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.
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.
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.
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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