By Fatima A
From the name, we know that Zakat al-Fitr must be associated with one of the biggest Islamic celebrations of the year, Eid al-Fitr, which comes after Ramadan. There is a lot of information out there about Eid and Ramadan, but what about Zakat al-Fitr?
In this article, we will share the facts about Zakat al-Fitr, why it is compulsory, how to fulfil this task, and who is eligible to fulfil it.
What is Zakat al-Fitr?
Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam. However, it is not the Zakat al-Fitr that is obligatory as part of Ramadan. This can be confusing but here is a simple explanation.
- Zakat: a pillar of Islam; can be paid at any time of the year; has certain specificities pertaining to the amount of a person’s wealth; to be paid to one of eight categories mentioned in Surah at-Tawbah
- Zakat al-Fitr: obligatory act at the end of Ramadan; paid in food, or equivalent, to the poor; paid by all Muslims, young or old
Why must we pay Zakat al-Fitr?
Al-Nawawi reported: Waki’ ibn al-Jarrah, may Allah have mercy on him, said, “Zakat al-Fitr is to the month of Ramadan like the prostration of forgetfulness is to prayer. It makes up for deficiencies in fasting just as the prostration makes up for deficiencies in prayer.” [Source: al-Majmu’ Sharh al-Muhadhab 6/140]
This hadith gives us one reason Zakat al-Fitr is compulsory. It is a safeguard for Muslims because, as humans, it is impossible to have 30 days of perfect fasting – just as it is impossible to pray every single prayer perfectly. Zakat al-Fitr helps fill in the gaps and right any errors we have made, so that we can garner as much reward as possible.
Apart from that personal reason, Zakat helps those in need. It is obligatory because, as Al-Nu’man ibn Bashir reported:
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, “The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.” [Source: Sahih al-Bukhari 6011; Sahih Muslim 2586]
Zakat helps us to stay connected with the Ummah, to help our brothers and sisters in their times of need, and to always ensure that the socio-economic gap within the ummah is as small as possible.
Who must pay Zakat al-Fitr?
Zakat al-Fitr is obligatory upon all Muslims – man or woman, young or old. It can be paid by the head of the household for each member of their family. If a family is made up of 4 children, and two parents, then Zakat al-Fitr must be paid for all six members. That is, as long as this family has the necessities of life available to them, day and night. This means that your family must have access to food and shelter every day, before being eligible to give Zakat al-Fitr.
When to pay Zakat al-Fitr?
Here is what is said about Zakat al-Fitr in the Hadith:
Ibn Abbas reported: “The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) obligated Zakat al-Fitr as purification of the fasting person from vain talk and misbehavior, as food for the poor. Whoever pays it before the Eid prayer, it is accepted as Zakat. Whoever pays it after the Eid prayer, it is part of voluntary charity.” [Source: Sunan Abi Dawud 1609]
Ibn Umar reported: “The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) obligated payment of charity at the end of Ramadan, a portion of dates or barely, upon slave and freeman, male and female, young and old among the Muslims. The Prophet ordered it to be given before people go out for Eid prayer.” [Source: Sahih al-Bukhari 1503, Sahih Muslim 986]
From these ahadith, we can see that Zakat al-Fitr must be paid before the prayer on the day Eid al-Fitr. If it is not, then it can only be counted as regular sadaqah. For your Zakat al-Fitr to be counted, it is best to give it a few days before the Eid prayer, to ensure it is received by the intended recipient.
How to pay Zakat al-Fitr?
Abu Sa’id al-Khudri reported: “We would bring for Zakat al-Fitr a portion of food, or a portion of barley, or a portion of dates, or a portion of cheese, or a portion of raisins.” [Source: Sahih al-Bukhari 1435; Sahih 985]
There are different ways you can pay your Zakat. In the ahadith, it mentions that Zakat should be food – be it rice, dates, cheese, etc. However, these days it is difficult for many people to buy food, calculate the correct weight of it and, hardest of all, deliver it to the most in need.
Alhamdulillah, many organizations exist now, this has been made much easier. The organizations calculate the amount of Zakat al-Fitr, depending on your location, and then distribute your donation to those most in need. This would amount to approximately $8-$10 USD. You can look up Islamic Relief or Human Appeal or any number of organizations that make the donation process very simple. However, if possible, giving food is also encouraged.
Please make sure your Zakat al-Fitr has been paid, if you meet the requirements above, before the Eid prayer on Eid morning.
Any questions or reflections? Let us know below.
We pray that you have a blessed end to your Ramadan, and that your Eid al-Fitr is a time of joy and celebration.