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
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 of society.
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, no. 582]
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?