from the works of Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips and Muhammad al-Jibaly
Zakaah al-Fitr is often
referred to as Sadaqah al-Fitr. The word Fitr means the same as Iftaar, breaking
a fast and it comes from the same root word as Futoor which means breakfast.
Thus, Islamically, Zakaah al-Fitr is the name given to charity which is distributed
at the end of the fast of Ramadaan.
Sadaqah al-Fitr is a duty
which is Waajib 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 sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam made Zakaah 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. [collected by Bukhaaree - Arabic/English, vol. 2, p. 339, no. 579]
(two handfuls / kilo / 40 grams / 4.5 lbs / 112 oz / beaker of dates, barley,
raisins, cheese, grain of wheat [see Muslim no.2151 & 2154]. Some scholars say
any topic of food that is common in a particular region can be given for fitr,
(e.g. flour, ground beef, or milk in the United States).
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 Allaah's Messenger's sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam
lifetime one Saa' of grain, cheese or raisins." [collected by Muslim
- English transl. vol. 2, p. 469, no. 2155]
The significant role played
by Zakaah 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 Zakaah
al-Fitr is to provide those who fasted with the means of making up for their
errors during the month of fasting. Zakaah al-Fitr also provides the poor with
a means with which they can celebrate the festival of breaking the fast ('Eed
al-Fitr) along with the rest of the Muslims.
Ibn Abbaas reported, "The
Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam made Zakaah al-Fitr compulsory so that
those who fasted may be purified of their idle deeds and shameful talk (committed
during Ramadaan) and so that the poor may be fed. Whoever gives it before Salaah
will have it accepted as Zakaah, while he who gives it after the Salaah has
given Sadaqah." [collected by Abu Dawood - Eng. transl. vol. 2, p. 421,
no. 1605 - rated Saheeh by Shaikh Naasir al-Albaanee]
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 Islaam does not neglect man's material need, part
of the goal of Zakaah al-Fitr is the economic well-being of the poorer members
Zakaah al-Fitr is only
Waajib 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 Salaah al-'Eed' (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 sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) used
to pay Sadaqah al-Fitr a couple days before the 'Eed.
Ibn 'Umar reported that
the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam order that it (Zakaah al-Fitr) be
given before people go to make the Salaah (al-'Eed).
Naafi' transmitted that
Ibn Umar used to pay fitr a day or two before the Eed prayer [Bukhaaree Vol.
2, p.339, no. 579 & Muslim, Abu Daawood]. Whoever pays fitr after the Eed prayer
wlll not get the blessings of it because it will be rendered as regular Sadaqah
[see Abu Daawood no. 1605]
And Ibn 'Abbaas reported
that the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said, "Whoever
gives it before the Salaah will have it accepted as Zakaah, while he who gives
it after the Salaah (will not, for it will only be considered as) ordinary charity.
Therefore, one who forgets to pay this Zakaah al-Fitr on time should do so as
soon as possible even though it will not be counted as Zakaah al-Fitr."
The amount of Zakaah 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 Prophetsallallaahu
'alayhi wa sallam made Zakaah 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 (Zakaah al-Fitr) as a Saa' of food, dried dates, barley, raisins or dried
cheese." [collected by al-Bukhaaree - Arabic/English vol. 2, p. 340,
Items other than food such
as money, clothes, furniture, etc. cannot be given as Zakat al-fitr. because
it is contrary to what the Prophet commanded and what Allaah wants. The Prophet
sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said, "Whoever introduces
anything in this matter (deen) of ours will have it rejected." [Bukhaaree
Vol 3 no. 861. Muslim no.4266, Abu Daawood no.4589]
Paying Zakaat ul-Fitr is
an act of worship, and through the Quran and authentic Sunnah all acts of worship
are described. Therefore, to add, subtract, or alter any act of worship is a
bida'h. Thus, paying zakaah al-fitr by other than food is a bida'h and every
bid'ah eventually leads to the fire [see Abu Daawood no. 4590].
Not giving money for fitr
is as Sunnah at-Turkeeyah (An action, the abandonment of which is a Prophetic
Sunnah). Money existed and was prevalent in the Prophet's time but he did not
nor did the Companions or Taabi'oon (followers of the Companions) use any money
for Fitr. For sure the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam was, is, and always
will be the best of worshippers and the Companions and Taabi'oon are the best
of generations in understanding and practicing Islaam [See Soorah's 4:115 and
3:110, Bukhaaree Vol 3 and 5, Abu Daawood no.4586]. So if he and they did not
use money for Sadaqah al-Fitr why should any one else?