Imam Zijad’s Corner: THE OBLIGATORY CHERITY: SADAQAT-UL-FITR

Introduction

Zakatul (Sadaqatul) Fitr is the finishing touch to Ramadan and fasting. Even though, the amount of Zakatul Fitr may seem small, the blessings and reward are great for the giver.

Meaning

Zakatul Fitr is often referred to as Sadaqatul Fitr. The word Fitr means the same as Iftar, breaking a fast and it comes from the same root word as Futur which means breakfast. Sometimes it is also called Fitrana.

Significance & Importance

During Ramadan each Muslim individual is required to calculate how much charity is due from himself/herself and his/her dependents and go into the community in order to find those who deserve such charity.

Thus, Zakatul Fitr plays a very important role in the development of the bonds of community. The rich are obliged to come in direct contact with the poor, and the poor are put in contact with the extremely poor. This contact between the various levels of society helps to build real bonds of brotherhood and love within the Muslim community and develops those who have, to be generous to those who do not have.

Who is obliged to pay Zakatul Fitr?

Zakatul Fitr is a duty which is obligatory on every Muslim, whether male or female, minor or adult as long as he / she has the means to do so. The proof that this form of charity is compulsory can be found in the Sunnah whereby Ibn ‘Umar reported that the Prophet (S) made Zakatul Fitr compulsory on every freeperson, male, female, young and old among the Muslims; one Sa’ of dried dates or one Sa’ of barely.

The most important thing is that the head of the family should pay Zakatul Fitr for his wife and small children. At the same time, it is also admissible if the wife wishes to pay Zakatul Fitr independently, from her own savings. Abu Sa’id al-Khudri said, “On behalf of our young and old, free men and slaves, we used to take out during Allah’s Messenger’s sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam lifetime one Sa’ of grain, cheese or raisins.”

Purpose of Giving Sadaqatul Fitr

The main purpose of Zakat ul-Fitr is to provide those who fasted with the means of making up for their errors during the month of fasting. Zakatul Fitr also provides the poor with a means with which they can celebrate the festival of breaking the fast (Eidul Fitr) along with the rest of the Muslims.

Ibn Abbas reported, “The Prophet (S) made Zakatul Fitr compulsory so that those who fasted may be purified of their idle deeds and shameful talk (committed during Ramadhan) and so that the poor may be fed. Whoever gives it before Salah will have it accepted as Zakat, while he who gives it after the Salah has given regular Sadaqat.”

Hence, the goal of Zakatul Fitr is the spiritual development of the believers. By making them give up some of their wealth, the believers are taught the higher moral characteristics of generosity, compassion (sympathy for the unfortunate), gratitude to God and the righteousness. But, since Islam does not neglect man’s material need, part of the goal of Zakatul Fitr is the economic well-being of the poorer members of society.

Various reasons are given by scholars for this obligatory charity. Some say that this charity helps the poor and needy and takes care of their needs in the month of Ramadan and also makes it possible for them to celebrate the `Eid festival with other Muslims. Other scholars maintain that this charity is meant to expiate (Kaffarah) for any mistakes or wrongdoings a person may have done during this blessed month. Ibn `Abbas said: The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) enjoined Zakatul Fitr so that those who fast are purified of their sins and the poor and needy people are enabled to arrange for their basic needs of food, clothing etc. Therefore, the Sadaqah (charity) of the person who gives before the Eid prayer is the real Sadaqah, but if someone delays and gives it afterwards, his charity will be an ordinary one.(Reported by Abu Dawud and IbnMajah.)

This charity should be given to the poor and the needy. However, individuals can also make the payments to Islamic charitable organizations that collect this fund. These organizations then should distribute these funds as soon as possible so that they reach to the needy people on time.

Rate for Zakatul Fitr

The minimum amount of Zakatul Fitr is one Sa’ (two handfuls) of food, grain or dried fruit for each member of the family ($10 approximately).

It is incumbent on every free Muslim who possesses one Sa` (2.176 kilograms or 4.797 pounds) of dates or barley which is not needed as a basic food for himself or his family for the duration of one day and night.

This calculation is based on Ibn ‘Umar’s report that the Prophet (S) made Zakatul Fitr compulsory and payable by a Sa’ of dried dates or a Sa’ of barley.

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 Zakatul Fitr on every Muslim, young and old, male and female, free and slave.”(Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

There is no unequivocal evidence to suggest that giving Zakatul Fitr in the form of money makes it invalid. Therefore, taking into account the situation and conditions of most Muslim communities in the Western world, there is no problem giving it in the form of money.

Time for Giving Zakatul Fitr

Every Muslim should know that this Sadaqah needs to be given during Ramadan any time but before the Eidul Fitr prayer.

The term of the payment of Zakatul Fitr starts together with the beginning of Ramadan. This was the opinion of the majority of Islamic theologians, among whom also were the scholars of the Shafi’i and Hanafi schools of thought.

Zakatul Fitr has to be paid by the end of Ramadhan. If Zakatul Fitr is paid after the Eid prayer, it will only be considered as regular charity. The Prophet (S) said: “If one pays Zakatul Fitr before the Salat, it is considered an accepted Zakat, if he/she pays it after the Salat, it is considered an ordinary charity.” (Related by Abu Dawud.)

Discharging the Zakatul Fitr before the (Eid) prayer is obligatory, and whoever forgets then there is nothing upon him/her except to discharge it after that; however, it is disliked. This is because it is an obligation so it is upon him/her to discharge it when he/she remembers, and it is not permissible for anyone to intentionally delay it until after the Eid prayer according to the most correct of the two opinions. This is because the Messenger (S) commanded the Muslims to discharge it before the Eid prayer.

Zakatul Fitr is only obligation for a particular period of time. This form of charity becomes obligatory from sunset on the last day of fasting and remains obligatory until the beginning of Salatul Eid (i.e. shortly after sunrise on the following day). However, it can be paid prior to the above mentioned period, as many of the Sahabah (companions of the Prophet (S)) used to pay Sadaqatul Fitr a couple days before the Eid. In our conditions in the West, it could be paid even at the very beginning of Ramadan so those in need would be reached on time and given this assistance.

Zakatul Fitr, as mentioned earlier, is only obligation for a particular period of time. However, it can be paid prior to the above mentioned period, as many of the Sahabah (companions of the Prophet, upon whom be God’s peace and blessings, ) used to pay Zakatul Fitr a couple days before the Eid.

After the spread of Islam the jurists permitted its payment from the beginning or/and middle of Ramadan so as to ensure that the Zakatul Fitr reached its beneficiaries on the day of Eid. It is particularly emphasized that the distribution be before the Eid prayers in order that the needy who receive are able to use the fitr to provide for their dependents on the day of Eid. Nafi` reported that the Prophet’s companion Ibn `Umar used to give it to those who would accept it.” (Bukhari)

Conclusion

Zalatul Fitr is an obligation that needs to be paid on time so that our fasting is rewarded with the best of rewards and that the needy of the community get an opportunity to celebrate the Eid festivities with their dear ones.