Zakah al-Fitr is often referred to as Sadaqah al-Fitr. The word Fitr means the
same as Iftar, breaking a fast and it comes from the same root word as Futoor
which means breakfast. Thus, Islamically, Zakah al-Fitr is the name given to
charity which is distributed at the end of the fast of Ramadan.
Sadaqah al-Fitr is a duty which is Wajib (compulsory) 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 (p.b.u.h.) made Zakah al-Fitr
compulsory on every slave, freeman, male, female, young and old among the
Muslims; one Saa` of dried dates or one Saa` of barely. (Bukhari -
Arabic/English, vol. 2, p. 339, no. 579)
The head of the household may pay the required amount for the other members. Abu
Sa'eed al-Khudree said, "On behalf of our young and old, free men and slaves, we
used to take out during Allah's Messenger's (p.b.u.h.) lifetime one Saa` of
grain, cheese or raisins". (Muslim - English transl. vol. 2, p. 469, no. 2155)
The significant role played by Zakah in the circulation of wealth within the
Islamic society is also played by the Sadaqah al-Fitr. However, in the case of
Sadaqah al-Fitr, each individual is required to calculate how much charity is
due from himself and his dependents and go into the community in order to find
those who deserve such charity. Thus, Sadaqah al-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 Islamic community and trains
those who have, to be generous to those who do not have.
The main purpose of Zakah al-Fitr is to provide those who fasted with the means
of making up for their errors during the month of fasting. Zakah al-Fitr also
provides the poor with a means with which they can celebrate the festival of
breaking the fast (Eid al-Fitr) along with the rest of the Muslims.
Ibn Abbas reported, "The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) made Zakah al-Fitr compulsory so
that those who fasted may be purified of their idle deeds and shameful talk
(committed during Ramadan) and so that the poor may be fed. Whoever gives it
before Salah will have it accepted as Zakah, while he who gives it after the
Salah has given Sadaqah." (Abu Dawood - Eng. transl. vol. 2, p. 421, no. 1605 -
rated Sahih by Shaikh Naser Al-Albani)
Hence, the goal of Sadaqah al-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 Zakah al-Fitr is the economic
well-being of the poorer members of society.
Zakah al-Fitr is only Wajib (compulsory) for a particular period of time. If one
misses the time period without a good reason, he has sinned and can not make it
up. This form of charity becomes obligatory from sunset on the last day of
fasting and remains obligatory until the beginning of Salah al-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 Sahaabah (companions of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.)
used to pay Sadaqah al-Fitr a couple days before the Eid.
Naafi reported that the Prophet's (p.b.u.h.) companion Ibn Umar (May Allah be
pleased with him) used to give it to those who would accept it and the people
used to give it a day or two before the Eid. (al-Bukhari - Arabic/English, Vol.
2, p.339, no. 579)
Ibn Umar reported that the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) ordered that it (Zakah al-Fitr) be
given before people go to make the Salah (al-Eid).
And Ibn Abbas reported that the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said, "Whoever gives it
before the Salah, will have it accepted as Zakah, while he who gives it after
the Salah (will not, for it will only be considered as) ordinary charity."
Therefore, one who forgets to pay this Zakah al-Fitr on time should do so as
soon as possible even though it will not be counted as Zakah al-Fitr.
The amount of Zakah is the same for everyone regardless of their different
income brackets. The minimum amount is one Saa` (two handfuls ) of food, grain
or dried fruit for each member of the family. This calculation is based on Ibn
Umar's report that the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) made Zakah al-Fitr compulsory and
payable by a Saa` of dried dates or a Saa` of barley.
The Sahaabee, Abu Sa`eed al-Khudree said, "In the Prophet's time, we used to
give it (Zakah al-Fitr) as a Saa` of food, dried dates, barley, raisins or dried
cheese." (al-Bukhari - Arabic/English vol. 2, p. 340, no. 582)
By: Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips