Zakatul Fitr (the alms after Ramadan fast) is compulsory on every Muslim who is free and is capable to pay it whether the person is small, big, male or female. In a Hadith, when the Prophet of Allah (pbh) was asked of these verses of Suratul A'laa “Indeed whosoever purifies himself (by avoiding Polytheism and accepting Islamic Monotheism) shall achieve success. And remembers (glorifies) the Name of his Lord (worship none but Allah) and prays (five compulsory prayers and Nawafil - additional prayers). (Al A'laa: 14-15)”.
The Prophet said, “There were revealed for Zakatul Fitr.” Also, in the collections of Al-Bukhari and Muslim, Ibn Umar - may Allah be pleased with them narrated saying, 'The Prophet (pbh) prescribed Zakatul Fitr a Saa'a (measurement) of date or barley on the enslaved, free, male, female, small and big Muslims.”
The Prophet (pbh) under Allah's command prescribed and ordered it in the same year which fasting was enjoined i.e. in the month of Sha'ban in the second year of Hijrah.
The aims of the alms are palpable. All hands are not equal and anything done with true intention for the sake of attaining Allah's happiness is never a waste. Yet, some religious duties which are made obligatory have special objectives and rewards. For Zakatul Fitr, Ibn Abbas - may Allah be pleased with both of them - said, “The Prophet (pbh) prescribed Zakatul Fitr as to purify the one who fasts from meaningless and vulgar talks (during fasting) and to avail the needy. Whosoever, pays it before Eid prayer, it is an accepted alms. But who pays it after the prayer; it is a charity” i.e. voluntary charity (Sadaqah).
From the above Hadith, three reasons are adduced for the prescription of Zakatul Fitr:
i. Atoning for the shortcomings or mistakes possibly committed while fasting.
ii. Spreading happiness among all levels of the Muslim society after the fasting of the whole month prescribed by the Almighty Allah, the Lord of the Universe.
iii. Providing for the weak and needy in the society - a duty which lies on the shoulders of the able, wealthy and blessed in the Islamic society.
A Muslim takes it out for himself or herself and for all those he or she sponsors like the spouse, children and servants under one's care. The Muslim should also pay for the parents and grandparents if they are under his or her care.
It is agreed that the possession of a quorum (nisab) is not a condition for Zakatul-Fitr like in the case of the annual Zakat because its aim is to remedy the Muslim who fasted the month. Even the poor pays it and takes it from another person. This is a fine moral network. After all, the participation of the poor in this duty enhances confidence and nobility in him or her and fills the society with spiritual brotherliness and cooperation.
According to the Maliki and Hanbali, Zakatul Fitr is to be given out after the sunset of the last day of Ramadan. But the Shafi' and Hanafi say that it should be given after the dawn on the Eid day preferably before the Eid prayers.
Notwithstanding, the Islamic scholars agree that there is no harm in hastening the payment of Zakatul Fitr a day or two before the Eid while some of them, like the Hanafi see the possibility of giving it out even before the month of Ramadan.
Ali bn Abi Talib reported that Al-Abbas asked the Prophet (pbh) about hastening the alms and he (the Prophet) allowed him.
However, the Fitr alms can never be overlooked by delay. Rather, it remains a debt on one until he or she pays it even if in the last moment of his or her life.
But it must be stressed that delaying the payment of the Fitr alms after Eid prayer without any cogent reason is UNLAWFUL since its objectives - satiating and alleviating the poor and needy - are lost.
Zakatul Fitr is measured out of wheat, barley, date, raisin or any kind of staple food in a country or region. In Nigeria, a mud of rice/wheat in the farthest North will do.
In the South-West region, a mud of yam processed-products or other types of food stuffs should be given out for each member of the family.
In Abuja and its environs, a mud of rice/beans/wheat/garri/any food stuff will be acceptable.
In the Southeast and Southsouth, a mud of cassava products or other staple edibles would be on every Muslim in the region.
Generally in Nigeria, prices of food items differ from one region to the other. So it is strictly advisable for those who may not be disposed to buy the food items to ascertain the monitory equivalence before giving it out. But food is the best for Zakatul Fitr.
Transferring Fitr alms from one country to the other or from a part of a country to other parts is not permitted except under strong condition like when it is taken to a needy close relative or when the people of the original region have been covered.
The beneficiaries of Zakat including that of Fitr are eight in number. The Almighty Allah categorically states them in verse 60 of Suratut-Taubah:
As-Sadaqah (here it means Zakat) are only for the poor and the needy and those employed to collect (the funds) and to attract the hearts of those who have been inclined (towards Islam), and to free the captives, and for those in debt, and for Allah's cause (i.e. for those fighting in a holy battle), and for the wayfarer (a traveler who is cut off from everything …) (At-Taubah: 60)
From this verse, eight beneficiaries of Zakat are mentioned in a categorical order as follows:
1. The poor
2. The needy
3. Those employed to collect (the funds)
4. To attract the hearts of those who have been inclined (towards Islam)
5. To free the captives
6. For those in debt
7. For Allah's cause (i.e. for those fighting in a holy battle)
8. For the wayfarer (a traveler who is cut off from everything)
It is not permissible to pay it to those whose responsibility is compulsory upon one, like the aforementioned: parents, wife and children etc.
Muslims are advised and warned at the same time in the strongest terms not to cheat or shorten the quantity stated. If one is not clear with the matter concerning Zakatul Fitr or does not understand parts of the duty as any other Islamic duty, the person should not fail to contact the Imam of the nearest mosque in his or her location.
It is reported from the Prophet (pbh) that he said, “Ramadan fasting is hung between the heaven and earth and cannot be raised to (to Heaven) except by Zakatul Fitr. Confirming and affirming this, the Almighty Allah says in verse 30 of Suratus Saba':
And whatsoever you spend of anything (in Allah's Cause), He will replace it. And He is the Best of providers. (Saba': 30)
Every Muslim must try to gain the final rewards in Ramadan by giving out his or her Zakatul-Fitri. And by so doing, Allah will continue to uplift the Muslims and safeguard the Ummah.
Summary on Zakatul Fitr:
i) It consists of a sa'a (measure of about 2.5kgs) of rice, wheat, dates or similar types of food.
ii) It is not proper to give the Zakatul Fitr in the form of money or clothes or any other articles other than food.
iii) Zakatul Fitr must be given out on the Eid day and it can be given out a day or two before Eid.
iv) It is not permissible to delay in giving out Zakatul Fitr later than the Eid prayers except for some valid reasons.
v) Zakatul Fitr should be given on behalf of adult, minor, male or female Muslims.
Muhammad Ajah is Abuja-based writer, author and commentator. E-mail: [email protected]
Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."
Reproduction is authorised provided the author's permission is granted.