is required to pay Zakat-ul-Fitr at the conclusion of the month
of Ramadan as a token of thankfulness to God for having enabled
him to observe fasts. Its purpose is to purify those who fast from
any indecent act or speech and to help the poor and needy. This
view is based upon the hadith which reads, The Messenger of
Allah, upon whom be peace, enjoined Zakat-ul-Fitr on those who fast
to shield them from any indecent act or speech, and for the purpose
of providing food for the needy. It is accepted as Zakah for the
one who pays it before the `Eid prayer, and it is sadaqah for the
one who pays it after the prayer. Al-Qaradawi comments
on this hadith by saying that there are two purposes: one is related
to the individual; for completion of his fast and compensation for
any shortcomings in his acts or speech. The other is related to
society; for the spreading of love and happiness among its members,
particularly the poor and needy, during the day of `Eid. It also
purifies ones soul from such shortcomings as the adoration
of property, and from miserliness. Furthermore, it purifies ones
property from the stain of unlawful earnings. It is also a cure
for ailments. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said,
It would be better that you treat your patients with charity.
it provides for the needs of the poor and the indigent and relieves
them from having to ask others for charity on the day of `Eid.
The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, Fulfil
their need on this day (i.e., the day of `Eid)
Who must pay
is incumbent on every free Muslim who possesses one Sa` of dates
or barley which is not needed as basic food for himself or his family
for the duration of one day and night. Every free Muslim must pay
Zakat-ul-Fitr for himself, his wife, children, and servants. This
is the opinion of Imam Malik, Al-Shafi`i, and Ahmad. Imam Abu Hanifah,
however, said that it is only obligatory for one who possesses a
nisab (a minimum amount of property) after fulfilling the costs
of his house, servant, horse, and weapon.
explained that Zakat-ul-Fitr was obligatory for all Muslims, not
only those who possess the nisab stating that this is the view of
the majority of scholars. He said, In essence, the rationale
behind it was stated to be the purification of one who fasts from
any indecent act or speech. And since every Muslim needs this, it
is therefore obligatory upon every fasting Muslim, whether rich
or poor, who possesses one Sa` in excess of his main staple food
for the duration of one day and night. This is because so long as
the essential rationale is shared by all Muslims, then they also
share the same obligation.
also asserts the majority view when he says, It is a virtuous
wisdom of Islam that it makes this Zakah obligatory not only on
the rich, but also upon nearly every Muslim, for you can hardly
find a person who does not possess one Sa` of food above his main
staple food for the duration of one day and night. The wisdom behind
this obligation, therefore, is to prepare the poor to practice benevolence
and feel the dignity and honour of giving in charity. Allah described
the believers with these words, Those who spend (freely),
whether in prosperity, or in adversity
 Thus if we
contemplate on this wisdom, we will not find it strange that the
needy pay this Zakah, because it does not cause them to suffer any
loss. He will pay only his Zakah and then receive the Zakah of various
have to bear in mind that Zakat-ul-Fitr is obligatory for everyone
who lives until the sun sets on the last day of Ramadan. This is
the point of view of the Shafi`is, Hanbalis, and Malikis. Accordingly,
whoever dies before the sun sets on the last day of Ramadan is exempted.
Likewise, a person who has a baby on the last day of Ramadan should
pay Zakat-ul-Fitr for the baby. The majority of jurists argue that
we should not pay Zakat-ul-Fitr for an embryo. But Imam Ahmad holds
that Zakat-ul-Fitr is also obligatory for an embryo, because it
is permissible to assign property to an embryo by means of a will.
agree that Zakat-ul-Fitrr is due at the end of Ramadan. They differ,
however, about the exact time. Al-Thawri, Ishaq, Malik (in one of
two reports), and Al-Shafi`i (in one of his two opinions), are of
the opinion that it is due at the sunset of the night of breaking
the fast, for this is when the fast of Ramadan ends. However, Al-Layth,
the Hanafi school, Al-Shafi`i (in his other opinion), and the second
report of Malik say that Zakat-ul-Fitr is due at the start of Fajr
(dawn) on the day of `Eid because it is an act of worship connected
with `Eid, so the time of its payment should not be before `Eid
just as sacrifice on the `Eid of Adha.
These two different
views acquire relevance if a baby is born after sunset but before
dawn on the day of `Eid; the question then is whether Zakat-ul-Fitr
is obligatory for the baby or not. In accordance with the first
view, it is not, since the birth took place after the prescribed
time, while according to the second view, it is obligatory because
the birth took place within the prescribed space of time.
Time of payment
It is not permissible
to delay giving Zakat-ul-Fitr after the day of `Eid (i.e. one may
give it up to the time of the `Eid prayer). However, there are some
jurists who think that it is permissible to delay giving it even
after the `Eid prayer. The founders of the four schools of Fiqh
hold the first opinion, but Ibn Sirin and al-Nakhai say that
its payment can be delayed. Ahmad says: I hope that there
is no harm [in delaying the payment]. Ibn Raslan says that
there is a consensus that payment cannot be delayed merely for the
reason that it is a type of Zakah. Thus, any delay is a sin and
is analogous to delaying ones prayers without an acceptable
founders of the four accepted Islamic legal schools agree that Zakat-ul-Fitr
is not nullified simply by failure to pay it on its due time. If
it is not paid before `Eid prayer, one is not exempt from it. It
becomes a debt payable even after death. The heirs must not distribute
the deceaseds legacy before payment of the deceaseds
believe that it is permissible to pay Zakat-ul-Fitr a day or two
before `Eid. Ibn `Umar reported that the Messenger, upon whom be
peace, ordered them to pay Zakat-ul-Fitr before the people went
out to perform the `Eid prayer. Nafi reported that `Umar used
to pay it a day or two before the end of Ramadan. However, scholars
hold different opinions when a longer time period is involved. According
to Abu Hanifah, it is permissible to pay it even before Ramadan
so long as you make the intention of Zakah. Al-Shafi holds
that it is permissible to do so at the beginning of Ramadan. Malik
and Ahmad (in his well-known view) maintain that it is permissible
to pay it only one or two days in advance.
explains the reasons for these differences in opinion by saying
that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, used to pay Zakat-ul-Fitr
after Fajr prayer on the day of `Eid but before the `Eid prayer
for the reason that the Muslim community was still small and limited
in number. During the time of the Companions the payment was made
one or two days before the `Eid. After the spread of Islam the jurists
permitted its payment from the beginning and middle of Ramadan so
as to ensure that the Zakat-ul-Fitr reached its beneficiaries on
the day of `Eid, thereby avoiding the possibility that the process
of distribution would delay reception of the payment after the day
of `Eid. After explaining the different views regarding the
time of payment, Sheikh `Atiyyah Saqr stated that these differences
of opinion among the jurists justify some leniency for Muslims in
regard to the time of payment, and therefore a Muslim can pay at
any of these times. He also took the view that paying it at different
times gives the poor and needy the opportunity to benefit from Zakat-ul-Fitr
and fulfil their needs for longer periods.
In my opinion
these differences are due to taking into consideration both the
needs of the poor and the opportunity of attaining the wisdom behind
the obligation of Zakat-ul-Fitr. Therefore, the most acceptable
and practical approach is to apply whichever practice fulfils the
purpose and wisdom behind Zakat-ul-Fitr, that is bringing happiness
to the poor on the day of `Eid and giving their children a chance
to enjoy this day as others do.
What type of
food can be given and permissible substitutes
hold different views as to the types of food which must be given
as Zakat-ul-Fitr. The Hanbali view is that the kinds of food which
can be given are five: dates, raisins, wheat, barley, and dry cottage
cheese. Imam Ahmad is reported to have said that any kind of staple
grain or dates are also permissible, even if the above five types
are available. The Malikis and Shafi`is are of the view that it
is permissible to give any kind of food as long as it is the main
staple in that particular region or the main food of the person.
As for the Hanafis, they permit paying the value of Zakat-ul-Fitr
highlighted these different viewpoints and concluded that the Prophet,
peace and blessings be upon him, prescribed Zakat-ul-Fitr as one
Sa` of dates, barley, raisins or dry cottage cheese. These were
the main staple kinds of food in Madinah. As for people of other
territories, what they should pay is one sa of their staple
grain, such as corn, rice, etc. But if their main staple food is
other than grain, such as milk, meat, fish, etc., then they should
pay one Sa` of that particular food. This is the opinion of the
majority of scholars and is the preferred point of view, since it
achieves the purpose of fulfilling the needs of the poor on the
day of `Eid with the staple food of their region.
The amount of
Zakat-ul-Fitr, as we referred earlier, is one Sa` of food. There
is consensus on this amount among the scholars with regard to all
types of food except wheat and raisins. As for these two types the
Shafi`is, Malikis and Hanbalis agree that the prescribed amount
is one Sa`, however the Hanafis say it is sufficient to pay half
Sa` from wheat and they differed with regard to raisins. After
discussing the arguments of these two opinions al-Qaradawi reached
the following conclusion: wheat was not a common food amongst them
during the time of the Prophet so he did not prescribe one Sa` of
it as he did with the other types of food. As for those of the Companions
of the Prophet who prescribed half Sa` of wheat instead of one Sa`
of barely or dates like Mu`awiyah and other Companions, he views
that they did so by analogy, since the value of wheat was more than
those of other types of food which were equal. But according to
their opinion, he says, the value should be considered and taken
as the criterion and this will cause instability and confusion for
it changes from place to another and from time to time. He mentioned
that in Pakistan the value of wheat is less than that of dates,
then how should we pay of it half the amount (i.e. Sa`) that we
should pay of dates? He also mentioned that nowadays raisins are
more expensive than wheat and dates. The only solution for these
problems, he says, is to regard Sa` as the criterion and basis.
explains why the Prophet appointed Sa` as the measure and did not
prescribe it in money saying that in his opinion there are two reasons
for this: First, money was still rare among the Arabs particularly
the Bedouins. They did not have their own currency. So if the Prophet
had prescribed it in money, he would have caused hardship to them.
Second, the purchasing power of money changes from time to time.
For instance, the purchasing power of a certain currency sometimes
becomes low and other times high, so paying Zakat-ul-Fitr in money
makes its value unstable. That is why the Prophet prescribed it
with a stable measure, that is an amount of food which fulfils the
needs of one family. For one Sa` provides a family with food for
a whole day.
The amount of
Sa` is a certain
measure which equals 4 mudds (a mudd equals a handful of an average
man). The contemporary equivalent weights of Sa` differs according
to the stuff which is weighted. For example a Sa` of wheat equals
2176 grams, a Sa` of rice is 2520 grams, a Sa` of beans equals 2250
grams etc. Therefore some scholars are of the view that the
criterion should be the measure not the weight for there are kinds
of food which are heavier than others. But I think this is the
case if the equivalent weight of a certain kind of food is not known.
If there is no available measure or weight with the person, then
he should pay 4 mudds. Nowadays, it is not that problem because
ministries of religious affairs in Muslim countries and mosques
and Islamic centres in Western countries announce the value of Zakat-ul-Fitr
every year. Anyhow, this is the obligatory amount which every Muslim
should pay. It is better and recommended that one pays an extra
amount, particularly for those who are wealthy, for they will be
rewarded for it.
As it is mentioned
earlier, the Hanafis permitted the payment of Zakat-ul-Fitr in money.
This is the view of Al-Thawri, Al-Hasan al-Basri, and `Umar ibn
`Abd al-`Aziz. However, the other three schools did not permit this.
Their argument is that the Prophet did not do so and hence its payment
in money contradicts the Sunnah of the Prophet. But some contemporary
scholars support the Hanafi view since this is easier nowadays for
the payer particularly in cities where people use only money for
dealings. Among them are Sheikh Shaltut, al-Ghazali, and al-Qaradawi
who mentioned earlier the two reasons for which the Prophet did
not prescribe it in money. He also stated that the purpose of Zakat-ul-Fitr
is to fulfil the needs of the poor and this is achieved also by
payment in money and that in most cases and most countries the payment
in money is more useful to the poor. He also mentioned that
when the Prophet prescribed it from food, it was easy for the payer
and useful for the recipient during that time. But nowadays to pay
it in food is not useful for the poor because he cannot make use,
for instance, of wheat or dates unless he sells them with any price,
generally low, to buy his needs with the money.
excluded the times of famines where the payment of food is more
useful for the recipients and said that the criterion is the benefit
of the poor so if food proves to be more useful as in times of famines
and catastrophes, then its payment in kind is better. But if money
is more useful, then its payment in money is better.
we consider the condition in the Muslim world in general and that
of Muslims in the West in particular we will discover that the second
view is more convenient with the spirit of Islamic legislation and
the present condition of Muslims. As we will see later when Muslims
living in the West decide to transfer their Zakah funds or some
of them to needy Muslims in Muslim countries, then the payment in
money is more convenient.
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