Zakatul Fitr (ZF) is an obligation on every muslim, young or old, male or female. It is the giving of sadaqah toward the end of Ramadan till before the ‘Eid prayers on the 1st of ‘Shawwal. It seeks to purify the one who fasts from any indecent act or speech; and acts as food for the needy.
Ibn Abbas said: “The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) enjoined Zakatul-Fitr as a purification for the fasting person from idle talk and obscenities, and to feed the poor. Whoever pays it before the (Eid) prayer, it is an accepted Zakah, and whoever pays it after the prayer, it is (ordinary) charity.” graded Hasan
If one cannot afford to give, that is, one doesn’t have enough for the day’s meals, then he is entitled to be given. If you are reading this, I bet you can afford to give. Here are some points to note:
• It is a timed sunnah and can be given from the 28th of Ramadan till before the ‘eid prayer. Paying it on time gives the needy time to prepare and enjoy it before the ‘Eid prayers.
• Its measurement is one sa’a (approximately 4 mudd) of local staple grains. This is the minimum requirement and could be increased voluntarily or expanded to include more. For example, tomatoes, salt and money to cook could be added to the ZF to ease the burden of cooking on the beneficiary. Hanafi scholars even permit the money equivalent to be given as it may be more useful to the beneficiary than raw foodstuff.
• The haddith says, ‘One’s faith is not complete unless he loves for his brother what he loves for himself. If you love rice, why buy maize grains to give as Zakat? Why burden the recipient of the zakat with such invaluable grains from which he can only make popcorn and a few processed meals? If you can afford better, please do get grains that will be better appreciated.
• As the head of the household, a man may have to give ZF for each member of his family if they cannot afford to do so themselves. Even muslim servants should have their zakat paid for if they cannot provide it.
According to Sheikh Yusuf AlQaradawi, ZF is a compensation for any shortcomings in the the fasting individual’s acts and speech during Ramadan. It also aims to spread love and happiness among the ummah during the Day of ‘Eid. It also purifies one’s soul from shortcomings from adoration of property and from miserliness.
If the time frame is not complied with, and ZF is paid after the Eid, it becomes sadaqah and no longer ZF.
May Allah accept our acts of worship.