What is Zakat-ul-Fitr?

Linguistically, Zakat has two meanings: purification and growth. Technically, it means to purify one’s possession of wealth by distributing a prescribed amount to the poor, the indigent, the slaves or captives, and the wayfarer.

Zakat does not refer to charitable giving out of kindness or generosity, but to the systematic giving of 2.5% of one’s Zakatable wealth each year to benefit those who are financially less advantaged. This rate applies to cash, gold, silver, and commercial assets. By giving this small portion of one’s wealth, Muslims purify their wealth and please the Creator. Zakat is the third of five pillars of Islam, which means it is an essential act of worship that Muslims must fulfill. 

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The Messenger of Allah ﷺ enjoined Zakat-ul-Fitr on those who fast to shield them from any indecent act or speech, and for the purpose of providing food for the needy. It is accepted as Zakah for the one who pays it before the `Eid prayer, and it is sadaqah for the one who pays it after the prayer.

Who should give Zakat-ul-Fitr and why?

Every Muslim is required to pay Zakat-ul-Fitr by the end of the month of Ramadan as a token of thankfulness to God for having enabled him to observe fasts. Imam Tirmidi reported in his Sunan that Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) said: “Remember! Zakat ul-Fitr is Wajib (strongly recommended) on every Muslim, man or woman, free or in servitude, adult or child.”

Its purpose is to purify those who fast from any indecent act or speech and to help the poor and needy. Ibn Abbas (ra) reported that the Prophet (Peace be Upon Him) made the Zakat al- Fitr obligatory for the purpose of: purifying our fasting from vain talk and shameful mistakes, to make arrangements for the poor and the needy for food and clothing (for the festival of Eid). (Hadith: Abu Dawud, Ibn Maja)

How much is Zakat-ul-Fitr?

At the time of the Prophet ﷺ, payment of Zakat al-Fitr was made in terms of weight of grain. It is one Sa’ for each person. One Sa approximately equals to 3.15 kg or 6.94 lbs. The Muslim jurists agree that Zakat-ul-Fitr can also be paid in cash equivalent to the cost of 3.15kg/6.94 lb. of grain including rice, wheat, lentils, corn, and dry cheese.

Can I give my Zakat-ul-Fitr in Cash?

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ has said, “Whoever paid it (Zakat al-Fitr) before Salatul Eid, it is acceptable Zakat before Allah. Whoever paid it after Salat-ul-Eid, it is just a charity.” The companion of the Prophet (ra) used to pay it a few days earlier. (Hadith: Bukhari)

Imam Shafi’i held the opinion that Zakat al-Fitr can be paid as early as the beginning of Ramadan. We recommend that Zakat al-Fitr should be paid early enough so it will reach the needy and the poor before the Eid day. It will enable them to use it for food and clothes and give them the opportunity to enjoy the happiness of Eid-ul-Fitr.

Sheikh Al-Qaradawi explains that the Prophet  used to pay Zakat-ul-Fitr after Fajr prayer on the day of `Eid but before the `Eid prayer for the reason that the Muslim community was still small and limited in number. 

During the time of the Companions the payment was made one or two days before the `Eid. After the spread of Islam the jurists permitted its payment from the beginning and middle of Ramadan so as to ensure that the Zakat-ul-Fitr reached its beneficiaries on the day of `Eid, thereby avoiding the possibility that the process of distribution would delay reception of the payment after the day of `Eid.

Zakat al-Fitr should be paid directly to the needy and the poor. However, you can also pay it to an organization, which would distribute it in accordance with the teaching of Islam.

To whom should I give it?

Zakat al-Fitr should be paid directly to the needy and the poor. However, you can also pay it to an organization, which would distribute it in accordance with the teaching of Islam. Remember! It is still your responsibility. So, make sure before paying that the organization will distribute it according to the teaching of Islam and before Salat-ul-Eid.

Year after year Zakat is sent to deserving persons in the Muslim World. Let’s try to spend some of it in our own communities, including Moalifati Kulubuhum (non- Muslims to turn their hearts and minds as friends of our communities). This will require knowing our own communities and friendly and deserving non-Muslims. It may be difficult at first but it will be better for us.

How should I calculate it?

Zakat al-fitr is a flat amount per household member paid by the head of the household for himself and his or her dependents. It is estimated for ten US dollars ($10) per person. It should be paid no later than the Eid-ul-fitr. For example, a married person with three children should add the number of his household and multiply by $10. The total amount is thus calculated: 5×10=$50.

When should I give my zakat?

Giving Zakat al-Fitr in cash is a view which dates back to the early generations as has been narrated by Abu Is-ḥāq al-Subā‘i, one of the most knowledgeable of the Tābi‘een (those who succeeded the Companions), who said, “I came in contact with them giving Zakat in cash instead of food.” And al-Bukhari included a chapter in his Saheeh entitled “Zakat Paid in Kind,” in which Tāwoos related that Mu‘ādh (may Allah be pleased with him) said to the people of Yemen, “Bring me charity in kind: clothing instead of barley and grain. It will be easier for you and better for the Prophet’s Companions in Madinah.” This proves the permissibility of distributing (Zakat) based on its value. This was also applied by the rightly-guided caliph ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Azeez, because he would instruct his governors to collect it in cash. This is also the view of the Hanafis; and it was the opinion of Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah, of the Hanbalis, so long as it is more beneficial for the needy.

Additionally, we see no problem with distributing Zakat al-Fitr early—at the beginning of Ramadan–based on need, and because the reason for Zakat is present: that reason is fasting, which was mentioned by al-Shafi’i and his followers. However, delaying payment of Zakat al-Fitr to just before Eid by a day or two is more in line with the Sunnah, according to the narration reported by al-Bukhari on the authority of Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with them), who said, “They would give it before the Fitr by a day or two,” and in another narration reported in al-Muwatta, “…by two or three days.”

Year after year Zakat is sent to deserving persons in the Muslim World. Let’s try to spend some of it in our own communities, including Moalifati Kulubuhum (non- Muslims to turn their hearts and minds as friends of our communities).

Is it permissible for the Islamic centers to replace food-giving by the end of Ramadan, which is known as Zakat-ul-Fitr, with the collection of an equal sum of money from members of the community?

These centers conclude deals with some supermarkets to issue cards or coupons to be offered to the poor and the needy by which they can get the food they need from the supermarket at the time they want without having to pay anything.

This is a practical way of solving the problem by combining the two opinions reported on this issue. On the one hand, it keeps the principle of using the yield of Zakat in providing the needy with food (the opinion upheld by the majority of jurists). On the other hand, this idea makes it easier for the poor to choose the types of foods they need at the time they want instead of accumulating some unneeded types of food which might be difficult to preserve and store. 

This way, the poor is provided with such coupons that enable them to buy types of food where and when they like. In the meantime, this idea enables Muslims to pay Zakat in the form of food, which the majority of scholars recommend. Consequently, the main goal of such type of Zakat is achieved in the best way. If the goal of the Legislature is known, people should follow the perfect way to attain it. Allah Almighty knows best.

Is it permissible to buy clothes from the money collected as Zakat-ul-Fitr to be presented to those who do not have enough clothes?

In case the doctrine of Imam Abu Hanifah and his followers on giving money value of Zakah-ul-Fitr instead of food (an ijtihad on that issue) is considered of sound legitimacy, such money value should be given to the poor so as to spend it according to their needs, unless those poor were orphans or minors and the one in charge of Zakah is their trustee. However, to consider all the needy as minors whom Zakah payers undertake their affairs and are in charge of their money on behalf of them, is an invalid opinion. Allah almighty knows best.

What shall Islamic centers do with the Zakat-ul-Fitr paid as money by Muslims in charity boxes before performing Eid prayers?

Such money must be lawfully spent and directed; it is to be owned by the poor and the needy according to the known general rulings on alms-distribution. It should not be given after the Day of Eid except for what the organization and delivery of this money necessitates.

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