or drugs.
A scoop from equal to the scoop of the Prophet (scoop of Madīnah), estimated to be approximately 3kg of uncooked rice is required to be used to measure when one gives out zakāt al-fitr in substantial food, i.e. rice, dates, wheat, cereal and others. If you are giving its equivalent in money, then the price of 3kg of uncooked rice is to be given. The type of the rice and its monetary equivalent is what you eat, not what the recipient eats. Thus, if you consume high class rice, then you should give out 3kg or its monetary equivalent as your zakāt al-fitr.
Can I give more than the estimated 3kg or uncooked rice? Yes, indeed! You can double it, triple it or more than you wish. If you are giving substantial food, you can add on oil, groceries, fruits or even drinks. The more you give, the better it is.
Zakāt al-fitr is one of the measures Islam has put to make every individual in any Muslim community happy, no matter how bad the economic situation of the communities are. Although it seems easily achieved, it requires faith in achieve it. A little procrastination, and you’ll forget or miss paying or giving it out.
If you have successfully subjected yourself to hunger, thirst, and against its evil desires for 29 or 30 days, then you shouldn’t have a problem to finish the good job by purifying that same body from any unintended spiritual defects which might have remained in it.
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Allāh knows best.
Allāhu Ḥāfiẓ 🙂