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Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Ramadan: Purify your fast by giving Zakat Al Fitr

It is a great sight to see the celebrations of having accomplished the full month of fasting and Muslims gearing up for Eid Al Fitr which is one of the rewards. We all rustle up sumptuous dishes and wear new and pretty attire on the occasion. But what about those who cannot afford a square meal on the day of celebrations?

Islam is a religion of compassion and so it tells Muslims not to forget their brethren on the festive occasion and share with them at least some food which they can have on that day. And Zakat Al Fitr is the amount of food that we give at the end of Ramadan so that poor Muslims can have something to eat on Eid. Zakat Al Fitr is not to be confused with zakat. It is a must for each and every Muslim, adult or minor, male or female. It is said that Zakat Al Fitr purifies the Muslim and the sins he committed in Ramadan. It also spreads love and solidarity in society. Zakat Al Fitr aims to make the poor happy and save them the trouble of asking for money on the joyful event of Eid Al Fitr. It shows the poor that society does not forget them.

The purpose of Zakat Al Fitr is to purify one who fasts from any indecent act or speech and to help the poor and needy. It is incumbent on every free Muslim who possesses one Sa of dates or barley which is not needed as a basic food for himself or his family for the duration of one day and night. Every free Muslim must pay Zakat Al Fitr for himself, his wife, children, and servants. (One Sa’ equals approximately three kilograms).

The required amount of Zakat ul Fitr is one Sa’ of wheat, rice or corn or similar items considered as basic foods.

The jurists agree that Zakat Al Fitr is due at the end of Ramadan. They differ, however, about the exact time. While many believe that is due at the sunset of the night of breaking the fast, for this is when the fast of Ramadan ends. While many others say that Zakat Al Fitr is due at the start of Fajr (dawn) on the day of Eid because it is an act of worship connected with Eid. However, it is up to you to decide the best time as we shall not engage here in deciding who is correct. Pay after Magrib on the last day of Ramadan or during Fajr time, as you wish. It is not permissible to delay giving Zakat Al Fitr after the day of Eid (i.e. on+e may give it up to the time of the Eid prayer). However, there are some jurists who think that it is permissible to delay giving it even after the Eid prayer. Anyway, the founders of the four accepted Islamic legal schools agree that Zakat Al Fitr is not nullified simply by failure to pay it on its due time. If it is not paid before Eid prayer, one is not exempt from it. It becomes a debt payable even after death. The heirs must not distribute the deceased’s legacy before payment of the deceased’s unpaid.

Al Qaradawi explains the reasons for these differences in opinion by saying that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to pay Zakat Al Fitr after Fajr prayer by the day of Eid but before the Eid prayer for the reason that the Muslim community was still small and limited in number. During the time of the Companions the payment was made one or two days before the Eid.

After the spread of Islam the jurists permitted its payment from the beginning and middle of Ramadan so as to ensure that the Zakat Al Fitr reached its beneficiaries on the day of Eid, thereby avoiding the possibility that the process of distribution would delay reception of the payment after the day of Eid. After explaining the different views regarding the time of payment, Sheikh Atiyyah Saqr stated that these differences of opinion among the jurists justify some leniency for Muslims in regard to the time of payment, and therefore a Muslim can pay at any of these times. He also took the view that paying it at different times gives the poor and needy the opportunity to benefit from Zakat Al Fitr and fulfil their needs for longer periods.

These differences are due to taking into consideration both the needs of the poor and the opportunity of getting to the wisdom behind the obligation of Zakat Al Fitr. Therefore, the most acceptable and practical approach is to apply whichever practice fulfils the purpose and wisdom behind Zakat Al Fitr, that is bringing happiness to the poor on the day of Eid and giving their children a chance to enjoy this day as others do.

(Times Of Oman / 07 July 2015)
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