Many a Muslim are confused with the concept of Zakah. Even more are puzzled by the two categories i.e. Zakatul maal and zakatul fitr.
Zakah is an obligatory charity one has to pay out of their wealth.
"And establish prayer and give zakah, and whatever good you put forward for yourselves you will find it with Allah. Indeed, Allah of what you do, is Seeing" (Qur'an 2: 110)
Zakatul maal is obligatory payment incumbent upon those who have collected wealth as a form of purification of this wealth. A believer/ Muslim is required to pay 2.5 per cent of their wealth annually. This does not simply constitute income/ earnings but applies to wealth accumulated over a period of a year after all day to day expenses are catered to. This is the simplest explanation not digging deep into the hows and whats of ones earnings and business dealings. One has to seek knowledge on the concept to establish what to pay depending on their source of income, level of income and the like.
Zakahtul fitr is an obligatory payment incumbent upon all Muslims of self sufficient Muslim during (towards the end) Ramadhan. The purpose of Zakatul fitr is to purify ones Ramadhan. It is a small amount paid in consideration of ones means of breaking their fast and is put towards feeding the needy on Idd.
Abdullah bin Umar: The Prophet (peace be upon him) ordered (Muslims) to give on to give one Sa' of dates or barley as Zakat-ul-Fitr. Sahih Bukhari (One Sa' = 3 Kilograms approx.)
Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: We used to give one Sa' of meal or one Sa' of barley or one Sa' of dates, or one Sa' of cottage cheese or one Sa' of Raisins (dried grapes) as Zakat-ul-Fitr. Sahih Bukhari
Who should pay Zakatul fitr?
Zakatul fitr is enjoined on all Muslims except those who are needy. To pay Zakatul fitr, one has to be a Muslim and meet quantum or nisab (the threshold of wealth that one must have for zakatul fitr to be obligatory for them).
“Sadaqat isn’t compulsory except for he who is well-off.” (Musnad Ahmad, 10:7)
This includes women and men and the young and old. this includes all who possess any assets beyond ones necessities equivalent to the value of 612.36 g of silver, one who owns assets of a productive nature equivalent to the value of 612.36 g of silver and one who possesses one day’s provision or possess 50 dirhams (153.09 g of silver).
The Prophet (peace be upon him) enjoined the payment of one Sa' of dates or one Sa' of barley as Zakat-ul-Fitr on every Muslim slave or free, male or female, young or old, and he ordered that it be paid before the people went out to offer the Idd prayer." Bukhari
The men with the ability to pay zakatul fitr should pay for their dependants who are unable to pay zakatul fitr themselves (their wives and children).
Al-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said: If a child does not have any wealth, his zakaat al-fitr must be paid by his father, according to scholarly consensus, as was reported by Ibn al-Mundhir and others. If the child has wealth, then he must pay his own zakaat al-fitr. This was the view of Abu Haneefah, Ahmad, Ishaaq and Abu Thawr.
A woman who has the quantum will be obliged to pay the Sadaqat al-Fitr herself, irrespective whether she is married or not. (Imdad al-Fatawa, 2:110) It is permissible for a husband to discharge of Sadaqat al-Fitr on behalf of his wife. Equally a father can pay on behalf of his mature children. (Sharh Fath al-Qadir, 2:289-290)
When to pay Zakatul fitr
Zakatul fitr is meant to be paid before Idd preferably four (4) to two (2) days before Idd and definitely before the Idd prayer. This allows for proper distribution of the Zakah among the poor and needy for them to prepare their feasts/ meals on Idd day
Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar said: The Prophet (peace be upon him) ordered the people to pay Zakat al Fitr before going to the Idd prayer. Bukhari
If paid after Idd prayer, it is then considered sadaqah and not zakatul fitr. it is therefore incumbent upon all Muslims to pay zakatul fitr before the day of Idd and definitely before Idd prayer.
Ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: “The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) ordained Zakat ul Fitr [Fitrana] to purify the fasting person from indecent words or actions, and to provide food for the needy. It is accepted as Zakat for the person who gives it before the Idd prayer; but it is a mere Sadaqah for the one who gives it after the prayer.” Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah
‘Abd Allah Ibn ‘Umar said, “People used to give Sadaqat al-Fitr a day or two before the Idd. Sahih al-Bukhari In today’s climate, it is better and preferable to pay the Sadaqat al-Fitr many days in advance. The whole idea of Sadaqat al-Fitr is to benefit and suffice the poor on the day of ‘Idd. Discharging of it prior to the ‘Idd salah in the masjid or musallah, as it is common practice in the west, defeats the purpose and objective of Sadaqat al-Fitr. Hence, one should ideally pay the Sadaqah in adequate time so that it can reach those who are worthy of it in time. (Kitab al-Fatawa, 3:362)
Who benefits from Zakatul-Fitr
Zakatul fitr is meant to be given to the poor, the stranded travelers and those in need.
Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala said: "Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakah] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveler - an obligation [imposed] by Allah. And Allah is Knowing and Wise." (Qur'an 9: 60)
How / where to pay Zakatul fitr
Zakatul fitr was paid in way of food stuffs during the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
Abu Sa`eed al-Khudree said, "In the Prophet's time, we used to give it (Zakatal-Fitr) as a sa` of food, dried barley, dates, raisins or dried cheese". (According to the majority of Sunni scholars One Sa'a is approximately between 2.6 kg to 3 kg)
The food stuffs can be dates, barley, raisins or the stapple foods of the region for example
Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) said in I‘laam al-Muwaqqi‘een (3/12): That was the usual staple food in Madinah. But if the staple food of the people of a region or locality is something other than that, then they have to give a saa‘ of their staple food, such as those whose staple food is corn or rice or some other kind of grain. If their staple food is something other than grains, such as milk or meat or fish, they should give their zakat al-fitr in the form of their staple food, no matter what it is. This is the view of the majority of scholars, and it is the only correct view, because the aim behind it is to meet the needs of the poor on the day of Eid, and to help them by giving them the staple food of the local people. Based on that, it is acceptable to give flour, even if there is no saheeh hadeeth that mentions it. End quote.
This can be given/ paid to the poor directly or to the Imams of the Mosques/ Muslim leaders to distribute among the needy and other beneficiaries.
When you give Zakah, be it maal or fitr, you have lent Allah a goodly loan and you will find it with Him. Allah is always just
Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala said: "Who is it that would loan Allah a goodly loan so He may multiply it for him many times over? And it is Allah who withholds and grants abundance, and to Him you will be returned." (Qur'an 2: 245) Also "The example of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is like a seed [of grain] which grows seven spikes; in each spike is a hundred grains. And Allah multiplies [His reward] for whom He wills. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing." (Qur'an 2: 261)
May Allah reward us all with goodness both in this dunya and the Akhira. Ameen.