Zakat al-Fitr is one of the unique rituals associated with the day of `Eid al-Fitr. It is a beautiful worship meant to help the poor share the joy and happiness of `Eid and to purify the believers.
As we are approaching `Eid, you may be interested to know the answer for the following 7 common questions:
1. What is the ruling of Zakat al-Fitr?
Zakat Al-Fitr is obligatory on every Muslim who possesses extra food over and above the basic needs of himself and his family/dependents during the day of `Eid and the night preceding it.
2. Who should pay it?
A Muslim must pay Zakat al-Fitr for himself and his dependents (his wife, children, servants… etc.)
Ibn `Umar, may Allah be pleased with them both, said,
“The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, enjoined the payment of one Sa` of dates or one Sa` of barley as Zakat al-Fitr on every Muslim, young and old, male and female, free and slave.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
3. What is the wisdom behind Zakat al-Fitr?
Ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said,
“The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) enjoined Zakat al-Fitr so that those who fast are purified of idle talk and obscenities and the needy are fed. Therefore, whoever gives it before the `Eid prayer, it will be counted for him as an acceptable Zakah (of al-Fitr), but if someone delays and gives it afterwards, his charity will be an ordinary one.” (Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah)
So, Zakat al-Fitr is meant to:
1. Expiate for some mistakes a person may have done during this blessed month.
2. Help the poor and needy, make them happy on the day of `Eid and enable them to share the joy of this occasion.
4. When does Zakat al-Fitr become obligatory?
According to some scholars, Zakat al-Fitr becomes obligatory at the sunset of the last day of Ramadan.
Another opinion is that the time of obligation is the Fajr (Dawn) of the day of `Eid.
The impact of this difference appears in the following case:
If a baby is born after the sunset of Ramadan’s last day but before the dawn of the day of `Eid, no Zakah should be paid on behalf of him according to the first opinion. The reason is that the baby was not born yet when the time of obligation came (the sunset of Ramadan’s last day).
On the other hand, the second opinion entails that the Zakah should be paid for this baby because he existed at the time of obligation (i.e. the Fajr of the Day of `Eid).
5. When should Zakat al-Fitr be paid?
The majority of scholars agree that it can be paid one or two days before `Eid. Imam Ash-shafi`i holds that it can be paid as of Ramadan 1st.
In any case, it should not be delayed until the day of `Eid passes.
6. What should be paid?
The amount of Zaka al-Fitr is one sa` (approx. 2.175 to 3 kg) of wheat, flour, barley, dates, raisins, rice or similar foodstuff.
Some jurists also allow paying the value of the above amount in cash; this opinion may be in the best interest of the poor and needy today.
7. Where to pay Zakat al-Fitr?
Zakat al-Fitr should be paid in the place one lives in when Zakah becomes obligatory on him (see question 4 above).
Sending Zakah from one country to another is permissible if there is a strong enough reason: The country where he lives is in no need of Zakah; another country is in dire need because of starvation, calamity, or war; or the payer has some relatives in another country who need his help.