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Sunday, 28 July 2013

All About Zakat Al-Fitr

1. Who Should Pay Zakat Al-Fitr?
Zakat Al-Fitr is incumbent on every free Muslim who possesses one Sa` (2.176 kilograms or 4.797 pounds) of dates or barley over and above his basic needs of food for himself and his family/dependants for the duration of one day and night. Every free Muslim must pay Zakat Al-Fitr for himself, his wife, children, and servants.
Ibn `Umar, may Allah be pleased with them both, said,
"The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, enjoined the payment of one Sa` of dates or one Sa` of barley as Zakat Al-Fitr on every Muslim, young and old, male and female, free and slave." (Al-Bukhari and Muslim) 
2. Significance of Zakat Al-Fitr
 Zakat Al-Fitr was declared by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as a requisite for one's fast to be accepted. It is meant to cement the relationship between the members of the Muslim society, to alleviate the pains of the poor, to cultivate the sense of brotherhood and solidarity in the hearts of the Muslims, etc.
Various reasons are given by scholars for this obligatory charity. Some say that this charity helps the poor and needy, and takes care of their needs in the month of Ramadan and also makes it possible for them to celebrate the `Eid festival with other Muslims. Other scholars maintain that this charity is meant to expiate (Kaffarah) for any mistakes or wrongdoings a person may have done during this blessed month. Ibn `Abbas said,
"The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) enjoined Zakat Al-Fitr so that those who fast are purified of their sins and the poor and needy are fed. Therefore, whoever gives it before the `Eid prayer, it will be counted for him as an acceptable Zakah (of al-Fitr), but if someone delays and gives it afterwards, his charity will be an ordinary one." (Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah) 
3. Time of Zakat Al-Fitr
This charity should be given during the month of Ramadan, anytime before the `Eid-ul-Fitr prayer. Because it can be given anytime until the time of `Eid-ul-Fitr, it is called Zakat Al-Fitr. The Prophet  (peace and blessings be upon him) urged Muslims to pay this charity in the month of Ramadan. 
4. The amount of Zakat Al-Fitr
The amount of Zakat-ul-Fitr was fixed by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). It is about 5 pounds of wheat, flour, barley, dates or raisins. Some jurists also allow paying cash to the poor and needy. The head of the household must pay this amount on behalf of all the members of the household or his dependants; males or females, adults or children. 
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5. The recipients of Zakat Al-Fitr
This Sadaqah should be given to the poor and needy. Individuals can also make the payments to Islamic charitable organizations that collect this fund. These organizations then should distribute these funds as soon as possible so that they reach the needy people on time. 
6. The place in which Zakat Al-Fitr is paid
It is better to pay Zakat Al-Fitr in the place one lives and fasts. However, if someone fasts in a country other than his home town, he should pay Zakat Al-Fitr therein, this is the position of the Hanbalis and Shafi`is, because Zakat Al-Fitr relates to where one is resident (during the fast).
As for sending Zakah from one country to another, it is permissible if there is a strong enough reason: The country where he lives is in no need of Zakah; another country is in dire need because of starvation, calamity, or war; or the payer has some relatives in another country who need his help. These reasons permit the Muslims to send their Zakah to the poor Muslims who are resisting aggressors or suffering from starvation and calamities, as in Palestine, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Bangladesh, Burma, etc. 
7. Should the Muslim pay Zakat Al-Fitr for his non-Muslim wife?
It is very important to note that a Muslim husband does not need to pay Zakat Al-Fitron behalf of his non-Muslim wife, according to the majority of Muslim scholars. On the other hand, Abu Hanifah and his followers see that a man in this case is obliged to pay Zakat Al-Fitr on behalf of his non-Muslim wife.
Sheikh `Atiyyah Saqr, former head of Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee, stated the following:
Zakat Al-Fitr is to be paid by the head of the household for himself and for those he is obliged to maintain, i.e., his family members including his wife. Although all Muslim scholars agree that a man is obliged to sustain his non-Muslim wife, they differ concerning paying Zakat Al-Fitr for her.
The majority of scholars, including Malik, Ash-Shafi`i and Ahmad, maintain that a man is not obliged to pay Zakat Al-Fitr for his non-Muslim wife, as she herself is not required to pay it because she is outside the boundaries of Islam. They base their opinion on the view that implies that a non-Muslim is not charged to perform the rules of Shari`ah. It is, moreover, reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) prescribed Zakat Al-Fitr on all Muslims, free and enslaved; male and female; young and old. Also, Zakat Al-Fitr is considered a way to purify the fasting person from lewdness and abuse, as reported by Abu Dawud with a sound chain of transmitters, on the authority of Ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them both). Hence, it is meaningless to demand non-Muslims to pay Zakat Al-Fitr, as they are not required to observe fast, like the Muslims.
The fore mentioned hadith restricts prescribing Zakat Al-Fitr to Muslims. In thehadith, the word ‘Muslims’ refers to the persons on whose behalf Zakah is paid, not the person who pays it. Therefore, it is not necessary for a man to pay Zakat Al-Fitron behalf of his non-Muslim slave, even though he is obliged to maintain him. The same ruling applies to a non-Muslim wife. (Ibn Qudamah; Al-Mughni; vol. 2, pp. 646-647)
 Abu Hanifah and other scholars maintain that a Muslim has to pay Zakat Al-Fitr on behalf of his young son who apostatizes from Islam, because one is not accountable for apostasy unless he fulfills the conditions of legal accountability that include adulthood. They also opine that a man should pay Zakat Al-Fitr on behalf of his Christian or Jewish slave. They base their view on the fact that a father is obliged to maintain his young son, and a master his slave. They cite a hadith from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in which he said, “Pay half a Sa` of barley (one Sa` 2.176 kilograms or 4.797 pounds) on behalf of everyone, free or slave; young or old; Jew, Christian or pagan.” However, the majority of scholars have refuted this hadith, saying that it is not reported in the well-known books of Hadith.
Some argue that Zakat Al-Fitr purifies the fasting person from any lewdness or abuse he committed while fasting, and is, thus, not paid on behalf of non-Muslim family members due to the fact that they do not fast. However, it is paid in favor of the needy on behalf of those who are excused from fasting. Hence, a non-Muslim wife or slave is in the same position as the excused.
This claim is also refuted by the fact that if a Muslim does not observe fasting in Ramadan without a valid excuse, he will be charged with two things; to make up for the fast and to pay Zakahul-Fitr. Neither of the two replaces the other.”

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8. Paying the monetary value of Zakat Al-Fitr 
on the legitimacy of paying Zakat Al-Fitr in cash, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradwi said,
First: Imam Abu Hanifah and his companions, Al-Hasan Al-Basri, Sufyan Ath-Thawri, Caliph `Umar ibn `Abd Al-`Aziz, and many other scholars permitted paying the value of Zakah, including Zakat Al-Fitr, as money. Both supporters and opponents of the opinion depended on many pieces of evidence and points of views. I have detailed this matter in my book Fiqh Az-Zakah, in a chapter on paying the monetary value when giving Zakah.
Sheikh Ibn Taymiyah reached an opinion that is considered a compromise between these two parties, "Paying the value of Zakah in money when there is no need or interest in doing so, is impermissible… As for paying the value of Zakah as money because of a need or interest, it is permissible. For example, if a Muslim sells the fruits or the crops of his land for some dirhams, he can pay the tenth of these dirhams and he should not be asked to buy fruits or plants... Also, if he has five camels he is obliged to give a sheep as Zakah, but if he does not find a sheep to buy, he can pay the value in cash and he is not asked to travel to another city to buy a sheep. In addition, if those who deserve Zakah ask him to pay it as money because of some need, he can do so. It was narrated that Mu`adh Ibn Jabal (may Allah be pleased with him) said to the people of Yemen, "You can bring me khamis and labis(local textiles) instead of the actual plants and fruit, for this will make matters easy for you and will be more useful to the poor Muhajirun (immigrants) and Ansar (helpers) in Madinah." It was narrated that he said these words concerning Zakah, and it was said they were concerning Jizyah." (Majmu` Fatawa Ibn Taymiyah, 25/82-83, Saudi edition)
The essence of disagreement is between two schools: One school considers the total objectives of Shari`ah without neglecting the specific texts, and another school considers only the specific texts.
The opinion that it is permissible to pay the value of Zakat Al-Fitr as money was in effect during the age of the Tabi`in (the generation following the Companions) and was supported by many scholars and one of the caliphs. Ibn Abi Shaybah narrated on the authority of `Awn, "I heard the letter of `Umar ibn `Abdul-`Aziz being read to `Adiyy, the ruler, 'The people of the divan should take from every Muslim half a dirham.'" The same reported that Al-Hasan said, "There is no harm in paying the value of Zakat Al-Fitr in dirhams," that Abu Ishaq said, " I saw them paying the value ofZakat Al-Fitr in dirhams", and that `Ata' narrated, "I used to give the value of Zakat Al-Fitr in silver dirhams. (Musannaf, 4/37-38) "
Actually, there is much evidence that supports this opinion:
  1. The Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) said, "Enrich them (the poor) on this day." Enriching is achieved through food and also its value, which may even be better than food, as the poor person who has plenty of food may be forced to sell some of it; whereas if the monetary value is given it will enable him to buy whatever he wants of food, clothes, etc.
  2. Ibn Al-Mundhir narrated that the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) permitted giving half a Sa` of wheat, as they believed that it equaled the value of a Sa` of dates or barley. Thus, Mu`awiyyah (may Allah be pleased with him) said, "I see that two mudds (a mudd equals a handful of an average-sized man) of the Levantine wheat equal a Sa` of dates."
  3. This opinion is easier for the Muslims in this age, especially for those who live in the industrialized countries where people deal only with money, and it brings great benefit in most cases for the poor in many cities.
Second, when the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) asked Muslims to giveZakat Al-Fitr from the common foodstuffs, he wanted to make matters easy for them; silver and gold money were rare means of dealings among the Arabs and the majority of people did not own but a few coins. Moreover, the poor were in dire need of the common foodstuffs, such as wheat, dates, raisins, and cheese. Thus, giving Zakat Al-Fitr from the staple food was easy for the payer and beneficial for the recipient. Also, he (peace and blessings be upon him) permitted the owners of camels and sheep to give cheese as Zakat Al-Fitr in order to facilitate matters for them.

Furthermore, the purchasing power of money varies from one time to another and from one country to another. Thus, estimating the amount of Zakat Al-Fitrby a fixed amount of money would make it fluctuate and be unstable. That is why the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) fixed it by an amount that does not vary or fluctuate. This amount is the Sa`, which is usually considered as sufficient food for one family for a day.

Third, our scholars agreed that fatwas change according to the time, place, and condition of the people involved. The one who impartially examines the current status will realize that giving food as Zakat Al-Fitr is only suitable for simple societies in which the poor need grains and the payer finds such grains easily. In the large and complex societies that have a high population density and where grains are rare and the poor do not need them, as they no longer grind, knead, and bake their food, the impartial will agree that paying the value of Zakat Al-Fitr as money is more suitable.
Imam Ibn Taymiyah did well when he permitted the Muslim who had sold the fruits of his land for some dirhams to pay the tenth of these dirhams and not to be asked to buy fruits to just to give them to the poor. Also, he permitted the owner of the camels who was obliged to give a sheep as Zakah to pay the value in money and did not ask him to travel to another city to buy a sheep. This is true fiqh (understanding of Shari`ah). Then how can we ask a Muslim in a city like Cairo, where more than 10 million Muslims live, to give grain that has become rare and is of no need to the poor as Zakat Al-Fitr?
There is a big difference between the one who has a stock of food and refrains from giving the poor and the one like a city dweller who has nothing but money and is just to the poor. Zakat Al-Fitr was made obligatory in order to help the poor and make them not need to go from one place to another seeking food on the day of `Eid while the rich enjoy their wealth with their children. One should ask oneself, "Would he make a poor person not need to go to the market if he gives him a Sa` of dates or barley in a city like Cairo, for example?" Of course not, as the poor will surely go to market to sell them to obtain money to buy suitable food for their families! Thus, some of the Muslim scholars took into consideration the objectives involved and permitted giving Zakat Al-Fitr from the common foodstuffs of the country; this food is not even listed in the Shari`ah.”

(On Islam / 25 July 2013)

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