In The Name Of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful
All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and that Muhammad is His Servant and Messenger.
Dear Brothers and Sisters! The scope of worship in Islam is universal, in the literal sense. For the Quran tells us that each and every constituent of creation near or far, seen or unseen, animate or inanimate – worships The True and Only Allah.
“Indeed, every being in the heavens and the earth but comes to the All-Merciful as a worshipper.” [Quran, 19: 93]
It is only human beings, then, that are called upon to voluntarily join in the wonderful symphony of worshipful creation.
Islam’s five pillars are the cornerstones upon which we build such an outstanding and worshipful life. But no such establishment of a dignified life of faith on earth, either personally or socially, can take place without one essential pillar that represents the intersection of our professed convictions and our practical lives. Zakah is that pillar, for it is the primary instrument that Allah has placed at our disposal to spiritually and socially uplift every Muslim and the entirety of our Ummah and thereby to assert a benevolent hand for the Commonwealth of humanity. Among Zakah’s most blessed manifestations – and certainly its most widespread – is the obligatory annual giving of the Zakatul-Fitr charity, before the solemnizing of Ramadan by Eid prayer.
Respected Servants of Allah! The Arabic word ‘Zakah’ means ‘purity,’ ‘cleansing,’ ‘wholesomeness,’ and ‘integrity’ (in both their physical and moral senses). It means, also, ‘growth’ or ‘increase.’ Understanding these linguistic meanings helps our proper appreciation of what Zakah is as a financial, or fiduciary rite mandated by Allah. For, indeed, each of these senses finds its native expression in Zakah’s correct function in our lives and in our local communities and societies. It is known also by the term Sadaqatul-Fitr, or the Sincere, or Righteous Charity of Fast Breaking, because it testifies to one’s sincerity to Allah and his or her righteousness in seeking to comply with Allah’s legislation, or Sanctioned Laws and legislations.
Zakah’s primary goal is not that of simple “charity.” Allah has instituted other mechanisms for this purpose. Rather, Zakah is much farther seeing and reaching. Its objective is to secure the psycho-spiritual well-being of every single Muslim as an individual servant of Allah, and to safeguard the socio-moral welfare of the entire Muslim nation.
The reason that the objectives of Zakah are so profound and sweeping is that its principle is so universally sound and materially decisive. Zakah is the incumbent giving of wealth, in all its material manifestations, from all those who have it (and this is its comprehensive aspect) to all those whose need gives them a right to a minimally dignifying sum from it — and this is its deeper significance. For it means that Allah has chosen to invest the wealth of some of us, for lawful increase, with others among us as a trust that must be conveyed to its rightful beneficiaries, if our own holdings are to remain pure and our societies are to have integrity.
What is, indeed, so profound about this is that it underscores to humanity that all of its wealth, in fact, is disbursed to it on loan from Allah, who, as the Creator, is the sole Owner of life and all that the living possess. Allah has revealed this pillar of faith to every believing community in history. But He has expanded it into an inclusive, highly systematized institution enjoined upon all who would follow Islam.
– The Sum Of Zakatul Fitr
Originally, the stated amount of Zakatul-Fitr was a Sa’i of dates, or barley, or wheat. A Sa’i was a “goblet,” or drinking utensil, at the time of the Prophet. There have been periodic inquiries by Muslim scholars (like the well-known investigation by Abu Yusuf, the great Hanafi scholar) to determine updated weight-and-measure equivalents to that of the of Sa’i at the time of the Prophet. There is some minimal discrepancy, or difference, in determining this weight based upon the conversion of quantities of varying items (dates and wheat, for example) into a unified measure. Thus a Sa’i is now estimated to be equal to anywhere from 2.176 to 2.25 kilograms, or just under 5 lbs.
There is, however, an opinion in the Hanafi school of jurisprudence with regard to determining the correct amount of Zakatul-Fitr that specifies a half a Sa’i of harvested wheat grain or its flour, but one full Sa’i for items such as barley, dates, and raisins. However, this was based on the availability, or scarcity, of these items at the time this opinion emerged. Hence, the price of the staple items by which Zakatul-Fitr is determined must be reconsidered in contemporary circumstances to the advantage of the Zakat-Fitr recipients.
The classical Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbali positions on the type of Zakatul-Fitr offering discusses payment only in terms of weights and measures of provisions, or foodstuffs. It is the Hanafi opinion, however, that holds sway in this matter, which states that Muslims may give the price of Zakatul-Fitr, originally determined for grains and dates, in contemporary currency equivalents. They argue this position on the basis of a higher good or more practicable benefit, saying that money enables the needy person to buy what he or she deems to be most desirable or necessary on the day of Eid. They point out that a person may, for example, not be in need of a provision of corn, or the like, but rather in want of clothing, or meat, etc.
– Who is liable for the Zakat al-Fitr Payment
Dear Servants of Allah! As I have noted previously, every Muslim is liable for the payment of Zakatu-Fitr, provided food exists for one, and one’s dependents, for Eid eve and the following day. Knowing now what a Sa’i is, in terms of its contemporary weight equivalents, we can be more exact in defining who is liable to make the Zakatul-Fitr payment. Every Muslim, whether rich or poor, who possesses (or has stored on his behalf) grains, or similar foodstuffs – or the monetary means of achieving the like of this – sufficient for one’s sustenance, and that of one’s dependents for a full night and day, must give Zakatul-Fitr.
This sum is due not per household, but per person. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:
“Give Zakatul-Fitr on behalf of [all your] dependents.” [Al-Baihaqi]
For he indicated that Zakatul-Fitr would purify the wealth of the rich and be the cause of Allah giving more to the poor than what they have given. Thus whoever meets the feeding requirements for his or her family must pay the Zakatul-Fitr payment for each and every household member.
The Shafi’i and the Hanbali schools of jurisprudence state that a Muslim should give the Zakatul-Fitr payment on behalf of him – or herself and on behalf of every single person under his or her care—including one’s wife; children (even if they are older but still dependent, or ineligible to make the payment according to Zakatul-Fitr requirements); parents (if they are poor or dependent); and any others who are established dependents of the household (such as foster children, orphans, and the like).
– When Is The Payment Due
Imams Ash-Shafi’i and Ahmad state that the Zakatul- Fitr payment becomes obligatory after sunset on Eid’s eve, or the last day of fasting, because this is the end of Ramadan. Abu Hanifah (and also Ash-Shafi’i in an earlier opinion of his) held that the sum of Zakatul-Fitr becomes obligatory at the dawn of Eid day because it is reported that the Prophet commanded his Companions, may Allah be pleased with them, to pay Zakatul-Fitr before going out to perform the prayer of Eid. [Al-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 Zakatul-Fitr must be paid, according to Imam Abu Hanifah.
Also, according to him (Imam Abu Hanifah) it is possible to pay Zakatul-Fitr in Ramadan in advance of Zakatul-Fitr, or even just prior to the commencement of Ramadan. Imam Ash-Shafi’i however, holds that Zakatul-Fitr can be given on the first day of fasting Ramadan. Imams Malik 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 Zakatul-Fitr Be Paid?
In general, the best place for the collection and distribution of one’s Zakah and charity — and this includes Zakatul-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’az Ibn Jabal, may Allah be pleased with him, to teach the people of Yemen. He said to him:
“Inform them that Allah has made the paying of Zakah 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 Islamic legislation, to which the institutions responsible for the collection and distribution of Zakah among Muslims are to adhere.
– Zakatul-Fitr A Favorable Sign For Our Community
The re-emergence of Muslim concern for the paying and collection of all Zakah resources and charities — especially Zakatul-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 Zakatul-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 (Kuwait, 1997):
1. Zakatul-Fitr is obligatory upon every Muslim who has the food or provision to sustain himself, and those whom he is obligated to support, on the eve and the day of Eid, provided that this exceeds his basic needs.
2. A man is obliged to pay Zakatul-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 Sa’i (four handfuls or four mudun Nabi) of dates, barley, raisins, or other such grain, equal to approximately 2.25 kilograms of wheat. Originally, the giving of Zakatul-Fitr was limited to the kinds of food that had been stated in the relevant statement of the Prophet (Peace be upon him). However, jurists (Fuqaha) have established (through proper methods) that it may be given out of other commonly consumed foods, such as rice, millet, corn, guinea corn, garri, meat, milk and so forth, but should be valued in accordance with the items specified by the Prophet. Moreover, it is permissible to give Zakatul-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. Zakatul-Fitr must be given before the prayer of Eid. It is forbidden to delay it until after the Eid day. If one, for any reason accepted by Shari’ah, is prevented from giving it at that particular time, one must pay it after that time passes. If there is a need, Zakatul-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 Zakatul-Fitr on one’s behalf.
6. It is permissible for the institutions that collect Zakatul-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 Zakatul-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 Zakatul-Fitr in another community, if the giving community has no one in need of it.
8. One must have a clear intention before giving one’s Zakatul-Fitr. If one delegates, or gives permission, to another to give Zakatul-Fitr on his behalf, it is considered an explicit intention.
9. If the community decides, after due process of consultation among its leadership and scholars, to delay the spending of what it has collected from Zakatul-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 Zakatul-Fitr payment should be dedicated to the poor and the needy. In some cases, however, it can be given to eligible recipients of Zakah of wealth; namely those stated by Allah in the following Quranic verse:
“For the poor and the needy, and for those who work [to administer it], and for those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and for freeing captives (or slaves), and for those in debt, and for the cause of Allah, and for the wayfarer…” [Quran, 9:60]
All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our Noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true followers.
Imam Murtadha Muhammad Gusau, from Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. The Imam can be reached via: firstname.lastname@example.org or +2348038289761.