Zakaat al-Fitr is a kind of charity (sadaqah) that is obligatory at the time of breaking the fast of Ramadaan. The word zakaat is connected by idaafah (genitive structure in Arabic grammar) to fitr because the occasion of breaking the fast is the reason why this zakaat becomes obligatory.
Reasons for zakaat al-fitr and what Islam says about it
Ibn ‘Abbaas said: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) made zakaat al-fitr obligatory as a means of purifying the fasting person from idle talk and foul language, and to feed the poor. Whoever pays it before the prayer, it is an accepted zakaat, and whoever pays it after the prayer, it is just a kind of charity (sadaqah).” (Reported by Abu Dawood, 1371. Al-Nawawi said: Abu Dawood reported it from Ibn ‘Abbaas with a hasan isnaad).
“Purifying” means purifying the soul of the one who has fasted Ramadaan. With regard to the word “foul language”, Ibn al-Atheer said: “ ‘Foul language’ refers to obscene speech. ‘Feeding [the poor]’ refers to food that is edible. ‘Whoever pays it before the prayer’ means before Salaat al-‘Eid. ‘It is an accepted zakaat’ – here zakaat means sadaqat al-fitr. ‘Just a kind of charity’ means a kind of charity that could be given at any time.” (‘Awn al-Ma’bood Sharh Abi Dawood).
It was said that this is what was meant by the aayah in Soorat al-A’laa (interpretation of the meaning): “But those will prosper who purify themselves, and glorify the name of their Guardian-Lord, and (lift their hearts) in Prayer.” [al-A’laa 87:14-15 – Yusuf Ali’s translation]. It was reported that ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azeez and Abu’l-‘Aaliyah said: “He [the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)] paid zakaat al-fitr then he went out for the prayer – i.e., Salaat al-‘Eid. (Al-Jassaas, Ahkaam al-Qur’aan, part 3, Soorat al-A’laa).
Wakee’ ibn al-Jarraah said: “Zakaat al-fitr for the month of Ramadaan is like two sajdahs of sahw for the prayer. It makes up for any shortcomings in the fast as the prostrations make up for any shortcomings in the prayer. (Al-Nawawi, al-Majmoo’, part 6).
Rulings on zakaat al-fitr
The correct view is that it is fard (obligatory), because Ibn ‘Umar said: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) made zakaat al-fitr obligatory,” and because of the consensus of the scholars (ijmaa’) that it is fard. (Al-Mughni, part 2, Baab Sadaqat al-Fitr).
When it has to be given
It becomes obligatory when the sun sets on the last day of Ramadaan. Anyone who gets married, has a baby born to him or becomes Muslim before the sun sets on that day, has to give zakaat al-fitr [on behalf of himself and/or his new wife or new baby], but if that happens after sunset, he does not have to give it… Whoever dies after sunset on the night of fitr, sadaqat al-fitr must be given on his behalf. This is what Ahmad stated.” (Al-Mughni, part 2, Fasl Waqt Wujoob Zakaat al-Fitr).
Zakaat al-fitr is obligatory on Muslims. Ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) made zakaat al-fitr, one saa’ of dates or one saa’ of barley, obligatory on the Muslims, slave and free, male and female, young and old.” (Al-Bukhaari, 1407)
Some rulings on paying Zakat Al-Fitir
The amount to be given is one saa’ of food, according to the measure of saa’ used by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), because of the following hadeeth.
- Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “At the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) we used to give it in the form of a saa’ of food…”(Reported by al-Bukhaari, 1412).
The weight of the saa’ [which is a measure of volume] varies according to the type of food concerned, so when giving zakaat al-fitr by weight, one must make sure that what is given is equivalent to a saa’ of that type of food. A saa’ is approximately equivalent to three kilograms of rice.
Types of things that may be given
What should be given is food for human consumption, such as dates, wheat, rice or other kinds of food that humans eat. It is reported in al-Saheehayn from Ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with them both) that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) made zakaat al-fitr, one saa’ of dates or one saa’ of barley, obligatory on the Muslims, slave and free, male and female,. (At that time, barley was one of the foods they ate). (Al-Bukhaari, 1408)
Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “At the time of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), we used to give a saa’ of food on the day of Fitr.” Abu Sa’eed said: “And our food was barley, raisins, aqit (dried yoghurt) and dates.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, 1408).
It should be given in the form of the staple food that is used locally, whether it is wheat, rice, dates or lentils…
Al-Shaafa'i (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “If the staple food of a people is corn, pearl millet (dukhn), thin-husked barley (sult), rice or any grain on which zakaat is obligatory, then they may give it as zakaat al-fitr (Al-Shaafa'i, al-Umm, part 2, Baab al-Rajul yakhtalifu qootuhu)
Al-Nawawi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “Our companions said: ‘It is a condition of giving something as zakaat al-fitr that it should be one of the foodstuffs on which zakaat is paid at the rate of one-tenth (i.e., zakaah of grains and fruits). Nothing else is acceptable except aqit (dried yoghurt), cheese and milk.’”
Al-Maawardi said: “This is the case even though some of the people who live on islands and others have fish or eggs as their staple food; these are not acceptable (as zakaat al-fitr) and there is no difference (among the scholars concerning this). As regards meat, the correct view is that stated by al-Shaafa'i and confirmed by al-Musannif and the companions in all that was narrated from them: that it is not acceptable (as zakaat al-fitr), and this is the unanimous view (of the scholars)… Our companions said: ‘This is the case even if their staple food is fruits on which they do not have to give one-tenth as zakaat, such as figs etc. These are not acceptable (as zakaat al-fitr) at all.” (Al-Majmoo’, part 6: al-Waajib fi Zakaat al-Fitr).
Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “If it was said, ‘You must give a saa’ of dates everywhere, whether it is the staple food or not,’ this is a disputed matter which is subject to ijtihaad. There are some people who say that it is obligatory, and others who say that in each country it is obligatory to give a saa’ of whatever is the staple food there, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) specified five types of food for zakaat al-fitr, so in each country they can give the equivalent of a saa’ of their staple food. This is more correct, and is closer to the principles of sharee’ah, for how can you make it obligatory for people whose staple food is fish, for example, or rice or pearl millet, to give dates? … And Allaah is the Source of strength. (I’laam al-Muwaqqa’een, part 2, al-Qiyaas).
It is permissible to give pasta (“macaroni”) that is made from wheat, but one must make certain that the weight is equivalent to the weight of a saa’ of wheat.
Can we give Zakat Al Fitir in the form of money?
As for giving zakaat al-fitr in the form of money, this is not permissible at all, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said that it must be given in the form of food, not money. He clearly stated that it is to be given in the form of food, so it is not permissible to give it in any other form and Islam wants it to be given openly, not secretly. The Sahaabah gave zakaat al-fitr in the form of food, and we should follow, not innovate. The giving of zakaat al-fitr in the form of food is regulated by the measure of saa’, and if it were to be given in the form of money, it could not be regulated in this manner: according to the price of what would it be worked out and given? There are obvious benefits to giving it in the form of staple foods, such as at times when businessmen are hoarding certain goods, prices have gone up, or at times of war and inflation. If someone were to say, “But money is more useful for the poor, because then they can buy what they want, and they might need something other than food, so the poor person might sell the food and lose money.” The response to this is that there are other sources for meeting the needs of the poor with regard to shelter, clothing and so on, which are provided for from the zakaat paid on people’s wealth (zakaat al-maal), general charity and other kinds of donations. Let us put things into the proper Islamic perspective and adhere to what was set out by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), who told us that giving a saa’ of food to feed the poor is obligatory. If we give food to a poor person, he will eat it and will benefit from it sooner or later, because it is the kind of food he uses anyway.
On this basis, it is not permissible, for the purposes of zakaat al-fitr, to give money for a person to pay off his debts or to cover the cost of surgery for a sick person or to pay for tuition for a needy student and so on. There are other sources for this kind of help, as stated above.
So it is haraam to delay giving it for no good reason, because this defeats the purpose, which is to save the poor from having to ask on the day of joy. If a person delays giving it with no excuse, he has committed a sin but he still has to make it up.
Zakaat al-fitr has to be handed over to someone who is entitled to it or someone who has been appointed to collect it, at the right time before the Eid prayer. If a man wants to give it to a particular person, but cannot find him or a trustee who can accept it on his behalf, and he is afraid that time is running out, he has to give it to another entitled person, and not delay giving it. If a person wants to give his zakaat al-fitr to a specific needy person, and is afraid that he may not see him at the appropriate time, he should tell him to appoint someone to accept it on his behalf, or to appoint him (the giver) to take it from himself on his behalf. Then when the time comes, he can take it to him in a bag or whatever, or keep it for him as a trust until he sees him.
If the one who wants to give zakaat appoints someone else to give it on his behalf, he is still responsible for it until he is certain that his deputy has carried out his instructions. (Majaalis Shahr Ramadaan: Ahkaam Zakaat al-Fitr, by Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen).
Zakaat al-Fitr may be given to the eight categories of people to whom zakaat al-maal may be given. This is the opinion of the majority. According to the Maalikis, one of the opinions of Ahmad and the opinion of Ibn Taymiyyah, it should be given exclusively to the poor and needy.
Zakaah should be given to the poor, those who have overwhelming debts, and those whose salaries are not enough to last until the end of the month, in accordance with the level of their needs.
It is not permissible for the one who gives zakaat al-fitr to buy it back from the one to whom he has given it. (Fataawaa al-Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen).
It is preferable for the person who is giving to share it out himself. (Al-Shaafa'i said): I prefer to share out zakaat al-fitr myself rather than give it to the one who is collecting it.
Where to give zakaat al-fitr
We ask Allaah to accept the worship of all of us and to join us with the righteous. May Allaah bless our Prophet Muhammad and all his family and companions.