Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 3: Zakat ul-Fitr
Zakat ul-fitr is a type of sadaqah which must be paid by every Muslim, youngand old, male and female, free and slave, at the end of the month of fasting(Ramadan).
Al-Bukhari and Muslim relate from Ibn 'Umar that he said: "The Prophet,upon whom be peace, enjoined the payment of one sa' of dates or one sa' ofbarley as zakat ul-fitr on every Muslim, young and old, male and female, freeand slave."
Zakat ul-fitr was made obligatory in the month of Sha'ban in the second yearof the hijrah. Its purpose is to purify one who fasts from any indecent act orspeech and to help the poor and needy. This view is based upon the hadithreported by Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, and ad-Daraqutni from Ibn 'Abbas. TheMessenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, enjoined zakat ul-fitr on the one whofasts to shield one's self from any indecent act or speech and for the purposeof providing food for the needy. It is accepted as zakah for the person whopays it before the 'id salah, and it is sadaqah for the one who pays it afterthe salah.
Zakat ul-fitr is incumbent on every free Muslim who possesses one sa' ofdates or barley which is not needed as a basic food for himself or his familyfor the duration of one day and night. Every free Muslim must pay zakat ul-fitrfor himself, his wife, children, and servants.
The required amount of zakat ul-fitr is one sa' of wheat, barley, raisins,dry cottage cheese (aqit), rice, corn, or similar items considered as basicfoods (qut). Abu Hanifah made it permissible to set aside, as a zakat ul-fitr,an equivalent value and also said that if the payer pays in wheat, one-half ofa sa' would be sufficient. Abu Sa'id al-Khudri reported: "We used to giveon behalf of every child, old person, freeman, and slave during the lifetime ofthe Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, one sa' of food, or one sa' ofdried cottage cheese, or one sa' of barley, or one sa' of dates, or one sa' ofraisins as zakat ul-fitr. We continued to do so until Mu'awiyyah came to us toperform pilgrimage (hajj) or a minor pilgrimage ( 'umrah). He then addressedthe people from the pulpit and said to them: 'I see that two mudds of wheat ofSyria equals one sa' of dates.' The people accepted that." However, AbuSa'id contended: "I would continue to give as I used to give, namely, onesa' as long as I live." This is related by most hadith narrators.At-Tirmizhi remarks: "Some of the scholars gave one sa' from everycharitable item [which is accepted as a sound practice]." Ash-Shaf'i and Ishaqsustain this view but some other scholars gave one sa' from every charitableitem except wheat, of which only half a sa' would be sufficient. This is thesaying of Sufyan, Ibn al-Mubarak, and the scholars of Kufah.
The jurists agree that zakat ul-fitr is due at the end of Ramadan. Theydiffer, however, about the exact time.
Ath-Thauri, Ahmad, Ishaq, and ash-Shaf'i (in his later opinion), and Malik(in one of his reports) are of the opinion that it is due at the sunset of thenight of breaking the fast, for this is when the fast of Ramadan ends. AbuHanifah, al-Layth, ash-Shaf'i (in his original opinion), and the second reportof Malik say that zakat ulfitr is due at the start of fajr on the day of 'id.
These two different views acquire relevance if a baby is born after sunsetbut before dawn on the day of 'id; the question then is whether zakat ul-fitris obligatory for the baby or not. In accordance with the first view, it is notsince the birth took place after the prescribed time, while according to thesecond view, it is due because the birth took place within the prescribed spaceof time.
Most scholars believe that it is permissible to pay zakat ul-fitr a day ortwo before 'id. Ibn 'Umar reports that the Messenger, upon whom be peace,ordered them to pay zakat ul-fitr before the people went out to perform the 'idprayers. Nafi' reports that 'Umar used to pay it a day or two before the end ofRamadan. However, scholars hold different opinions when a longer time period isinvolved. According to Abu Hanifah, it is permissible to pay it even beforeRamadan. Ash-Shaf'i holds that it is permissible to do so at the beginning ofRamadan. Malik and Ahmad (in his well-known view) maintain that it ispermissible to pay it only one or two days in advance.
The founders of the four accepted Islamic legal schools agree that zakatul-fitr is not nullified simply by not paying it on its due date. If such isthe case, it becomes a debt on the one responsible for it until it is paid.They also agree that it is not permissible to delay it until the day of 'id,but Ibn Sirin and an-Nakha'i say that this can be done. Ahmad says: "Ihope that there is no harm [in the delay of its payment]." Ibn Raslan saysthat there is a consensus that its payment cannot be delayed just because it isa type of zakah. Thus, any delay is a sin and is analogous to delaying one'sprayers without an acceptable excuse. This is proved by the following hadith:"If one pays zakat ul-fitr before the salah, it is considered an acceptedzakah. If he pays it after the salah, it is considered an ordinarysadaqah."
The distribution of zakat ul-fitr is the same as that of zakah-- that is, ithas to be distributed to the eight groups of beneficiaries mentioned in the'ayah: "The alms are only for the poor ..." [atTaubah 60]. Thecategory comprising the poor is considered the most deserving. This is alsosupported by the hadith: "The Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace,enjoined zakat ul-fitr as a purification for the one who fasts from anyindecent act or speech, and as food for the needy."
Al-Baihaqi and ad-Daraqutni relate from Ibn 'Umar who said: "The Messengerof Allah, upon whom be peace, enjoined the zakat ul-fitr, and also said: 'Freethem from want on this day.'"
Az-Zuhri, Abu Hanifah, Muhammad, and Ibn Shubrumah make it permissible togive zakat ul-fitr to a zhimmi. Allah, the Exalted One, says: "Allahallows you to show kindness and deal justly with those who did not war againstyou on account of religion and did not drive you out from your homes. Lo! Allahloves those who are just" [al-Mumtahanah 8].
Islam views wealth realistically--as an essential aspect of life and themain means of subsistence of individuals and groups. Allah, the Exalted One,instructs: "Give not to those who are weak of understanding [what is in]your wealth which Allah has made a means of support for you" [an-Nisa' 5].This amounts to saying that wealth is to be distributed to meet the basic needsof food, clothing, lodging, and other indispensables, and that no one is to belost, forgotten, or left without support. The best way to distribute wealth sothat everyone's basic needs are met is through zakah. It does not place anyburden on the wealthy yet at the same time it meets the basic needs of the poorand relieves them of the hardships of life and the pain of deprivation. Zakahis not a favor (minnah) that the wealthy bestow upon the poor; rather, it is adue (haqq) that Allah entrusted in the hands of the rich to deliver to the poorand distribute among the deserving. Thus, the eminent truth about wealth andproperty is established--that is, wealth is not exclusively for the rich butfor both the rich and the poor. This becomes obvious because of Allah'sjudgment concerning the distribution of booty (fay'). Allah warns: ". . .that it does not become a commodity taken by turns among the rich of you"[al-Hashr 7]. This means it is an apportionment of wealth between the rich andthe poor, not something restricted to the wealthy. Zakah is an obligation dueon the property of those able to pay and is to be used to meet the basic needsof the poor and the needy so that they could be kept away from hunger and theycould be given a sense of security and general well-being. If the amount ofzakah is not enough to alleviate the conditions of the poor and the needy, thenthe rich can be subjected to further taxation. How much should be taken is notspecified. Its quantity will be determined by the needs of the poor.
In his interpretation of alBaqarah 177, al-Qurtubi says: "The saying ofAllah, the Exalted One: 'And to spend of your wealth out of love for Him' givescredence to those who maintain that there is a due on wealth other than zakahknown as mal addir." Others hold that the preceding 'ayah alludes to the obligatoryzakah. According to ad-Daraqutni's report from Fatimah bint Qais, the firstview is more convincing. She relates: "Indeed, there is a due on one'sholdings other than the prescribed zakah." Then he recited the followingQur'anic verse: "It is not righteousness that you turn your faces to theEast or to the West, but it is to believe in Allah, the Last Day, the Angels,the Book, the Messengers, and to spend of your wealth out of love for Him onyour kin, orphans, the needy, the wayfarer, or those who ask, and on the ransomof slaves..." [al-Baqarah 177]. Ibn Majah mentioned it in his Sunan andat-Tirmizhi in his Jami'. The latter says that Ibn Majah's has a differentchain of narrators than his. Besides, Abu Hamzah and Maymun al-'A'war considerIbn Majah's chain of narrator not credible. This hadith is related by Bayan andIsma'il ibn Salim from ash-Shu'bi, who said that it is sound.
The latter says: "If there is a question about its authenticity, it isrendered clear by the context of the 'ayah [al-Baqarah 177]. In this statement:'... to be steadfast in prayer, and to give zakah,' Allah mentions zakah withsalah, which substantiates the fact that 'to spend of your property out of lovefor Him' does not refer to obligatory zakah, for that would be redundant in the'ayah--and Allah knows best."
The scholars agree that should a need arise, even when zakah has been paid,the Muslim community is bound to contribute toward the alleviation of theproblem.
Malik says: "It is obligatory for the people to ransom those taken asprisoners of war, even if doing so consumes all their property. The consensuson this subject strengthens our view, and we seek success only throughAllah." According to al-Manar, the 'ayah "... and to spend yourproperty out of love for Him . . ." [alBaqarah 177] means that one shouldgive the property for the sake of Allah or for the love of giving it.
Imam Muhammad 'Abduh's comments are: "The giving of property in excessof the due zakah is considered one of the basic elements of piety (birr) and isenjoined like the prescribed zakah."
Whenever the exigency calls for it, sadaqah other than zakah is given. Thatcould be before the completion of the year (hawl) or after the payment ofzakah. The contribution is not based on a specific amount of nisab but on theability to give. Thus, if someone possesses only a loaf of bread and sees aperson who is more hard-pressed than himself, he should give it to that person.The hard-pressed person is not the only one who has a right to be satisfied,but Allah has also ordered the believers to give non-prescribed sadaqat to thefollowing: kin, orphans, needy, wayfarers, beggars, and slaves.
The kin are considered the most deserving people for the sadaqah giftbecause of the common blood relationship. When a man is in need and some of hisrelatives are rich, naturally he looks to them for help because they are of onefamily. Also, it is natural for a man to feel more sympathy and pain with hishard-pressed and needy relatives than with strangers. He is humiliated by theirdegradation and elevated by their honor. Therefore, any well-to-do person whocuts off his kin from assistance and lives in luxury while his relatives are ina state of misery is devoid of natural feeling or lacks belief and is far awayfrom goodness or piety. On the other hand, for one who maintains close linkswith his kin, his sustenance is assured and his relationship is of beneficenceto his kin.
In the case of orphans whose guardians have died, their support andupbringing depends on wealthy and well to-do Muslims so that they will notbecome a problem to themselves or other people.
Because they are unable to earn enough to maintain themselves and havebecome contented with the little they have and abstain from begging, it isnecessary for the well-to-do to help them.
In the case of the wayfarer cut off from family and relatives, as iftraveling were his household, consideration requires kindness for him as well.Thus, to sympathize with him and help him in his travels is, within the meaningof Islamic law, an encouragement which invites one to journey throughout theearth.
In the case of beggars forced to ask people for their needs, they should behelped. A person may also ask for help in order to redress another's need.However, the shari'ah does not approve of begging, except under direcircumstances. Even then, one should not trespass limits.
The liberation of slaves includes buying and setting them free, helpingcontracted slaves (al-mukatabun) pay off their debts, and helping captives buytheir way out of captivity. By encouraging people to spend out of their wealthon slaves, the shari 'ah wants to emancipate the latter. Still, as important asthe emancipation of slaves is, in terms of priorities, it is placed at the end,after the orphans, the needy, the wayfarer, and the beggar, the reason beingthat the former fall under the need for preserving life (which has a highervalue), while the latter falls under the right to freedom (a lesser value thanlife).
The legitimacy of giving sadaqah other than that of zakah is not restrictedby a time limit or definite nisab. The amount designated for expenditure neednot be a certain percentage (for example, a tithe, a one-quarter tithe, or aone-tenth tithe). It is an open-ended matter that is left to the beneficence,generosity, and condition of the one who gives. The protection of a revered(muhtaram) man from destruction and harm is an obligation upon whoever can helphim, but more than that, it is left unquantified.
People overlook most of the public rights which the Qur'an supports, forthese rights seek to establish an honorable and just social life. People spendonly a smalI amount on the needy and even less for beggars because they areconsidered the least deserving nowadays. This is due to the fact that beggarshave made begging a profession (hirfah), even though most of them arewell-to-do.
Ibn Hazm says: "It is enjoined upon the rich of every country tosupport their poor, and the ruler has the authority to force them to do so.This is called for when the pre~,cribed zakah or the holdings of other Muslimsare not enough to meet the needs of the poor. In that case, their food andtheir clothing to protect them from the elements and the eyes of the passer-bywould be provided by the rich." The proof for this is in the saying ofAllah, the Exalted One: "Give the kinsman his due, and the needy, and thewayfarer" [al-Isra' 26]. Allah also says: "[Show] kindness toparents, to near kin and orphans, to the needy, to relatives, to neighbors whoare not related to you, to fellow travelers and wayfarers, and [to the slaves]whom your right hand possesses" [an-Nisa' 36]. Generosity urges supportfor the above-mentioned people and forbids harming them. Referring to theguilty in the life to come, the Qur'an says that they would ask each other:"What brought you to this hellfire?" They will answer: "We werenot of those who prayed, nor did we feed the needy" [al-Muddaththir42-44]. Thus, Allah links feeding the needy with performing prayers. Accordingto the following hadith, related by authentic sources, the Messenger of Allah,upon whom be peace, said: "He who does not have mercy upon people, Allah'smercy will be kept from him." Anyone upon whom Allah bestowed His graceand who sees his Muslim brother hungry, in need of clothes, and miserable, andstill does not help him, he will, indeed, deprive himself of Allah's mercy.
'Uthman an-Nahdi reported that 'Abdurrahman ibn Abi Bakr as-Siddiq informedhim that the companions of as-Saffah were poor and that the Messenger of Allah,upon whom be peace, said: "He who has enough food for two, let him invitea third, and he who has food for four, let him invite a fifth or a sixth."
It is related from Ibn 'Umar that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom bepeace, said: "A Muslim is a brother of another, and he should neither doinjustice to him nor betray him." Thus, anyone who lets a needy Muslim gowithout food or clothes while, in fact, he is able to feed and clothe him wouldhave betrayed him. It is related from Abu Sa'id al-Khudri that the Messenger ofAllah, upon whom be peace, said: "He whose holdings exceed his needs, lethim support the one whose holdings do not, and he whose food exceeds his needs,let him share it with him who does not have food." Abu Sa'id al-Khudrisays: "Then he mentioned so many kinds of property that we thought no oneof us had the right to have anything surplus with us." This is theconsensus of the companions, as it was reported by Abu Sa'id alKhudri.Concerning this tradition, it is reported on the authority of Abu Musaal-Ash'ari that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: "Feed the hungry,visit the sick, and ransom the prisoner."
There are many 'ayahs in the Qur'an and numerous sound hadith on thissubject. 'Umar says: "If I were to live again the past which I havealready lived, I would take the surplus from the rich and distribute it amongthe poor immigrants (mujhajirun)." This is considered to be the mostauthentic report.
'Ali said: "Allah, the Exalted One, has placed a due upon theproperties of the rich to meet the needs of the poor. Thus, if the poor gohungry or naked or struggle because of the neglect of the rich, then Allah willhold them [the rich] accountable on the Day of Judgment and will punishthem."
Ibn 'Umar is reported to have said: "There is a due on your propertyother than zakah." It is related from 'Aishah (the mother of thebelievers), al-Hasan ibn 'Ali, Ibn 'Umar that all of them replied to those whohad asked them: "If you are asked for help in cases of blood money, heavydebt, or desperate poverty, then it is a must for you to give them from yourholdings."
It was accurately reported by Abu 'Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah and 300 companionsthat (once) when their provisions had run very low, Abu 'Ubaidah ordered themto collect what was left and place it into two bags and then allot it to eachone equally. Then he said: "It is not permissible for a hard-pressedMuslim to eat the meat of a dead animal or a pig when he can find surplus foodfrom either a Muslim or a zhimmi. It is an obligation of the one who has foodto feed the hungry." This has the consensus among the companions, andthere are no contrary views concerning it. It was accurately reported fromashShu'bi, Mujahid, Tawus, and others that: "There is a due on propertyother than zakah." If such is the case, then a hard-pressed person is notforced to eat the meat of dead animals or pigs. He has the right to fight forit and, if he is killed, then retaliation by killing (qawad) will be imposedupon the killer. If the property holder who prevents him from receiving his dueis killed, then may he have the curse of Allah upon him because he withheld aright (haqq), and he will be regarded as being among the unjust.
Allah, the Exalted One, says: "And if one party of them does wrong tothe other, fight those who do wrong until they return to the ordinance ofAllah." Thus, one who withholds a right is an oppressor of his brother.The latter is the possessor of that right. On this basis, Abu Bakr as-Siddiqwaged war against those who refused to pay their zakah.
From the preceding, one can see the degree of compassion and commiserationthat Islam has for the deprived. Islam, in fact, excels over all other faithsand systems. They are like weak, sputtering candles when placed next to thebright and steady light of the sun of Islam.