Fast Breaking Alms (Zakaatul Fitr)

Zakaatul Fitr
 

Duties After Ramadan

As the blessed month of Ramadan nears it end, there are three
important obligations to help the faster bid the month a deserv-
ing farewell. These obligations also bring the faster closer to
Allah, elevate his Iman and increase the weight of his deeds.
These duties are: Zakatul-Fitr, (Fast breaking alms); Takbeer,
(utterance of Allah is the Greatest), and “Eid Prayer, (Festival
of fast breaking).

Fast Breaking Alms (Zakaatul Fitr)

Allah (SWT) has mandated the observation of fast breaking
alms {Zakaatul fitr) at the end of Ramadan before Eid Prayer.
Although this obligation was established by the Messenger
(saas), it has the power of all the established commands of Al-
lah, for the power to legislate and prescribe a rule has been
granted to the Messenger of Allah, by Allah (SWT), Who
states:

“He who obeys the Messenger, obeys Allah; but
if any turn away, We have not sent thee to watch
over their (evil) deeds.”

(Al-Qur an, 4:80)

Also,

“If anyone contends with the Messenger, even
after guidance has been plainly conveyed to him,
and follows a path other than that becoming to
men of faith…”

(Al-Qur an 4: 11 5)

Also,

“…So take what the Messenger assigns to you,
and deny yourselves that which he withholds
from you…”

(Al-Qur an, 59:7)

Eligibility

The giving of the fast breaking alms is mandatory on every
Muslim, old, young, man and woman, etc. In a hadith related
by Abdullah bin ‘Umar (raa) he said:

“The Messenger of Allah, has commanded the faster to
observe Ramadan fast breaking alms, one Sa’a, (a

beaker, a unit of measurement about two kilos and forty
grams) of dates, on a bondsman, a freeman, on every
man and woman, young and old…”

This citation indicates that the eligible people who should give
these alms, are virtually every living Muslim, provided he or
she possesses more than the prescribed amount of provisions,
in such a way that, after giving alms, there will remain enough
food for him and his family for at least 24 hours.

However, there is no obligation of these alms on the unborn
fetus, unless the parents or the guardian wants to give on its
behalf voluntary alms. The Leader of the Faithful, ‘Umar (raa),
gave for the unborn.

Thus, it is incumbent on every able believer to give for himself,
and for those that he is responsible for; wife and children, and
next of kin if they cannot give for themselves. If they can give,
it is better that they do so, because every believer is com-
manded to do so.

In the event that the person does not possess the amount, alms-
giving is not mandatory. But, if he possesses half of the
amount, it should be given. Allah (SWT) states:

“So fear Allah as much as you can…”

(Al-Qur an 64:16)

And the Messenger of Allah said:

“If I command you with something, do it as much as you
can!’ (Agreed upon)

Spiritual Reasons for These Alms

The wisdom behind this obligation is, among other things, to
extend a benevolent helping hand to needy Muslims so that
they will not have to beg from their fellow wealthier believers

on this happiest occasion of the year in a Muslim’s life – Rama-
dan fast culminates with the festivity of y Eid Prayer.

On the other hand, it helps the faster cleanse his fast from any
shortcoming, or un-Islamic act during Ramadan. It is also to
express gratitude to Allah for helping the servant live through
another Ramadan. In a hadith reported by Ibn Abbas (raa) he
said:

“The Messenger of Allah (saas) has mandated the obli-
gation of fast breaking alms as a cleanser of the faster
from (what one may have done) mistakes or obscene
acts, and to provide for the poor. Whoever gives it be-
fore “Eid prayer, it is an accepted alms, but whoever
gives it after Eid prayer, it is only a charity like any or-
dinary charity.” (Abu Dawud)

What Should be Given?

Unlike regular Zakaat, the item recommended for giving is
foodstuff: dates, wheat, barley, rice, oats, raisins, or any food
stuff that can be stored naturally. Indeed, any type of food that
is a staple in a given region of the vast Muslim world will do.
If the staple is rice, you give rice, if it is dates or raisins, you
give dates and raisins, etc.

In a hadith related by Bukhari and Muslim, by the way of “Ab-
dullah bin “Umar (raa), he said:

“The Messenger of Allah has established the fast break-
ing alms of Ramadan, sa’a, a beaker of dates, or a
beaker of barley, and barley was then part of our food.”

This hadith has been corroborated by another report by Abu
Sa’eed Al-Khudri (raa) who said:

“We used to give during the time of the Messenger a
sa ‘a, a beaker of food, and our food was barley, raisins,
dry milk, and dates.” (Bukhari)

Thus, for these alms, items like cloth, cash money or currency,
furniture, dishes and general goods are not accepted by Allah.

A sa’a (beaker) equivalent will not do. In so much as nothing
else will substitute for these alms as a medium of giving, the
monetary equivalent of the cost of a staple food will not be ac-
ceptable. For giving money, instead of food, is contrary to what
the Messenger (saas) commanded. In a hadith, related by the
mother of the believers, Aisha (raa) the Prophet (saas) said:

“He who innovates something in this matter of ours,
that is not of it, will have it rejected.” (Bukhari and Mus-
lim)

In Muslim’s report of the hadith, the Messenger (saas) said:

“He who does an act which our matter is not (in agree-
ment) with will have it rejected.”

According to these two citations, to give money as Zakatul-Fitr
is an innovation and not proper, nor is it in accord with the pre-
scribed worship, ‘ebadah. Alms giving is an act of worship,
prescribed for a special item, food at a special time, i.e., before
Eid prayer. The opinion of giving a monetary equivalent is re-
ported from Imam Abu Hanifah (raa) who did not really have a
proof, except ijtihad. There is no ijtihad where there is a text.
After all, all the Imams, including Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam
Shaff e, Imam Malik, and Imam Ahmad said:

“If they say something that contradicts the established
command of the Messenger of Allah, their saying should
be discarded.”

Sometimes the advocates of money as a substitute for food
make us think there was no money during the time of the

Prophet. To the contrary, there was money currency known as
“dirham” and “dinaar.” Giving monetary equivalents as fast-
breaking alms relegates this act to a secret charity, rather than
alms given as a religious ceremony (Sha ‘eerah), which is to be
observed publicly among the Muslims in a way that everybody
in Muslim households, young and old, will participate in and
bear witness to this extraordinary event of purchasing, weigh-
ing, and distributing food items among the needy faithful. This
undoubtedly is one of the intents of the Lawgiver, a special cul-
tural phenomenon unique to Islam and Muslims.

The evidence and wisdom behind giving food is more compel-
ling than giving money. However, if the believer desires to
help the needy more, giving money along with the prescribed
food, is excellent and will be rewarded by Allah.

The Amount To be Given

As for the amount to be given, it is a sa’a, (a prophetic beaker)
which is equal to about two kilos and forty grams. In pounds it
is about five pounds per believer. If you want to know the pro-
phetic sa’a, beaker, you weigh five pounds or two kilos and
forty grams.

Put the weight in a beaker, jar or vessel and notice the level.
You then use that as your sa’a to weigh the rest of your alms.

Better yet, a sa’a, can be purchased at a very reasonable price
all over the Muslim world; if you happen to be in Makkah for
Hajj or ‘Umrah, you may purchase one or have someone who
goes there to purchase it for you.

Time of Zakatul-Fitr

Giving these alms is mandatory after sunset on the eve of
^Eidul – Fitr. If a Muslim expires seconds before sunset, it is

not mandatory for his next of kin to give on his behalf. But if
he expires seconds after sunset, alms should be given on his
behalf. So is the case of the newly born.

As for the time it should be given, there are two time periods:
The best and optional times. The best time is the morning of
Fidul – Fitr before prayer. In a Hadith related by Ibn ‘Umar
(raa),

“The Messenger of Allah (saas) commanded the Mus-
lims to give alms when fastbreaking people leave for Eid
prayer.” (Muslim and others)

In his commentary on the following verse, Ibn ‘Uyainah said:

“But those will prosper who purify them (give alms) and
glorify the name of their guardian Lord and pray.”

He said: the word “tazakka”, purify or giving alms, comes be-
fore the word “Sa//a”, prayer. This is why it is better to delay
Fidul-Fitr prayer so that the believers will have enough time
to give their alms.

The optional time to give alms is one or two days before ‘Eid,
that is on the 28 th and 29 th day of Ramadan. Legally, you have
these three days to give your alms. But it should not be delayed
past “Eid prayer. In that case, Zakatul-Fitr is not valid unless
there is a reason, as mentioned earlier in the Hadith of Ibn
Abbas (raa).

But if there is a compelling reason, such as “Eid occurring in a
place where there is no food to be purchased, or the food is
bought, but there is no one to receive it, or the news about Eid
comes late in the morning and one does not have enough time
to buy the alms, or he depends on someone to give his Zakat on
his behalf, and the person forgets In these instances, the alms
can be given after “Eid because of the valid excuse.

The alms should reach its recipients before ‘Eid prayer, not af-
ter. The beneficiaries should physically have it in their posses-
sion. If you intend to give alms to someone and he cannot be
found, it should be given to someone else, so that you do not
miss the time.

Place In Which Alms Should Be Given

The alms should be given in at the place where the Ramadan
ends for the faster, home or abroad. If you happen to be in
Makkah, Medina or Cairo you give it to the needy Muslims of
that area.

If there are more poor Muslims in a given place, or there is no
one who deserves the alms in your area, or you do not know
anyone, you may deputize someone to give it on your behalf in
a different country where Muslims are in need.

The Recipients of the Alms

The recipients of this Zakaat are the needy Muslims and those
in debt. They should be given according to their needs. In a
hadith by Ibn ‘Umar (raa) the Prophet said: “Make them self
sufficient on this day…” (Dar Qutni) It may be given to more
than one needy person, or all may be given to one person.

Essentials of Ramadan The Month of Fasting