Rulings Regarding Zakat Al-Fitr: A Cleansing and Enriching Obligatory Charity (part 2)

We continue from Part 1, wherein was discussed the meaning and purpose of this pillar of Islamic faith, as well as modern equivalencies and who is required to pay Zakat Al-Fitr.

When is the Zakat Al-Fitr Payment Due?

Imam Shâfi¢i and Imam Aḥmad state that the Zakat Al-Fitr payment becomes obligatory after sunset on the eve of Eid (the last day of fasting) because this is the end of Ramadan . Abû Ḥanîfah (and also Al-Shafi‘i in an earlier opinion of his) held that the sum of Zakat Al-Fitr becomes obligatory at the dawn of Eid day because it is reported that the Prophet œ, commanded his Companions to pay Zakat Al-Fitr before going out to make the Salah of Eid (Bukhari and Muslim).

[Therefore, if one has a newborn before the dawn of Eid, or one dies after the sunset of the final day of fasting, his or her Zakat Al-Fitr must be paid, according to Abû Ḥanîfah].

Also, according to Abû Ḥanîfah, it is possible to pay Zakat Al-Fitr during the month of Ramadan  in advance of the time when Zakat Al-Fitr becomes due, or even just prior to the commencement of Ramadan . Shâfi¢i, however, holds that Zakat Al-Fitr can be given on the first day of fasting Ramadan . Imams Mâlik and Ahmad state that its payment becomes obligatory after the sunset of the last day of Ramadan , but can be paid one or two days earlier.

Where Should Zakat Al-Fitr be Paid?

In general, the best place for the collection and distribution of one’s zakah and sadaqa—and this includes Zakat Al-Fitr —is one’s locality or community, be it in one’s city, state, or country. This is strongly implied in the statement of the Prophet in sending the famed Companion Mu¢âth ibn Jabal to teach the people of Yemen. He said to him,

Inform them that Allah has made the paying of sadaqa obligatory on them. Take it from their rich and give it to their poor.

There are provisions for transferring zakah resources to other communities among Muslims; however, special guidelines for doing so have been established by Muslim scholars in accordance with the Shari‘ah, to which the institutions responsible for the collection and distribution of zakah among Muslims are to adhere.

Zakat Al-Fitr : A Favorable Sign for Our Community

The reemergence of Muslim concern for the paying and collection of all zakah resources and charities—especially Zakat Al-Fitr —is an auspicious sign, indeed, for the Muslim community. Zakah has increasingly taken a central place in contemporary Muslim discourse, as its dynamic (almost miraculous) possibilities are again being realized by Muslims. At least seven conferences on this topic have taken place in Kuwait (and others in Pakistan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt) in recent decades. Their focuses have been diverse.

A good summary of their scholarly recommendations concerning Zakat Al-Fitr, however, is represented in the Sixth International Conference on Contemporary Zakah Issues held in Kuwait in 1997.They are summed up herein to augment this look at one of the most blessed and pleasing expressions of our worship, to which Allah alone has guided us. …And all goodness and truth is from Him alone.

Summary of the Recommendations of the Sixth International Conference on Contemporary Zakah Issues

  1. Zakat Al-Fitr is obligatory upon every Muslim who has the food or provision to sustain himself and those whom he is obligated to support, enough for the eve and the day of Eid, provided that this exceeds his basic needs.
  2. A man is obliged to pay Zakat Al-Fitr for his wife and minor children who have no money of their own. In the case of one who has independent children, one is not obliged for their payment.
  3. What is obligatory is the giving of a sâ‘ (four handfuls) of dates, raisins, barley, or other such grain, equal to approximately 2.25 kilograms of wheat. Originally, the giving of Zakat Al-Fitr was limited to the kinds of food that had been stated in the relevant statement of the Prophet œ. However, jurists have established (through proper methods) that it may be given out of other commonly consumed foods, such as rice, meat, milk and so forth, but should be valued in accordance with the items specified by the Prophet œ. Moreover, it is permissible to give Zakat Al-Fitr in currency by paying the equivalent value of what is obligated. Those Muslim Institutions entrusted with its collection and distribution are required to assess the value of the originally specified items in their areas, and to disseminate that information in their communities, accordingly.
  4. Zakat Al-Fitr must be given before the salah of Eid Al-Fitr. It is forbidden to delay it until after the Eid day. If one, for any reason, is prevented from giving it at that particular time, one must pay it after that time passes. If there is a need, Zakat Al-Fitr may be given at any time from the beginning of the month of Ramadan — that is, its first day—until the end of the specified time [of Eid day].
  5. It is permissible for one to delegate another to give Zakat Al-Fitr on one’s behalf.
  6. It is permissible for the institutions that collect Zakat Al-Fitr to exchange it from goods to currency, and vice versa, based on the general interest of the community.
  7. It is permissible, in special cases, to transfer Zakat Al-Fitr collections from the people or locality in which it was collected to nearby communities in more need. And it is equally permissible to spend Zakat Al-Fitr in another community, if the giving community has no one in need of it.
  8. One must have a clear intention (niyya) before giving one’s Zakat Al-Fitr. If one delegates, or gives permission, to another to give Zakat Al-Fitr on his behalf, it is considered an explicit intention.
  9. If the community decides, after due process of consultation among its leadership, to delay the spending of what it has collected from Zakat Al-Fitr payments until after the day of Eid, then this may be done, provided that it serves a clear benefit for the community.
  10. The Zakat Al-Fitr payment should be dedicated to the poor and the needy. In some cases, however, it can be given to eligible recipients of Zakât Al-Mâl; namely,

…For the poor and the indigent, and for those who work [to administer it], and for those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to [free] those in bondage, and for the debt-ridden, and for the cause of Allah, and for the wayfarer. [Surat Al-Tawbah, 9:60].

Written By

Uwaymir Anjum is the Imam Khattab Chair of Islamic Studies at the Department of Philosophy, University of Toledo. He is also professor of Islamic Intellectual History at Qatar University. He studies the connections between theology, ethics, politics, and law in classical and medieval Islam, with a subfocus on its comparisons with western thought. Related fields of study include Islamic philosophy and Sufism. His dissertation, published in 2012 by Cambridge University Press, is entitled Politics, Law, and Community in Islamic Thought: The Taymiyyan Moment. His translation of Ibn al-Qayyim’s Madârij Al-Sâlikîn is forthcoming.

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