Zakâtul Fitr is a compulsory (tradition of the prophet) charitable donation of food to the poor and the needy before the observance of ‘eid prayers on the day of ‘Eid-ul-Fitr. It’s also known as Sadaqatul Fitr.
The reason behind the observance is to purify the soul of a fasting Muslim from indecent words or actions and to enrich the poor and needy with food items. Hence, it’s to make the needy and the poor happy on the day of ‘eid.
Who is to pay Zakâtul Fitr?
Zakâtul fitr is incumbent on every Muslim who possesses the financial resources or has food over their needs. Moreover, it’s the duty of everyone in the household. Hence, the head of the household can pay on behalf of his family members and dependents.
Time of payment
Unanimously, competent scholars of Islam agree that the payment of Zakâtul Fitr is due at the end of the fasting month of Ramadân, although they differ on the exact time. While some believe that the observance time starts at sunset on the last day of fasting, others opine that it’s at Fajr (dawn) of the day of ‘eid because it’s an act that is connected with ‘eid. However, the majority of scholars believe that it is permissible to make the payment one or two days before the day of ‘eid to fulfill the essence of its observance.
Most importantly, it’s impermissible to give out Zakâtul fitr after the observance of the ‘eid prayer . Hence, anything given out after ‘eid prayers will not be regarded as Zakâtul fitr but rather a mere sadaqah (charity).
The food items that can be given out for Zakâtul Fitr
During the lifetime of the Prophet (SAW), dates, wheat, raisins, barley and dry cottage cheese were the major available food items that were used for the payment of Zakâtul Fitr because they were the stable food items available in that period and environment.
Alternatively, the competent scholars of Islâm agreed that it is permissible to give any food item as long as it is the most prevalent and stable food item in that locality. Hence, food items such as rice, beans, semo, yam flour, millet and grains, among others, can be used for the payment of Zakâtul Fitr.
According to the hadith of the Prophet (SAW), the quantity for the payment of Zakâtul Fitr is one saa’ which is equivalent to four muud. A mudd is the amount that can be scooped up when one puts their hands together. In our locality, it is equivalent to 14 tins of milk.
Those that are entitled to receive Zakâtul Fitr
Generally, eight categories of people are entitled to receive Zakâtul Fitr in Islam. These eight people are as follows: the poor, the needy, collectors of Zakah, reconciliation of hearts, freeing captives, debtors, those striving in the cause of Allah and the wayfarer. However, scholars differ on these eight categories regarding Zakâtul Fitr.
The first opinion is that these eight categories are entitled to the collection of Zakâtul Fitr, while the second opinion limits the entitlement for the collection of Zakâtul Fitr to the first two categories alone. The second opinion is the most correct, as it’s the opinion of the majority of scholars.
Giving Zakâtul Fitr in Monetary Value
There are two opinions among scholars on giving Zakâtul Fitr with monetary value.
The first opinion prohibits giving it in monetary value because, traditionally, giving Zakâtul Fitr in monetary value was not contained in the practice of the prophet or his rightly guided successors.
The second opinion, after scrutinizing the Maqâsid As-Sharî’ah (the aims behind the legislation) of Zakâtul fitr, the Hanafis, threw weight behind giving Zakâtul Fitr in monetary value by making it permissible. This is the view of Al-Thawri, Al-Hassan Al-Basri and Umar bn Abdul`Aziz also. Contemporary scholars such as Sheikh Shaltut, Al-Ghazali, and Al-Qaradawi are also in line with this view.
The essence of Zakâtul Fitr is to fulfill the needs of the poor and this is achieved also by payment in money. In some cases and localities, payment in monetary value is more useful to the poor.
If the monetary value system will be employed. The payer will have to value the price of any of the above food items, then do the calculations as per 14 tins of milk per person.
Generally, we can locate those around us that are poor or needy and then hand over the packages to them individually. However, it is best we handover our food items for the payment of Zakâtul Fitr to our local Imâms or mosque committees in charge of Zakâtul Fitr as they are in the best position to know the needy and the poor people within the Muslim community.
– THANNI, Mustakeem Adebayo, Imam of Arigbabuwo Mosque, Agiliti, Mile12, Lagos
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