What is Zakat Al-Fitr
The term Zakat generally refers to money, food, and the like which are given to the poor. Literally, it means purification and growth. Zakat Al-Fitr is enjoined by Islam for the occasion of Fitr (end of fasting Ramadan). This term was first introduced into Arabic with the advent of Islam. It is also called Al-Fitr alms, fasting Zakat or Ramadan alms.
What are the hadiths which enjoin Zakat Al-Fitr?
Ibnu Omar – may God be pleased with him – reported: “the Messenger of God – God bless him and grant him peace – enjoined Zakat Al-Fitr as one Sa’a (a standard measure that equals three kilograms) of dates or as one Sa’a of barley [enjoined] upon the slave, the free, the male, the female, the young, and the old Muslims”. Another version of this same hadith authenticated by Al-Bukhari reads “They (early Muslims) used to give it one or two days before Al-Fitr (end of Ramadan).
In another version of this first hadith authenticated and related by Muslim and Al-Bukhari and others, we find the addition: “and he (the Messenger) ordered that it must be given before going out to witness and perform the Prayer of Eid”. Prayer of Eid is a set public prayer in an open site marking the end of Ramadan and celebrating the successful completion of one month fast. It is performed a short while after sunrise.
Abu Sa’id narrated on the authority of Al-Bukhari and Muslim: “we used to give Zakat Al-Fitr [in the form of] one Sa’a ( approximately 3 klg) of food, one Sa’a of barley, one Sa’a of dates, one Sa’a of Uqat (solid food made from milk curds) or one Sa’a of dried grapes”.
Why Zakat Al-Fitr is enjoined?
Ibnu Abbas narrated on the authority of Abu Dawud, Ibnu Maja and others that “The Messenger – God bless him and grant him peace – enjoined Zakat Al-Fitr as a purification of the believer (who has completed the month of fast) from vain talk and obscenity (that might have spoiled his/her fast) and also as food provision for the needy. If it is given before the Prayer (of Eid), it is an accepted Zakat; but if it is given after the Prayer, it is then an ordinary almsgiving”.
Can it be given as money?
Zakat Al-Fitr is given out of the common food of people in a given area. Most common nowadays are dates, wheat, rice, maize grains, and raisin. It can also be given as money provided that the money given equals (or exceeds a little) the value of the set amount of food. It can be given one or two days before Al-Fitr Day. But it cannot be given any time earlier than that, bearing in mind its name, Zakatu Al-Fitr.