Islam’s approach and moderation in Zakat al-Fitr
All praise is due to Allah, He who molds the day and night, He who made seasons and times when rewards and pious deeds are doubled. Praise to Allah, He who distinguished right from wrong, and set clear boundaries for His worshipers, and I bear witness that there is no god in truth but Allah the almighty, and may Allah praise the Prophet peace be upon, and his followers.
The holy month of Ramadan is about to end with only a couple of days left. So he who was pious should praise Allah and ask him to accept his virtuous deeds, yet he who was negligent should repent, and try his best to profit from the remainder of the month, for Allah the Almighty forgives those who repents.
Moreover, due to Allah’s mercy and grace, He has made a special night for His believers in the last ten days of this blessed month; it is the night of power (layla al-qadr). Allah says: “Behold! We revealed it on the Night of Power. And what will convey to you what the Night of Power is! The Night of Power is better than a thousand months. The angels and the Spirit descend therein, by the permission of their Lord, with all decrees. [The night is] Peace until the rising of the dawn.”
Anas b. Malik said that when the month of Ramadan started the Prophet would say, “A blessed month has come to you; and therein is a night which is better than a thousand Months. Whosoever is deprived of it, is deprived of all good.”
One of the blessings of this holy month is Zakat al-Fitr, in which Allah ordained upon all those who are able to pay a certain amount of small charity or foodstuff at the completion of the holy month, in order to show our gratitude to Him, and purify our fast from foul language or deeds. Ibn Abbas narrated: “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) made Zakat al-Fitr obligatory as a means of purifying the fasting person from obscenity and foul language, and to feed the needy. Whoever pays it prior to prayer, it is an accepted zakat, and whoever pays it after the prayer, it is just a kind of charity.”
The definition of Zakat al-Fitr is: A charity that is paid at the end of Ramadan, and it is named Zakat Al-Fitr because it is an obligation paid at the completion of the month, when the ones fasting Ramadan break the fast.
The obligation in Zakat al-Fitr:
The Zakat is paid in food, such as dates, bran, rice, raisins, yogurt, or other. Abu Saeed Khudri, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “We paid on the day of breaking the fast, in the Messenger’s era, a sa’a (an Arab measurement) of food.” Abu Said also said: our food was barley, raisins, yogurt, and dates.”
The rule of Zakat al-Fitr:
Zakat al-Fitr is something mandated by the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, upon every Muslim, male or female, slave or free at the completion of Ramadan at the breaking of the fast. Abdullah bin Umar narrated: “The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, made Zakat al-Fitr of Ramadan obligatory on all people: either one sa’a of dates or one sa’a of barley on all Muslims free or slave, male or female.” It must be paid on behalf of those one is obliged to provide for, such as his wife, children and relatives who are unable to pay it. It is even more preferable to include the fetus in a mother’s womb, according to uthman, may Allah be pleased with him, as was his practice.
Ammount of Zakat al-Fitr: one sa’a for every Muslim as Ibn ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with them, reported: “The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, made Zakat al-Fitr of Ramadan obligatory on all people, either one sa’a of dates or one sa’a of barley for each Muslim he supports, whether free or slave, male or female; and he ordered us to be pay it before the people went out to pray the ‘Eid prayer.”
The aforementioned sa’a refers to the sa’a of Madina residents; since the Prophet, peace be upon him, made the measurements based on the residents of Madina, according to Ibn ‘Umar, who also reported: “The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said: ‘The bushel is based on Madina’s residents’ bushels while weight is based on Mecca residents’ weights.’”
Zakat al-Fitr payments:
Zakat al-Fitr is paid to the people mentioned in the following verse: “The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to free the captives and the debtors, and for the cause of Allah, and for the wayfarer; a duty imposed by Allah. Allah is Knower, Wise.” (Al-Tawba: 60) And if one’s relatives is from among those mentioned in the verse, then he or she deserves to receive the alms in preference over an outsider, as it was reported in a hadith: “Alms for the poor is charity, and for a relative both charity and maintaining ties of kinship.”
The reasons and wisdoms for Zakat al-Fitr:
• To show gratitude to Allah the Almighty for blessing us with the ability to fast the whole month of Ramadan, pray the vigil at night, and do other virtuous deeds.
• As means of purification for what might have occurred in one’s fast of obscenity and foul language.
• To feed the poor and needy; to prevent them from begging on the day of Eid, so that they will rejoice like all other Muslims on Eid.
• To pay it way ahead of time, such as paying it when the month first starts, or in the middle of the month. However, there is nothing wrong with paying it a day or two before Ramadan ends, as approved by some scholars. Also, there is a time limit to paying it: the time starts when the sun sets at the night of Eid and ends before the Eid prayer. Therefore, it’s better to delay Eid prayer to enable people to pay it to the beneficiaries.
In the Hadith of Ibn ‘Umar: “The Prophet, peace be upon him, ordered Zakat al-Fitr to be paid before people went out to prayer.”
• To pay it after the specified time, as Ibn ‘Abbas reported, “The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, obliged Zakat al-Fitr as means of purifying the fasting person from foul language or obscene speech and to feed the needy. Whoever pays it prior to prayer, it is an accepted zakat, and whoever pays it after the prayer, it is just a kind of charity.” Thus, a Muslim should be keen on paying it on time, and if he doesn’t pay before the specified time ends, then it will never suffice and will not be considered as Zakat al-Fitr, as stated in the hadith.
• Paying it to other than the poor and needy; yet this is what some people actually do give alms to their relatives or neighbors as a form of exchange between them, or to avoid blame and bring forth praise – even if they’re not deserving – or pay it to certain people without considering their eligibility, due to being ashamed to alter that habitual act of exchange, or to avoid the hassle of searching for its eligible owners that are mentioned in the following verse: “The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to free the captives and the debtors, and for the cause of Allah, and for the wayfarer; a duty imposed by Allah. Allah is Knower, Wise.”
Regarding the issue of paying Zakat al-Fitr to a needy relative, then one may pay Zakat al-Fitr and alms to his needy relative, and in fact it is even better to pay it to his needy relative than to pay it to an outsider, for it helps maintain kinship ties, as long as he’s not paying him to protect his money, meaning as long as he’s not obliged to provide for this needy relative; but if he’s obliged to provide for him, in this case he may not pay Zakat to him, because if he did that then he would save his money, including payment of Zakat, and this is not permissible. But if he was not obliged to provide for him, has may pay him Zakat, for it’s better paid to a needy relative than a distant one. As the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “Alms for the poor is charity, and for a relative it is both charity and maintaining ties of kinship.”