I feel compelled to put this together because I’ve seen the following errors being committed even since I was a young boy. In sha Allah, you can help me spread the word by sharing this article with your community, friends and family. What is Zakat ul-Fitr? Think “Iftar”, Zakat ul-Fitr is the charity that we pay at the end of Ramadan.
Here is the foundational hadith that establishes the obligation of Zakat ul-Fitr: Ibn `Umar reported that the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam), made Zakat ul-Fitr compulsory on every slave, freeman, male, female, young and old among the Muslims; one Saa` (a measurement: four double handfuls) of dried dates or one Saa` of barley.
[Sahih Bukhari – Arabic/English, vol. 2, p. 339, no. 579] To understand Zakat ul-Fitr, here is a good summary of it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zakat_al-fitr But unfortunately, our community makes some basic errors in the payment of Zakat Al-Fitr that must be clarified.
Error One: Paying at Eid Salah
Some people go to Eid prayers and drop money into the donation box thinking that they have paid their Zakat ul-Fitr.
No, Zakat ul-Fitr, which is food, must be in the hands of the needy family BEFORE Eid prayer.
If someone goes to Eid prayer and pays then it is GUARANTEED that the money will NOT arrive on time. And thus the person paying is sinful for having missed the payment of Zakat ul-Fitr.
May Allah forgive us.
Error Two: Snail mailing the money overseas
Basic principle as before: the Zakat ul-Fitr, food, MUST be in the hands of the needy BEFORE Eid prayer. One cannot mail the money overseas and have it arrive in the hands of the needy after Eid prayer is over. However, if one is able to get the Zakat ul-Fitr to the needy overseas BEFORE Eid prayer is conducted in their locality, then in sha Allah it’s alright.
Error Three: Not paying
Yes, as simple as this error is, it is HARAM to skip the payment of Zakat ul-Fitr. EVERYONE must pay Zakat ul-Fitr, every member of the household. So if you have 8 people in your house, Zakat ul-Fitr must be paid x 8, even if the youngest member is just a few days old.
Error Four: Confusing Zakat ul-Fitr with Zakat ul-Maal
We are talking about Zakat al-Fitr here (think “Iftar”, i.e. Ramadan). Zakat ul-Maal (Maal literally means wealth), is the Zakah due on ones money – and that could be due any time during the year on a case by case basis depending on one’s wealth.
Error Five: Giving money instead of food
Although some scholars have allowed giving money instead of food, the spirit of Zakat ul-Fitr is to give food to the needy of the community, NOT money. The Companion of the Prophet, Abu Sa`eed al-Khudree, radi Allahu ‘anhu, said, “In the Prophet’s time, we used to give it (Zakat ul-Fitr) as a sa` of food, dried dates, barley, raisins or dried cheese”.
[Bukhari – Arabic/English vol. 2, p. 340, no. 582]
Error Six: Giving one’s Zakat ul-Fitr to a charitable building project
Some people mistakenly give their Zakat ul-Fitr to a charitable building project: like the building of a Masjid, or Islamic school. There is a difference of opinion on this issue, but suffice it to say that the spirit of Zakat ul-Fitr is that the needy should have plentiful food on Eid.
All eight types of recipients of Zakat mentioned in the Quran are HUMANS, not “building projects”.