Definition, Origin, and Status

Zakatul Fitr or Sadaqatul Fitr is a special charity was established by Allah’s Messenger, Muhammad (S) upon the end of the fast of the month of Ramadan. Zakatul Fitr was made compulsory in the second year of the Hijrah, the same year the fasting was prescribed. It has been prescribed as a means of purification for those who fasted, from loose and indecent talk. Zakatul Fitr in this way abolishes mistakes done while observing Ramadan. By it our fasting will be purified from all types of evils and defects. Every Muslim, young and old, male or female must pay at the end of the fasting month – Ramadan – this due. The second reason for Zakatul Fitr is to feed the needy of the community so that they have enough provision for the day of Eid, to feed themselves, clothe themselves, and exchange the gifts. For them, Zakatul Fitr on the day of Eid, may become the source of happiness and ease.

Ibn ‘Abbas reported that the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (S) enjoined Zakatul Fitr on the one who fasts to shield oneself from mistakes and obscene acts and for the purpose of providing for the poor. Whoever gives it before Eid Salat, it is acceptable alms, but whoever gives it after Eid Salat, it is only charity like any ordinary charity. (Abu Dawud) Zakatul Fitr will also help in improving human relationships as well as improving the society.

The Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (S) made a connection between Zakatul Fitr and fasting in Ramadan: “Fasting in the month of Ramadan hangs suspended between the heavens and the earth and is not raised except by Zakatul Fitr.” (Mundhiri, At Targib wat Tarhib) This connection is like the connection of an effect to its course, where the practical manifestation of fusting results in sympathy
Waki’ ibn Al Jarrah said that Zakatul Fitr for the month of Ramadan is like two sajdahs of Sahw for the prayer. It makes up for any shortcomings in the fast just as the prostrations make up for the shortcomings in the prayer. (An Nawawi, Al Majmu’, part 6)

The correct view about Zakatul Fitr is that it is an obligatory act as mentioned by Ibn Omar that the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (S) made Zakatul Fitr obligatory and because of the consensus (Ijma’) of the scholars who hold that it is an obligatory act (Al Mugni, part 2).

When to give Zakatul Fitr?

Zakatul Fitr is due by the end of Ramadan and should be paid before the Eid Salat. One may pay Zakatul Fitr in advance any time during the month of Ramadan. Since we have to distribute it on time we need to collect it much ahead of the Eid Salat. Giving it to the needy, just before Salatil Eid, is the best due to the conditions that our community lives in. This way the needy could benefit from it on the Eid day. Delaying payment of Zakatul Fitr after the day of Eid is not permissible. However, if payment is delayed, it becomes a debt on the one responsible for it, until it id paid. The Hadith of Ibn Abbas states: “… and whosoever gives it (Zakatul Fitr) after the Salat (Eid), then it is merely a Sadaqah.” (Abu Dawud)

Zakatul Fitr is mandatory on every Muslim on his behalf and on the behalf of all people he is in charge of.